Dear HDR Students
On 1 May 2020, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment released its response to Australian universities, with regard to higher degree students and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australian universities operate through the Research Training Programme (RTP). A maximum of three types of support are available to HDR students, including a tuition fee offset, stipends and allowances. A maximum of four years of support was available for doctoral students, with two years available for research masters students. Flinders University’s RTP Scholarship administrative rules are available here.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister Tehan decided to temporarily extend the maximum periods for the RTP support by six months for students whose research activities have been “materially adversely impacted by coronavirus restrictions.” This provision is only available to current HDR students, enrolled as at 1 March 2020, in receipt of one or more of the RTP modes of funding above.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Flinders University has maintained continuity of service for higher degree students. Labs remain open. Library support has been targeted for student needs. Professional development for staff and students has continued and is available online. The Office of Graduate Research remains open. Therefore, on the basis of the announcement from Minister Tehan, Flinders University will implement the following changes in response to the amendments to the RTP legislation.
1. Overtime Fee
For students enrolled as at 1 March 2020, the overtime fee will be waived between 4 years and 4 years and 6 months when the student provides concrete demonstration of how their research has been “adversely impacted by coronavirus restrictions.” Documented evidence must be provided. HDR students in this category will be contacted individually by the Office of Graduate Research.
2. HDR Stipend Extensions
Flinders will continue its usual process where HDR students apply for an extension to their stipend before the end of their 3-year tenure to extend to 3 years and 6 months. Non-COVID-19 research reasons are valid for this extension as per the Conditions of Award. This applies to current holders of an AGRTPS (domestic and international) / FURS / CSERA / FIPRS / AJ & IM Naylon and privately-funded scholarships.
3. HDR Stipend Extensions for AGRTPS (domestic and international) beyond 3 years and 6 months due to COVID-19 impacted research
For students enrolled as at 1 March 2020 who do not complete within three years and six months, an additional extension of 3 months can be given, moving the extension of the RTP stipend to 3 years and nine months. The reason for this extension must be a concrete demonstration of how their research was “adversely impacted by coronavirus restrictions.” Documented evidence must be provided. This applies to current holders of an AGRTPS (domestic and international) stipend. Please note it does not apply to current holders of FURS / CSERA / FIPRS / AJ & IM Naylon and privately-funded scholarships as these are not supported by the RTP funding.
The normal timelines, deadlines and processes for extension requests of candidature and RTP stipends remain in place and requests can be submitted in Inspire.
If you need further information about this matter, please contact the Office of Graduate Research firstname.lastname@example.org or the Dean of Graduate Research email@example.com.
Our priority remains the success and wellbeing of our students, our staff and our research. We welcome this amendment to the RTP legislation and trust that the measures put in place by the University create some stability and the capacity to plan in these challenging times.
Professor Robert Saint AM
Vice-President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)