Please refer to the University’s Glossary of Terms for policies and procedures. Terms and definitions identified below are specific to these procedures and are critical to its effectiveness:
Candidate means a person admitted to a Higher Degree Research course at the University.
Candidature means duration of enrolment in a higher degree by research program. A Research student is considered to be a “candidate” for the higher degree by research program in which they are enrolled. All research and related work towards fulfilment of the requirements for a higher degree by research must be completed during enrolled candidature.
Creative work means an original product designed, created or constructed by a candidate during candidature derived from one or more of the creative arts including graphical and new media techniques.
Exegesis means a scholarly, critical commentary on the original creative work in dialogue with, and informing that original work or collection of works, resulting from research undertaken and produced during. The exegesis also includes explicit reference to the research methodologies employed in the creation of the original creative work.
Higher degree by research (HDR) means a supervised research program that requires original research in an area.
Principal Supervisor means a USC academic staff member who meets the criteria for and has been approved for registration as a USC Principal HDR supervisor. A registered Principal Supervisor may join an individual student’s supervision panel as the student’s Principal Supervisor or as a Co-Supervisor. Refer to the HDR Supervision – Procedures for a Principal Supervisor’s roles and responsibilities.
Significant research component means a substantial research project undertaken with appropriate research methodology.
Thesis means an original substantial piece of scholarly writing resulting from research undertaken by a candidate and produced during candidature to meet the requirements of the degree.
1. Purpose of procedures
These procedures provide the framework for HDR thesis submission and examination at the University.
They should be read in conjunction with the Higher Degrees by Research - Academic Policy, and the following associated procedures and guidelines:
- Higher Degree by Research Candidature – Procedures
- Higher Degree by Research Supervision – Procedures
- Higher Degree by Research Admission and Enrolment – Guidelines
- Higher Degree by Research Confirmation of Candidature – Guidelines
- Higher Degree by Research Thesis Presentation – Guidelines
- Higher Degree by Research Thesis Review – Guidelines
- Higher Degree by Research Examiners – Guidelines
2. Thesis preparation
This section should be read in conjunction with the ‘Higher Degree by Research Thesis Presentation – Guidelines’, the ‘Higher Degree by Research Thesis Review – Guidelines’.
2.1 For an award of a PhD, the thesis must represent an original and significant contribution to knowledge of the subject.
2.2 The research described must have been completed during the period of enrolment for the degree.
2.3 The thesis must consist of an account of the candidate's own research and may include research publications. All research performed conjointly with other persons must be fully acknowledged and include a statement of the candidate's contribution to the conjoint research.
2.4 The thesis should include appropriate acknowledgements in a prominent place. Recipients of a USC Research Training Program Scholarship are required to include specific acknowledgement of the “Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship”. Any editorial assistance in the preparation of the thesis must also be acknowledged.
2.5 The candidate must prepare and present their thesis in accordance with ‘Higher Degree by Research Thesis Presentation – Guidelines’. A candidate, with the support of their Principal Supervisor, may request approval for a variation in the Guidelines where good reason for such a variation exists.
2.6 Where an exegesis is required, the candidate must prepare and present their exegesis in accordance with ‘Higher Degrees by Research Thesis Presentation – Guidelines’.
2.7 Candidates have ownership of intellectual property directly related to their research project or creative work, unless other arrangements have been mutually agreed in advance by the candidate and the University. (Refer to the University’s Intellectual Property - Governing Policy).
2.8 The candidate must not submit as part of the thesis any work or material that the candidate has previously been submitted for a university degree or other similar award as the main content of the thesis.
2.9 The Principal Supervisor must arrange for:
(a) the thesis to be run through text matching software to support the avoidance of plagiarism, and
(b) an independent edit check of the thesis in sufficient time to enable the candidate to adapt the thesis in response to feedback as appropriate.
(c) a review of the thesis by one of the other Supervisors or an independent peer reviewer prior to submission for external examination.
Refer to the ‘Higher Degrees by Research Thesis Review – Guidelines’ for further information on conducting the edit check. The Principal Supervisor will be required to sign a declaration at thesis submission to demonstrate that these checks have taken place.
3. Thesis presentation seminar
3.1 A candidate is required to present their research at a faculty organised seminar prior to submitting their thesis. To ensure sufficient time to respond to feedback, the presentation should occur ideally six months, and no later than two months prior to the due date for thesis submission. This thesis presentation is a thirty minute presentation, and should be made to a faculty audience allowing additional time for questions and feedback. Presentation at external conference(s) is not sufficient grounds for exemption from the Thesis Presentation Seminar; however, all candidates will be encouraged to present their research to appropriate external audiences.
3.2 The relevant School arranges the time for the Thesis Presentation Seminar, facilitates the Thesis Presentation Seminar and provides feedback to the candidate with regard to any revisions to be incorporated to their final thesis. Candidates must present a seminar satisfactory to the relevant Associate Dean (Research) before their thesis will be accepted for submission for examination by the relevant Associate Dean (Research).
4. Examiner Nomination
4.1 The Principal Supervisor must give the Office of Research a minimum eight weeks’ written notice of intention to submit a thesis or exegesis and creative work for examination. This must include:
- a brief abstract of the thesis
- examiner nomination form (completed by the Principal Supervisor independent of the candidate)
4.2 The Principal Supervisor discusses potential examiners with the candidate to ensure that only suitable examiners are nominated (the candidate must not be aware of the final nominated examiners). The Principal Supervisor recommends examiners to the Associate Dean (Research), who nominates a panel of potential examiners.
The Research Degrees Committee, or Chairperson acting on behalf of the Committee, approves the examination panel. An examination panel will consist of:
|Panel role||Number appointed||Description|
|Chairperson of the examination panel||1||Normally an academic staff member of this University with appropriate expertise in the research area. Must not be or have been a member of the candidate’s supervision panel. The Chairperson does not have an examiner role.|
|2 to 3 external examiners||2 to 3||Examiners hold a doctoral degree (or equivalent research experience), and must be an active researcher in the relevant discipline, as demonstrated by relevant and recent research publications. Examiners may not be members of the staff of this University (including adjunct appointments), nor have been a member of staff of this University within the past 5 years. A candidate’s supervisors may not be examiners. An independent reviewer of the candidate’s confirmation of candidature may not be an examiner. Any persons acknowledged in the thesis as making a contribution to the work may not be appointed as an examiner.|
|Reserve examiner(s)||At least 1||The reserve examiner(s) may be called upon by the Research Degrees Committee to fulfil the role of examiner (in the event that any of the originally nominated examiners are unavailable), or should an additional or adjudication examiner be required (see section 6.4)|
4.3 Members of the examination panel are invited by the Office of Research. Invited examiners respond via the form provided. External examiners are required to sign and return a Confidentiality Agreement.
4.4 Candidates are not advised of the identity of their examiners until the end of the examination process, and only if the examiner has indicated that their identity may be made available. Members of the examination panel may not normally consult with one another. An examiner wishing to enter into dialogue with another examiner, a supervisor, a candidate or the Chairperson of examination panel, should direct any request to the Chairperson, Research Degrees Committee. A supervisor or candidate may not initiate contact with an examiner or Chairperson of the examination panel.
5. Submission of thesis for examination
5.1 A candidate is required to lodge:
(a) soft-bound copies of the thesis for examination (one for each of the examiners who requested a physical copy).
(b) an electronic .pdf version (except where grant funding restrictions prohibit electronic submission of the thesis).
(c) a completed ‘Higher Degree by Research Thesis Submission Form’, which includes a declaration for each of the candidate, supervisors and Associate Dean (Research):
This form must be signed by the Candidate, the Principal Supervisor, and the relevant Associate Dean (Research).
5.2 Submission is to be made to the Office of Research by the agreed thesis completion date. Where the candidate has been given permission to submit their thesis in a form outside standard requirements for their HDR, the candidate must comply with the directions of the Research Degrees Committee regarding the material to be presented for examination.
5.3 In the event that the supervision panel does not provide the required statement within two weeks of the candidate's submission, or if the Principal Supervisor declines to support the examination of the thesis or exegesis and creative work, the Research Degrees Committee, or Chairperson acting on behalf of the Committee, will determine whether the thesis or exegesis and creative work will be accepted for examination. In making the determination, the Research Degrees Committee, or Chairperson acting on behalf of the Committee, may seek written or oral representations from the candidate, the supervisors and the Associate Dean (Research), and may seek information from any other sources.
5.3.1 If the Research Degrees Committee, or Chairperson acting on behalf of the Committee, determines that the thesis or exegesis and creative work may not be submitted for examination, the Office of Research will advise the candidate in writing of the decision, the reasons for the decision and, where appropriate, any actions that the candidate needs to take in order that the thesis or exegesis and creative work may be made ready for examination.
5.4 The School of enrolment covers the cost of printing and binding the thesis for examination. Candidates cover the cost of any final printed and bound copies of the thesis to keep as personal copies. The Office of Research covers the cost of examiners honorarium payments and postage.
5.5 Enrolment is suspended when the thesis or exegesis (and creative work) is submitted. If the candidate has been in receipt of a scholarship, the Office of Research advises Financial Services to cease stipend payments (in accordance with the relevant scholarship conditions booklet).
5.6 The Office of Research confirms the candidate has successfully completed any coursework requirements, conditions and milestones of their candidature, as described in the HDR policy and procedures.
6.1 The Office of Research provides members of the examination panel with:
(a) A copy of the thesis
(b) Examiners of Higher Degree by Research Theses – Guidelines
(c) Higher Degree by Research Thesis Presentation – Guidelines
(d) Examiners’ Report Form
6.2 Each examiner must submit to the Office of Research a concise written report on the thesis and must recommend one of the following:
|(a)||Award||The thesis be accepted as satisfactory and the candidate awarded the degree.|
|(b)||Award with revisions||The thesis be accepted as satisfactory and the candidate awarded the degree, subject to revisions as listed being made by the candidate to the satisfaction of the Chairperson of the examination panel.|
|(c)||Revise and resubmit for external examination||The thesis in its present form is not satisfactory and further work as described in the examiner’s reports is required. The revised thesis should be subject to re-examination.|
|(d)||Non-Award||The thesis does not merit the award of the degree and does not demonstrate sufficient merit to warrant resubmission. The thesis be rejected and the degree not awarded.|
|(e)||[For doctoral examinations only] Non-Award doctoral, award master||The candidate be admitted to the award for an appropriate alternative degree at the master level (with revisions as listed being made by the candidate to the satisfaction of the Chairperson of the examination panel).|
6.3 Examiners are expected to take up to two months to examine the thesis and must return their examiner’s report to the Office of Research.
The workflow for late examiner’s reports includes:
- If no report is received by the due date, the Office of Research emails a reminder requesting the report within two weeks.
- If no report is received within the two weeks, the Office of Research contacts the examiner again (usually by email), to ascertain when the report will be returned. The delay is communicated to the candidate and supervisors, and the Office of Research and Principal Supervisor liaise on how best to progress.
- If it is agreed that the report will be unacceptably delayed, the Office of Research advises the examiner that their services are no longer required and requests the return of the thesis.
- The Office of Research invites the reserve examiner to examine the thesis.
6.4 The Research Degrees Committee, or the Chairperson or a sub-group nominated by the Chairperson acting on behalf of the Committee, determines the outcome of the examination as one of the options described in 6.2
6.4.1 Where the external examiners reports include a recommendation of 6.2 a) and/or 6.2 b), the Office of Research provides a the external examiners reports to the Principal Supervisor while the Research Degrees Committee determines the final outcome of the examination, to facilitate commencement of any required corrections to the thesis.
6.4.2 Where there is substantial disagreement between the external examiners, the Research Degrees Committee, or the Chairperson or a sub-group nominated by the Chairperson acting on behalf of the Committee, may seek input from the Chairperson of Examiners, or may request that an additional external examiner be appointed to examine the thesis to provide an additional report to assist them to make their recommendation for the final outcome. If this recommendation is approved by the Research Degrees Committee, the Office of Research will invite the reserve examiner (in accordance with 4.3) who will examine the thesis and provide an additional report for the Chairperson of the examination panel to consider (in accordance with 6.2).
6.5 The Office of Research provides final advice to the Principal Supervisor and Chairperson of Examiners about the examination outcome, including any fee implications for period of revisions. This practice allows the Principal Supervisor time to consider the examiner’s reports and to advise the candidate and other supervision panel members directly.
6.5.1 In the case of referral to an additional external examiner, the Office of Research provides an update to the relevant Principal Supervisor to explain the delay to the final examination outcome. The Principal Supervisor is responsible for notifying the candidate.
7. Additional requirements for HDR Creative Arts submission and examination
For candidates producing non-print creative work as part of a Master of Creative Arts or Doctor of Creative Arts, additional submission requirements are described in this section. Such candidates are required to submit for examination creative work, which is examined in conjunction with an appropriate exhibition (or recording of an exhibition), and an exegesis.
7.1 A candidate must advise the Office of Research of the date of their final exhibition and submit the relevant ‘Advice of Intention to Submit Form’, stipulating dates, times and locations of exhibition/s, two months prior to the first exhibition date. In cases where there is to be more than one exhibition, candidates must include a listing of all exhibition dates.
7.2 Prior to the exhibition/s, candidates submit the ‘DCA/MCA Exhibition Approval Form’ to the Office of Research, signed by their Principal Supervisor and relevant Associate Dean (Research). This form demonstrates that the Principal Supervisor and Associate Dean (Research) agree that the creative work is ready for exhibition.
7.3 With respect to the exhibition of the creative work, the examiners are invited, but not required, to attend the exhibition.
7.4 The exegesis, exhibition recording(s) and digital copy of the creative work must be submitted within three months of the final exhibition.
7.5 The candidate is required to lodge:
(a) soft-bound copies of the examinable creative work/s and the exegesis for examination (one for each of the examiners nominated plus a University copy) and digital version where possible.
(b) A recording of the exhibition of the creative work (where appropriate).
(c) a completed ‘Higher Degree by Research Thesis Submission Form’.
7.6 Submission is to be made to the Office of Research by the agreed thesis completion date. Where the candidate has been given permission to submit their thesis in a form other than a printed volume, the candidate must comply with the directions of the Research Degrees Committee regarding the material to be presented for examination. Submission is to the Office of Research.
7.7 At the conclusion of examination, prior to awarding of degree, candidates must submit final exegesis to the USC Research Bank in a manner and form to be prescribed by the Director, Information Services, and must provide the Principal Supervisor with a copy of the final exegesis. Candidates may apply for “restricted access” to ensure the exegesis is kept only for University records purposes and not to display the exegesis to the public. Applications for restricted access should be made in writing to the Chair, Research Degrees Committee prior to the conclusion of the examination process.
8. Submission of a corrected thesis for award
8.1 For examination outcome b) (Accept with revisions) a candidate will be permitted to amend and submit a revised thesis or creative work and exegesis for Chairperson of Examiner’s review once only.
8.2 The candidate is required to lodge:
(a) One soft-bound copy of the revised thesis for the Chairperson of Examiners
(b) an electronic .pdf version (except where grant funding restrictions prohibit electronic submission of the thesis).
(c) a completed ‘Higher Degree by Research Revised Thesis Submission Approval Form’.
8.3 The Office of Research liaises with the Chairperson of Examiners to arrange review of the corrected thesis.
8.4 The Research Degrees Committee, or the Chairperson acting on behalf of the Committee, is the approving authority to accept a revised thesis as satisfactory for award. If the Research Degrees Committee does not consider revised thesis to respond to the original examiner’s comments satisfactorily, specific advice on further responses required will be provided to the relevant Associate Dean (Research) to liaise with the Principal Supervisor and the candidate.
9. Submission of revised thesis for re-examination
9.1 For examination outcome c) (revise and resubmit for external examination) a candidate will be permitted to amend and resubmit a thesis or creative work and exegesis for examination for award of the degree once only.
9.2 If the candidate is an international student, the requirement for the candidate to be re-enrolled in order to revise their thesis and resubmit for examination has implications for the student’s visa status. USC International must be informed of the candidate’s situation. USC International consults with DBPI and the candidate, the outcome being a decision on whether the candidate is permitted to remain in the country for the necessary additional period.
9.3 The candidate is required to lodge:
(a) three or four soft-bound copies of the thesis for examination (one for each of the examiners nominated plus a University copy).
(b) an electronic .pdf version (except where grant funding restrictions prohibit electronic submission of the thesis).
(c) a completed ‘Higher Degree by Research Revised Thesis Submission External Examination Form ’.
9.4 Office of Research consults with relevant Associate Dean (Research) regarding re-examination strategy and examiners. A thesis sent for re-examination will usually be sent to the original examiners, providing they are willing to re-examine the thesis. A revised and re-submitted thesis would not normally be sent to a panel of new examiners for re-examination.
9.5 Thesis re-examination process described in section 6 is followed, with outcomes are as described in section 6.2, with the exclusion of option (c) as a thesis can only be re-examined once.
10. Finalisation of successful candidature
10.1 The Office of Research sends advice of ‘Finalisation of Thesis Examination’ to the candidate and the Director, Information Services.
10.2 At the conclusion of examination, prior to award of the degree, candidates must submit their final thesis to the USC Research Bank in a manner and form to be prescribed by the Director, Information Services, and must provide the Principal Supervisor with a copy of the final thesis. In the case of a thesis that includes published works or works that are subject to copyright or patent or similar intellectual property restrictions, the candidate must lodge with the thesis a copy of any contract or formal agreement or legal instrument that binds the candidate or the University with respect to those works. The copy of the thesis lodged with the University Library will be available to any person for consultation or copying unless, on the application of the candidate concerned, the Research Degrees Committee, or Chairperson acting on behalf of the Committee, determines that it will not be made available without the written consent of the author for a period which must not exceed 52 weeks or unless prohibited by any restrictions required by any legally enforceable instrument lodged by the candidate. Candidature ends when the final thesis is successfully submitted to the USC Research Bank.
11. Conferral of award
11.1 The Office of Research sends the ‘Recommendation of Admission to the Degree’ and a copy of ‘Recommendation to Confer Form’ to the secretary of Academic Board with copies to Student Services and Engagement. On receipt of the correspondence, Student Services and Engagement updates the student’s academic record to indicate that the candidate has been awarded a Pass grade for their thesis. The Secretary, Academic Board administers the process for conferral of the award.
11.2 The Academic Board, or the Chairperson acting on behalf of the Board, considers recommendations on admission to degrees and conferral of awards from the Research Degrees Committee. When the Academic Board has approved the recommendations on the conferral of awards from the Research Degrees Committee, the Secretary, Academic Board advises the Office of Research and Student Services and Engagement of this decision. Student Services and Engagement prepares and sends a letter to the graduand officially informing them of the conferral of the award, inviting the graduand to participate in the next graduation ceremony, and, where appropriate, informing the graduand that they are entitled to use the title of Doctor.
Candidates who can demonstrate grounds to appeal a decision by the Research Degrees Committee may access the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy, via Stage 3 of the Student Review and Appeals – Procedures.