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Higher Degree by Research Progress and Milestones Policy
1. Purpose:
  1. The University has responsibility to support Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidates throughout their candidature, and monitor progress to identify candidates who are at risk of not making satisfactory progress in their course.
  2. This document outlines the University’s policy to support academic progress of HDR candidates by monitoring their progress and completion of mandatory milestones.
2. Scope:
  1. This policy applies to all candidates enrolled in HDR courses at the University of Canberra and to the staff involved in HDR supervision and management at the University. 
  2. This policy complements the Higher Degrees by Research Enrolment and Changes to Candidature Policy and Infrastructure Support for Higher Degree by Research Candidates Policy.
  3. Detailed information and guidance on procedures, including the Progress Support Strategy, is contained in the Higher Degree by Research Progress and Milestones Procedures.
3. Principles:
Policy principles
  1. University policy and practice relating to research degrees will as far as possible encourage and assist candidates to achieve objectives of the research project, acquire generic skills and attributes for University of Canberra research graduates, and complete the academic requirements for award of the relevant degree within the standard duration and time limits of funding.    
  2. The progress of candidates in higher degree by research courses is monitored to ensure the candidate’s steady progress towards the degree for the benefit of both the candidate and the University.
  3. Oversight and guidance of the research are provided by the candidate’s supervisory panel. Ongoing assessment of progress occurs through regular supervisory contact and the achievement of mandatory milestones.
  4. It is the responsibility of the Primary Supervisor to monitor the progression of candidature towards a timely and successful completion and to ensure that inadequate progress or work below the standard generally expected is brought to the candidate’s attention as soon as possible, and to the attention of the relevant authority.
  5. Where there is a conflict of interest, and it is not appropriate for the Approving Authority to make an academic decision regarding a Higher Degree by Research candidate, a delegate with equivalent or higher authority must be nominated.
  6. Where indicated below, exceptions to normal policy and practice may be approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation).
Feedback and reporting
  1. Feedback to candidates on their progress should be given as early as possible in candidature, and regularly throughout the candidate’s course.
  2. For candidates enrolled in the coursework component of the PhD (course codes 254HC and 254LC) feedback on progress should be given within the first eight weeks after commencement of candidature.
  3. Candidates and supervisors should note that, in the event of a dispute, written reports will be of prime importance; therefore reports of the candidate’s progress must be frank appraisals by both the Primary Supervisor and the candidate.
  4. The Primary Supervisor is required to report immediately, to the Associate Dean in the Faculty or Director of the Research Institute, any failure by a candidate to make satisfactory progress or to abide by other requirements in the regulations governing the degree.
Progress
  1. Potential indicators that a candidate may be at risk of not making satisfactory progress in his or her course are detailed in the Higher Degree by Research Progress and Milestones Procedures.
  2. Faculties and Research Institutes formally review the progress of all HDR candidates biannually via mandatory reports to ensure early identification of candidates who are at risk of failing to meet course progress requirements.
  3. When progress is below the standard generally expected, the Faculty or Research Institute must initiate the University’s Progress Support Strategy.
  4. The University’s Progress Support Strategy must be completed, before unsatisfactory progress procedures (Academic Probation) can be activated.
Milestones
  1. A candidate’s progression through an HDR course, from initial enrolment to thesis submission and examination, involves the achievement of a number of milestones. The Primary Supervisor is responsible for assisting the candidate to meet milestone requirements. The supervisor is also responsible for reporting completion of milestones and ensuring they are noted in the candidate’s Annual Progress Report and Research Plan Review.
  2. Research candidates are encouraged to submit their theses by target submission dates to allow for the examination process to be undertaken within the maximum course completion period. Target submission dates should be taken into consideration when reviewing progress (see Higher Degree by Research Progress and Milestones Procedures for more information on target submission dates).
  3. Progression through an HDR course encompasses the following milestones:
Coursework milestones
  1. Mid Semester Review (for PhD candidates undertaking coursework) – Progress in the coursework component is formally assessed through the Doctoral Research Skills Portfolio unit (9311). The Primary Supervisor is responsible for ensuring a Mid-Semester Review meeting is scheduled 7-8 weeks into the semester in which the unit is undertaken. Both the candidate and the Primary Supervisor must attend the meeting. It is recommended that other members of the supervisory panel also attend. For off-shore candidates a Skype meeting or tele/videoconference would be appropriate.
  2. Successful completion of coursework component (Standard-entry PhD) Candidates are required to complete 12 credit points of discipline prescribed coursework units, to at least a pass level of achievement within the first six months of full-time (or equivalent part-time) enrolment in order to progress to thesis units.  As continuation in the PhD is conditional on successful completion of the coursework component, candidates who do not progress to the thesis units will be discontinued from the PhD on the grounds of failing to make satisfactory progress.
  3. Successful completion of coursework component (Masters by Research and Professional Doctorate) Candidates enrolled in courses that include a coursework component are required to complete the specified coursework units to at least a pass level, but may be enrolled concurrently in thesis units in the relevant semester.
Seminars
  1. Introductory seminars - within the first 6 months of candidature (FTE) for PhD and Professional Doctorate candidates and the first 4 months (FTE) for Masters by Research Candidates. The seminar is not formally assessed.The Introductory seminar is organised by the Primary Supervisor. The candidate and the supervisory panel are expected to have discussed and agreed on the content of the presentation. The seminar provides an opportunity for the candidate to introduce his/her research topic, research question/s, supporting literature, proposed methodology and timeline for the project. Disciplinary standards will dictate the format and length of the seminar.The intended objectives of the introductory seminar are to:
    • introduce the candidate and his/her research to the University research community;
    • welcome the candidate into that community;
    • provide an avenue for the candidate to receive feedback from academics in the field;
    • provide an early opportunity for the candidate to test the feasibility of the research project; and
    • provide an opportunity to implement early intervention measures if appropriate.
  2. All members of the supervisory panel should attend the seminar. Attendees will be invited to provide verbal and written feedback to the candidate. The seminar and feedback received should be discussed in a follow up panel meeting.
  3. Confirmation of Candidature seminar and research proposal – within the first 12 months full-time candidature (or equivalent part-time) for Doctoral candidates and within the first 7 months full-time candidature (or equivalent part-time) for Masters by Research candidates. The content, format and length of both the research proposal and confirmation seminar will be subject to the specific requirements of the discipline area.
  4. Confirmation of Candidature involves the submission of a written research proposal and presentation of a confirmation seminar. Both are formally evaluated by a panel of disciplinary experts, who are not members of the candidate’s supervisory panel. The primary supervisor, in consultation with the panel members, will appoint a panel of assessors consisting of at least two disciplinary experts who meet the following requirements:
    • Not a current or previous member of the candidate’s supervisory panel;
    • At least two must hold a research degree at the level sought by the candidate, or equivalent professional research experience;
    • Research active in the field of scholarship in which the candidate is also engaged; and
    • At least one assessor will be a member of academic staff at a tertiary institution. All supervisory panel members and the Associate Dean of the Faculty or Director of the Research Institute (or respective delegates) are expected to attend the seminar.
  5. The panel of assessors will normally meet with the candidate, supervisory panel and Associate Dean of the Faculty or Director of the Research Institute following the seminar to provide feedback.
  6. Confirmation of candidature will be achieved when the following criteria have been met to the satisfaction of the supervisory panel and Associate Dean of the Faculty or Director of the Research Institute:
    • A written research proposal
    • Presentation of a confirmation seminar
    • Post-seminar meeting of candidate and assessment panel
    • Successful completion of all previous milestones, including completion of research integrity training
  7. The University requires that all candidates, including off campus candidates, present the Confirmation seminar in person. If exceptional circumstances mean that the candidate is unable to deliver the seminar in person, the seminar can be delivered via video conference. Teleconference alone is not permissible.
  8. Enrolment in the HDR course remains provisional until Confirmation of Candidature.
  9. Candidates who are unsuccessful at a Confirmation of Candidature will be permitted to undertake a second attempt. A doctoral candidate who fails to meet conditions required for Confirmation of Candidature following a second attempt may be counselled to transfer to an appropriate Masters by Research course. If this option is not available, the candidate will be discontinued on the grounds of failing to make satisfactory progress.
  10. Masters by Research candidates who fail to meet conditions of confirmation of candidature will be discontinued on the grounds of failing to make satisfactory progress.
  11. Work-In-Progress (WIP) Seminar (Doctoral candidates only) – within the first two-thirds of the total period of candidature. The supervisory panel and Associate Dean of the Faculty or Director of the Research Institute are expected to attend. Not formally assessed.
  12. The supervisory panel and candidates meet following the WIP seminar to provide feedback and discuss the presentation.
  13. Pre-submission seminar – three to six months prior to submission of the thesis. Not formally assessed.
  14. The seminar is to be chaired by the primary supervisor and the remaining supervisory panel and Associate Dean of the Faculty or Director of the Research Institute are expected to attend. Faculty or Research Institute staff and members of the wider research and professional communities should also be invited to attend.
Reviews of Progress
  1. To comply with the University’s government reporting requirements, the progress of candidates is reviewed biannually through the Research Plan Review and the Annual Progress Review.
  2. Research Plan Review (RPR), a research plan is to be developed in the first 6 months of candidature and formally reviewed each year by 31 March. This review provides an opportunity for structured discussion of progress.
  3. Annual Progress Report (APR) is to be submitted by 30 September each year, and provides an opportunity for candidates, supervisors and Associate Deans of the Faculty or Director of the Research Institute to comment on the candidate’s progression in their course.
Progress support
  1. The University provides academic and personal support services to help candidates achieve their research and skills development goals and make satisfactory progress towards the completion of their course.
  2. The Progress Support Strategy provides a formal avenue to assist research candidates who are not progressing as expected. Progress should be assessed against expected completion of course milestones (detailed above), as well as individual milestones described in a candidate’s research plan.
  3. The Progress Support Strategy requires formal intervention by the supervisory panel and Faculty Associate Dean or Research Institute Director. Working with the candidate, a course of action is determined which details specific conditions or outcomes to be achieved over a period of three months.
  4. A review is to be conducted after three months, and requires the submission of the Progress Support Strategy Report.  Where identified outcomes have been achieved, the research program can continue.  If outcomes have not been achieved and progress is still unsatisfactory, the Associate Dean in the Faculty or Director in the Research Institute makes one of the following recommendations:
    • Change enrolment to part-time (if full-time) if eligible
    • Be counselled to transfer to a Masters by Research course (if appropriate)
    • Be referred to UC or other support services, e.g. counselling, health
    • Take intermission, if eligible
    • Make changes to supervisory panel as required
    • Extend Progress Support Strategy for a further 3 months
    • Be placed on Academic Probation (duration of 3 months)
    • Be counselled to voluntarily withdraw from the course
  5. Failure to submit the Progress Support Strategy Report may result in the candidate being placed on Academic Probation.
  6. International candidates should seek appropriate advice on any implications the above actions may have on their student visa.
See Higher Degree by Research Progress and Milestones Procedures for detailed information on the Progress Support Strategy.  

Academic Probation
  1. If a candidate fails to comply with conditions or fails to complete a program of work as required as part of the Progress Support Strategy, the Faculty or Research Institute can place the candidate on Academic Probation.
  2. A candidate cannot be placed on probation without having first been given opportunities and support as described in the Progress Support Strategy. If a candidate is placed on probation, the Associate Dean in the Faculty or Director of the Research Institute, supervisory panel and candidate determine a course of action, with specific conditions or outcomes to be achieved over a period of three months.
  3. At end of the probation period, an Academic Probation Report must be submitted and the Associate Dean in the Faculty or Director in the Research Institute makes one of the following recommendations:
    • Continuation in the research program;  or, if the candidate has failed to address the identified progress issues:
    • Change enrolment to part-time (if full-time), if eligible
    • Be counselled to transfer to a Masters by Research course (if appropriate)
    • Be referred to UC or other support services, e.g. counselling, health
    • Take intermission
    • Make changes to supervisory panel as required
    • Be counselled to voluntarily withdraw from the course
    • Be discontinued from course
  4. Failure to submit the Academic Probation Report may result in the candidate being discontinued from their course. 
  5. International candidates should seek appropriate advice on any implications the above actions may have on their student visa.
  6. No extension to Academic Probation will be granted unless the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances beyond the control of the candidate.
See Higher Degree by Research Progress and Milestones Procedures for more information on Academic Probation.

Appeals and Grievances
  1. Higher degree by research candidates are permitted to appeal academic and administrative decisions and actions relating to progress and milestones.
  2. As outlined in the Student Grievance Resolution Policy , an appeal or grievance relating to progress or milestones should in the first instance, be handled informally where possible, between the candidate and Primary Supervisor or other panel member as appropriate.
  3. If informal resolution is not possible, the procedures outlines in the Student Grievance Resolution Policy should be applied.
4. Legislation:
This policy is governed by the Academic Progress Statute 2015 and the Academic Progress Rules 2009.
This document also ensures compliance with relevant sections of the National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2007 (the National Code 2007) established under the Educational Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (the ESOS Act 2000). The National Code 2007 sets out specific principles for registered providers to follow when supporting and monitoring course progress of international candidates on student visas.
5. Supporting Information:
Commonwealth and Territory governing framework and legislation
  • Educational Services for Overseas Students Act 2000
  • National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2007
  • Higher Education Support Act (HESA)
University statutes and rules University policy and procedures
6. Definitions:
Abbreviation or term Meaning
HDR Higher Degree by Research
UC University of Canberra
FTE Full-time equivalent enrolment load
PhD Doctor of Philosophy
PD Professional Doctorate
APR Annual Progress Report
RPR Research Plan Review
WIP Work-in-progress seminar