Policies for Postgraduates (Research)

Completion guidelines for postgraduate research degrees

Conditions of enrollment
Since 2002 the University has been subject to the Commonwealth Government's Research Training Scheme (RTS) arrangements for higher degree research students. RTS replaced the HECS Exemption Scheme. One of the results of this change is an improvement and a tightening of supervision and of completion requirements.

Under the terms of the RTS, it is the Faculty's expectation that students will complete PhD candidature within a minimum of 6 semesters (FTE). This is equivalent to the APA funding period.

The Faculty has devised two 7-step models for the completion of research theses against which supervisors and candidates can measure progress. The models are described in detail under Completion Guidelines in the Arts Faculty Postgraduate Handbook.

Progress reporting and review procedures

Annual Progress Reporting and Review Procedure

  • The Arts Faculty requires all postgraduate research students to report regularly throughout their candidature on the progress that they are making.
  • The Faculty sends annual review forms directly to each student. The review itself is administered by the History Department, after which (assuming that progress is deemed satisfactory) the Faculty signs off, allowing the student's candidature to continue.
  • The Commonwealth Government's Research Training Scheme (RTS) has tightened the guidelines concerning the completion of postgraduate research programs, and the review process is therefore very important.
  • The History Department nevertheless emphasises that the review process is intended to assist and support its research students. The 3-monthly and annual review interviews are, accordingly, conducted in a friendly, informal manner. Students should regard them as an opportunity to share their ideas with the members of staff involved, to gain additional feedback, and to discuss issues affecting their progress.
  • When does the Review Committee sit?
    The Committee sits twice a year, in Semester 1 (in April) and in Semester 2 (in October).
  • Who sits on the review committee?
    The Committee comprises the Postgraduate Research Coordinator, the Chair of Department, and one other member of the History Department staff.

3-monthly review for newly-enrolled research candidates

  • Postgraduate research students must sit a preliminary review after the first three months of their candidature. The purpose of this interview is to make sure that newly-enrolled candidates have settled in satisfactorily, that their intended topic is developing satisfactorily, and that the relationship with the supervisor is also satisfactory.
  • The Postgraduate Research Coordinator will contact students in their first year during Semester 1 to arrange an interview with the Review Committee.
  • Before the interview, candidates must submit to the Coordinator an updated 'proposal' of approximately 3000 words on their project (outlining the project, sources, method, major issues) so that the Committee can discuss progress at the interview.
  • The Coordinator also contacts supervisors, asking them to submit a brief assessment of candidates' progress to the Committee.
  • The 3-monthly interview occurs only once, in the first year of candidature. Thereafter candidates attend only the annual progress review.
  • Candidates in their first year who have sat the 3-monthly review are required to sit the annual progress review held later the same year.

Annual progress reporting

  • During Semester 2 the Postgraduate Research Coordinator will contact all postgraduate students to arrange an interview with the Annual Progress Review Committee.
  • The Coordinator also contacts all supervisors, who should already have informed their students of the need to prepare for the interview at the end of Semester 2.
  • In advance of the interview, students must submit to the Coordinator a substantial piece of writing for the Committee to read. This piece must not exceed 10,000 words and can take a number of forms: draft chapter; an article intended for publication; a piece of historiographical or methodological writing relevant to the project. Most important is that the submission should demonstrate progress in absolute and/or conceptual terms.
  • Supervisors submit a brief assessment of their student's/students' progress during the year to assist the Committee's discussion with candidates at the interview.

NB: Students must bring their Annual Progress Review forms with them to the interview. Relevant sections of the form should have been filled out by student and supervisor before the interview so that the Committee can approve and sign them at the interview. The student then needs to sign this form signifying his/her approval with the contents. After that the student will lodge the form personally at the Arts Faculty office.

Variations to the Annual Progress Review process

A student may be unable to attend a progress review interview because he or she is conducting research in a remote location or overseas and returning for the interview would therefore be prohibitively expensive. Alternatively, a student may be prevented from sitting the interview by serious illness or misadventure. In such cases the Postgraduate Research Coordinator will consult with that student's supervisor to confirm that progress is satisfactory.

If the Coordinator in consultation with the supervisor deems the student's progress to be satisfactory, the interview will be postponed until the following round. (For example, a student who cannot attend the annual review in November may be required to sit the round of interviews held in Semester 1 of the following year).

In such circumstances, the student and supervisor must arrange between them for the annual progress review form to the filled out, as this will still need to be submitted to Faculty.

NB: Postponement will only be granted for the above reasons, and not for any other reason.

Where a supervisor can attest in writing to the Postgraduate Research Coordinator that a student will submit the thesis within the three months following the annual progress review process, that student will generally not be required to sit an interview.

Changing a thesis topic

If for any reason you wish to change your thesis topic, you must first inform your supervisor and discuss the matter with him or her. At this point you should inform the Postgraduate Research Coordinator, who will confer with both you and your supervisor.

This agreement can only exist if the candidate has an alternative topic and the supervisor has:

  • confirmed the viability of the topic;
  • confirmed that he or she is willing and able to supervise the new topic.

If all the above is satisfactory, the candidate then needs to make a formal written request and pass it to the Research Studies Coordinator. The Coordinator will then add a statement of support and passes it to the Associate Dean in charge of postgraduate research in the Arts Faculty.

With the agreement of the Associate Dean, the change of topic can then be passed to Faculty for final approval.

Converting from full-time to part-time candidature

In general this presents no problem. Forms for changing from full-time to part-time candidature are available from the Arts Faculty Office. The change will generally be approved automatically by the Department, represented by the Research Studies Coordinator.

N.B Holders of an Australian Postgraduate Award cannot change to part-time candidature without losing their award.

Upgrading and moving to higher degrees

Progression to a Doctorate by Research after completing a Masters by Research
Where an RTS student completes a Masters by research and then progresses to an eligible doctorate by research, he or she will be entitled to the maximum period of two years for the Masters study and four years for the doctorate study. This entitlement applies whether or not three is an interval between the masters and the doctorate enrolment.

If a student completes a masters by research in less than two years, the maximum entitlement for a subsequent doctorate by research by that student will still be limited to four years.

Upgrading from a Masters by research to a doctorate by research
Where an RTS student commences studies in a masters by research an dperforms at a level that warrants conversion of the studies to a doctorate by research, the student will be limited to a maximum period of four years' RTS funding.

Downgrade from a doctorate by research to a Masters by research
Where an RTS student elects, or is required, for academic or personal reasons, to change his or her candidature from a doctorate by research to a masters by research, he or she will be limited to a maximum period of two years. If the student has already held an RTS place for more than two years at the time of downgrading, he or she will not be entitled to.

Termination of an RTS place
An RTS place must be terminated when the student:

  • ceases to be an enrolled student and has not requested a period of suspension;
  • lodges a thesis and is not required to undertake any further tasks related to their course of research project;
  • withdraws from study;
  • exhausts the maximum period of entitlement (four years' full-time equivalent study for students undertaking a doctorate by research and two years' full-time equivalent study for students undertaking a masters by research);
  • does not resume study at the conclusion of a period of suspension or does not make arrangements to extend that period of suspension;
  • fails to maintain satisfactory progress.

Upgrading from an MPhil to a PhD
1. MPhil candidates seeking upgrade should demonstrate an ability to conduct research at PhD level by:

(i) providing a detailed thesis outline satisfactory to the department;

(ii) providing satisfactory chapter drafts of not less than a total of 35,000 words or equivalent (completed during the MPhil candidature).

2. Normally application to upgrade from MPhil to PhD should be made prior to the fourth semester (full-time equivalent) of MPhil candidature."
Also upgrades can't take place in the first six months.

MA (Research) candidates please note: There is no provision to upgrade from the MA (Research) degree. The satisfactory completion of the MA (Research) degree is a qualification for admission to higher degree research candidature.


Extensions to candidature for postgraduate research students are possible, but a candidate should only apply in serious circumstances, and must base the application for extension on serious grounds.

To obtain an extension a candidate must approach the Faculty of Arts and also obtain approval from the Postgraduate Research Coordinator in the History Department, and from the Supervisor.

An extension is only needed when a candidate is in danger of exceeding the maximum period of candidature, which for the PhD is four years.

Suspension of research candidature

nb. With the introduction of the Research Training Scheme (RTS) in 2001 and the reduced completion times [PhD - 4 years, MPhil - 2 years (full-time) or equivalent], the RTS Scheme guidelines states as follows:

"RTS students may apply to their institution for a suspension or an accumulated period of suspensions of their studies for up to a total of twelve months. The approval of suspensions will be at the discretion of the institution."

The University may approve suspensions for an accumulated period beyond twelve months if there are exceptional circumstances beyond the student's control which warrant a further suspension.

The policy on suspensions (effective from 2002) is as follows:

  • a student may not suspend in the first semester of their candidature;
  • a limit of 2 semesters' suspension over the entire candidature is permitted;
  • requests for suspension beyond 2 semesters will be granted at the discretion of the Associate Dean / Postgraduate Matters Committee.

Submitting the thesis

Notification of intention to submit thesis

The University requests candidates to give three months’ notice, via their supervisor and head of department, of the expected date of submission of their thesis. You should complete a Notice of Thesis Submission form and give it to your supervisor and head of department. This is to ensure that examiners have been arranged before your thesis has been submitted in order to minimise delays in the examination process.

Detailed information on appointment of examiners, the required format of the thesis and the Faculty's policy on plagiarism, see the online Faculty Handbook. Once you have downloaded this PDF, search on: "Submission of Higher Degree Theses".

NB: A candidate must be enrolled and submit his or her thesis by the following Census dates:

  • 31 March for enrolment up to the end of the previous year;
  • 31 August for enrolment up to end of June of current year.

Thesis Presentation Guide

When the thesis examiners recommend changes

Some theses are approved by the examiners without the need for corrections or emendations. The following information applies to situtations in which emendations are recommended by one or more examiners.

In many cases, examiners will approve the thesis subject to the making of minor changes. Sometimes examiners will approve the thesis subject to the making of more substantial changes. In some cases the examiners may recommend that the thesis be altered or rewritten in a major way, and that the thesis be resubmitted.

The Arts Faculty forwards examiners' reports directly to the candidate and to the Postgraduate Research Coordinator. As different examiners may recommend different changes, the Coordinator will then consult with the Chair of Department and the Supervisor and decide which changes should be made. This recommendation is then forwarded to the Arts Faculty, which will contact the student with its final decision.

The Coordinator will then meet with the candidate. At this meeting, the Coordinator will discuss the recommended changes, and agree with the student about the best way to make the changes.

When the candidate has made the recommended changes, the Coordinator will check the thesis. Assuming that the changes have been made satisfactorily, the Coordinator then informs the Arts Faculty, after which the thesis will be passed.