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Research Components of Postgraduate Coursework Awards: Policy and Procedures

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Approving Authority:

Establishment Date: 23 February 2000
Date Last Amendment: 9 November 2011
Nature of Amendment: Introduction of unsatisfactory progress procedures (Section 9).
Responsible Officer: Director, Academic and Student Services

SECTION 1: Preamble

Course rules and programs of study relating to postgraduate coursework awards are published annually. The University's policies and procedures relating to research components of postgraduate coursework awards will be published annually by the University. All information on postgraduate coursework awards specific to faculties, including information on faculty policies and procedures, research interests of the Schools, facilities for postgraduate coursework study etc. will be published annually and provided to all postgraduate coursework students undertaking a course which includes a research component in each faculty. *

* Note. The Policy on Research Practice may be found at: http://www.flinders.edu.au/ppmanual/research/resprac.htm

SECTION 2: Application of Policies and Procedures

These policies and procedures apply to the research component of all postgraduate coursework awards where the research component has a value of 18 units or more. With the approval of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) these policies and procedures may be applied to 13.5 unit research components of postgraduate coursework awards*, or to research higher degree courses which include a compulsory coursework component.

Note: *These policies and procedures also apply to any 12-unit research/thesis topic approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) for the purposes of this Policy prior to 1 January 2011.

SECTION 3: Definitions



School refers to an independent academic unit within a faculty having responsibility for designing and teaching a range of topics within its discipline areas.


Faculty refers to any faculty committee or representative to which the faculty has delegated functions concerning minor theses.


Postgraduate coursework awards refers to Graduate Certificates, Graduate Diplomas, Masters by Coursework and Coursework Doctorates.


Supervisor refers to the principal supervisor, unless otherwise specified.


Topic convener refers to the academic staff member, appointed by the Dean of School, to convene the research component topic.


External refers to a program of study which is conducted primarily off campus and which does not require regular attendance at the University.

SECTION 4: Appointment of Supervisors



Each postgraduate coursework award student will have one principal supervisor and at least one co-supervisor appointed for the research component of their course. For students enrolled on an external basis or as part of an offshore program, the University may appoint, in addition to the supervisors, a suitably qualified person who is resident at, or near the place of study, to provide advice and support to the student. If this person meets the criteria, he/she could be appointed as co-supervisor. The faculty will ensure that:


the principal supervisor is suitably qualified to supervise the student and has a satisfactory record of postgraduate supervision. Supervisors of coursework doctorate students will hold a doctorate or have equivalent experience. Supervisors of masters by coursework students will hold a masters or higher degree, or have equivalent experience.


except in special cases, at least one of the supervisors is a full-time member of staff or holds academic status in the University. In special cases where a supervisor is not a member of academic staff or does not hold academic status in the University, he or she will be suitably qualified to supervise the student as prescribed in Clause 4.1(i) in this policy and have a close association with the University. A person will only be appointed as a principal supervisor if he or she can reasonably be expected to be able to provide supervision for the duration of the research project.


supervision is provided for the duration of the research project and that an appropriate replacement is made in the event of the prolonged absence (longer than six weeks), retirement or resignation of either the principal or co-supervisor(s).


students are consulted about their nominated supervisors and agree to work with the supervisors before commencement of the research project. Where it becomes necessary to appoint a replacement supervisor for the reasons as prescribed in Clause 4.1(iii) in this policy, the student will be consulted about the replacement supervisor and agree to work with the replacement supervisor before the appointment is confirmed.


The principal supervisor must have relevant knowledge, expertise and interest in the student's research area.


The principal supervisor carries the responsibility of coordinating communication between the supervisors and the student, and for resolving any issues.


The co-supervisors will assist the principal supervisor and ensure there is communication between themselves and the principal supervisor and the student.


In some cases, for example where the research area is multi-disciplinary, more than one co-supervisor or a panel of supervisors may be appointed. Whatever the supervisory arrangement, the primary responsibility must be made clear to all parties.

SECTION 5: Dean of School


It is the responsibility of the Dean of School (or nominee) to:


oversee the selection of a student's area of research;


monitor the progress of students undertaking a research component; and


coordinate the supervision of students undertaking a research component.

SECTION 6: Intellectual Property

The supervisor is responsible for making students aware of the University's policy relating to intellectual property before embarking on the research project.

SECTION 7: Ethics and Biosafety Approval, and Occupational Health and Safety Requirements



Any research project involving human subjects, animals, or biosafety matters will obtain ethical and/or biosafety approval from the relevant committee listed below:

Human Subjects:

Flinders Clinical Research Ethics Committee; and/or

Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee.

Animal Subjects:

Animal Welfare Committee.


Under its terms of reference the Biosafety Committee receives applications for approval of research projects involving the use of:


a genetically modified organism (GMO); and


biohazardous material (including human body fluids, human tissue samples and other body products but excluding clinical activities such as collection and testing of specimens.

Researchers proposing to use carcinogenic or toxic chemicals (other than those specified above) must refer to the Workplace Substances Procedures.
Researchers proposing to use ionising radiation must consult the relevant Area Radiation Officer.


It is the supervisor's responsibility to ensure that the student's research project has appropriate ethical and/or biosafety approval.


Students and supervisors will note that in the event of a student's proposed research project not receiving appropriate ethical and/or biosafety approval, the student will need to choose another research project or his/her enrolment in the research component topic will be cancelled.


The supervisors will ensure that the student's research is conducted in accordance with the University's occupational health and safety requirements.

SECTION 8: Responsibilities of the Student, Supervisor, School and University

The responsibilities of the student, the supervisor, the relevant School, and the University are set out in Appendices A-D to this policy.
Appendix A: Responsibilities of the Student Enrolled in a Research Component
Appendix B: Responsibilities of the Principal Supervisor of a Research Component
Appendix C: Responsibilities of the School
Appendix D: Responsibilities of the University

SECTION 9: Progress and Reports



It is the responsibility of the supervisors to monitor the performance of the student relative to the research project objectives, and to ensure that inadequate progress or work below the standard generally expected is brought to the student's attention in writing. Regular contact between the student and supervisors, as outlined in the responsibilities of the student and supervisor, should facilitate the early identification of problems and the provision of timely academic counselling.


The Faculty will undertake a formal review of the progress of each student at the mid-point of the research project. The review will take the form of written reports to the Dean of School, or nominee, from the student and the supervisors documenting progress and outlining expectations for completion. The Faculty may at any other time review the progress of the student in the research component of the course, taking into account recommendations from the supervisor or Dean of School, or nominee


To enhance the development of students' skills, each School will organise activities such as seminars, work-in-progress sessions, and workshops, whereby students are able to make regular oral presentations to staff and their peers on the progress of their research.


During the research component of a postgraduate coursework award, the principal supervisor will specify a timeline for the completion of a research proposal and timelines by which the student is expected to meet milestones towards his or her research project to enable review of the student's progress.


Unsatisfactory progress in a research component of a coursework postgraduate award is defined as:

(a)   failing to submit a research proposal within the specified timeline or failing to submit a proposal of an acceptable standard in the opinion of the supervisors; or

(b)   failing to provide a satisfactory report at the mid-point of the research project in the opinion of the supervisors and Dean of School (or nominee); or

(c)   failing to make adequate progress towards timelines set by the supervisor required to meet the objectives of the research project.


If the progress of a student in a research component of a postgraduate coursework award is deemed to be unsatisfactory, the Faculty may take one of the following courses of action. In each case, the reasons for taking a particular course of action will be fully documented:

(a)   take no action (which means that student may continue their enrolment in the normal way); or

(b)   permit the student to continue his or her enrolment subject to such conditions as the Faculty may impose; or

(c)   ask the student to show cause why he or she should not be transferred to another appropriate award; or

(d)   ask the student to show cause why he or she should not be precluded from re-enrolling in the course for up to five years; or

(e)   ask the student to show cause why his or her enrolment in the course should not be terminated.


Should the Faculty determine to ask a student to show cause why one of the courses of action listed in clause 9.6 should not be taken, the following procedures will apply:

(a)    the student will be sent a letter to their nominated postal address by registered mail and University email account inviting him or her to show cause why one of the courses of action listed in clause 9.6 should not be taken;

(b)    the letter will be in a standard format approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and will notify the student that if he or she does not reply within a specified time period the specified course of action will be taken;

(c)    a student who receives such a letter may request an interview (as detailed in the letter they receive) to discuss his or her response to the letter. If requested, an interview must be granted.


The Faculty will consider the case of any student whose progress has been identified as unsatisfactory, taking into account any response from the student, and shall determine which course of action outlined in Clause 9.6 of this policy is appropriate. If a student fails to respond to a request to show cause, the Faculty will take the course of action as detailed in the show cause letter The Faculty will inform the student by letter, without delay, of its decision and the reasons for the decision. The letter will be sent to the student's nominated postal address by registered mail and University email account.


Appeals against Outcomes of Review of Student Progress

A student who wishes to appeal against the decision of a Faculty in relation to unsatisfactory progress will, in the first instance and without delay, discuss the matter with the Secretary or Chairperson of the relevant Faculty Committee Should the student still be dissatisfied with the response he or she may appeal to the Student Appeals Committee. An appeal may be lodged only on the following grounds:

•  the appropriate policy was not adhered to or correct procedures were not followed in considering the matter; and/or

•  the decision was made without due regard to facts, evidence or circumstances; and/or

•   the penalty was too harsh.


A student wishing to appeal to the Student Appeals Committee must lodge the appeal with the Director, Academic and Student Services within 20 working days of the date of the notification of the Faculty's determination. The appeal must:

•  be accompanied by the original show cause submission, any correspondence which the student has received from the University in relation to the request to show cause, and the outcome of the deliberations;

•  include details of the grounds for the appeal, including evidence in support of the student's case (together with supporting documentation);

•  include any additional information which the student considers relevant;

•  specify what outcome is sought.


All other matters relevant to an appeal and its conduct will be governed by the provisions of the Student Appeals and Complaints Policy and Procedures.


Recording of outcomes of review of student progress

9.12.1   Termination or preclusion from re-enrolment in a course will appear on the student's official academic transcript. Preclusion will only appear for the duration of that preclusion.

9.12.2   No other outcomes of a review of a student's progress will be recorded on the academic transcript.

9.12.3   Information on terminations, preclusions, restricted enrolments and contract enrolments will be entered into the Student Information System in order to be available to staff members processing enrolments.

SECTION 10: Submission of Research Component for Examination



A form of temporary binding may be used for the submission of research components to examiners. Examiners will be informed that presentation in soft bound form is University procedure.


A student may submit a research component for examination even if this is against the advice of the supervisor.


Where a student believes that the supervisor will not support the submission of the research component because there has been a breakdown in the relationship between the student and supervisor, the student should contact the Dean of the School, or nominee, to initiate a process to overcome any possible prejudice in the examination of the research component.


A student must be enrolled in the research component topic in order to submit the research component for examination.


Each School shall publish the expected format and length required of a research component.


A student must sign a declaration that the research component does not contain any material previously published or written by another person except where due reference is made in the text or footnotes. There can be no exception to this rule. Material produced jointly by a student and his/her supervisors or others can be included in the narrative of the research component only if it is the original work of the student. If it involves the original work of the joint authors other than the student, it must be fully acknowledged in exactly the same way that the work of any other authors is referenced.


Students enrolled in Schools other than foreign language disciplines must submit their research component in English.


In the case of students enrolled in foreign language Schools, permission to submit the research component in a language other than English will be considered by the relevant faculty. Each case will be considered on its merits and the following points taken into account:


the competence of the supervisors in the language proposed;


the availability of a sufficient range of qualified examiners competent in the language; and


evidence of an appropriate link between the subject of the research component and the language in which it is proposed to submit the research component.


Where a student is given permission to submit a research component in a language other than English, the student will be required to include in the research component an abstract in English.


A student shall submit three copies of the research component to the faculty for examination, or more copies as the faculty requires.

SECTION 11: Appointment of Examiners



All research components will be subject to examination.


There will be two examiners for a research component at least one of whom shall be external to the University. A supervisor will not act as an examiner. The faculty may agree to the appointment of a third examiner.


A student should not be examined only on the basis of his or her understanding of a body of existing knowledge. A student is examined by individuals who must judge his or her approach to research, construction of hypotheses, questions, argument and analysis.


The following general principles will apply in the selection of examiners:


the faculty shall take responsibility for ensuring that examiners are free from bias, either for or against the student or the supervisor;


examiners will normally be still active in research/scholarship or professional practice thus ensuring that their knowledge of the field is current;


examiners will have empathy with the theoretical framework used by the student;


examiners will be made familiar with the requirements of the University, the essential parts of the Rules governing the postgraduate coursework award, and the requirements of a research component determined by the faculty;


before examiners are appointed, students will be given the opportunity to object to any potential examiners. Any such objections will be taken into account in the process of selection of examiners. At the end of the examination process the student will receive full copies of the examiner's reports (annotated if necessary to preserve the anonymity of an examiner if this has been requested).


Nominations of possible examiners for a research component will be made to the Faculty after the supervisor has consulted the student on any objections the student may have to the potential examiners. The supervisor will also remind the student of the University's policy concerning the confidentiality of examiners and that any attempt by the student to contact potential examiners could undermine the integrity of the examination process. The supervisor will submit to the faculty:

- the nominations of two possible examiners, their credentials and addresses;

- the nomination of one reserve examiner, with credentials and address in the event that a preferred nominee is unable to act as examiner; and

- information on any objections expressed by the student to potential examiners.


The appointment of any examiner will be approved by the faculty.


Once examiners have been approved by the faculty, they will be invited to act as examiners and will be provided with:

- the name of the student, the award for which the student is enrolled, the School and faculty in which the work has been undertaken, the title and summary of the research component, the weighting of the research component in terms of the overall requirements for the award, and the names of supervisors;

- information about the requirement of the research component;

- information on the University's policy concerning confidentiality of examiners and the release of examiners' reports to students;

- information on the procedures to be followed in the event of significant divergence between examiners' reports (refer to Clause 12.2 in this policy);

- the University prescribed examiner's report form, and the University's schedule of grades and marks;

- a deadline of six weeks for response to the invitation to act as examiner and a two month deadline from receipt of the research component; and

- information on the honorarium payable for the examination of a research component.


If an examiner is unable to accept an invitation or fails to respond to an invitation within six weeks (despite being sent reminder notifications), an invitation will be sent to a person approved as a reserve examiner.


Upon the submission of a research component by a student, the Faculty General Manager will forward copies to examiners who have accepted invitations to examine the research component.


If a report has not been received from an examiner within six weeks, the Faculty General Manager will write to the examiner reminding him or her of the due date for submission of the examiner's report.


If an examiner fails to provide a report by the due date, the examiner will be requested in writing to indicate when the report will be received. In exceptional circumstances the faculty will appoint a third examiner and then make a decision on the outcome of the examination, in accordance with Clause 12 in this policy. The examiner who has failed to provide a report will receive written notification that a report is no longer required, and that a replacement examiner has been appointed.


Clause 6 of the Assessment Policy governs the schedule of grades and marks awarded to a research component. An examiner of a research component will submit a written report on the research component by way of the University's prescribed form for examiners (Appendix F) and will make one of the following recommendations:


that the research component be awarded a percentage mark and a grade of either High Distinction, Distinction, Credit, Pass, or Fail.


that the research component be awarded a percentage mark and a grade of either High Distinction, Distinction, Credit, or Pass, subject to the completion of minor amendments* carried out to the satisfaction of the faculty.


From the time of the appointment of examiners no direct contact between an examiner and a supervisor, or between an examiner and a student, may occur in relation to any material under examination. Should an examiner require clarification of any aspect of the material under examination, any inquiries will be directed to the Faculty General Manager who will refer it for consideration to the student, the supervisor or on the advice of the student or supervisor, to another suitably qualified person.


Consultation between examiners may not take place before the examiners submit their reports to the faculty.

* Amendments may range from the correction of spelling or typographical errors and small changes to the text, to changes to the structure and substance of some chapters of the research component which can be completed to the satisfaction of the supervisor and the Faculty, without being returned to the examiner.

SECTION 12: Consideration of Examiners' Reports


The faculty will determine the outcome of the examination of the research component in accordance with the following procedures:


When both examiners have recommended at least a passing grade the faculty will make a decision on the grade recommended. When there is divergence of less than 15% between the marks recommended by the examiners for the research component, the faculty shall award the mark that is the average of the marks recommended by the examiners, and determine the corresponding grade.


When there is divergence of 15%, or more, in the marks recommended by the examiners, or when one, or both, of the examiners have recommended a Fail grade, the student and the supervisor will be asked to comment on the examiners reports. In this process the examiners' identities and recommended mark and grade shall not be revealed to the student. The examiners' reports and student and supervisor's comments will be referred to the faculty, which will make a decision on the percentage mark and grade to be awarded.


Should an examination process become protracted, the student will be kept informed regularly in writing on the progress of the examination process by the Faculty General Manager.

SECTION 13: Return of Research Component after Examination

Examiners will be asked by the faculty to return copies of the research component to the University at the completion of the examination process.

SECTION 14: Lodging of Research Component in the Library



The Faculty General Manager will lodge two copies of the research component in the Library. In appropriate cases the second copy lodged in the Library may, by arrangement with the Librarian, be housed in the faculty. This second copy must be available for loan to approved borrowers on demand.


Conditions under which the research component may be consulted in the Library are outlined in Appendix E of this policy.

SECTION 15: Students Appeals and Complaints



A student may request a review of the grade given for a research component on the grounds that:

(i) the assessment procedures specified in this policy were not adhered to; and/or

(ii) the grade is wrong or unfair.


The following procedures apply in respect of a request to review the grade given for a research component:


A student must begin the process of review by consulting without delay the topic convener or, if that person is expected to be absent from the University until after the time limit for requesting a review has expired, the Dean of the relevant School. The staff member concerned shall advise the faculty, which may confirm the grade or amend the grade or determine that a review of the grade should occur.


If such consultation fails to take place through no fault on the part of the student, or fails to resolve the matter, and the student wishes to take the matter further, then the student must, within 20 working days of the publication of the grade, or date of dispatch of the result by mail (whichever is later), make a written request that the grade be reviewed, including detailed grounds for the request and indicating the nature of the review requested. This request must be submitted to the faculty nominee. Should the topic convener also be the faculty nominee, this function will be fulfilled by the Executive Dean of the Faculty, or his/her alternate nominee.


The faculty will, within five working days from the request having been received, decide if a review of the grade is justified or not and will notify the student, in writing, of the decision and the reasons for the decision.


Where the faculty decides that a review of the grade is justified, the faculty must arrange for this to commence within ten working days and will determine its nature within the following provisions. Depending on the grounds for the appeal the review may include:

(i) ensuring that the process followed for assessing and determining the grade for the research component was in accordance with Clauses 11 and 12 of this policy;

(ii) arranging for a review of the grade.


A review of the grade may include an examination by a reviewer. The reconsideration must be undertaken, wherever possible, by a person other than the original examiners of the research component, who has expertise in the research area. The reviewer must ensure that the review exercise is as independent as possible, and he or she will be given all the relevant documentation that was forwarded to the original examiners. After the reviewer has independently determined a grade for the research component, he or she will discuss this with the original two examiners and they will endeavour to reach agreement on the grade. If agreement cannot be reached the faculty will mediate and, in the event of agreement still not being possible, will determine the grade.


If an amendment to the grade is recommended as a result of the review, it must be submitted to the faculty for approval.


The faculty will, within five working days of the completion of the review, notify the student in writing of the outcome of the review, and the reasons for the decision.


A student whose request for a review of grade is not granted may appeal to the Student Appeals Committee. Such an appeal to the Student Appeals Committee must be lodged with the Director, Academic and Student Services within 20 working days of the date of the dispatch of the notification from the Faculty. The appeal must:

- be accompanied by a copy of the letter the student had received from the faculty;

- include details of the review process entered into, the action which the student has taken thus far and the grounds for the appeal, including the evidence in support of the student's case, together with supporting documentation; and

- specify what remedy is being sought within the range of remedies available to the Student Appeals Committee as described in the Policy governing the Student Appeals Committee.


All other matters relevant to an appeal and its conduct must be governed by the provisions of the Student Appeals and Complaints Policy and Procedures.