Candidature guidelines

A guide for establishing best-practice models for Doctor of Philosophy and Masters by Research candidates, outlining student and school responsibilities.

The following guidelines have been formulated by the University's Higher Degrees Committee and provide for a mutual agreement of responsibilities between students, the supervisors and the department for the duration of candidature.

There is a wide diversity of disciplinary topics, approaches and practices in higher degree research in the Faculty of Art. They are therefore intended as a guide for establishing best-practice models for Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Masters by Research candidates. They are also intended to foreground and provide advice on identifying and managing potential issues or problems relating to research higher degree candidature.

Responsibilities of academic schools

The Head of School is responsible for matters concerning research students, and for any communications with the Faculty Research and Graduate Studies Committee (Masters), or the Research Higher Degree Committee (PhD). However, a Head of School may choose to set up a postgraduate committee to assist and advise on such matters as supervision and progress.

The Head of School, or nominee, should not only advise prospective students on the range of research expertise of academic staff in the School, but should clearly articulate school expectations, practices and standards with respect to supervised research projects. While it should be recognised that at times events beyond the control of students or the School may sometimes delay progress, the School should support and reinforce a student's commitment to intensive research work and to the time-frame in which the degree should be completed. Conditions of postgraduate scholarships and awards should be emphasised.

The Head of School, or nominee, should ensure that an induction session for new and prospective students is provided, including a guide to the nature of research in a given field, to the facilities available for postgraduates within the school (including library services), and to school enrichment opportunities such as graduate seminars. There should be discussion of the characteristic stages towards completion of theses in the field, and typical examples of time-frames. It is advisable that material on these subjects also be made available in written form.

When considering applications for admission to research higher degree programs, the Head of School, or nominee, should ensure that the area of research is of interest to the supervisor(s), is within the range of the supervisor(s)' methodological and theoretical expertise, and can be adequately supervised when the supervisor(s)' other academic commitments are taken into account.

The Head of School, or nominee, should ensure that appropriate staff member(s) are available to supervise the student until the end of the candidature. If a supervisor takes study leave or is absent from the department for more than 2 months, arrangements for alternative supervision must be resolved to the satisfaction of the student, the school and the Research and Graduate Studies Committee (Masters) or the Research Higher Degree Committee (PhD). Joint supervision may be an effective way of meeting these contingencies.

Members of staff would ordinarily be expected to undertake no more than the equivalent of 7 full-time supervisions (inclusive of honours and minor thesis in coursework masters programs). Academic staff with heavy administrative burdens should carefully consider the number of supervisions undertaken.

Through consultation with supervisors, the Head of School, or nominee, should monitor the progress of research candidates and that they report regularly throughout the candidature (see Progress Reports).

In the case of students converting from Masters to Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), the Head of School, or nominee, is expected to provide the Research Higher Degree Committee with evidence of satisfactory progress in the Masters by Research degree, as well as a justification of the conversion in response to the requirements and demands of the PhD.

The Head of School, or nominee, should formulate and make available to prospective and new students general guidelines regarding authorship of publications within the discipline.

The School should provide an appropriate physical and intellectual environment for their research students. Students should be encouraged to participate in research seminars and be given opportunities to become part of the research culture of the School and discipline. In the case of small schools, involvement in interdepartmental activities may also be advisable. The School's activities should include strategies consistent with the University's Affirmative Action program for women.

In the event of a supervisory relationship breaking down, it is the responsibility of the Head of School, or nominee, to resolve the problem. Where necessary they may also consult the Research Higher Degree Committee (PhD) or Research and Graduate Studies Committee (Masters) in the formulation of alternative arrangements.

Responsibilities of candidates

Research candidature may be considered a three-way interaction between the academic school, supervisor(s) and the student. While schools and supervisors are expected to provide many forms of support and guidance, the ultimate responsibility for managing the research project and obtaining the degree rests with the candidate.

All candidates should observe the University's rules, regulations and requirements (both specifically relating to the degree and other requirements), and consult the handbook for guidance especially when making applications for variations to candidature.

Through the orientation process led by Schools and/or in consultation with their supervisors, commencing candidates need to become familiar with:

  1. The nature of research in their field
  2. The facilities (including support for fieldwork if necessary) available for postgraduates in their schools and across the University
  3. The dimensions of the project, the time-frame for completion, and necessary process milestone

From the outset of candidature, students and supervisors should negotiate a mutually agreed schedule of meetings for the year. Candidates should keep supervisors informed of their research activities, progress and problems.

After the first 6 months of full-time (or 12 months part-time) of candidature in Masters by Research programs, students are required to submit a progress report detailing progress made, and any problems faced during this period. Around 9 months full-time (or 21 months part-time) after admission to probationary PhD candidature, the candidate should submit an application for confirmed candidature and a report on the research (based on a format set out in an application form sent out by the School of Graduate Research) so that confirmation may be finalised by the end of the probationary period. Individual schools may have additional requirements and it is advisable that students consult and follow all necessary local guidelines on confirmation of candidature and progress reporting.

Where a recommendation not to confirm PhD candidature in the first instance or termination of candidature is recommended on the grounds of unsatisfactory progress, the candidate may make a submission to the Research Higher Degree Committee and may subsequently appeal to the Academic Board against any decision of the Sub-Committee.

After proceeding to confirmed PhD candidature, candidates should present to their supervisor at least one significant piece of written work (in the form of a report, draft chapter or work-in-progress paper) annually. Student and supervisor should also undertake a major review of work completed at least six-monthly so it can be assessed within the overall shape of the study and the time-frame for completion.

If a candidate is unable to resolve serious problems with their supervisory arrangement, he or she should first appeal to the Head of School or nominee for assistance. If this does not result in a resolution, the Secretary of the Research Higher Degree Committee (PhD) or the Manager of the Research and Graduate Studies Committee (Masters) should be approached. It is important that these steps be taken without delay so that progress is not unduly impeded. In cases where the supervisor and the Head of School are one and the same person, the Secretary of the Research Higher Degree or Research and Graduate Studies Committee should be approached directly. Help is also available from the University of Melbourne Student Union Advocacy web page and the Counselling and Psychological Services.

A PhD or Masters by Research program at the University of Melbourne is a demanding undertaking requiring performance to the full extent of the candidate's ability. It is therefore expected that candidature be undertaken on a full-time basis, except where there are circumstances warranting part-time enrolment. Part-time students should ensure that they continue to have sufficient time available each week as agreed with their supervisors, to work on their project. In some instances, the candidate, in consultation with their supervisor, might determine that additional coursework subjects will assist in their research program. In such cases, application should be made on the "Additional coursework subjects" form.

Professional development is considered an integral part of the PhD training program, and might include tutoring or presentations at academic and public fora. The University of Melbourne does not stipulate the maximum hours to be worked, but recommends as a guide no more than 6 hours per week across the year.

Where sessional teaching is undertaken, it should be understood that the initial tutorial will include two hours of preparation and marking. Repeat tutorials involve one additional hour.

No other commitments should impact on the time commitment to the PhD or Masters program. It is the responsibility of the student in liaison with their supervisor to ensure that paid work will not jeopardise the completion of the course of study in the time allowed. While it is recognised that teaching experience may be beneficial if candidates wish to pursue an academic career, this should not unduly impact on their progress.

Candidates have a responsibility (shared with the University) to ensure that they re-enrol each year. It is important to notify the School of Graduate Research (PhD) or the Faculty of Arts (Masters) of any change of address so that re-enrolment papers are received.

Candidates should apply in good time before submitting any leave of absence, period of study away, change of status, change of title, or change of supervisor application. Candidates should notify the University via their student portal when they return from leave of absence or leave to study away from the University.

In preparing the thesis, candidates should bear in mind the following:

  • They are expected to be familiar with the literature in the particular field and assess it critically
  • They should formulate a clear hypothesis or overall question, and should support their conclusions with adequate data or evidence and analysis
  • The evidence presented should be relevant to the main hypothesis being investigated
  • Candidates should pay particular attention to the final presentation of the thesis. Not only should the final version be carefully checked for errors, but it should be clearly structured and easy to follow, and should form an integrated whole (examiners can ask for theses to be revised if presentation is below the required standard). A high standard of written English should be attained. Candidates should refer to the specifications available from the School of Graduate Research (PhD) or Faculty of Arts (Masters)

In writing up their research, candidates must avoid the following:

  • The fabrication of data (defined as the claiming results where none have been obtained)
  • The falsification of data or altering results to confirm the hypothesis
  • Plagiarism, including the direct copying of textual material, the use of data or ideas from other people without adequate attribution
  • Attribution to others who have not in fact contributed to the research

Candidates should observe the University of Melbourne Research Integrity and Misconduct Policy (MPF1318)

At the outset of their candidature, candidates should clarify with their supervisor(s) the meaning and importance of University and School practices regarding intellectual property, including patents and authorship of any publications arising from their work. They should be informed by the supervisor in writing of any limitations on publication or communication of their work consequent upon commercial agreements at the outset of the candidature or as soon as such commercial agreements have been reached. In such cases a written agreement should be concluded over the signatures of the candidate, principal supervisor(s) and Head of the unit(s) and school(s) concerned.

Candidates collecting data from human subjects (including surveys) should ensure that approval from the relevant ethics committee is obtained. Candidates undertaking any experiment involving animals should also ensure that ethics approval and relevant licences are obtained prior to the commencement of research. Applications for ethics approval and licences should be made before data collection commences.

Candidates should be aware that the University provides insurance coverage for graduate students. The University of Melbourne has in force Personal Accident insurance coverage for graduate students for up to $100K. The Personal Accident Insurance provides students with various levels of benefits under the policy, including Accidental Death, Permanent Disability and non recoverable medical expenses incurred through accident whilst engaged in activities relating to studies or research including field trips. However, in some cases, especially travel, this cover may not be sufficient and it is therefore advisable that students arrange separate travel insurance.