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Graduate Research Progress Policy

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Section 1 - Background and Purpose

(1) In accordance with Section 4.2 of the Higher Education Standards (Threshold Standards) 2015, La Trobe University supports all graduate research candidates through the provision of an appropriate research environment, resources to support candidates and their research projects and regular monitoring of candidate progress.

(2) This Policy outlines the key measures for monitoring and supporting the progress of all candidates. The associated procedure is:

  1. the Graduate Research Show Cause Procedure
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Section 2 - Scope

(3) This Policy applies to:

  1. All campuses 
  2. All higher degrees by research
  3. All staff of the University
  4. All candidates for a higher degree by research.

(4) The University will adhere to the National Code 2018 in its assessment and processing of any applications to vary candidature. International students on a student visa are advised to check the requirements of their visa and consult with La Trobe International before submitting any application for a variation to their candidature.

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Section 3 - Policy Statement

Progress Reporting and Milestones

(5) Progress Committees will assess the progress of candidates at regular milestone meetings and submit progress reports by designated dates.

(6) The following milestones apply to the respective higher degrees by research:

Degree Required milestones
Master’s by Research Confirmation N/A Pre-submission review
Doctoral Degrees Confirmation Mid-candidature review Pre-submission review

(7) The general requirements for each milestone in each degree type will be approved by the Board of Graduate Research. Specific requirements will be determined at the disciplinary or school level.

(8) Where a candidate fails to meet the progress requirements of their degree after appropriate intervention strategies have been exhausted, the Board of Graduate Research will request that the candidate show cause as to why their candidature should not be terminated according to the Graduate Research Show Cause Procedure.

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Section 4 - Procedures

Part A - Supporting and Defining progress

(9) The progress of higher degree by research candidates will be supported and monitored throughout candidature by supervisors, school and college-based staff with research training responsibilities, and the Graduate Research School.

(10) The progress of candidates will also be evaluated at designated points in candidature by Progress Committees through a progress reporting system based around milestones with specific written and oral submission requirements.

(11) Progress is evaluated against these specific requirements for each milestone and the likelihood of the candidate submitting their thesis by their expected work submission date (see section on progress reporting and milestones).

(12) An evaluation of candidate progress can result in the following progress statuses:

  1. satisfactory progress
  2. at risk (of unsatisfactory progress)
  3. unsatisfactory progress

(13) The progress of a candidate will be deemed satisfactory where it is considered that:

  1. the status of the research project and other requirements of the degree are as anticipated for the designated stage of the degree; and 
  2. all requirements will be completed by the candidate’s expected work submission date.

(14) Progress will be deemed ‘at risk’ if the candidate:

  1. is experiencing progress difficulties and requests a Progress Support Plan at any point in their candidature
  2. fails to meet agreed project goals or produce work at the request of their supervisor during candidature
  3. fails their first attempt at required coursework or clinical placements; and/or
  4. fails to meet requirements at a first milestone attempt. 

(15) Progress will be deemed as unsatisfactory if the candidate:

  1. fails to meet agreed goals in a Progress Support Plan 
  2. fails their second attempt at required coursework or clinical placements
  3. fails for a second time to meet the requirements of any milestone.

Part B - Progress Reporting and Milestones

(16) Progress reporting dates and frequency vary according to the degree in which the candidate is enrolled and are set at intervals from the candidate’s date of enrolment, as outlined in Table 1 below. Milestone meetings will be scheduled prior to progress reporting dates.

Table 1 Normal Progress Reporting and Expected Work Submission Dates (full-time equivalent in months)

Degree Confirmation Mid-candidature review Pre-submission review Expected work submission date Maximum period of candidature
Master’s by research 9 N/A 18 20 24
Master’s by research with one or more semesters of full-time coursework 12 N/A 18 20 24
Doctoral degree with no more than one semester of full-time coursework 12 24 36 39 48
Doctoral degree with more than one semester of full-time coursework 15 24 36 39 48

Part C - Minimum Requirements for Milestones

(17) The Board of Graduate Research approves the broad requirements for each milestone. For each milestone all candidates will be required to:

  1. submit a Progress Report completed by the candidate, Principal Supervisor and Chair of the Progress Committee
  2. submit written research plans and outcomes of research as specified in the Milestones Requirements Schedule
  3. give an oral presentation
  4. meet with the Progress Committee.

(18) Each School may have additional requirements that are agreed at school or discipline level.

(19) All requirements for milestones must be available to all enrolling candidates and will be detailed in the Milestones Requirements Schedule.

Part D - Progress Support between Milestones

(20) Between milestones, supervisors and candidates will hold regular meetings to guide the candidate in making satisfactory progress, provide feedback and suggest ways of addressing problems.

(21) At the mid-point between each milestone candidates and their supervisors will receive a reminder of the requirements for the candidate’s next milestone and will be prompted to consider any issues that may require resolution before they have an impact on progress.

(22) At any time, candidates, supervisors or Graduate Research Coordinators may request an ad-hoc Progress Committee meeting to review the candidate’s progress. If the Progress Committee considers that the candidate is unlikely to meet the requirements of the next milestone, at-risk status may be applied so that additional support may be provided. The Chair of the Progress Committee will advise the Graduate Research School of the change in status. The Progress Committee will then discuss and agree a Progress Support Plan (see below).

(23) Candidates who do not maintain regular interaction with their supervisory team or who do not respond to reasonable attempts to communicate from the University, will be considered absent without leave (AWOL) from candidature (see the Absent Without Leave section of the Graduate Research Candidature Policy).

Part E - Composition and Appointment of Progress Committees

Composition

(24) A candidate’s Progress Committee will consist of:

  1. all members of the candidate’s supervisory team
  2. an independent Chair (see below)
  3. where desirable and feasible an additional independent member, who may be external to the department, school or University.

(25) The Chair of the Progress Committee must:

  1. be a senior La Trobe academic with significant experience as a supervisor
  2. have had no direct involvement with the research project
  3. have no actual or potential conflict of interest, as outlined in the University’s Conflict of Interest Policy, with the candidate or any other member of the Progress Committee.

(26) It is desirable that the composition of the Progress Committee remain stable throughout candidature wherever possible.

Appointment of Independent Members

(27) The Graduate Research Coordinator will approve the appointment of the Progress Committee for each candidate and advise its membership to the Graduate Research School within three months of the candidate’s enrolment. 

(28) Before confirming the membership the Graduate Research Coordinator will consult the candidate, supervisors and nominated Chair concerning:

  1. any desired nominations for an additional independent member
  2. any known or potential conflicts of interest.

(29) The candidate or any member of the Progress Committee may raise a concern about the membership of the Committee at any time with the School Director of Graduate Research.

Part F - Notification of Progress Report Due Dates and Organisation of Milestone Meetings

(30) Approximately three months prior to the due date of a Progress Report candidates, their supervisors and local Graduate Research Coordinators will receive a reminder of the progress reporting date and the requirements for the candidate’s next milestone.

(31) The candidate is responsible for initiating a discussion with their Principal Supervisor concerning the arrangements for the milestone meeting. The Principal Supervisor will assist the candidate as necessary to make arrangements for the meeting.

Part G - Preparation for and Conduct of Milestone Meetings

Prior to the Meeting

(32) Candidates and Principal Supervisors will ensure that all materials for the milestone are distributed to all members of the Progress Committee at least five working days prior to the meeting.

Milestone Meeting Format and Attendees

(33) Meetings of Progress Committees may be flexible in format and should take advantage of communication technologies where it is not practicable for all members to be at the one location at the required time.

(34) While all effort should be made to include each member of the supervisory team, where necessary the meeting may proceed without one or more co-supervisors being in attendance.

(35) The Principal Supervisor must normally be in attendance. In exceptional circumstances where the Principal Supervisor is not able to be present at the meeting, either physically or via an electronic link, the meeting may proceed, subject to their permission and their input being included in the Candidate’s Progress Report prior to the meeting.

(36) The Chair must normally be in attendance. In exceptional circumstances where the Chair is not able to be present at the meeting, either physically or via an electronic link, the Graduate Research Coordinator may appoint a substitute Chair. The substitute Chair must meet the standard requirements of a Chair as specified above.

(37) All candidates may request the presence of a support person at the meeting. A support person may not be a legal practitioner or person with a law degree and may not normally speak during the meeting unless the candidate is registered for disability support. A support person may take notes of the meeting.

(38) Where a candidate is registered for disability support the support person may assist the candidate with their oral presentation and/or discussion.

Oral Presentation

(39) Candidates are required to make an oral presentation to fulfil the requirements of each milestone. The oral presentation should be made in an appropriate La Trobe University forum, either as an adjunct to the milestone meeting or within a reasonable time period before the meeting.

(40) At least one member of the Progress Committee must be in attendance when the candidate makes their oral presentation. The date of the presentation must be recorded in the Progress Report.

Order of Proceedings

(41) Following a meeting with the candidate the Progress Committee will convene to discuss the candidate’s submission and the recommendation. The Chair should ensure that the candidate has the opportunity to privately discuss any matters as required with the Chair and any independent members, either prior to or during the meeting.

(42) Where a consensus cannot be reached, the final recommendation will rest with the Chair and any differences should be detailed in the Progress Report. 

Part H - Outcomes of First Milestone Attempt

(43) A candidate may make a total of two attempts at any individual milestone within the maximum postponement period.

(44) After a candidate’s first attempt at a milestone the Progress Committee will select from the following recommendations:

  1. Satisfactory - the candidate has met milestone requirements (for the current degree, or the target degree to which a candidate is seeking a transfer). This determination can be subject to making minor amendments to any written submission and/or the completion of any other requirements (training, ethics approval, etc.) to the satisfaction of the Chair within a negotiated time frame.
  2. At risk - the candidate has not met milestone requirements and should make another attempt within the maximum postponement period.

(45) Where the recommendation is satisfactory:

  1. the Chair of the Progress Committee will submit the completed Progress Report to the Graduate Research School with copies to the candidate and other members of the Progress Committee. The Report should be submitted as soon as possible and need not be delayed by any minor amendments that may be required in the candidate’s submission.
  2. the Graduate Research School will update the candidate’s status on the student database.

(46) Where the candidate has been placed at risk:

  1. the Progress Committee and candidate must agree on a Progress Support Plan as described below and set a date for the second attempt at the milestone
  2. the Chair will advise the Graduate Research School of the scheduled date for the second attempt at the milestone
  3. the Graduate Research School will notify the Graduate Research Coordinator of the new date.

(47) Where a candidate is to make a second attempt at a milestone the Chair will withhold the submission of the Progress Report to the Graduate Research School until after the second attempt has been made.

Part I - Outcomes of Second Milestone Attempt

(48) Where a candidate has made a second attempt at a milestone the Progress Committee will select from the following recommendations:

  1. Satisfactory - the candidate has met the requirements of the milestone. This determination can be subject to making minor amendments to any written submission and/or the completion of any other requirements (training, ethics approval, etc.) to the satisfaction of the Chair. The ‘at-risk’ status can be removed.
  2. Unsatisfactory - the candidate has not met milestone requirements and should be asked under the provisions of the Academic Progress Statute 2010 to show cause as to why their candidature should not be terminated.

(49) Where the recommendation is Satisfactory:

  1. the Chair of the Progress Committee will submit the completed Progress Report to the Graduate Research School with copies to the candidate and other members of the Progress Committee
  2. the Graduate Research School will update the candidate’s status on the student database.

(50) Where the recommendation is Unsatisfactory:

  1. the Chair will submit the Progress Report to the Graduate Research Coordinator with copies to the candidate and other members of the Progress Committee
  2. the Graduate Research Coordinator will then submit the report to the School Director of Graduate Research, who may provide any additional comments before submitting the Report to the Chair of the Board of Graduate Research.

(51) Where the progress in the current degree is Unsatisfactory but the Progress Committee deems that the project is of sufficient quality for another research degree, they may also recommend that the candidate transfer to that degree, either before or following the outcome of any show cause proceedings for the current degree.

(52) Where the Chair of the Board of Graduate Research is satisfied that appropriate interventions have been made they will ask the candidate, under the provisions of the Show Cause Procedure, to show cause as to why their candidature should not be terminated.

Part J - Requesting to Postpone a Progress Reporting Date

(53) Where a progress report cannot be submitted within 20 working days of the original due date, candidates or Principal Supervisors may request a postponement of the reporting date.

(54) A postponement of a progress reporting date will be granted by a Graduate Research Coordinator:

  1. for valid reasons that have delayed the progress of the research, or
  2. to accommodate an application to transfer to another research degree, or a second milestone attempt.

(55) Where issues such as illness, carer responsibilities, or difficulties with supervision threaten progress, candidates should take the appropriate action, such as applying for a leave of absence, or negotiating any appropriate changes in supervision. As candidates are not permitted to engage in research while on leave of absence such applications may not be used to gain time to prepare for a milestone.

(56) The following maximum postponement periods apply to each progress reporting date:

  1. Masters by Research Degrees - a maximum period of eight weeks (full-time equivalent)
  2. Doctoral Degrees - a maximum period of twelve weeks (full-time equivalent).

(57) Progress reports must be submitted to the Graduate Research School by the due or postponed date. Where it becomes necessary for a candidate to repeat an attempt at a milestone (see Outcomes of a Second Milestone Attempt) this must be achieved within the maximum postponement period.

(58) Where a candidate has failed their first attempt to satisfactorily complete compulsory coursework that is a prerequisite to any milestone, the Course Coordinator must advise the relevant Graduate Research Coordinator. The new timing of that milestone will then be recommended by the Graduate Research Coordinator in consultation with the candidate and the Principal Supervisor.

(59) The Graduate Research School will provide Graduate Research Coordinators with a summary of any progress reports that have not been submitted by the due or postponed date.

(60) Graduate Research Coordinators are responsible for following up any progress reports that have not been submitted by the due or postponed date for candidates in their discipline, centre or department.

Applications and Approvals

(61) The Graduate Research School will action a postponement request from a candidate or supervisor following the approval of the request from the Graduate Research Coordinator.

(62) Where a candidate seeks to postpone a progress reporting date beyond the maximum allowable postponement period for an individual milestone and/or where the postponement would push the expected work submission date beyond the maximum candidature date the approval of the Dean of Graduate Studies is also required.

Part K - Failure to Undertake a Milestone Attempt

(63) Where a candidate is not AWOL but fails to make an attempt to meet milestone requirements by the conclusion of the maximum postponement period without prior approval they will be asked to show cause as to why their candidature should not be terminated.

(64) Candidates who submit their thesis/exegesis early are encouraged to complete their milestones early; however, if the milestone due date is after the date of submission, completion is not compulsory.

Part L - At-Risk Status and Unsatisfactory Progress

Progress Support Plan

(65) Where a candidate is placed ‘at risk’ (either between milestones or after an attempt at a milestone) the Progress Committee will discuss and agree on a Progress Support Plan with the candidate.

(66) The plan will document agreed actions and timeframes for all parties to recover the progress of the research or the other requirements of the degree.

(67) Where the at-risk status has been applied as an outcome of a first milestone meeting the progress support plan will be reviewed at the repeat attempt at the milestone. 

(68) Where the Progress Committee has met independently of a milestone attempt and agreed to apply at risk status, the Progress Committee will meet to review the status of agreed tasks at the conclusion of the resulting Progress Support Plan. At this meeting the Progress Committee may make the following recommendations:

  1. the candidate has made satisfactory progress and the ‘at-risk status’ can be removed, or 
  2. the candidate remains ‘at-risk’ and the plan is amended
  3. The candidate has made unsatisfactory progress and should be asked under the provisions of the Academic Progress Statute 2010 to show cause as to why their candidature should not be terminated.

Coursework Requirements and Unsatisfactory Progress

(69) Where a candidate fails to attain the required grades in either compulsory coursework or clinical placements for a second time, or withdraws after the census date on a second attempt, a meeting of the Progress Committee will be called.

(70) In these circumstances:

  1. the candidate will be deemed to have made Unsatisfactory Progress in the current degree and a recommendation will be made that the candidate be asked to show cause as to why their candidature should not be terminated
  2. the Chair will submit an updated Progress Report to the Graduate Research Coordinator with copies to the candidate and other members of the Progress Committee
  3. the Graduate Research Coordinator will then submit the Report to the School Director of Graduate Research, who may provide any additional comments before submitting the Report to the Chair of the Board of Graduate Research.

(71) Where the Progress Committee deems that the project is of sufficient quality for another research degree the Committee may also recommend that the candidate transfer to that degree.

Approvals

(72) Where the Chair of the Board of Graduate Research is satisfied that appropriate interventions have been made they will ask the candidate, under the provisions of the Show Cause Procedure, to show cause as to why their candidature should not be terminated.

Part M - Adjustment of Submission Dates

(73) The total maximum period available to candidates to request a postponement of Progress Reporting dates throughout their candidature is normally 16 weeks for Masters by Research Degrees and 36 weeks for Doctoral Degrees. 

(74) The Graduate Research School will adjust the timing of any subsequent progress reporting dates and a candidate’s expected work submission date when:

  1. a postponement of a Progress Reporting date is approved (to delay or repeat a milestone)
  2. an application for leave of absence is approved
  3. there is notification from a Graduate Research Coordinator that a candidate has failed to meet any pre-milestone requirements such as the completion of compulsory coursework or a clinical placement at the required level.

(75) Candidates who have not exhausted all their total allowable postponement time for progress reporting dates, who subsequently are not able to submit their thesis by their expected work submission date, may apply to their local Graduate Research Coordinator for an extension of their expected work submission date up to their maximum completion date, with appropriate justification for the delay and satisfactory plans for completion. (Candidates who have exhausted their allowable postponement time will already have had their expected work submission date adjusted to the maximum completion date.)

Part N - Where a Thesis is Deferred

(76) Where a thesis is classified as deferred after examination, as per the Graduate Research Examinations Policy, the candidate will continue to be supported by their Progress Committee during the revise and resubmit period. The Advisory Panel may include specific recommendations in its report relating to the Progress Committee membership, frequency of meetings and role in developing revision guidelines.

Part O - Review of Decisions

Finding of Unsatisfactory Progress and Show Cause

(77) A candidate who has been deemed to have made Unsatisfactory Progress and who has been asked to show cause as to why their candidature should not be terminated may request an appeal following the outcome of show cause proceedings under the provisions of the Academic Progress Statute 2010 (see Sections 11 and 12 of the Statute) and the Graduate Research Show Cause Procedure.

Other Progress Outcomes

(78) In any other circumstances other than unsatisfactory progress and show cause, where a candidate is dissatisfied with an outcome or decision associated with their progress, or believes that university policies or procedures have not been correctly followed, they may in the first instance approach the Dean of Graduate Studies for a review.

(79) Where a candidate is dissatisfied with a decision made by the Dean of Graduate Studies outside show cause proceedings they may pursue a complaint through the Student Complaints Management Policy or the office of the University Ombudsman.

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Section 5 - Definitions

(80) Nil

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Section 6 - Stakeholders

Responsibility for implementation – Manager, Graduate Research School and Senior Governance and Policy Coordinator, Graduate Research School
Responsibility for monitoring implementation and compliance – Board of Graduate Research and the Dean of Graduate Studies