Preliminary response from Professor Zobel to GSA position paper, Covid-19 Support for Graduate Researchers
17 July 2020
Update from: Rachna Muddagouni (CEO) and Dr Natasha Abrahams (Senior Policy Coordinator)
Background: Graduate researcher issues
GSA’s position paper, Covid-19 Support for Graduate Researchers, was sent to Professor Justin Zobel (Pro Vice-Chancellor, Graduate & International Research) on Thursday 9 July, and a brief follow-up meeting was held with him on Tuesday 14 July 2020.
The paper highlights the impacts of COVID-19 on graduate researchers, and makes recommendations around extension policy, milestone extensions, financial assistance, procedures, and how recent supervisor survey results should be viewed.
Candidature extension policy
Professor Zobel advised that the University is on track to announce an extension policy in the week ending 24th of July 2020. He is empathetic to graduate researchers’ needs for extensions, particularly those reaching 3.5 years of candidature who urgently require extensions. The University will need more time to consider resource allocation for stipend extensions.
GSA looks forward to seeing the extension policy next week.
Professor Zobel is continuing to liaise with the Emergency Support Fund administration on the issue of extending eligibility to graduate researchers with stipends. There has been no resolution on this matter to date and he did not believe that during the current lockdown there would be provision to extend the fund.
GSA will continue to maintain the stance that the Emergency Support Fund should be extended to graduate researchers.
Professor Zobel acknowledged the importance of confidentiality and privacy for graduate researchers providing sensitive personal information. He noted that the process for staff to apply for leave is less invasive than the process for graduate researchers to access extensions.
He understands that there needs to be a mechanism for an independent appeal process accessible to those who are dissatisfied with their application outcome.
Professor Zobel advised that the survey conducted was only indicative and it will not be used in any way to determine individual eligibility for extensions.