Higher Degree by Research - Candidate progress management procedure
The intent of this procedure is to support implementation of the candidature policy. This procedure relates to managing Higher Degree by Research candidate progress throughout candidature in order to provide the best possible support to candidates, identify issues impeding progress at an early stage and to encourage timely completion of degrees.
All students in RMIT research programs.
Students enrolled in VET, undergraduate and postgraduate coursework programs including Honours.
Procedure steps and actions
Monitoring and reporting on progress is a way to support HDR candidates to achieve their learning potential and the research objectives. In addition to regular meetings with supervisors the regular review of candidature by the disciplinary community is a way to help candidates and supervisors have confidence in the work in progress, access expert review and advice regarding the progress of their research project and assist candidates to develop skills in dealing with robust scrutiny of research work. This procedure will:
(a) Articulate a set of prescribed candidature milestones for all HDR candidates;
(b) Describe the means for candidates to receive broad disciplinary based feedback on the structure, methodology and conclusions of the research;
(c) Describe the means for HDR candidates and their supervisors to request extra support and resources for the candidature; and
(d) Describe the process to identify, manage and support HDR candidates who are making unsatisfactory progress.
If HDR candidates are unable to perform at a level expected for scholarship in the discipline after being given appropriate support and opportunities to do so, RMIT reserves the right to classify them as ‘at risk of unsatisfactory performance’ or to subsequently terminate their candidature if the candidate is deemed to have ‘established unacceptable academic progress’. Appropriate checks and balances are in place to ensure that this process is both fair and transparent.
2. Definition of progress in an HDR program
Academic progress in an HDR program at RMIT is formally monitored and documented at each meeting between a candidate and their supervisor/s as a shared responsibility and is also formally measured by progress of the candidate’s research through the three compulsory candidature milestone reviews which are:
1. Confirmation of Candidature,
2. Mid Candidature Review, and the
3. Completion seminar.
3. Assessment of progress in between milestone reviews
All candidates are entitled to regular supervision meetings with their supervisors, the timing of which will depend on their study mode and their stage of candidature. Meetings should normally take place at least once a fortnight, or part time equivalent, but will be more frequent around the scheduled milestone reviews. Meetings can be face to face, or can be ‘virtual’ and use electronic communication where appropriate.
Supervisors are required to ensure that the progress of the candidate against the research plan is briefly documented after each meeting. Details of the date of the next meeting and what work will be required from the candidate should also be provided within that documentation. The ability to refer to documentation of candidate progress is important when grievances or complaints arise during candidature that relate to aspects of supervision and it is a legislative requirement under the ESOS Act.
For more detail about the processes for monitoring research progress through regular supervision meetings consult the ‘Monitoring research progress through supervision meetings guideline’.
4. Candidature Milestone Review presentations
Progress for Doctoral and Masters candidates will be monitored by three Candidature Milestone Reviews which are compulsory. These are:
1. Confirmation of Candidature,
2. Mid Candidature Review, and the
3. Completion seminar.
Each milestone review will include the candidate submitting a written component of the research in progress, and delivering a presentation of the research to the relevant research community (for example a school or college seminar, or Graduate Research Conference). The presentation will be made to a duly constituted Review Panel and will consist of a summary of the research in progress and provide details of the research progress achieved since the last milestone review. The candidate will be expected to take questions from Review Panel members and the wider audience.
As stated in the Higher Degrees by Research Candidature policy, section 2, all HDR candidates will be considered as probationary until they have successfully passed the Confirmation of Candidature milestone review.
Where a candidate is not based in or near Melbourne, Schools and Colleges may fund the student to attend the milestone in person. Where this is not possible the enrolling school is required to organise modified milestone review presentations that shall reflect the intent of this procedure whilst taking account of the different circumstances.
The SGR is responsible for communicating the outcome of the milestone review to the candidate, and providing the candidate with a final copy of the completed review form.
For more detail about meeting the university requirements for monitoring academic progress through the candidature milestone reviews consult the ‘HDR candidate progress management instruction’.
5. Timing of Candidature Milestone Reviews
a) Under normal circumstances, PhD candidates will undertake a formal milestone review each year of candidature (EFT); Masters candidates will undertake a formal milestone review three times over the two years of candidature. Progress must be assessed as ‘satisfactory’ at each review in order to continue to the next stage of candidature. In between these milestones progress is monitored formally and documented after regular supervision meetings by the supervisor.
The table below indicates the time frame for each milestone review:
Timing of Confirmation of candidature
Timing of Mid Candidature review
Timing of Completion seminar
Between 9 and 12 months after the research commencement date or P/T equivalent
Between 21 and 24 months after the research commencement date or P/T equivalent
Between 33 and 36 months after the research commencement date or P/T equivalent
Between 3 and 4 months after the research commencement date or P/T equivalent
Between 9 and 12 months after the research commencement date or P/T equivalent
Between two and four months before the maximum duration of candidature for the Masters or P/T equivalent
b) In cases where exceptional progress can be demonstrated PhD and Masters candidates may undertake Confirmation of Candidature earlier than 9 months or 4 months respectively from their research commencement date after approval by the Dean, School of Graduate Research.
c) If a candidate or supervisor identifies that the candidate will not be able to meet the required timeline for a milestone review they may fill in a ‘Request for postponement of a Candidature Milestone Review’ form. The maximum period a milestone review can be postponed is 8 weeks.
Candidates who are identified as not having completed a milestone review within a month after the due date, and have not had the due date of their milestone review formally postponed by the submission of a ‘Request for postponement of a Candidature Milestone Review’, will be classified as ‘at risk of unsatisfactory performance’ (see schedule 1 of this procedure).
6. Outcomes of Candidature Milestone Reviews
There are three possible classifications that can be placed on candidates at their milestone reviews:
1. Candidature confirmed (Confirmation of Candidature review) or Satisfactory performance (Mid Candidature or Completion seminar reviews); or
2. Candidature confirmed subject to minor amendments (Confirmation of Candidature review) or Minor amendments necessary (Mid Candidature or Completion seminar reviews); or
3. Candidature not confirmed (Confirmation of Candidature review) or Unsatisfactory performance – major amendments necessary (Mid Candidature or Completion seminar reviews). This classification triggers the stage 1 ‘at risk of unsatisfactory performance’ classification.
A classification of Candidature confirmed or Satisfactory performance will enable the candidate to proceed to the next milestone, and at Confirmation of Candidature triggers the amendment of the candidate enrolment from ‘probationary candidate’ to ‘confirmed candidate’.
A classification involving minor amendments will mean that a candidate is given up to four weeks to revise their milestone documentation and requested to submit it to the Review Panel Chair for review. For candidates undergoing Confirmation of Candidature this means that their period of probationary candidature will be extended to cover the period provided for completing the requested amendments. An additional presentation is not required at this stage.
A classification of Candidature not confirmed or Unsatisfactory performance – major amendments necessary will cause the candidate to be deemed to be ‘at risk of unsatisfactory performance’.
If a candidate is classified as being ‘at risk of unsatisfactory performance’ this initiates a process for intervention and support to be provided by the school in order to assist the candidate to make the necessary amendments as requested on the milestone review form. The intervention can take the form of increased meetings between the supervisor and candidate, or the referral of the candidate to specialist services. The intervention should assist the candidate to recover their progress and successfully complete the candidature milestone review.
7. Definition of unsatisfactory academic performance in a Higher Degree by Research program
Academic Board approves the criteria according to which candidates may be considered to have unsatisfactory academic performance in their program. Schedule 1 of this procedure sets out the currently approved criteria.
For more detail about meeting the university requirements for monitoring academic progress through candidature milestone reviews and regular supervision meetings consult the ‘HDR candidate progress management instruction’ and the ‘Monitoring research progress through supervision meetings guideline’.
8. Responsibilities of a Research Candidate Progress Committee (RCPC) 1
8.1 Constitution of the RCPC and purpose
The Research Candidate Progress Committee will comprise the following members and is convened by the College:
- Committee Chair (College SGRAB member or nominee)
- SGRAB member (representative chosen from outside the candidate’s home College)
- Senior or Joint Senior supervisor/s
- the independent member from the most recent milestone review panel
The RCPC convenes to discuss lack of progress in the candidature and determines whether the candidate should have any classification placed on their candidature such as ‘at risk of unsatisfactory performance’ or as having ‘established unacceptable academic progress’.
For more detail about the university requirements for managing unsatisfactory performance in a research program consult the ‘HDR candidate progress management instruction’.
8.2 Triggers for review of performance by the RCPC
Schedule 1 of this procedure sets out the currently approved criteria according to which candidates may be considered to have unsatisfactory academic performance in their program, which will trigger the review of their performance by a Research Candidate Progress Committee (RCPC).
In addition, convening of an RCPC can be requested at any time outside a milestone review period by either the candidate, a Senior supervisor or the Dean SGR to the HDR Coordinator in the school. The request should be directed to the HDR Coordinator of the school with grounds for the request. HDR Coordinators will assess whether the RCPC should be convened or whether an alternative means of assisting progress needs to be used, such as recommending that the candidate take a period of LOA, or amend their study load.
If an HDR Coordinator wishes to request the convening of an RCPC they provide grounds for the request to their College representative on the SGRAB (SGR Advisory Board) for consideration.
8.3 Outcomes of an RCPC
After considering the case the RCPC can:
1. provide remedial assistance which can include:
recommending appropriate action to address issues identified with the candidature, including provision of any additional supervisors necessary or changing study load, and/or
classifying the candidate as ‘at risk of unsatisfactory performance’ and recommending the development of a candidate action and support plan (CASP), and/or
recommending that a CASP is designed to help the candidate get their research on track;
2. confirm the ‘established unacceptable academic progress’ classification recommended by the milestone Review Panel and recommend that the candidature is terminated.
For candidates in receipt of a scholarship it is at this stage that the scholarship payments will be stopped, in accordance with their scholarship terms and conditions.
Candidates attending an RCPC will not be recommended for termination if the RCPC identifies that they have not had the opportunity to access any specialist assistance they might need.
If an addition to supervisory arrangements is recommended by the RCPC, the HDR co-ordinator will be responsible for identifying new suitable and available supervisors and supporting the candidate’s transition to a new supervisory team. The candidate is expected to assist the HDR coordinator in identifying suitable additional supervisors.
If candidature is recommended for termination in the current program by an RCPC this does not preclude allowing the candidate an alternative exit or some credit towards entry into another program such as a Graduate Diploma, coursework Masters, or research Masters if they are within the timeframe for an Commonwealth funded research Masters (two years full-time or part-time equivalent).
For more detail about the process for convening an RCPC and the support offered by that committee consult the ‘HDR candidate progress management instruction’.
9. Exemptions from review
a) No exemptions will be granted for the requirement of Confirmation of Candidature except in circumstances where a confirmed candidate:
I. is transferring into RMIT from another university, or
II. is transferring between schools within RMIT,
and can provide evidence of their previous confirmation of candidature at the appropriate level to their school.
b) The Dean, SGR, may grant exemptions for the requirement for the Mid Candidature Review in cases where candidates and their supervisors can demonstrate:
I. exceptional progress and
II. regular exposure of the research of the candidate to robust peer review.
For example a candidate who has had at least two peer-reviewed publications in ranked journals accepted since Confirmation of Candidature; or been represented in a curated exhibition, or presented at an external research conference or seminar, they would be eligible to request an exemption. In such cases a brief report on progress is submitted to the Review Panel along with copies of the relevant publications.
c) No exemptions will be granted for the requirement of the Completion Seminar.
10. Appeal processes
A candidate may appeal against a decision to place them ‘at risk of unsatisfactory performance’ to the RMIT Research Committee on the following grounds:
- there is evidence of a breach of this procedure, or another relevant University policy or procedure, in the handling of the placement ‘at risk’ (this includes evidence of procedural irregularity in the convening of a milestone Review Panel or a Research Candidate Progress Committee).
For more detail about the process for submitting an appeal against being placed ‘at risk of unsatisfactory performance’ to the RMIT Research Committee consult the ‘HDR candidate progress management instruction’.
A candidate may appeal against a decision to terminate their candidature to the University Appeals Committee. The appeal process detailed in Regulation 5.4.4 - The University Appeals Committee should be followed. The appeal will be against a decision to terminate the candidature based on their having ‘established unsatisfactory academic progress’. A candidate may lodge an appeal on the following grounds:
- there is evidence a procedural irregularity has occurred;
- the candidate can provide new information that could not reasonably have been provided at or prior to the decision to terminate their candidature, and that information would probably have affected the decision made under procedure
In both cases candidates have 20 working days to lodge an appeal from the date the notification of being classified as ‘at risk of unsatisfactory performance’ or notification of a decision to commence termination of candidature.
1 The Research Candidate Progress Committee has the equivalent authority as a Program Assessment Board as per the Assessment Policy.[Next: Schedule 1]