With the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia beginning to stabilise, state and federal governments and ACU are looking at how we return to a ‘new normal’ in our work practices. Accordingly, we are providing you with an update on our plans for a return to research, including an outline of the support our office will provide. This plan is provided to assist with your planning and preparation.

COVID – Safe Guidelines for Research – Update February 2023

The Australian Catholic University continues to prioritise the health and safety of our community. The following outlines our approach to managing COVID-19 risks in research in 2023. As we move to public health recommendations rather than mandatory requirements, we seek your cooperation in following this guidance to keep our community healthy and minimise the impacts of illness throughout the conduct of your research at ACU.

The Federal Government outlines restrictions and recommendations on its COVID-19 website and information relevant to the different states is available from the Safe Work Australia site. Further guidance (from 2020) has been provided to Universities with a guide published by Universities Australia ‘Principles andProtocols for Reducing the Potential Risk of COVID-19 Transmission at Universities’.

If your research involves vulnerable groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, older Australians/aged care settings, people with a disability then you should refer to The Department of Healthand Aged Care for COVID-19 requirements when working with these groups. The ACU HREC requires researchers in contact with vulnerable groups to have received three doses of COVID-19 vaccine. It is the researcher’s responsibility to ensure they are conversant with any requirements by external agencies (which may differ from state to state) for conducting research at their sites.

ACU researchers should take into consideration the following factors as to whether the research can continue or should be delayed for research activities that involve close contact.

  • The overall benefits of the research continuing against the possibility of transmission of COVID-19;
  • Risk management strategies;
  • Whether the research is time-critical for delivering substantial benefits to patient cohorts;
  • If the research activity could be delayed;
  • Whether the research protocols could be changed to eliminate or reduce face-to-face interaction to 15 minutes or less;
  • Whether the study involves participant groups who are at an elevated risk;
  • Whether the study involves access to facilities such as aged care residences, hospitals, schools, etc. that may be subject to heightened access restrictions;
  • Where face-to-face or physical interactions remain, whether all other available transmission controls (e.g. personal protection equipment, suitable hygiene practices, etc.) are in

After considering these factors, if researchers determine that the research activity will continue they should remind participants of what their participation entails (e.g., location of the research, transport to location, physical contact, etc.) and that they are free to withdraw at any time and for any reason.

Any enquiries should be directed to the ACU Human Research Ethics Committee (res.ethics@acu.edu.au)

Other research FAQs

The ARC and NHMRC have confirmed that any variations to funded 'research projects and researchers that have been directly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic' can be considered via their usual post-award procedures. Impacts may involve 'changes in circumstances, including scope changes, personnel changes, suspensions and extensions to end dates'. The ARC and NHMRC will consider variation and extension requests on a case-by-case basis.

Review the latest information and communications from your funding body to check if this research can be delayed/extended. If the research can be extended and conducted at a later date and you would like to do so, notify your research team and submit the details and budget variation to the post-award team. Notify the contracts team of your proposed changes and ensure they are able to be made from a contractual perspective. If the research cannot be extended and the project must be closed down, please contact post-award.

Yes. Research that is able to be conducted remotely and that does not place researchers or research participants at increased risk of contracting a COVID-19 infection may continue as approved.

Below are updates on research involving or being conducted in state schools in the ACT,New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. For research involving state schools in other jurisdictions, please email the Research Ethics and Integrity team at res.ethics@acu.edu.au, outlining the particulars of your research.

Please note that this advice relates to state schools only. In most jurisdictions, research involving Catholic and independent schools is overseen by the local diocese or school principal respectively, and the conduct of research within these schools is still permissible – providing it complies with state and federal government restrictions, as well as ACU’s own restrictions on research.

The advice below was provided on 30 September 2020.


All research and evaluation activity involving Victorian government schools and Victorian early childhood sites requires approval through the Department of Education and Training’s (DET’s) Research in Schools and Early Childhood settings (RISEC) process.

The move to increased restrictions across Victoria necessitated that DET pause the RISEC process and research and evaluation activity involving schools and early childhood sites. These activities are suspended for the remainder of 2020.

Therefore, the following should not proceed:

  • RISEC-approved research and evaluations
  • any other contact with schools or early childhood sites, staff or children to conduct, or to recruit for, research and evaluation activity
  • RISEC applications and amendment requests.

The Department requests that we carefully consider the need for research involving schools and early childhood sites, and to make use of existing datasets where possible.

The RISEC website will be updated when further information becomes available. Any queries may be directed to research@education.vic.gov.au.

Australian Capital Territory/New South Wales

For both the ACT and NSW, the requirements for research involving, or being conducted in, state schools remain unchanged. Note however that education department requirements are overlaid by the COVID-19 restrictions of the relevant state or territory government, as well as by ACU’s own restrictions on research.

For information on conducting research in ACT state schools, visit the ACT Education Directorate’s website.

For information on conducting research in NSW state schools, see the NSW SERAP website.


From Term 4, which commenced on Tuesday 6 October 2020, the usual central and regional office appraisal and approval processes for research in state education sites will resume.

In all cases, researchers are requested to:

  • comply with directives on the Queensland Health website
  • limit imposition on school leaders, staff, students and parents/carers
  • consider using remote methods of data collection if possible
  • follow any additional instructions from school principals and site managers
  • respect the right of school principals and site managers to decline to participate in the research at present.

Research applications are submitted through the Department’s online portal: the Queensland Education Research Inventory (QERI). Please note the processing time for research applications continues to be longer than usual so allow extra time for your application to be processed.

The contract milestones and timeframes in research contracts and agreements for your project may be affected. Legal issues may arise from extended timeframes or changes to protocols. The contract parties will be able to consider these changes and usually agree to an appropriate outcome. However, you must contact the Office of Research Services (the Director, Dr Michael Baker and the Research Contracts Team) before you contact or make arrangements with any other party or funder for your project.

Candidates should contact their Principal Supervisor and, where appropriate, the faculty Associate Dean Research to discuss strategies and decide an appropriate course of action for their research project.

In general, candidates whose research does not involve face-to-face interactions, or whose research can be undertaken remotely, should proceed as normal in consultation with their Principal Supervisor.

Candidates whose research project involves face-to-face interactions/contact must follow the directions and restrictions in effect in the relevant state/territory and, in consultation with their Principal Supervisor, consider strategies to progress their research during these periods of unavoidable delay. Strategies may include literature reviews, meta-analyses, data collection, data analysis (as appropriate).

Candidates who are unable to continue their research should consider a variation to their candidature. All variation requests must be submitted via Orion.

International candidates

Before appIying for any variation of candidature, international candidates should check with the Department of Home Affairs to ensure the variation is permitted by the conditions of visa they have been granted (e.g. suspension of candidature, change to part-time enrolment).

Suspension of RTP scholarships (fees offset and stipend)

Candidates who are unable to continue with their course in a meaningful way due to restrictions imposed under the coronavirus pandemic should consider applying for a suspension of candidature. A suspension means that the clock on your candidature stops temporarily. When you return from your approved suspension, your clock restarts and your milestone and thesis submission dates will be adjusted and communicated to you.

Extraordinary extension of RTP scholarships (fees offset and stipend)

  • Is a temporary RTP measure legislated by the Australian Government which is beyond the provisions in the current ACU RTP Scholarship Policy
  • To be eligible to submit an extraordinary extension request, candidates must have been enrolled as a HDR candidate at ACU as at 1 March 2020
  • The maximum duration of an extraordinary extension is six (6) calendar months regardless of study mode
  • Candidates do not need to submit an extraordinary extension request immediately. ACU can approve such extraordinary extension requests at any point before 31 December 2022 even if the extension itself will occur after that date
  • Candidates who submit a request for an extraordinary extension must demonstrate that coronavirus restrictions have had an adverse material impact on their research and include appropriate evidence and supporting information along with their request. Candidates who have had personal adverse impacts due to coronavirus (e.g. who are unwell due to coronavirus or who have carer duties) should use the standard RTP provisions available for leave or apply for a suspension of candidature. Should you have any questions about the appropriate type of variation for your circumstances, please contact HDR.Projects@acu.edu.au
  • At the minimum this should include:
    • Details of the work all work undertaken on their degree during the timeframe that their research was adversely materially impacted by coronavirus restrictions. In other words, how did you continue to progress your research despite the coronavirus restrictions
    • A supporting statement from their Principal Supervisor confirming the work undertaken and the timeframes the student’s research was adversely materially impacted by coronavirus restrictions, including information detailing the nature and extent of the impact of the coronavirus restrictions
    • An annotated timeline to completion endorsed by the Principal Supervisor outlining how and in what timeframe you will complete your thesis

Leave entitlements

Candidate leave entitlements are outlined in the appropriate sections of the HDR Regulations and the ACU RTP Scholarship Policy.

Candidates whose research project has not been adversely materially impacted by the coronavirus restrictions but who have been affected in their personal life should be encouraged to use the provisions to vary candidature as set out in the HDR Regulations and the ACU RTP Scholarship Policy.

Other avenues of support and information for students:

Further information on the Australian Government’s RTP temporary measures can be found on the DESE FAQ page.

All requests to suspend or vary a HDR stipend scholarship require consideration on a case-by-case basis as a decision depends upon the source of the funding, conditions of award, and how far the student has progressed in their candidature.

In line with temporary RTP measures legislated by the Australian Government, the University may consider extraordinary variations to an RTP stipend scholarship. For details, refer to ‘Extraordinary extension of RTP scholarships’ information in the Question above.

RTP Stipend scholarship recipients may also apply to vary their stipend scholarship under the existing provisions in the RTP Scholarship Policy.

Stipend scholarship recipients whose scholarship is not RTP-funded should consult their Conditions of Award for information before submitting a request to vary their stipend scholarship. Decisions will be on a case by case basis and will depend upon the source of the scholarship funding.

Candidates who require information on their Conditions of Award should email Candidature Services on res.cand@acu.edu.au

Many ethics applications are reviewed and approved by other organisations and registered with ACU. For ACU researchers working under the auspices of an external HREC (such as a hospital HREC), and where no research is conducted on ACU premises, researchers should defer to the guidance being provided by that HREC.

If you have a research related question or concern that has not been addressed in the above FAQ, please feel free to contact the relevant team within the office of Research Services.

Key contacts

Ethics: res.ethics@acu.edu.au
Research Contracts: res.contracts@acu.edu.au
Post Award: res.postaward@acu.edu.au
Grants Team: res.grants@acu.edu.au
HDR Candidature: res.cand@acu.edu.au
Director Research Services: res.director@acu.edu.au

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