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Dual Award and Joint Research Higher Degrees Policy

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) Dual awards and joint research higher degrees are established to foster and develop research collaboration and partnerships between the University and other institutions by facilitating the movement between institutions of Doctoral or Research Masters candidates under joint supervision and enrolment arrangements.

(2) A dual award research degree or joint research degree agreement would normally be initiated in cases where there had been a history of research collaboration between the University and the nominated Partner Institution(s) and/or the development of such collaboration is assessed as being of strategic or reputational value to the University. This policy is not intended to meet the needs of an individual candidate in the absence of an external research collaboration with the University. However, the policy seeks to ensure clarity of expectations of participating institutions and candidates and to ensure that the University fulfils its duty of care to students involved in such arrangements.

(3) The establishment of an international collaboration and establishment of a dual award research degree will follow institutional processes to take account of potential foreign interference.

(4) The Doctoral or Research Masters candidate benefits from dual award and joint degree arrangements in that the candidate has the opportunity to work and access the latest research equipment, facilities and expertise in more than one institution, and obtains award(s) that facilitate professional mobility. The advantages of such agreements extend beyond the benefit to the individual Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidate and should be seen in the context of enhanced research cooperation between the institutions and the Principal Supervisors concerned.

(5) This policy requires that before candidates are enrolled in a dual award or joint research degree program there must be an Institutional Framework Agreement in place establishing the dual award degree arrangements or the joint degree signed by the University, according to the Delegations of Authority Policy, and the Partner Institution(s). The required elements of this agreement are set out in Sections 3 and 4. The University is responsible for ensuring compliance of the course of study with the standards in the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2021 that relate to the specific agreement.

(6) Before enrolment, an agreement must be in place for each individual candidature that addresses the specific candidature details outlined in Section 3 and 4. The individual candidature agreement must be signed by the University and the Partner Institutions and a copy provided to the candidate.

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Section 2 - Definitions

(7) Definitions for the purpose of this policy:

  1. Candidate means a student enrolled in a higher degree by research program.
  2. Dean means the Dean of a University School.
  3. Dean, Graduate Studies and Researcher Development means the Dean of the Graduate Research School.
  4. Director, Research Institute means the Director of a University Research Institute.
  5. Dual award research degree means a Doctoral or Research Masters degree awarded by each participating institution following a collaborative program of research and an agreed examination process.
  6. Institutional Framework Agreement means agreements entered into between Western Sydney University and other universities and may take the form of Memorandums of Understanding or contracts. 
  7. Joint research degree means a Doctoral or Research Masters degree awarded jointly by the participating institutions following a collaborative program of research and examination under the rules of one institution.
  8. Partner Institution means the partner university or institution of collaboration that will share the candidature under either a dual award degree or joint research degree arrangement.
  9. Primary Institution means the institution at which the student is first enrolled, although this may be varied by agreement.
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Section 3 - Policy Statement

(8) A dual award research degree will meet the requirements of each institution independently, and where each institution issues a testamur that records that the award is made under a dual award arrangement.

(9) A joint research degree between participating institutions will issue a single testamur carrying the logos and delegated signatures of all participating institutions.

(10) Unless expressly varied by agreement, the following the University policies and procedures will apply:

  1. Academic Appeals Procedures;
  2. Complaint Management Policy;
  3. Conflict of Interest Policy;
  4. Doctorate Policy or Research Masters (Honours) Policy, which prescribe the arrangements for research higher degrees, except for specific additional requirements relating to examinations, as specified in the candidature agreement (refer to Clause (5) above).
  5. Foreign Interference Policy (in development);
  6. Research Higher Degree Candidature Essential Resources Policy;
  7. Research Higher Degree Candidature Essential Resources Procedures;
  8. Intellectual Property Policy;
  9. Responsible Conduct of Research Policy;
  10. Student Misconduct Rule;
  11. Student Learning Abroad Policy;
  12. Supervision of Research Candidates Policy;
  13. Supervision of Research Candidates Procedures;
  14. Travel Policy.

Institutional Framework Agreement

(11) Prior to offering admission to any candidate for a dual award or joint research degree program, the University will have entered into a formal agreement with the participating institution(s) setting out the academic, resource and governance framework under which all candidatures and awards will proceed. Institutional Framework Agreements will be made only where evidence is presented that demonstrates:

  1. an existing research collaboration with participating institutions supported by a School or Research unit (this could be in the form of shared grants or ongoing projects, co-authorship of research publications, programmed visits etc); or
  2. that joint enrolment will create a sustainable research relationship and contribute strategic or reputational value to the University; and
  3. research training standards at participating institutions are at least equivalent to those at the University.

(12) In general, it is expected that agreements will set out how candidates will be provided with access to standards of supervision and facilities of a similar or better standard than that available at the University and at least equivalent to standard research candidates while working at the Partner Institution. The required elements of Framework Agreements and procedures for official endorsement are set out in Clauses (26) and (28) below.

Individual Candidature Agreement

(13) An Individual Candidature Agreement must be completed between participating institutions and shared with the nominated candidate that sets out the details of the candidature and specific rules and conditions relating to supervision, training, progression research resources, funding (including travel for research), codes of conduct, pattern of study, and compliance with University risk mitigation strategies.

(14) The required elements of Individual Candidature Agreements and procedures for official endorsement are set out in Clauses (26) and (28) below. Unless there is a specific reason and approval to vary them by the Dean, Graduate Studies and Researcher Development, the conditions set out in Clauses (26 and 28) below should be included.

(15) Candidates are responsible for meeting costs such as travel and living expenses. Candidates in receipt of a scholarship granted by the University will continue to receive their stipend under the usual conditions of their award. There are no special University funds for travel of supervisors or examiners appointed under dual award research degree or joint degree agreements.

(16) The candidate's research costs, including but not limited to, laboratory/fieldwork funding, are normally met by the Primary Institution. Western Sydney University candidates have access to Candidature Support Funds for research costs under the Research Higher Degree Candidature Essential Resources Policy.

(17) Candidates are responsible for their transportation to and from the Primary Institution, for their accommodation expenses, medical insurance, passport and visa costs, textbooks, clothing and personal expenses, unless otherwise agreed and approved by the Dean or Director of the relevant School or Institute. Western Sydney University candidates travel must comply with the University Travel Policy. Candidates not funded by the University will not be permitted to travel to the Partner Institution unless they can show that they have sufficient financial resources to support themselves for the duration of the planned study period.

(18) A candidate from a Partner Institution will be subject to the Visa and Overseas Health Covers requirements as set out by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs and arrangements for international candidates.

(19) Candidates are mandated to have completed the Foreign Interference training prior to travel.

(20) The candidature is usually divided between the institutions with alternate periods of active enrolment in each of the institutions with a minimum of 30% (two semesters) to be spent at each institution during the period of candidature. This minimum of 30% may vary in exceptional circumstances and must be endorsed by the relevant Associate Dean, Research and HDR or Higher Degree Research Director and be approved by the Dean, Graduate Studies and Researcher Development. Candidates in joint research degree programs are usually enrolled at each institution concurrently for the duration of candidature and take leave of absence from one institution while working at the collaborating institution.

(21) The candidate will have a Principal Supervisor and Co-Supervisor at the University and a Principal Supervisor at each of the Partner Institutions.

(22) A system of assessment and reporting on the candidate's progress, on at least an annual basis, must be agreed upon by all the participating institutions. This should include Confirmation of Candidature processes before the end of the first year of enrolment.

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Section 4 - Procedures

Part A - Development and Approval of Agreement

(23) The relevant School or Institute will complete a Business Case Dual/Joint HDR Award Institutional Framework Agreement to be submitted the University Research Studies Committee (RSC) and International Partnerships for recommendation.

(24) An assessment of due diligence and risk assessment of the new partner, or re-assessment of the existing partner, is undertaken by relevant staff within International Partnerships.

(25) Following a recommendation from the RSC and International Partnerships, an Institutional Framework Agreement should be endorsed by the Office of General Counsel and Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Research, Enterprise and International before being approved by the Vice-Chancellor and President.

(26) The Institutional Framework Agreement (or an equivalent agreement prepared by a participating institution) will set out details of arrangements applying to all research degree candidatures arising from the collaboration and will be signed by the appropriate authorities at each participating institution. This must include reference to:

  1. whether the agreement provides for dual awards or a joint research degree program, or both;
  2. generic candidature requirements, e.g. pattern of study, minimum and maximum time to completion, and protocols covering changes to candidature;
  3. supervision practices and supervisor training standards as set out in the Supervision of Research Candidates Policy;
  4. access to research equipment and infrastructure;
  5. access to IT, office and study facilities;
  6. standards and accountability of research integrity and conduct;
  7. intellectual property, publication and ethics protocols;
  8. examination protocols;
  9. arrangements regarding fees and scholarships;
  10. procedures for dealing with grievances, complaints academic and non-academic misconduct, including cross-institutional matters.

(27) The Individual Candidature Agreement for each student in a dual award degree or joint research degree should be endorsed by the Dean or Director, Research Institute, and the Partner Institution(s).

(28) The Individual Candidature Agreement must specify whether the candidate is enrolled in dual award or joint research degree program and will set out:

  1. nominee details; including name, student ID, degree enrolled or applied for, consumed enrolment load), visa and health requirements and date of commencement;
  2. nomination of Primary and Partner Institutions;
  3. nomination and contact details of supervisors. Outline of supervision arrangements and procedures for assessing and reporting progress including key dates;
  4. administrative contacts at the participating institution(s) and their email and postal addresses;
  5. access to specialist research equipment and infrastructure;
  6. candidature details; including, the thesis title, research topic description, consumed enrolment load;
  7. proposed period of residency at the Primary and Partner Institutions;
  8. protocol for research ethics approval, intellectual property and copyright arrangements;
  9. details of the examination process and the roles of both institutions in accordance with Clauses (33) to (42) below;
  10. funding arrangements; including tuition fees, overseas health cover, examination costs, oral defence costs, scholarship/stipend and travel support, travel support for supervisors and other project costs;
  11. relevant codes of conduct for candidates and supervisors and procedures for dealing with grievances and complaints.

Part B - Admission and Withdrawal

(29) Candidates must meet admission requirements and complete enrolment processes at the home and at the visiting Partner Institution. Current University candidates and prospective candidates are eligible to be considered for enrolment in the dual award degree or joint research degree. Enrolment at the University must be on a full-time basis unless specifically approved by the Dean, Graduate Studies and Researcher Development as outlined in the Doctorate Policy.

(30) If a candidate seeks to withdraw or is excluded from a dual award or joint research degree program such withdrawal or exclusion will apply to their enrolment at all participating institutions. This provision notwithstanding, following termination a candidate may apply for readmission to a standard Doctoral or research masters award program at one of the participating institutions. A decision as to whether or not to readmit a candidate may be made by the subject institution outside the terms of the institutional agreement.

English Language Requirements

(31) Where an applicant’s academic qualifications were completed in a language other than English, the University requires the applicant to demonstrate proficiency in English by achieving a prescribed level in an approved English examination or by providing evidence of English proficiency through a medium of instruction.

(32) The approved English language proficiency tests and required standards are detailed on the English Language Entry Requirements webpage.

Part C - Examination and Awards

Dual Research Awards

(33) Participating institutions may agree to combine elements of their examination processes for the purposes of a dual research award. The decision to award the degree is made separately by each institution.

(34) Candidates are required to submit one thesis for examination at both participating institutions. The thesis is to be written in a language approved by the examining institution. If the thesis is written in a language other than English a comprehensive abstract in English must be provided. The abstract ought to be no longer than 1000 words and should be from an accredited translator or drafted by the candidate.

(35) Each participating institution in a dual research award program will nominate examiners and proceed according to its normal process which must meet international standards for the relevant award, including where required an oral defence of the thesis. The dual examination process will be outlined in the Individual Candidature Agreement.

(36) On successful completion of the examination and award of a dual research award degree, the University testamur and the Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement (AHEGS) will state that the award was made as a consequence of a dual research award degree agreement and it will name the Partner Institution. The participating institutions each confer the degree and issue a testamur.

(37) While effective collaboration and consultation should prevent discrepancy, in the case of dual research awards it is possible that following examination one participating institution may fail to award the degree. This will not preclude the other participating institution(s) from making the award.

Joint Research Degrees

(38) Joint Research Degrees are conferred by the Primary Institution under its own authority for completed research that has been supported and supervised jointly with a Partner Institution(s). Examination procedures may be adjusted or combined by agreement to meet Partner Institutions’ requirements but must meet international standards for Doctoral and Research Masters awards.

(39) Details of the examination process and the roles of both institutions must be described in the Candidature Agreement and approved by the RSC before the arrangement is enacted. If the Partner Institution requires a defence of the thesis in person, it will be conducted according to the Rules and Policies of the Partner Institution.

(40) If the examination is to be carried out under the University Doctorate Policy, each institution(s) will appoint one examiner. Both institutions will agree to the appointment of a reserve examiner. When the RSC is satisfied that all requirements have been met, it shall agree that the degree be awarded.

(41) If the Doctoral examination is carried out by the Partner Institution, the University will agree to nominate one examiner and will accept and endorse the outcome of the examination.

(42) On successful completion of the examination a single award is made for a joint research degree conferred by the Primary Institution of enrolment. The testamur and the AHEGS will state that the award was made as a consequence of a joint research degree agreement and it will name the Partner Institution(s). For more information about AHEGS, refer to the Academic Records Issuance Policy.

Part D - Grievances and Complaints

(43) Candidates and supervisors will be bound by the relevant Codes of Conduct at the institutions they are attending, and will have access to the same grievance and complaints procedures as other candidates at the institution as set out in the Complaint Management Policy.

(44) The Institutional Framework Agreement may establish a cross-institutional process for reporting grievance matters and to resolve grievances and complaints where the circumstances or consequences affect both participating institutions. This may take the form of a panel comprising the Dean, Graduate Studies and Researcher Development or equivalent at each institution plus a senior academic from the relevant School or unit who is not associated with the candidature.

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Section 5 - Guidelines

(45) Process to Establish Dual and Joint Awards.

(46) Business Case Dual/Joint HDR Award Agreement.

(47) Individual Candidature Agreement Template.