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 (HDR) program 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’.
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 (RTP) 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.
3. Thesis Review and Feedback
This section should be read in conjunction with the ‘Higher Degree by Research Independent Reviews – Guidelines’.
The supervision panel provides feedback to students on sections of their thesis as agreed in their Progress Plans and Review (PPR). Any concerns regarding quality of the thesis or timeliness of thesis preparation will be recorded in the PPR.
3.1 Prior to submission of the thesis for external examination, the principal supervisor must arrange for:
(a) the thesis to be run through the university’s plagiarism detection software; and
(b) an independent academic review of the thesis prior to submission for external examination. Refer to the ‘Higher Degrees by Research Independent Reviewers – Guidelines’ for further information about the thesis review. The Independent Academic Reviewer’s feedback on the draft thesis must be submitted with a candidature milestone prior to thesis submission (i.e. a Plan and Progress Review or the notice of Intention to Submit).
3.2 At thesis submission, the principal supervisor will be required to declare that the above requirements have been met.
4. Examiner Nomination
4.1 The student must provide a minimum eight weeks’ written notice of intention to submit a thesis or exegesis and creative work for examination to their principal supervisor using the notice of intention to submit form.
4.2 The principal supervisor, upon receipt of the notice of intention to submit form, 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). No later than three weeks after receipt of the notice of intention to submit, the principal supervisor submits to the Graduate Research School:
(a) the notice of intention to submit form;
(b) the examiner nomination form; and
(c) a brief abstract of the thesis.
4.3 The information provided to examiners on initial contact by the principal supervisor and prior to
approval of examiners by the Dean, Graduate Research
(a) the topic or title of the thesis;
(b) the degree for which the candidate is submitting the thesis;
(c) the planned submission date;
(d) the length of time available for the examination of the thesis; and
(e) reference to relevant USC procedures for examination.
4.4 The principal supervisor nominates examiners to the Dean, Graduate Research, who approves a panel of potential examiners. On submission of examiner nomination to the Dean, Graduate Research, the principal supervisor ceases communication with the nominated examiners. Subsequent communication relating to the examination is undertaken by the Graduate Research School.
An examination panel will consist of:
Chairperson of the examination panel
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
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. Any persons acknowledged in the thesis as making a contribution to the work may not be appointed as an examiner.
At least 1
Meets the requirements of an external examiner as outlined above.
A reserve examiner may be called upon by the Dean, Graduate Research 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)
4.5 Members of the examination panel are invited by the Graduate Research School on behalf of the Dean, Graduate Research. Invited examiners respond via the form provided.
4.5.1 When a thesis requires examination under obligations of confidentiality, the external examiners are required to sign and return a Confidentiality Agreement in addition to the examiner acceptance form provided.
4.6 The examination is a confidential process. 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, should direct any questions to the Dean, Graduate Research via the Graduate Research School. An examiner may not communicate with the candidate or a member of their supervision panel.
5. Submission of thesis for examination
5.1 A candidate is required to lodge one (1) electronic PDF version of the thesis (except where grant funding restrictions prohibit electronic submission of the thesis) and the completed ‘Higher Degree by Research Thesis Submission Form’.
5.2 Submission is to be made to the Graduate Research School by the date on the notice of intention to submit form and by the thesis submission milestone 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 Dean, Graduate Research regarding the material to be presented for examination.
5.5 In the event that the supervision panel does not provide the required related thesis submission documents within two weeks of any due date, or if the principal supervisor declines to support the examination of the thesis or exegesis and creative work, the Dean, Graduate Research will determine whether the thesis or exegesis and creative work will be accepted for examination and if required, identify an appropriate examination panel. In making the determination, the Dean, Graduate Research may seek written or oral representations from the candidate, the supervisors and may seek information from any other sources.
5.5.1 If the Dean, Graduate Research, determines that the thesis or exegesis and creative work may not be submitted for examination, the Graduate Research School 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.
5.6 Candidates cover the cost of any final printed and bound copies of the thesis to keep as personal copies.
5.7 The Graduate Research School covers the cost of examiners honorarium payments.
5.8 Enrolment is suspended when the thesis or exegesis (and creative work) is submitted. If the candidate has been in receipt of a scholarship, the Graduate Research School advises Financial Services to cease stipend payments (in accordance with the relevant scholarship conditions booklet).
5.9 The Graduate Research School confirms the candidate has successfully completed any coursework requirements, conditions and milestones of their candidature, as described in the Higher Degrees by Research – Academic Policy and other associated procedures.
6.1 The Graduate Research School provides members of the examination panel with:
(a) an electronic copy of the thesis (or exegesis and creative artefact);
(b) a copy of the Thesis Revisions Summary Reports (in the case of revised thesis submission);
(c) Examiners of Higher Degree by Research Theses – Guidelines;
(d) Higher Degree by Research Thesis Presentation – Guidelines;
(e) Examiners’ Report Forms; and
(f) Examiner Payment Form.
6.2 Each examiner must submit to the Graduate Research School a concise written report on the thesis and must recommend one of the following:
The thesis be accepted as satisfactory and the candidate awarded the degree.
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.
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.
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.
[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 requested to return their examiner’s report to the Graduate Research School within 4 weeks for a Masters degree examination and 6 weeks for a PhD examination.
The workflow for late examiner’s is outlined in table 0.5:
2 weeks before due date:
2 weeks prior to the due date, the Graduate Research School emails a reminder to the examiner of the upcoming due date.
On due date:
If no report is received by the due date, the Graduate Research School advises Dean, Graduate Research who makes a determination on how to proceed with the examination.
The Graduate Research School communicates the delay to the principal supervisor who in turn advises the candidate.
Upon receipt of advice from the RDC
If it is agreed that the report will be unacceptably delayed, upon direction from the Dean, Graduate Research, the Graduate Research School advises the examiner that their services are no longer required and requests the return of the thesis.
Upon receipt of advice from the RDC
The Graduate Research School invites the reserve examiner to examine the thesis.
6.4 Upon receipt of the examiners reports, the Dean, Graduate Research determines the outcome of the examination as one of the options described in Section 6.2.
6.4.1 Where there is substantial disagreement between the external examiners, the Dean, Graduate Research, may seek input from the Chairperson of Examiners, or may request that an additional external examiner be appointed to examine the thesis.
6.4.2 If the Dean, Graduate Research determines an additional examination of the thesis, the Graduate Research School will invite the reserve examiner (in accordance with Section 4.4) who will examine the thesis and provide an additional report for the Dean, Graduate Research to consider.
6.4.3 In the case of referral to an additional external examiner, the Graduate Research School 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.
6.5 The Graduate Research School provides the final examination outcome advice to the Chairperson of Examiners and the principal supervisor in the first instance, 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.
7. Additional requirements for HDR Creative Arts submission and examination
For candidates producing non-print creative work as part of a higher degree by research, 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 Graduate Research School of the date of their final exhibition and submit the relevant ‘Notice 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 ‘Exhibition Approval Form’ to the Graduate Research School, signed by their principal supervisor and Head of enrolling unit or delegate. This form demonstrates that the principal supervisor and Head of enrolling unit or delegate 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) a digital version of the examinable creative work/s and the exegesis for examination (or soft-bound copies where a digital version is not possible, one for each of the examiners nominated plus a university copy);
(b) a recording of the exhibition of the creative work (where appropriate); and
(c) a completed ‘Higher Degree by Research Thesis Submission Form’.
7.6 Submission is to be made to the Graduate Research School 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 Dean, Graduate Research regarding the material to be presented for examination.
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 Dean, Graduate Research prior to the conclusion of the examination process.
8. Submission of a revised thesis for award
For examination outcome b) (Accept with revisions) a candidate and their supervision panel are permitted to have one initial conversation with the Chair of Examiners to discuss and set expectations regarding revisions. The candidate will be permitted to amend and submit a revised thesis or creative work and exegesis for Chairperson of Examiner’s review once only. The revised thesis must be submitted within three months of advice of the examination outcome.
8.1 The candidate is required to lodge to the Graduate Research School:
Items required for submission:
Electronic .pdf version of the revised thesis or exegesis (except where grant funding restrictions prohibit electronic submission of the thesis).
Completed ‘Higher Degree by Research Revised Thesis Submission Approval Form’
Thesis Revisions Summary Report (1 report for each examiner)
8.2 The Graduate Research School liaises with the Chairperson of Examiners to arrange review of the revised thesis.
8.3 The Dean, Graduate Research, is the approving authority to accept a revised thesis as satisfactory for award. If the Dean, Graduate Research does not consider that the revised thesis satisfactorily responds to the original examiners’ comments, specific advice on further responses required will be provided to the principal supervisor, who will liaise with 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. The revised thesis must be submitted to the Graduate Research School within 6 months of advice of the examination outcome.
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 the Department of Home Affairs 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:
Items required for submission:
Electronic .pdf version of the thesis or exegesis (except where grant funding restrictions prohibit electronic submission of the thesis).
Completed ‘Higher Degree by Research Revised Thesis Submission External Examination Form
Thesis Revisions Summary Report (1 report for each examiner)
9.4 A thesis sent for re-examination will be sent to the original examiners, providing they are willing to re-examine the thesis.
9.4.1 The Graduate Research School will contact the original examiners on behalf of the Dean, Graduate Research and invite them to re-examine the thesis. The invitation will be issued 8 weeks prior to the due date of the thesis submission.
9.4.2 If they are unavailable, the principal supervisor will be asked to nominate new examiners for approval by the Dean, Graduate Research. If the principal supervisor has not nominated new examiners within one month of the thesis submission due date, the Dean, Graduate Research will identify new examiners.
9.5 The thesis examination process outlined in Section 5 is followed, with examination outcomes as per Section 6.2, with the exclusion of outcome (c), as a thesis can only be re-examined once.
10. Finalisation of successful candidature
10.1 The Graduate Research School sends advice of ‘Finalisation of Thesis Examination’ to the candidate which includes instructions for the following steps to finalise candidature.
10.2 At the conclusion of examination, prior to award of the degree, candidates must:
10.2.1 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.
10.2.1.1 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.
10.2.1.2 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 Dean, Graduate Research, 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.
10.2.2 return all USC equipment to the relevant department (e.g. USC laptop and associated equipment to be returned to IT Services).
10.2.3 ensure all outstanding fees and charges have been resolved.
10.3 Candidature ends when the final thesis is successfully submitted to the USC Research Bank and all USC equipment has been returned and any outstanding fees and charges have been resolved.
11. Conferral of award
11.1 The Graduate Research School 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 Dean, Graduate Research. When the Academic Board has approved the recommendations on the conferral of awards from the Dean, Graduate Research the Secretary, Academic Board advises the Graduate Research School and Student Services and Engagement of this decision.
11.3 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 Dean, Graduate Research, may access the Student Grievance Resolution – Governing Policy, via Stage 3 of the Student Review and Appeals – Procedures.