Annual Progress Review

The University of Sydney requires that every higher degree by research student has an Annual Progress Review (APR) at least every twelve months, though they can be more frequent. The APR is an opportunity to review the candidature and to talk openly about the achievements and challenges that all research students' experience. If issues are discussed in a timely and constructive manner, the most serious problems that students sometimes face can usually be avoided.

The aim of the review is not only to catch potential issues early. The APR is also an opportunity to provide positive feedback and assistance with the direction of candidature, even for students who are progressing well. We believe that all candidatures can benefit from some review, feedback and assistance on a regular basis.

We encourage students and supervisors to speak openly about both the challenges and achievements they are experiencing.
We also ask the student and supervisors to identify the milestones that are expected to be reached in the coming year. Some forward planning can help keep your degree on track to submitting your thesis on time. You should think realistically about the specifics of your own research project, but some typical milestones for a doctoral degree might include:

  • Literature review complete by the end of the first year;
  • Project proposal complete by the end of x months;
  • x chapters by the end of 2 years;
  • Final draft by 3.5 years;
  • Thesis submitted for examination by end of 4th year.

The milestones will be reviewed by the APR panel, who may also suggest some action items to be done by the student, supervisor or the Faculty. These could include things like “meet with supervisor fortnightly (student and supervisor)”, “attend time management course at Sydney Learning (student)” , “arrange access to desk in write-up room”, or “vary candidature to part-time (faculty)”.

Progress Review Guidelines

In 2014, the Academic Board has endorsed Progress Review of Higher Degree by Research Students Guidelines 2014. These Guidelines are based on best practice from across the University, and are aim to assist making reviews, including Annual Progress Reviews, a helpful and constructive experience.

Students, supervisors and panel members will find this document helpful in knowing what to expect in a Progress Review.

Skills development for panel members and chairs

Panel members and chairs are also recommended to develop their skills with the Institute of Teaching and Learning's Annual Progress Review Panel Program. This online skills development program seeks to enhance your ability, as a current or future APR panel member or chair, to do the following:

  • To understand the various purposes of the APR and be aware of some common pitfalls;
  • To develop effective strategies in preparing for, undertaking, and following up on the APR panels;
  • To keep abreast of key policies, resources and research that can help you to fulfill your APR panel responsibilities effectively and efficiently;
  • To build collegial expertise about APR matters across the University by giving you an opportunity to exchange experiences and viewpoints with colleagues from other disciplines and faculties.

APR forms

The University of Sydney (Higher Degree by Research) Rule 2011 (clauses 2.12, 3.12 and 4.11) states that departments may require a form as part of any progress review, but does not stipulate any particular form.

Different faculties may use different ways of recording students' progress. Your faculty may use an online workflow, or electronic or paper form. Faculties or departments may customize forms to fit the needs of their discipline.

Most faculties have based their local form or workflow on a standard template. The Graduate Studies Office provides an APR form template for the convenience of facutlies and departments. This template has been significantly revised and updated in 2013. Your faculty may use a form based on this current template or on a previous template, although the basic structure is essentially similar with sections for the student, the supervisor(s), and the panel to fill out.