Manual of Policies and Procedures

D/5.3 Higher degree research candidates

Contact Officer

Dean of Research and Research Training

Approval Date


Approval Authority

University Academic Board

Date of Next Review


5.3.1 Policy statement
5.3.2 Application
5.3.3 Definitions
5.3.4 Roles and responsibilities
5.3.5 Admission
5.3.6 Scholarships
5.3.7 Enrolment
5.3.8 Progression
5.3.9 Thesis lodgement and examination
5.3.10 Appeals
5.3.11 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Awards
5.3.12 Research Training
Related Documents
Modification History

5.3.1 Policy statement

QUT values Higher Degree Research candidates whose productivity makes an important contribution to the University's research culture and the national innovation system. QUT is committed to providing a research training environment that encourages quality and timely completion of courses. Research training expectations are articulated through the statements on capabilities of graduates from higher degree research courses outlined in Postgraduate capabilities C/4.3.4.

Consistent with QUT’s MOPP B/8.7 Conflict of interest and D/2.6 QUT Code of Conduct for Research, all QUT administrators and researchers are responsible for ethical conduct including the appropriate management of Conflict of Interest.


5.3.2 Application

This policy applies to candidates admitted to postgraduate research courses which are also referred to as Higher Degree Research (HDR) courses and should be read in conjunction with QUT’s Student Rules (in particular as they apply to coursework units) and the Schedule of Authorities and Delegations for decision-making in regard to Higher Degree Research candidates.


5.3.3 Definitions

Candidate” means any person admitted to a planned course of research leading to a Higher Degree Research at QUT.

Candidature” means the period of study towards the Higher Degree Research being the period from the date of commencement until the end of enrolment based on successful completion of all coursework and mandatory training completed satisfactorily leading to lodgement for thesis examination (after which time the candidate holds the status of 'Under Examination’) or until the candidature is terminated or the candidate withdraws.

Course work” means a unit or units of study involving directed learning, including face-to-face instruction, online learning, distance learning or combinations of these.

The degree of “Doctor of Philosophy(PhD) at QUT signifies that the holder has undertaken a substantial piece of original research which has been conducted and reported under proper academic supervision and in a research environment for a prescribed period.

Examination” means the formal testing of the candidate's thesis to critically evaluate whether the conditions for the award of the Higher Degree Research have been met.

Examiners” means the appropriately academically qualified specialists appointed to undertake an examination of the candidate's thesis.

Faculty” means the relevant faculty of QUT.

Higher Degree Research” means any postgraduate masters or doctoral degree with a research component comprising 66.6 percent or more of the total course of study. Higher Degree Research is also referred to as postgraduate research.

Masters by research” means a masters degree, which has a research component comprising 66.6 percent or more of the total course of study.

Professional Doctorate (Research)” means a doctoral degree at QUT, which has a research component comprising 66.6 percent or more of the total course of study.

Research” comprises information gathering and knowledge creation, analysis, critical investigation and communication in a fashion acceptable in the field of endeavour. Knowledge creation would encompass creative and professional practice and reflection on this practice.

Thesis” means a document or collection of materials, which for thesis by creative works includes an exegesis, which provides an argued case for a significant and original contribution to knowledge. The thesis presents the candidate’s research and findings and is presented for examination. In the award course, the thesis component is deemed equivalent to the research component.

"Under Examination" is a status assigned to candidates once they have submitted their thesis for examination and prior to lodgement of the final thesis. During this time candidates are not considered to be enrolled students but remain admitted to the course for the purposes of final submission.


5.3.4 Roles and responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities of faculties, supervisors and students are detailed in the Good Practice guidelines for Higher Degree Research Studies and Supervision.

Research Degrees Committee (D/5.2) has responsibility for the management and conduct of Higher Degree Research courses at QUT. The role of the Research Degrees Committee is to collaborate with and respond to advice from faculties and other key stakeholders and oversee all Higher Degree Research courses offered within QUT.

Dean of Research and Research Training has strategic oversight of Higher Degree Research development and chairs the Research Degrees Committee (D/5.2).

Faculty Academic Boards make recommendations to the Research Degrees Committee on matters regarding the admission, supervision and examination of higher degree research students; and recommend and approve research curriculum developments in accordance with the policy for curriculum development and approval.

Faculty Research Committees and Assistant Deans/Postgraduate Coordinators are responsible for the research candidates of the faculty and the support and monitoring of progress of research cohorts towards timely completion.

Academic Supervisors of research students are committed to excellence in research. The Good Practice guidelines for Higher Degree Research Studies and Supervision at QUT details expectations and responsibilities of academic supervisors.

Research Students Centre provides support to the Dean of Research and Research Training and provides services in the areas of admission, enrolment, orientation, candidature, scholarships, examinations and research training for candidates and supervisors.


5.3.5 Admission

QUT encourages high achieving undergraduates and postgraduates to consider pathways to its Higher Degree Research courses. QUT also recognises, where appropriate, equivalent forms of academic experience and non-standard academic pathways.

Admission into Higher Degree Research awards is conditional upon:

  • a candidate demonstrating academic and research potential to meet the requirements of the award
  • the university’s assessment of its capacity to provide research expertise; suitable, accredited supervisory capacity and provision of infrastructure (Infrastructure Provisions for Higher Degree Research Students).

Research Degrees Committee approves eligibility for admission to the PhD course and Faculty Academic Boards approve eligibility for admission to other research courses within their jurisdiction. The Registrar makes offers of admission.

(i) Admission criteria

Entry requirements and selection criteria for Higher Degree Research courses are approved by University Academic Board on recommendation from Faculty Academic Boards and Research Degrees Committee.

Admission criteria for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree are outlined in the PhD course requirements and published on the QUT website. Standard entry requirements for Research Masters and Professional Doctorate courses are detailed on the QUT website and in policy on Award classifications (C/3.2).

(ii) Transfer of course

A candidate may transfer from a Higher Degree Research course to an alternative QUT course.  The conditions for transfer are detailed in the relevant course requirements. Transfer is conditional on the candidate meeting admission requirements of the new course.

Where a candidate is directed to transfer they may initiate withdrawal. Where they decline to do so, the university will initiate termination, and advise the candidate of their right to appeal the decision.

(iii) Readmission

Applicants who wish to re-enter a Higher Degree Research course after a period of absence and who are not returning from leave of absence must apply for readmission. Readmission is subject to the availability of supervisory expertise and infrastructure, as assessed at the point of readmission, and requires faculty approval.

Applicants whose candidature has been terminated by the university must also submit a written statement that demonstrates the applicant's readiness to return to their research course. The statement will be considered by the Research Degrees Committee on recommendation from the relevant faculty. Normally readmission may be considered 12 months or more after the date of termination.

(iv) Supervision

All higher degree research candidates must have a minimum of two supervisors, one of whom will be the Principal Supervisor and the other an Associate Supervisor. Both supervisors must be current academic staff members, however one may be an approved Adjunct. Additional internal and external supervisors may be appointed at the discretion of the faculty.

Supervisory allocation is informed by QUT's Infrastructure provisions and Higher Degree Research Supervisor Guidelines.


5.3.6 Scholarships

(i) Living Stipends and Scholarships

Research Degrees Committee considers applications and determines recipients for postgraduate research scholarships. Faculties and institutes may also award scholarships and are responsible for administration of grant-in-aid awards.

(ii) Tuition Fee Sponsorships

Consistent with the Federal Government's Research Training Program, all domestic Research Higher Degree candidates are normally eligible for a period of tuition fee exemption. QUT offers a limited number of sponsorships to international students based on Faculty recommendations.


5.3.7 Enrolment

(i) Enrolment

Enrolment in Higher Degree Research courses is categorised in three parts. The first part is coursework which most candidates would normally complete in the early stages of their research course. Coursework requirements are monitored by faculties and are consistent with the Student Rules. The second component is mandatory research training as prescribed by the Research Degrees Committee and advised to candidates upon enrolment. The third component of Higher Degree Research is a thesis. Progress on the thesis component is monitored in a way that is consistent with this policy and the relevant course requirements.

Successful completion of prescribed coursework, mandatory research training and thesis components of the Higher Degree Research courses will lead to eligibility to graduate.

On admission to the Higher Degree Research course, the faculty will recommend an enrolment and provide course advice compliant with course and research training requirements. The course will take account of the Advanced standing (E/4.2) policy as appropriate. Any variation to the course will require approval in accordance with the course requirements.

A Higher Degree Research candidate requires approval by Research Degrees Committee to be concurrently enrolled in another course of study, particularly another Higher Degree Research course either at QUT or at another institution. The Research Degrees Committee will normally only approve concurrent enrolment in exceptional circumstances.

(ii) International Exchange

Where appropriate agreements exist, candidates may complete periods of candidature overseas.  This will normally require approval of the faculty and Research Degrees Committee and may be contingent on funding and an agreement with the overseas university.

(iii) Maximum candidature time

The maximum candidature time for the completion of a Higher Degree Research will be determined by Research Degrees Committee or the Faculty Academic Board as appropriate and detailed in the relevant course requirements.

(iv) Leave of Absence

Candidate applications for leave of absence will be determined by Research Degrees Committee under delegation from University Academic Board and according to a procedure approved by Research Degrees Committee.

Australian Government visa regulations limit international candidate’s capacity to apply for leave of absence. International candidates are required to meet visa conditions that may vary from those described in QUT policy.

Higher Degree Research candidates may normally be granted upon application, a maximum of 12 months (365 days) leave of absence or part time equivalent during the term of their candidature. Research Degrees Committee approval must be sought for any periods of leave in excess of 20 days. Additional provisions for parental leave for an additional 12 months are also available.

(v) Study Mode and Employment

The minimum number of hours, averaged over each year of candidature, to be devoted to research and/or study by candidates are:

  • Part time candidates are required to devote 20 hours per week
  • Full time candidates are required to devote 40 hours per week.

Paid work, including preparation, teaching, marking and research assistant duties may be undertaken, but must not interfere with a candidate’s study. A candidate in receipt of a scholarship may be subject to additional restrictions on the amount of paid work allowable as described in the relevant scholarship guidelines.

Candidates may be permitted to conduct their research as an external candidate either elsewhere in Australia or overseas or change their enrolment from internal to external status or vice versa on approval by the Research Degrees Committee or Faculty as appropriate and taking account of the relevant course requirements.

(vi) Discontinuation

(a) Withdrawal (student initiated decision)

Normally, a student admitted to a Higher Degree Research course may at any point in candidature elect to withdraw from their studies.

Where the University has issued a show cause notice under D/5.3.7 (vi) (b) below, the response date advised in that notice will be the last date the candidate may voluntarily withdraw. No academic or financial penalty will be imposed for withdrawal from the thesis component.

(b) Termination (University initiated decision)

Research Degrees Committee may exclude a candidate from a higher degree research course having taken account of all relevant circumstances and having given the candidate opportunity to “show cause” why they should not be terminated. Circumstances where the Committee may terminate a candidate can include but are not limited to the following:

  • the quality and progress of a candidate’s research gives no reasonable expectation of successful completion of the degree
    • on advice from the Faculty in collaboration with the relevant academic supervisor
    • with reference to progress against mandatory milestones within the Research Higher Degree course requirements
  • a candidate has failed to submit a milestone or progress report by the due date without satisfactory reason
  • a candidate fails to comply with mandatory research training requirements in a timely way
  • a candidate is deemed to have effectively abandoned or ceased their studies.


5.3.8 Progression

(i) Progress reporting

A condition of continuing enrolment in a Higher Degree Research is satisfactory progress toward timely completion.  Course requirements will normally outline progress reporting requirements that facilitate monitoring and feedback.

All Higher Degree Research candidates are required to report on the progress of their research course to the university through Research Degrees Committee at a time and in a manner determined by Research Degrees Committee. Failure to report will be grounds for termination in accordance with D/5.3.7(vi)(b).

(ii) Mandatory milestones and interim reviews

The Research Degrees Committee has defined mandatory milestones for PhD students. Faculty Academic Boards may set mandatory milestones for Masters by Research and other doctoral candidates which will normally be detailed in the course requirements (refer to QUT Handbook and Faculty websites for further details).

Satisfactory progress with reference to the completion of PhD milestones will be determined by Research Degrees Committee on faculty recommendation.

(iii) Unsatisfactory progress

Where a candidate is shown to be having difficulty meeting progress requirements including progress toward completion by maximum completion date, the faculty will take active steps to provide reasonable support and opportunity for the candidate to rectify progress issues.

Where the progress of a Higher Degree Research candidate is deemed unsatisfactory based on the candidate’s performance in completing milestones or other research related activities, the candidature may be placed “under review” or "under review to thesis examination". The procedures for placing a higher degree research candidate “under review” or "under review to thesis examination" are determined by Research Degrees Committee and published on the QUT website.

The purpose of the under review process is to provide additional support to assist the candidate to meet the course requirements and to inform an assessment by the university of the candidate’s ability to successfully complete.

A report on the outcome of the under review process will be approved by Research Degrees Committee. Where there is no reasonable prospect of the candidate being able to complete the thesis to an acceptable academic standard for examination, Research Degrees Committee may approve termination of a candidature (D/5.3.7(vi)(b)).

The candidate will be informed of the required remedial action to be followed, a timeline and any interim deadlines within the review period.

A candidate who has been placed under review may not normally take leave of absence until the review has been completed.


5.3.9 Thesis lodgement and examination

(i) Thesis lodgement

A thesis will not be accepted for examination by the Dean of Research and Research Training unless:

  • the requirements are met for HDR Thesis lodgement and submission (approved by Research Degrees Committee)
  • all candidate milestones are satisfactorily completed and the thesis is of an acceptable academic standard for examination.  

Where a thesis is lodged that is not of an acceptable standard for examination, this will be managed according to the procedures of Unsatisfactory progress (D/5.3.8 (iii)).

(ii) Examiners

To ensure academic rigour, integrity, objectivity and comparability with international benchmarks all Higher Degree Research thesis examination is managed in accordance with procedures approved by Research Degrees Committee and published on the QUT website.

Community confidence in the integrity and impartiality of thesis examination is a principal consideration when appointing examiners. Any conflict of interest which would provide reason to doubt an examiner’s ability to make an impartial assessment must be declared and managed in accordance with QUT’s Conflict of interest policy (B/8.7).

Any fees payable in relation to the examination of a candidate shall be determined consistent with Australia standards.

(a) Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Research Degrees Committee will determine conditions and appoint examiners on recommendation from the faculties to examine PhD theses. The examiners will critically evaluate whether the conditions for the award of the degree have been met.

(b) Other Higher Degree Research degrees

The relevant Faculty Academic Board will appoint examiners to examine Masters by Research and doctoral research theses other than PhDs. The examiners will critically evaluate whether the conditions for the award of the degree have been met.

(iii) Review of assessment

A Higher Degree Research candidate whose thesis has been failed or whose thesis has been recommended for an alternative exit award may request a review of the examination process and outcome. Acceptable grounds for review will only be on matters of procedure relating to the conduct of the examination or documented evidence of examiner bias as evidenced by comments in the examiners’ reports.

A candidate’s written review request must be lodged within twenty (20) working days of the date of advice on the outcome of the examination and include the specific grounds on which the request is based. The Chair, Research Degrees Committee will determine whether a potential conflict of interest exists in relation to their consideration of the review.

The Chair, Research Degrees Committee, or nominee, will review the candidate’s statement and all the available information and make a determination. The Chair will advise the candidate in writing within ten (10) working days of the decision.


5.3.10 Appeals

An applicant may appeal a decision to refuse admission to a Higher Degree Research course or to exclude from a Higher Degree Research course. Appeals will be considered by Appeals Committee (E/1.2).


5.3.11 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Awards

The QUT Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Awards encourage excellence in Higher Degrees Research. These awards are intended to develop and support Australia's vibrant research culture by profiling:

  • outstanding contribution to knowledge, and/or
  • excellence in higher degree research.

Award guidelines, determined by Research Degrees Committee are available from the QUT Students site.


5.3.12 Research Training

Non award research training courses, including mandatory training courses will be coordinated by the Research Degrees Committee. Training is offered by a range of service providers including faculties, institutes, Library and the Research Students Centre. The training includes face to face and online opportunities.


Related Documents

MOPP B/8.7 Conflict of interest

MOPP D/2.6 QUT Code of Conduct for Research

MOPP Chapter E – Students services and administration

Good Practice guidelines for Higher Degree Research Studies and Supervision (QUT staff and student access only)

Higher Degree Research (HDR) Supervisor Guidelines (QUT staff access only)

Infrastructure Provision for Higher Degree Research Students (QUT staff and student access only)

PhD Course Regulations (QUT staff and student access only)

Under Review Guidelines (QUT staff and student access only)


Modification History





16.09.16 D/5.3.1, D/5.3.7, D/5.3.8, D/5.3.9 University Academic Board Revised policy to clarify procedures regarding unsatisfactory thesis and reference added for Conflict of Interest management responsibilities
13.11.15 D/5.3.7 University Academic Board Revised policy to clarify the dates of withdrawal and show cause notice
03.12.14 All Chair, University Academic Board Revised policy to incorporate PhD course regulations, references to mandatory research training and clarify "under examination" status
20.09.13 D/5.3.5 University Academic Board Revised policy to reflect changes in supervision - effective 01.01.14
27.07.12 All University Academic Board Policy revised to include rescinded Appendix 9 PhD Regulations



University Academic Board

New policy on Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Awards (endorsed by University Research and Innovation Committee 25.10.06)



University Academic Board

Revised policy (endorsed by Research Degrees Committee 06.02.06 and University Research and Innovation Committee 01.03.06)



Director, Postgraduate Research Studies

Updated in accordance with revised PhD Regulations (approved by University Academic Board 10.03.00)



Secretary, University Research Committee

Revised in accordance with restructure of QUT research activities (University Academic Board 03.07.98)