Supporting our community through COVID-19
The University of Melbourne has launched a range of support packages for students and staff as it continues to deliver high-quality teaching and research in the transition to a virtual campus.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell said the University is committed to providing as much stability as possible for its community during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Universities have played a significant role in the national response to COVID-19, both through the support of domestic and international students, and through the valuable research that is contributing to the planning efforts," Professor Maskell said.
“The University of Melbourne is committed to continuing its support for students who have been experiencing hardship and face ongoing disruption.”
Professor Maskell welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment to Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) and HELP funding payments for 2020, supporting the continuing viability of universities across Australia.
“This support will bring confidence to the higher education sector and allow universities to play a major role in helping the nation recover from COVID-19," Professor Maskell said.
“We face some significant challenges and we want to work with the Federal Government to ensure the ongoing viability of our University and to maximise the learning opportunities for our students.”
He said the University of Melbourne had been quick to support students and staff through the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis by offering:
- Support grants of up to $7500 for students who have been affected by COVID-19 and associated travel restrictions.
- An Emergency Support Fund of up to $7500 for coursework students and graduate. researchers who do not receive a stipend and who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. Some 60,000 are eligible to apply to be considered for support.
- Paid COVID-19 leave for graduate researchers who are on a University stipend or studentship and need to suspend their studies for compelling or compassionate reasons.
- Graduate researchers nearing the 3-year mark of their PhD or the 18-month mark of their Masters by Research will have their candidature and stipend automatically extended by 6 months. For candidates earlier in their studies, stipend and candidature extensions after 3 years will be provided in all cases where the project has been affected by the pandemic, with the length of extension to be determined once the impact on the project is fully understood.
- Extending the census date and fee due date for all standard Semester 1 subjects until 30 April, which is in line with the revised timelines for accessing a FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP loan.
- Enhanced health and wellbeing services, including telehealth and a COVID-19 Health Hotline, the Safer Community Program, counselling and psychological services and a new outreach program for first year international students with the aim to expand to other cohorts.
- Providing all staff with payment equivalent to their salary for the duration of their absence should they be required to self-isolate or become ill with COVID-19.
- Supporting casual employees who become ill with COVID-19 and are required to self-isolate by providing them with a special payment. The special payment will be extended to casuals whose work has effectively ended and where there is no alternative work to perform for the equivalent of two weeks’ income.
The University is facing very significant financial challenges as a result of the impact of COVID-19 and is taking a range of financial measures to help address the pressure on revenue including the freezing of non-essential staff appointments, reducing operating expenditure and also freeing up $350 million by putting capital projects on hold where possible.
Professor Maskell has also announced that members of the University Executive leadership group will take a 20 per cent salary cut for the next six months.
“All of the measures that we are taking are intended to give our students, staff and the broader University community the help and support that they urgently require at this time,” he said.