Higher degrees by research policy


To define the rules for the management of HDR candidature and supervision at RMIT.


All RMIT staff responsible for HDR management and supervision and all HDR candidates including RMIT Vietnam and RMIT Europe.

Policy provisions

1. Admission

1.1. Admission for enrolment in a higher degree by research at RMIT is in accordance with the University’s Admission and credit policy and RMIT’s HDR admissions process.

1.2. By instructing an offer of admission to be made to an applicant, the enrolling School confirms that:

1.2.1. it has the appropriate discipline expertise to house the research;

1.2.2. it has the necessary space, facilities, equipment, technical and resource staff and funding for applicant, for the duration of the program; and

1.2.3. it has the capacity to provide dedicated supervision for the duration of the program.

1.3. The enrolling School must abide by its commitment to provide the above for the duration of candidature.

2. HDR workspace allocation

2.1 All HDR candidates attending RMIT campuses have access to non-laboratory work space.

2.2. HDR workspace allocation will be aligned with (and should not exceed) the published policy governing workspace allocation for the staff of the University.

2.3 The principles governing HDR space management and specific management requirements are set out in the HDR space management policy process.

3. Funding to support higher degrees by research

3.1. The Commonwealth Government of Australia provides funding to support research training at RMIT via its Research Training Program (RTP) block grant. The program supports the following scholarship types:

3.1.1. RTP Fees Offset: A contribution to the costs incurred by the University in the provision of higher degrees by research. All Australian and New Zealand citizens (domestic candidates) are eligible for this support. International candidates in receipt of a Tuition Fee Scholarship at RMIT will receive this support.

3.1.2. RTP Stipend: Funding to assist candidates with living costs while undertaking a higher degree.

3.1.3. RTP Allowances: funding to assist candidates with ancillary costs of a higher degree, such as health cover and relocation costs for overseas candidates, thesis printing and academic publication costs.

3.2. Duration of RTP support is as follows:

3.2.1. For domestic candidates the RTP Fees Offset may be provided up to the maximum duration of candidature.

3.2.2. For all RTP support provided to international candidates, and for domestic RTP stipend recipients, RTP support is for the full time equivalent (FTE) of up to three years for doctoral study (six month extension may be applied for); and for Masters by Research study, a maximum of two years (FTE).

3.3. RMIT Research Scholarship rates with information about the contribution provided through the RTP are published annually on the RMIT website.

3.4. Information about eligibility, selection, entitlements and other terms and conditions for Scholarships in accordance with the Commonwealth Scholarships Guidelines are set out in the RMIT Scholarship Terms and Conditions (PDF).

4. Supervision responsibilities

4.1. RMIT will provide all HDR candidates with a suitably qualified senior supervisor and at least one other supervisor who have expertise in the discipline area of the candidate.

4.2. Supervisors are responsible for providing guidance regarding the candidate’s research project, assisting in resolving research-related issues and providing timely feedback.

4.3. Supervision must be undertaken in accordance with the Supervision responsibilities policy process and the Code of Practice for Higher Degrees by Research.

5. Supervision arrangements

5.1. The Dean/Head of School/Centre (or delegate) is accountable for the allocation of supervisors to candidates throughout the period of candidature and the oversight of supervision performance.

5.2. The Senior Supervisor or at least one of the Joint Senior Supervisors must be an RMIT staff member.

5.3. Candidates or HDR Coordinators may request a change to supervisory arrangements at any time as detailed in the HDR Supervision arrangements policy process.

6. Supervision registration

6.1. All supervisors are required to be accredited and listed on the RMIT supervisor register before they can be allocated to candidates.

6.2. Categories of supervisor registration are determined by a combination of supervisory experience and research activity.

6.3. In order to maintain their level of registration supervisors must:

6.3.1. meet ongoing eligibility requirements; and

6.3.2. demonstrate they are effectively supporting candidates to achieve their expected milestones and research outcomes.

6.4. The requirements for supervisor registration are detailed in Schedule Four: HDR Supervisor Registration requirements (PDF).

7. Enrolment

7.1. The enrolment date is the same as the research commencement date unless a special case is made for use of a later date.

8. Duration of candidature

8.1. For candidates enrolling in an HDR program at RMIT duration of candidature shall be:

8.1.1. PhD – minimum 2 EFTSL and maximum 4 EFTSL

8.1.2. Masters by research – minimum 1 EFTSL and maximum 2 EFTSL

8.2. EFTSL consumed by candidates is calculated from their research commencement date.

8.3. The academic year for HDR candidates is 48 weeks with 4 weeks annual leave.

8.4. Candidate enrolment each year shall be either full-time – 96 credit points, or part-time – 48 credit points.

8.5. Full-time commitment will average at least 4 days per week over the course of the year. Part-time commitment will average at least 2 days per week over the course of the year. Any work, paid or otherwise, undertake by the candidate outside of their research project may not affect their ability to maintain this commitment.

8.6. Any changes between full- and part-time study mode must be applied for in accordance with the eligibility requirements and processes set out in the Program duration policy process.

8.7. Should candidates undertake a research internship, industry placement or other professional development activity, this should normally be within their permitted candidature duration period, with the exception of any enrolled activity undertaken post-submission.

8.8. Extensions to candidature duration are subject to approval by the ADVC RT&D and any other applicable scholarship terms and conditions.

9. Program transfer

9.1. Current HDR candidates from RMIT or another university are eligible to apply for transfer to an alternate RMIT HDR program provided that the candidate:

9.1.1. meets the entry requirements and

9.1.2. has consumed less than 3 EFTSL in a PhD, or less than 1 EFTSL in a Masters by research

9.2. Application and approval for program transfer is in accordance with the Program transfer policy process.

9.3. The duration of candidature in the new program will be reduced by any EFTSL consumed in the previous HDR program.

10. Leave of absence

10.1. Candidates can access up to a total of twelve months leave of absence (LOA) during the entire program due to compassionate or compelling circumstances which prevent the candidate carrying out research, as detailed in the HDR Leave of absence policy process.

10.2. LOA is not included in EFTSL calculations of duration of candidature and candidates must cease working on their research during this period.

11. Parental leave

11.1. Subject to provision of appropriate documentation and any terms and conditions of their scholarship/sponsorship, candidates may be permitted:

11.1.1. 6 months maternity leave or partner leave or

11.1.2. 6 months adoption leave for each child born or adopted during candidature.

11.1.3. Requests for parental leave are considered in addition to the standard LOA provisions.

12. Supporting and monitoring academic progress

12.1. SGR will publish guidelines for the provision of research training support, facilities and funding.

12.2. Progress must be monitored and documented at regular meetings between supervisors and candidates, in accordance with the Supporting HDR progress policy process.

13. Candidature Milestone Reviews

13.1. Progress is formally measured by monitoring of the candidate’s research through the three compulsory candidature milestone reviews:

13.1.1. Confirmation of Candidature

13.1.2. Second milestone review, and the

13.1.3. Third milestone review.

13.2. All candidature milestone reviews must be scheduled in accordance with this timeline:


Timing of Confirmation of candidature

Timing of Second milestone review

Timing of Third milestone review


Between 0.5 and 1 EFTSL after candidate’s research commencement date

Between 1.5 and 2 EFTSL after candidate’s research commencement date

Between 2.5 and 3 EFTSL after candidate’s research commencement date


Between 0.25 and 0.5 EFTSL after candidate’s research commencement date

Between 0.75 and 1 EFTSL after candidate’s research commencement

Between 1.5 and 1.75 EFTSL after candidate’s research commencement date

13.3. The panel will determine one of the following outcomes: Milestone achieved or Milestone not achieved.

13.4. Candidates who achieve their milestone will be regarded as having satisfactory progress; those who do not achieve the milestone will be classified as at risk of unsatisfactory progress.

13.5. A candidate who has transferred from another program and provides evidence of previous confirmation of candidature is exempted from this Milestone review.

13.6. No exemptions will be granted for the requirement for the Second milestone review.

13.7. Candidates who are re-admitted for the purpose of examination are not required to complete the Third milestone review.

13.8. Candidates are permitted two attempts to achieve a milestone. A third attempt may be permitted only if a Research Candidate Progress Committee (RCPC) or the Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research Training and Development (ADVC RT&D) determines that the candidate’s progress has been impeded by a lack of necessary support from the University.

14. Unsatisfactory Academic Progress

14.1. Candidates will be placed at risk of unsatisfactory academic progress (hereafter referred to as at risk) if:

14.1.1. they do not achieve a milestone;

14.1.2. they apply for an extension beyond maximum duration of candidature;

14.1.3. there is documented evidence of failure to:

    a) produce work requested for review by their supervisor; or

    b) attend two or more regular supervision meetings without providing evidence of exceptional/compassionate circumstances;

14.1.4. they have failed one or more coursework courses of enrolled load;

14.1.5. they elect to place their own candidature at risk in consultation with their Senior Supervisor; or

14.1.6. in exceptional circumstances, it is requested by the ADVC RT&D

14.2. In cases where the candidate is placed atrisk they will be notified of the classification in writing and invited to attend an atrisk meeting within 15 working days of the date of the notification letter.

14.3. As a consequence of this meeting a Candidate Action and Support Plan (CASP) will be developed to support their candidature.

15. Research Candidate Progress Committee (RCPC)

15.1. An RCPC will be convened if an at risk candidate has not met the requirements set out in their CASP.

15.2. The outcomes of an RCPC are provided as recommendations to the ADVC RT&D. They are:

15.2.1. Established unsatisfactory academic progress not confirmed – candidate remains at risk and another CASP is to be developed; or

15.2.2. Established unsatisfactory academic progress confirmed – candidate recommended for termination of candidature and cancellation of enrolment.

16. Appeals and complaints

16.1. Candidates with a current enrolment (including those on an approved period of leave of absence) are entitled to appeal the decision to terminate their candidature on the basis of unsatisfactory performance where they provide evidence that they meet the following grounds:

16.1.1. there is evidence of a breach of University legislation, policy or process in the handling of the at risk process which has had a meaningful impact on the determination to terminate the candidature, and/or

16.1.2. there is significant new, relevant evidence that was not available at the time of the Research Candidate Progress Committee (RCPC) meeting.

16.2. Appeals must be made in accordance with the Assessment, Academic Progress and Appeals Regulations and this policy.

16.3. For the resolution of other concerns or grievances in-candidature, candidates should follow the provisions of RMIT's Student complaints policy.

17. Thesis/project submission

17.1. RMIT recognises two modes of submission for HDR examination:

17.1.1. Thesis; and

17.1.2. Project.

17.2. The length and format of the material presented for examination must be consistent with the normal standards for the discipline/field.

17.3. Submissions and publications completed with the support of the Commonwealth Government of Australia's Research Training Program must include an acknowledgement.

17.4. A thesis must be unified and coherent in content and address a significant research question/theme. Theses contain the process, results and analysis of original research and may include publications by candidates based on research undertaken during the course of candidature.

17.5. Projects must include:

17.5.1. the artefact/s; body of work; or a record thereof, and,

17.5.2. a dissertation which defines the purpose and theoretical basis of the work, and

17.5.3. an oral presentation made by the candidate where required.

17.6. Candidates will be required to declare that any research outputs included in a thesis or project:

17.6.1. are by the candidate,

17.6.2. have appropriate attribution recorded, and

17.6.3. are based on research undertaken during the course of candidature.

17.7. Where two (or more) candidates collaborate on a thesis/project:

17.7.1. the individual contributions of each candidate must have the equivalent volume of a project/thesis in the discipline, and

17.7.2. the collaborator’s contributions to the overall research outcomes must be declared in each of the uniquely titled research topics and resultant theses or projects.

17.8. In order to submit all candidates must:

17.8.1. complete the minimum period of enrolment in the degree or have the approval of the ADVC RT&D for early submission;

17.8.2. provide an electronic version of the thesis/project;

17.8.3. have met all the prescribed coursework components of the program;

17.8.4. not submit research previously submitted for examination in respect of a prior degree;

17.8.5. have the approval of their senior supervisor for the submission or have chosen to submit without school approval.

17.9. The Senior supervisor in consultation with the Dean/HoS or nominee shall determine if the candidate’s work is suitable in format and content to be submitted for examination.

17.10. Requests for Posthumous submission and examination are approved by the Graduate Research Committee as detailed in the Posthumous submission and examination policy process.

18. Appointment of examiners

18.1. Examinations must be conducted by two appropriately qualified experts of international standing in the discipline/field who are external to RMIT, independent of the conduct of the research and without any real, perceived, or undeclared, conflict of interest.

18.2. All examiners must hold a doctoral degree or equivalent.

18.3. The appointment of examiners is approved by the ADVC RT&D.

18.4. The candidates and supervisors must not contact or communicate with the examiners from the date of approval of the examiners to the finalisation of the examination result except where an oral presentation is involved.

19. Examination outcomes

19.1. The ADVC RT&D will use the examiners’ recommendations and Schedule One: Recommendations and classifications of HDR examinations (PDF)in order to determine the final examination classification.

19.2. In order to pass, a thesis/project must receive two pass recommendations on the same version of the thesis/project. See Schedule One: Recommendations and classifications of HDR examinations (PDF).

19.3. If a thesis/project is classified as a C3 – Revise and re-submit the re-examination is carried out on a pass/fail basis either with the original examiners, if they are willing to re-examine the revised thesis/project, or with one or two newly nominated examiners. In order to pass a thesis/project must receive two independent, external passing recommendations on the same version of the thesis/project.

19.4. Candidates may appeal against the classification outcome of a thesis/project examination on procedural grounds as detailed in the Assessment, Academic Progress and Appeals Regulations.

20. College HDR Advisory Committees and Adjudicators

20.1. A College HDR Examination Advisory Committee (CHEAC) may be convened in cases where at least one of the examiners recommendations is R3 or R4 and there is divergence of opinion between the examiners, as detailed in Schedule One: Recommendations and classifications of HDR examinations (PDF).

20.2. A CHEAC will recommend to the ADVC RT&D:

20.2.1. the thesis/project receive a classification according to Schedule Two: Classification options available to a College HDR Examination Advisory Committee (CHEAC); or

20.2.2. the recommendations of the examiners are unable to be reconciled internally and an adjudicator must be appointed.

20.3. Where an examination classification cannot be determined by the ADVC RT&D or a CHEAC, and an adjudicator is appointed they must make a recommendation to the ADVC RT&D in accordance with Schedule Three - Classification options available to an adjudicator (PDF).

21. Open access and embargo

21.1. RMIT shall provide open access to the final thesis/project except in cases where an application for an embargo is successful.

21.2. Candidates are entitled to apply for an embargo on publication of their research in the RMIT Research Repository if they can meet the grounds for embargo as detailed below:


Level of approval


There is an existing formal commitment that commercially or otherwise sensitive material will not be publicly disclosed (includes patents and research produced under a funded contract with a Student Participation Agreement in place, or a confidentiality agreement).

Up to two years from the initial submission for examination


Option for extension of embargo for one year



The candidate has signed a publishing agreement that explicitly requires some restriction on the availability of the thesis/project.

One year initially


Option for extension of embargo for one year



The candidate provides evidence that they have permanently re-assigned copyright of their thesis/project to a third party and this assignment explicitly disallows the publication of the thesis/project in the research repository.



22. Completion of the program

22.1. In order to satisfactorily complete all requirements of the degree candidates must have:

22.1.1. lodged the final archival version of the thesis/project, and

22.1.2. met all prescribed coursework components of the program.

23. Processes

23.1. The ADVC RT&D is responsible for the establishment and review of HDR processes and associated supporting documents.

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