Code of Practice for Higher Degrees by Research


The quality of RMIT University’s Higher Degree by Research provision is the shared responsibility of University governance, Colleges, Schools and academic units, supervisors, and higher degree by research (HDR) candidates themselves. This Code sets out the responsibilities of each party in the delivery and management of RMIT higher degrees by research.

The following details the expected allocation of responsibilities however local circumstances may lead to the centralisation of specific responsibilities within a particular college or the devolution of college responsibilities to schools. In these cases it is critical that this arrangement has been endorsed by all parties and alternate arrangements are clearly and transparently communicated to all stakeholders.


These Guidelines take account of national regulatory frameworks and sector recognised good practice guidelines, including:

These Guidelines should be read in the context of RMIT’s Research policies, processes and gudelines and other relevant policies including those pertaining to Safety and Values at RMIT.

University responsibilities

Graduate research is a key, integral component of RMIT University’s research and innovation ecosystem. RMIT is committed to creating a vibrant graduate research environment which enables graduate researchers to achieve successful higher degree by research outcomes, enjoy an outstanding candidature experience, and to contribute to the University’s excellence and innovation in research with the potential to have impact in the world. The School of Graduate Research provides leadership in HDR policy and strategy, quality management, curriculum and co-curricular development and HDR administration.

RMIT University is responsible for:

1. Strategic investment in HDR scholarships to support excellence in research and innovation;

2. Strategic investment in systems to support graduate research administration and management;

3. Providing leadership and support to enhance the quality of graduate research and the graduate researcher experience;

4. Developing and maintaining a policy and governance framework for the management of higher degrees by research, graduate research candidature and quality supervision;

5. Overseeing the development and review of higher degree by research courses and programs;

6. Overseeing and implementing the HDR program quality assurance and enhancement processes;

7. Ensuring compliance with federal legislation and guidelines;

8. Providing supervisor professional development and training;

9. Providing opportunities and support for candidate professional and personal development.

College responsibilities

Colleges at RMIT provide strategic leadership for HDR program development, profile, recruitment and investment in scholarships and resources for graduate research. They also provide an avenue for academic review when recommendations must be determined external to the enrolling school.

A member of the College’s executive staff must be designated to co-ordinate and manage the College’s graduate research planning and strategy (e.g. Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and/or HDR Director or equivalent) with an appropriate time fraction devoted to this role; and be actively supported by the PVC.

Colleges are responsible for:

1. Setting and supporting college level HDR profile targets and key performance indicators;

2. Initiating and supporting targeted and relevant college HDR marketing and recruitment activities;

3. Establishment and allocation of HDR scholarship budgets;

4. Ensuring academic and strategic allocation of centrally awarded scholarships through participation in the HDR Scholarships Committee;

5. Oversight of college specific coursework (where relevant);

6. Reviewing HDR research proposals for compliance with Autonomous Sanctions;

7. Convening Research Candidate Progress Committees and making recommendations to the ADVC RT&D in relation to the unsatisfactory progress of a candidate;

8. Convening HDR Examination Advisory Committee (CHEAC) to determine appropriate recommendations on the outcomes of examiner’s reports.

School responsibilities

Schools (and academic units) at RMIT set the disciplinary direction and standards for graduate research. They are custodians for the fields of research they operate within, and actively support the development of those fields including interdisciplinary research through collaborations with researchers from outside the school and end-user engagement. A member of the School’s academic staff must be designated to co-ordinate and manage the School’s graduate research activities (e.g. Associate Dean HDR; HDR Co-ordinator) with an appropriate time fraction devoted to this role; and be actively supported by the Deputy Dean Research (or equivalent) and the Dean/Head of School.

Schools are responsible for:

1. Ensuring HDR admission is to fields of excellence in research and innovation supported by a vibrant and productive research community;

2. Making timely and appropriate decisions regarding admission of HDR candidates;

3. Providing local induction and orientation to new and transferring graduate researchers and ensuring the maintenance of a vibrant, well-connected and well-informed local graduate research community;

4. Ensuring graduate research project design supports the production of research to the standard required by the degree within the permitted timeframe;

Setting disciplinary appropriate expectations regarding the time available for and regularity of meetings between candidates and their supervisors;

6. Monitoring the supervision provided to candidates to ensure satisfactory academic progress;

7. Allocating and maintaining sufficient workspace in accordance with the HDR Space Management Principles approved by Research Committee and the resources and facilities required to support approved HDR research projects;

8. Ensuring the on-going provision of appropriately qualified and experienced supervisory teams with adequate time and workload allocations to supervise and support graduate research candidates and their projects;

9. Providing relevant, up-to-date training on research methods, techniques, and responsible conduct of research;

10. Providing opportunities for candidates to present, discuss and critique research in progress with peers and experts;

11. Supporting interdisciplinary higher degrees by research and facilitating candidates’ engagement with the university’s Enabling Capability Platforms;

12. Encouraging and providing opportunities for candidates to engage with research end-users by undertaking end-user nominated projects, work placements and internships relevant to their degree and future career direction.

13. Developing and maintaining global research connections with academic and industry partners which enhance the graduate research experience;

14. Supporting and managing supervisor performance and development of leading graduate research practice in the field though inclusion of HDR supervision in academic staff work planning and review where appropriate;

15. Valuing and supporting diversity in research training, including providing appropriate levels of additional research training pathways, support and mentoring for those from diverse backgrounds including indigenous candidates and supervisors;

16. Expecting and ensuring that the research community within the school or academic unit is inclusive and respectful and all members are treated equally and fairly, free from discrimination and harassment;

17. Ensuring work authorised for examination is of the required standard for a degree in the field.

Supervisor responsibilities

The quality of the supervisor-candidate relationship is fundamental to successful graduate research outcomes. The supervisor-candidate relationship is often an enduring relationship; one that commences prior to candidature and extends beyond degree completions into an on-going professional relationship. The supervisor contribution is multi-dimensional, including project management, research design as well as professional development and pastoral care.

Supervisors have a dual responsibility to guide the candidate towards successful completion and to uphold academic and professional standards. Importantly they must engage with their candidates in a respectful and considerate manner, recognising and responding to cultural diversity and fostering a culture of inclusiveness and equality.

Supervisors are responsible for:

1. Working with prospective candidates to design a research project appropriate to the academic standards and scope of the field of research and degree sought.

2. Developing clear protocols for the management of the supervision within the supervisory team, including the management of differing views within the team as to the direction of the project recognising the potentially negative impact on candidates on being unduly exposed to these differences.

3. Working with candidates to develop mutually agreeable work practices, timelines, regular meeting arrangements and approaches to keeping accurate records of these meetings.

4. Guiding candidates in the pursuit of research towards a higher degree, setting and monitoring realistic time bound goals, providing timely feedback and helping manage expectations of the graduate research experience.

5. Guiding candidates in the practice of research to facilitate timely progress, the development of independent and critical thinking and the development of high-quality research results.

6. Providing advice and guidance to candidates on the standards candidates need to meet including those concerning academic rigour, research integrity and ethics in accordance with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, including taking a lead role as Chief Investigator for any research ethics application relating to their candidate’s work.

7. Monitoring candidate progress and engagement, assisting candidates to prepare for milestones review and respond to assessments made at these reviews and taking steps to support candidates in overcoming barriers to progress.

8. Being alert to the wellbeing of the candidate, including the candidate’s mental wellbeing, and being pro-active in making referrals to relevant university services in the event of candidate’s showing signs of needing additional or specialist support.

9. Supporting the initial analysis of the training needs for each candidate, providing advice and appropriate referrals for advice on additional training and development activities and actively supporting the development of employability skills that will enhance the candidate’s successful completion and future career opportunities.

10. Inducting candidates into relevant research communities and communities of practice, from the academic unit to the broader research community, industry and other stakeholders, and actively connect candidates with their peers.

11. Supporting candidates to publish and produce peer-reviewed research outputs during candidature.

12. Maintaining familiarity and ensuring compliance with policies, processes and good practice guidelines governing graduate research at RMIT.

13. Providing timely information and endorsement to the University as required regarding the candidate’s progress towards completion of the degree candidature variation.

14. Certifying at the time of submission that the work is of an appropriate standard, is properly presented, confirms to the HDR policies and procedures and is therefore worthy of examination.

Candidate responsibilities

A HDR candidate’s role and responsibility is more than that of a student enrolled in any other level of study. A graduate researcher is both a student receiving training and a researcher producing research which expands the global body of knowledge in their chosen field. A candidate for a higher degree by research is expected to take the initiative in driving forward their research endeavour and in pursuing opportunities in preparation for future leadership roles in or beyond academia.

Candidates are responsible for:

1. Working with supervisors to develop mutually agreeable work practices, timelines and approaches to candidature record keeping.

2. Maintaining contact with their supervisor and the university by attending meetings as required, monitoring and responding to emails and other communications and actively engaging in School or academic unit researcher events and conferences.

3. Actively maintain satisfactory academic progress by responding constructively to guidance, advice and feedback from supervisors and seeking additional support when required.

4. Taking the initiative to identify and overcome barriers to candidature progress in a timely way.

5. Regularly presenting, discussing and critiquing research with peers and experts throughout candidature.

6. With the support of the supervisory team, disseminating research through high-quality publications, conferences, and other disciplinary and professionally appropriate outlets.

7. Regularly and accurately reporting research outputs via appropriate university systems and developing a researcher profile.

8. Working with supervisors and School staff to identify, and access appropriate opportunities to enhance their employability skills including research leadership skills development, such as teaching and demonstrating; work placements; research internships; and public engagement.

9. Complying with all University policy, processes and guidelines relating to higher degrees by research, enrolment, the conduct of research, candidature management and health and safety.

10. Complying with all contracts and agreements entered into during the course of candidature, such as those relating to University or third-party-funded research; intellectual property; confidentiality, scholarship and grant funding.

11. Providing constructive feedback to the University through surveys and other engagement activities to inform quality improvement.