Higher Degrees by Research Independent Academic Reviews - Guidelines | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Higher Degrees by Research Independent Academic Reviews - Guidelines

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Responsible Executive member
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research & Innovation)
Designated officer
Manager, Graduate Research School
Last amended
13 March 2023

1. Purpose

1. The purpose of these guidelines is to outline the process of independent academic reviews. 

2. Scope and application

2. These guidelines apply to Independent Academic Reviewers and all staff who are involved in the independent academic reviews process. 

3. Definitions

Please refer to the University’s Glossary of Terms for policies and procedures.  

4. Introduction

The University ensures that candidates receive a range of quality feedback throughout candidature. To this end, the Principal Supervisor is responsible for ensuring that at least one Independent Academic Reviewer provides feedback to the candidate and their supervision panel following a formal review of:

  • the research proposal as part of the confirmation of candidature milestone; and
  • the draft thesis prior to submission for external examination.

5. Nomination of the Independent Academic Reviewer(s)

5.1 The criteria for Independent Academic Reviewers are the same as for thesis examiners as described in the Thesis Submission and Examination – Procedures except the reviewer may hold an academic appointment at UniSC (i.e. may be internal or external to UniSC).

5.2 The Independent Academic Reviewer is nominated by the Principal Supervisor and approved by the Enrolling Unit’s HDR Coordinator, prior to the Confirmation of Candidature milestone.

5.3 For consistency and quality of feedback, the Independent Academic Reviewer nominated for confirmation of candidature will, wherever possible, also be called upon for the review of the draft final thesis prior to submission for external examination.

5.4 Independent Academic Reviewers cannot be nominated as final thesis examiners.

6. Review of the Confirmation Documents

Independent Academic Reviewers are asked to provide feedback on elements of the confirmation documents including, but not limited to the following:

  • General comments
  • Originality
  • Feasibility
  • Theoretical foundation
  • Literature review
  • Methods
  • Critical thought
  • Contribution to knowledge
  • Edits and referencing
  • Overall recommendation 

The Independent Academic Reviewer will provide written feedback on the confirmation documents and where possible, will attend the candidate’s research seminar to also provide further verbal feedback.

7. Review of the draft thesis

The Principal Supervisor plays the major role in working with the candidate in preparation of the final thesis, including the application of university sanctioned plagiarism detection software. It is good practice for Principal Supervisors to call upon the co-supervisors and whenever possible, the Independent Academic Reviewer(s) who conducted the review of the confirmation of candidature research proposal for collective input into the final thesis, considering the  HDR Theses Examiners - Guidelines. 

The timing, extent, and content of the review of the draft thesis is at the discretion of the Principal Supervisor, taking into consideration such things as the number and expertise of co-supervisors, availability of the independent academic reviewer and their knowledge and experience of the best approach to support each individual candidate.  

Supervisors should work collegially to ensure that any conflicts in opinion between the supervision panel members and the Independent Academic Reviewer are resolved and that consensus is achieved in feedback provided to the candidate. 



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