COVID-19 support for HDR students

Federation University’s Graduate Research School recognises that Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidates are affected by the impacts of the COVID-19 restrictions in different ways. While many candidates are at a stage in their research where the impacts are minimal, there are particular difficulties for some HDR candidates, some of which are exacerbated by uncertainties around when and which restrictions may be lifted.

The Graduate Research School requests all candidates to complete an online HDR Project Check-up Questionnaire which will be circulated this week . Working with their supervisory teams, candidates are asked to consider their individual circumstances and make informed decisions about how to manage their research and their candidature in response to the COVID-19 restrictions. Data gathered via the Project Check-in Questionnaire can be used by candidates as a snapshot of current conditions to inform requests for support which may be required a later points in candidature. Data will be used by the Graduate Research School to inform our planning and to report to the Australian Government about the impact of COVID-19 on HDR candidates and their research.

Supervisors, HDR Coordinators and staff in the Graduate Research School are all available to help.

Recent surveys by the Graduate Research School suggest that most HDR candidates will experience one of the three following categories of impacts on their projects. Possible actions for each category are suggested below and further details regarding these actions are provided later in this document.

1: There have been no delays to progress in your project

You may identify with this category if your project has been relatively unaffected by COVID-19, either because of the stage or nature of the project you are conducting.

Actions: You are encouraged to remain in contact with your supervisory team and to work towards your current submission date.  You may need to reprioritise some research tasks in order to achieve this.

2: Your progress has slowed, or time has been lost

You may identify with this category if COVID-19 restrictions have caused a delay in your studies for various reasons including:

  • Increased carer responsibilities (such as children at home from school)
  • lack of access to infrastructure or equipment on campus
  • inability to carry out face-to-face interviews
  • a need to significantly change the direction of your project.

Actions: Depending on the severity of the impact, you and your supervisory team may decide to:

  1. Plan to catch up lost time and continue to work towards your current submission date
  2. Switch from full-time to part-time
  3. Request an extension at a later date involving one or more of the following:
    • Extension to candidature
    • Extension to your stipend scholarship
    • Extension to your tuition fee scholarship: or
  4. Redirect or restructure your research project
  5. Request a period of leave from studies

3: Your progress has halted

You may identify with this category if it has not been possible to continue your research project in its current form for a period of time due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Actions: Depending on the length of time for which progress has been, or is likely to be, halted you and your supervisory team may decide to:

  1. Plan to catch up lost time and continue to work towards your current submission date
  2. Switch from full-time to part-time
  3. Request an extension at a later date involving one or more of the following:
    1. Extension to candidature
    2. Extension to your stipend scholarship
    3. Extension to your tuition fee scholarship; or
  4. Redirect or restructure your research project
  5. Request a period of leave from studies

Advice regarding suggested actions

This section of the document provides advice around how to implement each of the actions suggested above.

Project Check-up Questionnaire

All candidates must complete the online Project Check-up Survey which was circulated on 6th May 2020.

As part of the survey, candidates will be required to complete and upload one of the following HDR Project Check-up forms. Please review each of the forms and choose the one which closely reflects the stage of your project. Talk to your supervisor about your project progress and complete the form together. This form needs to be signed by you and your supervisor before uploading in response to the final question of the survey.

Switching from full-time to part-time

If you wish to change to part-time candidature, please complete an Enrolment Amendment Form.

If you receive a stipend scholarship you will need to document the exceptional circumstances which have delayed your progress in order to permit the change to part-time candidature and to allow payments to continue at 50% of the full-time amount.

Note: In most cases, a switch to part-time enrolment is not advised for international candidates. Although the Australian Government has relaxed rules allowing part time enrolment for international students, this is on the condition that completion dates, visas and eCOEs are not extended.

HDR Project redirection or restructure

If you and your supervisory team are planning significant changes to your research project, you are required to complete a Project Redirection Form detailing

  • the revised research proposal and method
  • any required changes to the supervisory team
  • that the required resources are available for the project.

The revised approach must be endorsed by the Dean of the School of enrolment (or nominee) and approved by the Research by Higher Degree Committee (RHDC).

For confirmed candidates, if the changes to your research topic are extensive, the Research by Higher Degree Committee (RHDC) may require you to undertake a process similar to your original Confirmation of Candidature to ensure the viability of the revised project. This is intended to support you and to ensure that the new approach is viable.

Extensions

Candidature and tuition fee scholarships

The University will consider requests for extensions to the maximum period of candidature for a period of up to one semester where supported by documentation of delays related to COVID-19.

For domestic candidates this means continued tuition fee support (e.g. RTP fee offset scholarship) for up to one additional semester beyond the maximum period of candidature,

For international tuition fee scholarship recipients this means award of an additional Federation fee-offset Scholarship for one semester.

Stipend scholarships

Where delays due to COVID-19 have been documented, the University will consider requests for extensions to maximum periods of scholarship support for all scholarships including Federation scholarships, Research Training scholarships and independent (external/industry) programs.

When to lodge your extension request

Applications for extension to scholarship and/or candidature should not be lodged more than four months before your current expected submission date.

Leave from Studies: COVID-19

A new category of Leave from Studies, which pauses candidature, has been created. The goal is to allow you to take leave when you need it so you can re-engage with your study sooner.

Leave from Studies: COVID 19 may be taken at any stage of candidature, for four or more weeks (up to 12 months) during the period where COVID-19 restrictions affect your research progress.

Further support for international students

Federation University will provide a single semester of fee relief in Semester 2 2020 for international candidates who don’t have a tuition-fee scholarship and are currently paying full fees. This will automatically be applied. If you receive an invoice, please contact us.

International candidates who do not have scholarship stipend support are eligible for grants up to $3000 where they can demonstrate loss of income due to COVID-19. Students who may be eligible for this program have been emailed with further information. If you do not receive an email by Friday 8th May 2020 and believe you may be eligible for this grant, please contact research.degrees@federation.edu.au.

Final note on documentation

Completion of the online HDR Project Check-up Questionnaire is a pre-requisite for access to the special COVID-19 support arrangements described here.

In addition, when applying for support (e.g. an extension, leave etc.) please ensure you support your case with information about the time lost, delays incurred and specific impacts of COVID-19 on your research and candidature. All requests must be justifiable and supported by documentation where possible. This will ensure that resources are allocated appropriately, and that the University can provide the Federal Government with data regarding the challenges faced by our HDR candidates.

If you have any questions regarding this advice, please contact the Graduate Research School at research.degrees@federation.edu.au.

This page will continue to be updated. Last updated on 07/05/2020