Higher Degree Research Supervision

Higher Degree Research Supervision


The Higher Degree Research Supervision Policy and Procedure establishes the principles and key responsibilities  that underpin the University’s approach to the supervision for Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidates.



To outline the principles related to the provision of supervision for Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidates.


The University has a responsibility to ensure that HDR candidates, departments, faculties and supervisors are aware of their respective responsibilities from the time of enrolment through to the end of a student’s candidacy. This Policy specifies those responsibilities and outlines Macquarie’s requirements for higher degree research practice.

The Higher Degree Research Rules cover the admission, program of study, period and termination of candidature, and place of research for HDR candidates. Specifically, Rule 7 (12) requires Executive Deans of Faculty to be satisfied that adequate supervision and facilities are available for a candidate prior to admission. Rule 10 (1) states that supervision and review of progress of HDR candidates are governed by this Higher Degree Research Supervision Policy.

3     SCOPE

The policy applies to all University staff, and those on adjunct appointments, who are engaged in the provision and support of HDR supervision. It also applies to HDR candidates.


Commonly defined terms are located in the University Glossary. The following definitions apply for the purpose of this Policy:

Acting Supervisor: the person appointed as a short term replacement for the Principal Supervisor as the need arises (for periods up to six months only). The person must meet the conditions for appointment as a Principal Supervisor. The title is also applicable to a person who, for a strictly limited period, holds administrative supervisory responsibility during the coursework component of a professional doctoral degree (normally one year equivalent full-time). 

Adjunct Supervisor: describes a supervisory appointment that does not involve a current Macquarie University academic staff member.

Associate Supervisor: a person with a lesser fractional supervisory load and responsibility compared to the Principal Supervisor. 

Co-Supervisor: an academic staff member who has not supervised a HDR candidate to completion, or who is on an appointment of less than three years. Co-supervisors work under the direction of a Principal Supervisor.

Macquarie University Supervisor Register (MQSR): a listing of the persons who meet the University’s requirements for appointment as an HDR supervisor. In order to be registered on the MQSR the person must meet all of the below requirements:

  • be a Macquarie University academic staff member with either a full-time appointment or a part-time appointment of not less than three years (this requirement is waived for Adjunct Supervisors)
  • be research active (as defined in the Research Strategic Plan)
  • have a doctoral degree, or equivalent
  • be up-to-date with the Supervision Enhancement Program (ie have completed the initial workshop and an annual update workshop), and
  • have the approval of the Executive Dean to be a Principal, Acting, Associate or Adjunct Supervisor.

Principal Supervisor: the person appointed to have main supervisory responsibility for a HDR candidate.

Supervisory Panel: the persons appointed to supervise an individual HDR candidate.


Supervision will be provided to each HDR candidate to assist in the production of a thesis:

  • which fulfils the degree requirements
  • is presented in a form according to accepted practices of the University.


For a Macquarie University staff member to be eligible for consideration for an appointment minimum conditions will need to be met:

  • Principal Supervisor – must be on the MQSR
  • Associate Supervisor – must be on the MQSR
  • Co-Supervisor – must meet all criteria for listing on the MQSR with the exception of the minimum period of appointment.
  • For a non-Macquarie staff member to be appointed as an Adjunct Supervisor, the Executive Dean of the faculty must be satisfied that the educational qualifications, research track-record and/or professional experience are the equivalent of what is required for listing on the MQSR.
  • The proposed appointment of a person who does not meet all the specific selection criteria for the type of appointment will be considered exceptional. This includes any proposal to allow a staff member who is currently enrolled in a research degree to be appointed as an associate or co-supervisor. All exceptions will require approval by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research). 


The Principal Supervisor will be responsible for:

  • directing the work of the candidate
  • co-operatively working with the candidate to assist them to meet all administrative and academic requirements
  • co-ordinating the supervisory panel
  • undertaking administrative roles associated with candidate’s academic progression
  • mentoring any Co-Supervisors, and
  • providing direction on candidature matters to the other supervisors.
  • The Principal Supervisor will be located in the Department in which the candidate is registered. Where there are sound pedagogical reasons for the Principal Supervisor to be located outside the candidate’s Department this will require the approval of the Executive Dean.

The HDR candidate will be ultimately responsible for production of a thesis, which:

  • fulfils the degree requirements
  • is presented in a form consistent with the accepted practices of the University.


  • All supervisors, regardless of type of appointment, will be required to have read the Doctoral and Masters by Research Degree Rules and any guidelines relating to HDR candidature. 
  • Joint supervision is possible where it is deemed appropriate by the relevant Executive Dean. In these cases, the Executive Dean will nominate one supervisor to be responsible for the administrative management of candidature.

The University may commence applicable disciplinary procedures if a person to whom this policy applies breaches this policy (or any of its related procedures).


Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research


Higher Degree Research Supervision Procedure (see tab above)
Research Activity Indicators as listed in the Research Strategic Plan
The Macquarie University  Responsible Conduct of Research Code
Staff Code of Conduct

8     NOTES

Contact Officer

Director , Higher Degree Research Office

Implementation Officer

Director , Higher Degree Research Office

Approval Authority / Authorities

Academic Senate

Date Approved

14 February 2013

Date of Commencement

14 February 2013

Date for Review

February 2016

Documents Superseded by this Policy

Appointment of a Replacement Supervisor Procedure approved 6 July 2007
Appointment of an Adjunct Supervisor Procedure approved 7 December 2007
Higher Degree Research Supervisor Roles and Responsibilities Guidelines approved 7 December 2007
Higher Degree Research Supervisor Appointment Policy approved 6 February 2004
Higher Degree Research Supervisory Practice Policy approved 6 June 2008

Amendment History

July 2017 – Added hyperlink for term ‘research active’ to https://staff.mq.edu.au/research/strategy-priorities-and-initiatives/strategic-research-framework/Research-Active-Definition-revised-October-2016.pdf
April 2016 - Amendment to Background reference to University Rules to be consistent with current Higher Degree Research Rules


PurposeTo outline the roles and responsibilities associated with the supervision of Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidates.


This procedure requires actions by the following:
Director, Higher Degree Research Office

Maintain the HDR Supervisor Register listing the academic staff who meet the University’s requirements for appointment as an HDR supervisor.

Provide management and administrative support for the HDR candidate cycle (including commencement, progression and completion).

Dean, Higher Degree Research

Work with faculties and departments to foster high quality professional HDR supervision, including contributing to the design and teaching of the Supervision Enhancement Program.

Assist faculties and departments resolve relationship disputes or problems between candidates and supervisors.

Design and offer a Central Commencement Program (CCP) to all new HDR candidates that:
  • outlines the University’s expectations of  HDR candidates
  • outlines the policies and procedures that govern HDR candidature
  • provides an orientation to research and HDR support programs, and
  • includes information and advice about funding opportunities for HDR candidates, Intellectual Property and Ethics.  
Provide pastoral care to HDR candidates at the University level and respond to student grievances.

Executive Dean

Ensure high quality supervision and appropriate resources are provided to HDR candidates throughout their candidature.

Ensure that faculty and departmental workload formulas appropriately acknowledge HDR supervision as a core workload component.

Appoint a Principal Supervisor and at least one other supervisor (associate supervisor, adjunct supervisor or co-supervisor) for each HDR candidate.

In the case of a supervisor absence, appoint an acting supervisor to cover the period of the absence.

Ensure the Supervisory Panel has the necessary theoretical, methodological and disciplinary knowledge to support the research.

Provide a Faculty Commencement Program (FCP) which:
  • supplements the CCP
  • outlines Faculty and Departmental HDR expectations, and
  • provides information about the support services that are available.
Facilitate a supportive intellectual environment for HDR candidates. Consider:
  • providing a workshop/seminar series to allow candidates to develop their skills at presenting their work and to foster their integration into a cohesive research community
  • developing opportunities for HDR candidates to participate in the research life of the Faculty through interactions with other scholars, visiting scholars and each other.

Supplement the University’s Ethics Statement and Health and Safety policies with information specific to the individual HDR context.

Establish procedures for the retention of research data in secure repositories in accordance with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

Head of Department

Facilitate the quick resolution of conflicts that may arise between a supervisor and candidate. Where this is not possible refer the matter to the Associate Dean, HDR.

Implement the grievance resolution process, as appropriate.

Establish a system to manage conflicts of interest so that they are declared and do not compromise ethical or scholarly considerations. Note that disclosure is to be made to cover any situation in which the conflict of interest may, or may be perceived to, affect any decision regarding candidature or supervision.
Associate Dean, Higher Degree Research

Work with departments, supervisors and candidates regarding appointments and changes of supervisor.

Manage those conflicts that have been referred from the Head of Department.

HDR Principal Supervisor

Provide academic support throughout the period of the candidature to facilitate the candidate’s ability to achieve a high standard of research activity and output.

Support the candidate to complete a thesis through:
  • guiding research planning
  • project management strategies where transparent goals and expectations for the research are articulated
  • exposition of relevant standards for the research
  • guidance on all matters relating to research conduct including conflict of interest
  • the identification of appropriate resources
  • obtaining any necessary Ethics or other approvals to conduct the research
  • advice on authorship and co-authorship conventions, especially as they relate to single author/co-authored papers for a thesis by publication and in journal article format (which is the University’s preferred thesis model)
  • reviewing and commenting on the candidate’s formal progress reports as required, at periods specified by the University
  • oversight of research outcomes, and reporting of research outcomes in appropriate for a and media, and
  • guidance on developing the necessary skills for peer review
  • coordinating the contribution of the other members of the Supervisory Panel.

Meet the candidate at least fortnightly (or be in equivalent contact) in addition to any laboratory or bench consultations.

Consider meeting more frequently in the first year of research.

Ensure the candidate’s research data and materials are held with appropriate security.

HDR Supervisory Panel

Assume responsibility for ensuring that:
  • the research project is planned appropriately with the candidate through an evaluation of the research proposal, and
  • the scope of the research is sufficient for the qualification sought.

Participate in University staff development programs for research supervision (eg the Supervisor Enhancement Program).

Obtain an understanding of the University’s current HDR rules, policies, procedures and guidelines so that accurate advice and support is given to candidates.

Negotiate an agreement on meeting frequency with the candidate, both as a panel and individually.

Formally evaluate this meeting frequency at six monthly intervals to ensure it reflects the changing priorities of the particular project and candidacy stages.

Ensure the outcomes of formal supervisory meetings (such as the agreed aspects of work to be undertaken between sessions) are recorded in a manner that facilitates the continuing progress of the candidate (eg email meeting notes to the candidate).

Monitor carefully the performance of the candidate relative to the standard required for the degree.

Ensure that inadequate progress, or work below the standard generally expected, is brought to the candidate’s attention and documented.

Give the student the opportunity to improve the quality of the research. Help with developing solutions to problems as they are identified.

Supervisors will give timely feedback on written work, focusing on the content and style of the thesis drafts.

Report continuing unsatisfactory progress to the Executive Dean.

Formally notify the candidate when such a report is made.
HDR Adjunct Supervisor TRAINING
Complete within three months the online module of the Supervision Enhancement Program designed for Adjunct Supervisors. 

HDR Candidate

Work in collaboration with all supervisors to produce a thesis which fulfills degree requirements and is presented in a form consistent with the accepted practices of the University.

Undertake research activity as agreed with your Principal Supervisor and Supervisory Panel.

Become familiar with the HDR rules and expectations as set out in the Degree Rules, the Higher Degree Research Guide for Candidates and Supervisors and associated faculty and departmental publications.

Note that participation in both the CCP and FCP programs is mandatory for all HDR candidates.

Assume responsibility for:
  • becoming an autonomous researcher who can make independent judgments about their research, drawing on guidance from your Supervisory Panel
  • being proactive in setting up meetings with your Supervisory Panel and individual supervisors (either face to face, or using electronic media)
  • completing all required induction and training courses as soon as possible
  • assisting the Principal Supervisor to secure all necessary Ethics approvals
  • attending regular formal and informal reviews of progress with supervisors
  • providing formal progress reports as required, through your Principal Supervisor, at periods specified by the University
  • research quality and practices, safety, and personal ethical responsibility
  • developing a research budget in consultation with your principal supervisor
  • acquiring information about relevant research funding schemes
  • submitting a thesis:
    • that fulfills the degree requirements
    • in the form agreed with the Supervisory Panel, and
    • within the period of candidature.

Obtain an awareness of the authorship and co-authorship conventions of your discipline, and implement as appropriate.

Adhere to the Macquarie University Responsible Conduct of Research Policy.

Participate actively in the research life of the Department and the Faculty.

Ensure awareness of, and implement as necessary, grievance resolution procedures for research related issues.

Procedure Information

Contact OfficerDean, Higher Degree Research
Date Approved2 November 2012
Approval AuthorityHigher Degree Research Committee
Date of Commencement2 November 2012
Amendment Historyn/a
Date for Next ReviewFebruary 2016
Related Documents

Higher Degree Research Supervision Policy
Staff Code of Conduct

Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research
KeywordsHigher Degree Research, Candidature, Supervisor, Supervisory Panel
Back to the top of this page