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Supervision of Research Candidates Policy

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) This Policy establishes the criteria for appointment of supervisory panels, the role and responsibilities of academic supervisors of research higher degree candidates and expectations of candidates by supervisors.

(2) Research education is a complex and highly specialized form of teaching. This policy aims to ensure the highest standards of practice in conducting academic supervision of research higher degree candidates.

(3) The apprentice-master model of research education has progressed to a model of supervision as a shared responsibility. Research education involves academic governing bodies such as the Research Studies Committee and School or Research Institute (Institute) Research and Higher Degrees Committee, Deans, and HDR Directors, or equivalent, acting within a policy framework to foster an enriched and successful candidature.

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Section 2 - Definitions

(4) Definitions for the purpose of this policy:

  1. A research higher degree is a program of which at least two-thirds of the study must be undertaken as independent research.
  2. A Research Training Scheme candidate is a candidate funded under the Commonwealth Research Training Scheme that provides eligible higher degree research students with an entitlement to a HECS exemption for the duration of an accredited higher degree research course.
  3. The Dean is the Dean of a University School.
  4. The Director, Research Institute is the Director of a University Institute.
  5. The HDR Director is the relevant Director (e.g. Director, HDR or Director, Research and HDR) as determined by the Dean, or an equivalent role as determined by the Director, Research Institute.
  6. The School or Research Institute (Institute) Research and Higher Degrees Committee is the relevant School Research and Higher Degrees Committee, or the equivalent committee for a Research Institute as determined by the Director, Research Institute in consultation with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Research, Enterprise and International.
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Section 3 - Policy Statement

Part A - Panel Supervision

(5) Members of the supervisory panel will seek to impart knowledge of research methods to the candidates under their supervision and to guide them in becoming excellent researchers. The process of supervision should stimulate the candidate's intellectual and research potential. Success will be demonstrated by external examination.

(6) The University uses a panel system of supervision. Each research candidate has a panel of at least two supervisors, one of whom is designated as principal supervisor, the other(s) as co-supervisor(s). Panels introduce additional expertise and some candidatures may have several co-supervisors, to access a range of knowledge and skills. The operation of the panel will be determined by the principal supervisor in consultation with the candidate and other panel members.

(7) The Dean or Director, Research Institute holds the responsibility for ensuring the quality of supervision of higher degree research candidates in his/her School /Institute.

(8) The Dean or Director, Research Institute shall approve the thesis topic and a supervisory panel. The supervisory panel will normally comprise a Principal Supervisor and at least one other member. Panels will be appointed in accordance with the Supervision of Research Candidates Policy.

(9) The Dean or Director, Research Institute may approve changes of Principal Supervisor. The HDR Director may approve additions to the supervisory panel during the period of candidature.

(10) Changes to the supervisory panel do not constitute grounds for an extension of candidature or scholarship.

(11) All changes to candidature shall be reported to the Research Studies Committee.

(12) It is a requirement that the full panel meet in person with the candidate at least once per session. The notes from these meetings will be signed by the panel members and candidate and lodged on the candidate's file (TRIM record).

Part B - The Principal Supervisor


(13) A principal supervisor must:

  1. be a permanent or fixed term employee of the University;
  2. hold current registration on the Graduate Supervisors Register;
  3. show evidence of an acceptable level of research activity over the past three years in the form of publications, research grants and/or HDR completions.

(14) Casual employees may not be appointed as principal supervisor.

(15) Notwithstanding Clause (13) an academic staff member who holds an Adjunct appointment or who is an Emeritus Professor may continue in the role of principal supervisor where the candidate is in the final stages of candidature. In these cases the Adjunct or Emeritus appointee will have been the principal supervisor of the candidate before their appointment as Adjunct or Emeritus.

(16) The criteria for admission to the Graduate Supervisors Register are that the academic must:

  1. have completed the registration form;
  2. attend a University Research Supervisors' Forum at least once every three years.

(17) In particular circumstances where the capacity to supervise has been demonstrated, the relevant Dean or Director, Research Institute may approve that an exception be made to the requirement in Clause (13) c. that a principal supervisor should show an acceptable level of research activity over the past three years.

Number of Candidates

(18) The principal supervisor will not normally be principal supervisor for greater than the equivalent of six full-time research candidates. The Research Studies Committee may approve more than the equivalent of six full-time candidates in circumstances such as where the principal supervisor is a research-only appointee.


(19) The principal supervisor and co-supervisors shall normally hold qualifications at least at the level of the award for which the candidate is admitted. Where a Dean or Director, Research Institute recommends a principal supervisor who does not have a qualification at the level at which the applicant wishes to enrol or is enrolled, the Dean or Director, Research Institute will provide to the Research Studies Committee evidence of the research profile of the nominee through its monthly report to that committee (see Clause (8)). It is expected that such a nominee will hold the position of Professor or Associate Professor.

Part C - Acting Principal Supervisor

(20) An acting principal supervisor must be appointed during any significant absence of the principal supervisor and always during periods of absence due to professional development leave.

Part D - Supervisory Panel

(21) Co-supervisors are encouraged to register on the Graduate Supervisor Register (see Clause (16)).

(22) Co-supervisors may be non-Western Sydney University staff.

(23) A co-supervisor may be requested to act as principal supervisor during an absence of the principal supervisor.

(24) There must be at least one co-supervisor.

(25) If there is a conflict between the candidate and the supervisory panel, the candidate may refer the matter to the relevant HDR Director.

Part E - Responsibilities of the Principal Supervisor

(26) The Principal Supervisor is responsible for making recommendations on proposed changes to candidature. These include:

  1. Changes to thesis title;
  2. Panel membership;
  3. Mode of enrolment;
  4. Leave of absence;
  5. Early submission for examination;
  6. Extension of scholarship;
  7. Extension of candidature;
  8. Application to upgrade to doctoral candidature from research masters.

(27) The principal supervisor is responsible for ensuring that progress milestones are met. These include:

  1. Measures of Achievement;
  2. Confirmation of Candidature;
  3. Annual Progress Reports.

(28) The principal supervisor is responsible for taking action if progress of the candidate is unsatisfactory.

(29) The principal supervisor is responsible for ensuring that Ethics applications are submitted.

(30) The principal supervisor is responsible for ensuring that Conflict of Interest Guidelines are observed.

(31) The principal supervisor is responsible for ensuring that:

  1. agreement is reached between the candidate and members of the supervisory panel concerning authorship of publications and acknowledgment of contributions during and after candidature. Refer to the Research Code of Practice;
  2. candidates are aware of the Student Misconduct Rule;
  3. candidates are aware of University policies on intellectual property and plagiarism.

(32) The principal supervisor is responsible for taking action for infringement by the candidate of the Student Misconduct Rule.


(33) The principal supervisor is responsible for:

  1. discussing potential examiners with the candidate;
  2. arranging for the appointment of examiners;
  3. making initial contact with examiners;
  4. endorsing lodgement of the thesis;
  5. commenting on examiners' reports and making recommendations to the School or Institute Research and Higher Degrees Committee and/or the Research Studies Committee on the examination outcome;
  6. endorsing completion of amendments;
  7. approving readiness for re-examination, where applicable; and
  8. all other relevant administrative actions concerning the student's progress.
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Section 4 - Procedures

Part F - Role of the Principal Supervisor

(34) The principal supervisor has primary obligation for oversight of the candidate's progress and takes a leadership role in managing the panel and candidature. In addition to the responsibilities listed above the principal supervisor should consider the following matters in leading the candidature:

  1. Establishment
    1. The terms of the candidature negotiated and agreed among the panel and candidate on meeting protocols;
    2. Meeting of commitments made by the panel and candidate;
    3. Awareness of the panel and the candidate of relevant University policies;
    4. Candidate's access to resources;
    5. Candidate's understanding of the requirements of the degree;
    6. Awareness of academic governance and how to action processes.
  2. Assessment and Progression
    1. Encouraging of candidates to develop their writing early in the candidature and to access University assistance with writing, if necessary;
    2. Provision of timely and effective feedback to the candidate on progress;
    3. Identification with the candidate of the particular research skills that need to be developed;
    4. Identification with the candidate and panel of agreed methods and timelines; for assessing progress, in addition to mandatory reporting requirements.
  3. Project management
    1. Mapping of the project with the panel and candidate according to a timeline;
    2. Where appropriate, instructing the candidate to prepare a budget estimate of costs associated with the research;
    3. Assessment of progress against the timeline, taking action to adjust the rate of progress as required;
    4. Ensuring that scholarship timelines and conditions are observed.
  4. Resources
    1. Ensuring access to facilities under the Research Higher Degree Candidature Essential Resources Policy;
    2. Discussion of library resources;
    3. Seeking additional expertise on the panel, if required;
    4. Encouraging the candidate to participate in skills development programs at the University, both face to face and on-line.
  5. Dealing with Difficulties
    1. Seeking of advice from relevant academic leaders, for example, HDR Director.
  6. Research Culture
    1. Inculcation of research culture and good research practice;
    2. Encouraging the candidate to publish and giving strategic advice about when and where to publish;
    3. Providing advice on researcher safety;
    4. Acting as a career mentor;
    5. Encouraging the candidate's participation in the University's research culture.
  7. Leadership
    1. Acting as a mentor to fellow panellists, if appropriate;
    2. Ensuring that commitments made by the panel and candidate are met;
    3. Assisting the candidate to identify research opportunities.
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Section 5 - Guidelines

(35) This policy should be read in conjunction with the following policies and guidelines:

  1. Relevant degree Policy or Rule;
  2. Research Code of Practice;
  3. Research Ethics Policy;
  4. Research Higher Degree Candidature Essential Resources Policy;
  5. Student Misconduct Rule; and
  6. Conflict of Interest Policy.