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Faculty of Science

FSE Guide to HDR Procedures

This Guide aims to provide academic supervisors with comprehensive information on Faculty HDR procedures, and to assist supervisors in the management and supervision of HDR candidates.

Key Reference Materials

  1. MQ Higher Degree Research Guide for Candidates and Supervisors;
  2. MQ Code of HDR practice and code of supervisory practice;
  3. Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research;
  4. Vancouver Protocol.

FSE HDR Goals and Strategies

The Faculty of Science Research Strategic Plan is the overarching guide for HDR policies and procedures:

GOAL 3: To maximise research outcomes of higher degree research (HDR) candidates in the Faculty of Science
Objective 1
Maintain Faculty targets for HDR commencing students (HDR commencement target min. 100 annually)
Promote Faculty of Science as provider of choice for both domestic and international HDR candidates; in particular, utilise the potential provided by investment in CoREs. ADHDR, FHDRM, HoDs, CoRE staff HDR commencements minimum of 100 per year; CoRE members to supervise at least 4 HDRS. Achieved
Increase externally funded scholarships by 10% per year from 2009 (2008 APAI = 8). ADR, FRM Externally funded scholarships e.g. APA(I) increase by at least 1 in 2009, and 2 in 2010/11 Achieved
Maximise alternative entry pathways to Honours (PGCertResPrep; cwk Masters with substantial thesis component) ADHDR PGCertResPrep and PGDipResPrep replaced in 2013 with BPhil/MRes program Achieved
Utilise Associate Lecturer A (HDR stream) appointments, where appropriate HoDs Lecturer As concurrently enrolled in PhD programs Discontinued
Objective 2
HDR completions to align with University goal of 70% cohort completion
Monitor HDRS progress, mid year in departments and annually by University HoDs, ADHDR HDR candidate progress monitored 6 monthly Achieved
Assist commencing candidates to transition to research by providing appropriate commencement programs and activities. HoDs, ADHDR HDR commencement programs offered in all departments of Faculty Achieved
Ensure adequate supervision of HDR candidates HoDs, ADHDR All FoS HDR supervisors are on the MQSR, and regularly attend professional development activities. Achieved
Ensure adequate resource support for HDR. HoDs, FGM, ExecD Approx. 25% of FFM HDR income spent on direct support of HDR projects; HDR space allocation exceeds minimum University guideline. Achieved
Provide scholarship extensions for selected students under exceptional circumstances, where progress unavoidably delayed. HoDs, ADHDR FoS policy and procedure on scholarship extensions in place. Achieved

Higher Degree Research activities in the Faculty reflect the Faculty’s commitment to the university’s research goals and objectives of increasing the number of commencing HDR candidates, and ensuring the on-time completions of HDR theses that are of outstanding quality. Commencement targets are set each year by the DVC Research on the basis of advice on the capacity of the Faculty to provide resources (including supervision). Completions targets are set each year by the DVC Research on the basis of the size of the cohort commencing 4 years previously, adjusted for normal attrition.

Remember: on-time completion by HDR candidates is beneficial to all – candidates obtain their qualification efficiently, supervisors can take on new candidates, and the Faculty benefits from the completions funding.


Macquarie Supervisor Register (MQSR)

The MQSR lists academic staff by Faculty, then Department, who have met the minimum requirements for Principal or Associate Supervisor status, and who have completed the registration process, including review and approval by the Head of Department, Associate Dean Research and Associate Dean Higher Degree Research. Minimum requirements for registration are:

  • Participation in the MQ HDR Supervision Enhancement Program, or equivalent*.
  • Either a current continuous academic appointment at MQ, or a current fixed-term academic appointment of three years or more**
  • Must be research active, as per the University’s definition***
  • Minimum qualification is a PhD, or equivalent****

Click here for the instructions of registering in MQSR. Dates and registration for the HDR Supervision Enhancement Program can be found at the website of the Macquarie Learning and Teaching Centre.

*Equivalent professional development at another institution can be substituted; please consult with the Faculty AD HDR.

**Research Fellows and other Early Career Researchers can only be appointed as co-supervisors.

***See this link for the ‘research active’ definition. 

****PhD equivalence is formally granted by the DVC Research, on recommendation from the Executive Dean – see link

Appointment of Supervisors

The Macquarie University policy on appointment of supervisors can be found at Policy Central.

All candidates must have a minimum of two supervisors, to be appointed at commencement of candidature.  Please note the roles and responsibilities of each category of supervisor when forming a supervisory panel for each candidate.  Please also note that any potential 'conflict of interest' situation should be avoided when appointing a supervisory panel. There are also opportunities for the appointment and payment of Adjunct supervisors.

Members of the supervisory panel should provide complementary academic advice and guidance to the candidate, and each take an active role in assisting the candidate to progress their research.  The University expects candidates to meet with their supervisor(s) to discuss their research for a minimum of one hour per fortnight, and more frequently in first six months EFT.  This requirement is in addition to seminars, "lab" meetings and other research-related activity.

Candidature/Scholarship Application Processing

The current workflow for candidature and individual scholarship application processing in the Faculty of Science is as follows:

Candidates lodge application with HDRO

Application collected by Faculty HDR Team

Application logged at Faculty office and forwarded to DD HDR with a cover page outlining requirements.
(In some departments, the application is sent to DD HDR via departmental executive officer.)

Nominated supervisor for acceptance of candidature*

Departmental sub-committee for assessment of scholarship rating**

Head of Department (or delegate) for review and sign-off***

Return application to Faculty HDR Team via DD HDR or departmental executive officer

Application reviewed and endorsed by AD HDR

Application sent back to HDRO

Completed applications are given a final check by the Director, HDRO and, if satisfactory, the applicant is notified by official mail of the success or otherwise of their application.

Multi-applicant scholarship/candidature rounds: each year, the University invites applications for International Postgraduate Research Awards (IPRS) for international applicants and Australian Postgraduate Awards (APA) for domestic (Australian and New Zealand citizens) applicants. The closing dates are 31st of August for IPRS and 31st October for APA. Applications are initially processed by HDRO (for completeness, and provision of NOOSR qualifications standards) and then forwarded to Faculties. If departments receive multiple applications in either of these rounds, the departmental scholarship rating sub-committee must also rank the applications in order of merit. The applications are then reviewed and ranked across the Faculty at a Faculty scholarhip ranking meeting (a sub-committee of the FoS HDRC). This process is repeated at the University scholarship ranking meetings (a sub-committee of the MQ HDRC).

*When assessing an application, it is important to make sure that the applicant meets the admissions requirements for higher degree research programs at Macquarie University.

**If the applicant also applies for a scholarship, a departmental committee should be convened to rate the application according to Macquarie University’s scholarship rating guidelines.

The committee normally comprises the nominated Principal Supervisor, the DD HDR and one other staff member. The committee must provide a case justifying the rating, using the information provided in the application, and also the status and quality of the applicant's previous degree(s), previous research experience (particularly its relevance to the proposed HDR project), and any publications, prizes and awards. The more complete and comprehensive the case, the easier it is for a scholarship to be awarded.

***When making a recommendation for candidature and scholarship, it is important to consult your HoD to make sure that the financial and physical resources are available for the proposed research. The HoD’s signature on the application commits the Department to providing those resources for the duration of candidature, regardless of future changes in staffing and other resources. For example, an enrolled candidate must be allocated a new Principal or Associate Supervisor in the event of departure of the originals. This may have workload implications for remaining academic staff.


Prior to the arrival of a new candidate, please inform your DD HDR and your department’s executive officer to make sure that suitable space and resources (a workstation, i.e. computer, desk, chair, bookshelf and lock-up drawers, and laboratory space if relevant) are ready.

All new candidates in research degrees at Macquarie University must complete the Central and Faculty Commencement Programs (CCP & FCP) in their first year of study. Please make sure that your candidates are aware of this requirement. Detailed information about the CCP & FCP can be viewed from this link. Departmental induction is organized by your DD HDR; please ask your candidates to contact him/her for detailed information.

HDR Project Support Funding

In addition to supervision and space, departments are also expected to provide access to project support funds for all HDR candidates.  These funds are derived from the Faculty budget.

It is essential that the funding allocated to Faculties is used effectively to ensure all HDR students receive effective supervision and all necessary resources to enable them to complete successfully within the standard times (4EFTSL for PhD, 2 EFTSL for research Masters).  A minimum 25% of the total allocation must be expended in direct support of HDR student project costs, via individual budgets prepared by HDRS in consultation with supervisors and approved by the HoD.

Please click here for the Faculty’s HDR project costs funding guidelines. All departments in the Faculty are expected to adhere to those guidelines in allocating project support funds to all of their HDR candidates in an equitable and transparent manner.

Early Candidacy

Within 6 months full time enrolment (12 months for part-time candidates), your candidate should have developed a Research Plan that leads to the thesis. You will also need to discuss with your candidates their needs for project support funding and agree to a draft budget proposal. The first six months of full-time equivalent enrolment in a PhD (3 months for MPhil) is looked upon as a probationary period for new candidates and their supervisors. At the end of 6 months full time equivalent enrolment, a Commencement Report on each candidate must be submitted to the Faculty to confirm that the candidate has successfully completed all components of both the Central and Faculty Commencement Programs; has developed a viable research plan, including a budget and timeline; and has completed the required higher degree research training units. Current best practice is a formal presentation of the project proposal to the department by the candidate, and/or a progress interview. These activities help to ensure that both the candidate and the supervisor(s) are happy with progress to date and are confident that the research can be completed and the thesis submitted in minimum time. If there are any doubts, then a further review can take place at a later date. If progress is still unsatisfactory, then candidates can be requested to show cause why their candidature should not be terminated. (see Rule 6(2) of the Doctoral and Master of Philosophy degree rules).

The Candidature Management Plan (CMP) developed by the HDRO provides a guide to essential activities required during candidature, and an associated timeline. Each research project is unique, therefore it is very important to assist your candidates to develop their own version of the Plan in the early stage of candidacy. The CMP also helps you as a Supervisor to keep track of essential deadlines and how far your candidates have progressed towards the goals they set in their CMP.

Progression and Progress Review

Departmental progress reviews are conducted either 6 monthly, at the end of each teaching semester (current best practice), or annually in October/November. Please consult with your DD HDR for your departmental progress review schedules and requirements.

Each year in October candidates and supervisors are also required to complete and submit an online Annual Progress Report (APR). The APR process provides an opportunity for supervisor and candidate to critically reflect on the candidate’s progress during the current year and on the intended research directions in the year ahead. The information and instructions relating to the APR process can be accessed here.

It is critical that both candidates and supervisors use the opportunities provided by progress reporting to highlight any events or issues that may affect the candidate’s ability to submit a thesis in minimum time. Any delays to the research should be fully documented so that any future requests for scholarship extension, for example, can be supported.

Expected Work Submission (EWS) date

After a candidate is officially enrolled, he/she is given an EWS date. The duration between the enrolment date and the EWS date is usually 2 years for a MPhil and 4 years for a PhD. Candidates are expected to submit their thesis by their EWS date. If a candidate does not submit by the EWS date, he or she will become “Out of Time” in the student record system. When candidates are “Out of Time”, they cannot use library facilities (in person or online) or apply for travel concessions. They are also not eligible to receive supervision, or to use HDR project support funds. Candidates must apply for an extension of candidature three months ahead of the initial EWS date, providing reasons for requiring extra time and a completion plan including targets and dates. A maximum of two extensions of 0.5 EFTSL are permitted, the second one incurring a $1000 administration fee. Supervisors should monitor these candidates’ progress closely and confirm their realistic and achievable EWS date in order for them to stay enrolled.

Please note that the EWS date and the scholarship ending date are different. Depending on the kind of scholarship the candidate has been awarded, the tenure of a PhD scholarship is either 3 or 3.5 years, therefore, scholarship holders should aim to submit before their scholarship expires. There is serious financial implication for international candidates if they do not submit before their scholarships expire, because once their scholarships expire, not only will their stipend cease, they will also be liable to pay tuition fees.

Scholarship Extensions

Under the Conditions of Award for Australian Government PhD scholarships (APA/APAI/IPRS), students can apply for a 6-month extension to a maximum tenure of 3.5 years on the basis of research-related delays. Under exceptional circumstances, the Faculty may also grant scholarship extensions. Information on scholarship extension application procedures and deadlines can be viewed from this website.

Theses by Publications

Macquarie University includes Theses by Publications in its policy on Higher Degree Research Thesis Preparation, Submission and Examination, and has prepared a Guideline for Theses by Publication for candidates, supervisors, and potential examiners. Supervisors are advised to familiarize themselves with both of these at the time that the candidate is planning their research, to ensure that the project is managed with publications in mind, if this format is agreed to by both the candidate and the supervisor. The Faculty of Science supports the Thesis by Publication format, as exemplified in the University Guideline. However, potential examiners individual disciplines vary in their acceptance of such a format, and both candidates and supervisors must consider this when making decisions about the format of the thesis.

Thesis Submission and Examination

Most academics oversee completion and submission of research candidate theses relatively rarely, so it is important to review the requirements each time that a new candidate enrolls so that you are familiar with the current policies and procedures.

Please go to this website for detailed information on the thesis examination process including examination timeline.

Nomination of Examiners

Approximately three months before the candidate’s expected date of thesis submission, the supervisor, in consultation with the candidate, must complete the Appointment of Examiners Form.

The University policy on the nomination and selection of examiners can be viewed from the Policy Central website. In effect, this policy means that examiners should (preferably) be highly ranked in the field of research of the thesis, hold a relatively high position at a research-based academic institution (Professor, Associate Professor, Senior Lecturer, Principal Researcher, etc.), have previous thesis examination experience, and not have co-authored publications with either the candidate or the Principal and/or Associate Supervisors. Where any of these criteria cannot be met, supervisors are expected to provide a detailed supporting case for the nomination of the particular examiner (by attached memo).

Candidates must accept the long-list of examiners by signing Section A of the form. Supervisors should then make contact with the proposed examiners to request their consent to examining the thesis. It is strongly recommended that the thesis abstract and table of contents be sent to each potential examiner, and that they be made aware of the format of the thesis, especially theses by publications. Depending on the responses, supervisors then select from this list to make up the short-list in Section B and sign off. It is important to preserve the opportunity for examiners to remain anonymous by not discussing the short-listed examiners with the candidate. The Appointment of Examiners form should then be reviewed and signed by the Head of Department, then forwarded to the Faculty HDR team, for review by the AD HDR. Nominations are then reviewed and accepted by the Chair of the Programs and Examinations Sub-Committee of the MQ HDRC, as delegate.

If a substantial amount of time passes between nomination of examiners and submission of the thesis (i.e., more than six months), supervisors will be requested to contact the nominated examiners again to reconfirm their willingness to examine the thesis.

Thesis Submission

Candidates must submit the required number of copies of their thesis (4 for PhD and 3 for MPhil), in soft-bound form, to the Faculty HDR team, together with a completed and signed Thesis Submission Form and Author’s Consent Form. The thesis will be logged on the Faculty database. The Faculty HDR team will forward the thesis to HDRO for distribution to the nominated examiners once the Nomination of Examiners has been approved by the MQ HDRC delegate.

Thesis Examination

Examiners are allowed six weeks to complete the thesis examination, and submit a report to HDRO. Once all of the reports have been received, they will be forwarded to the Principal Supervisor (copied to the AD HDR) for action. At this stage, the reports are confidential and at no time must the content be discussed with the candidate. Supervisors may, however, discuss the reports with the Head of Department and/or the AD HDR.

Supervisors must then prepare a written response to the examination that fully and completely considers all of the comments, criticisms and recommendations of each of the examiners, and recommends both the outcome of the examination and any corrections that the candidate should make prior to submission of the final, bound copy. Supervisors should take this opportunity to recommend corrections and revisions that result in a better product than was originally submitted for examination. If included papers have progressed in the publication process (e.g. from submitted to accepted), then the revised papers should be included in the final thesis. If examiners comment on published papers and provide reasonable comments, such comments can be addressed by revisions to the non-published parts of the thesis. Supervisors must ensure that their recommendation for the outcome of the examination is fully justified: the examinations committee does not endorse simple "majority wins" arguments, for example.

The supervisor’s response should be in the form of a memo addressed to the Higher Degree Research Committee, and is endorsed by the Head of Department before forwarding to the ADHDR. The ADHDR reviews the response, and may request amendments prior to signoff. It is important for the Head of Department to review both the examiners’ reports and the supervisor’s response to ensure that all matters raised by the examiners have been properly addressed. It also provides the Head of Department with an indication of how higher degree research by candidates in the discipline is viewed by the academe. The examiners reports and the supervisor’s response are then considered by the PESC, and a recommendation made regarding the outcome of the examination.

Recommended outcomes are as follows:

Recommendation Requirements
Award Thesis can be edited for minor changes of a grammatical or typgraphic nature prior to hard binding.
Award (Corrections) Up to two months provided to make recommended corrections; candidate must submit corrections report for approval before hard binding.
Revise and resubmit (for examination) One year period of re-enrollment allowed to undertake further research and to rewrite thesis; candidate must submit a statement detailing the revisions made before submitting the revised thesis for examination.
Fail N/A

Where candidates are required to re-enrol and resubmit a revised thesis for re-examination, the candidate must provide a report detailing the manner in which the recommendations of the original examiners and the supervisor have been addressed, through a further period of study and research. This report should be objective and factual and fully justify the changes that have been made to the original thesis, or why they have not been made, as the case may be. This report will be sent to the new examiners, together with the revised thesis, who may or may not be the original examiners, depending on whether they indicated that they were willing to re-examine. Outcomes of re-examination may be any of the above recommendations.

Where candidates are required to make Corrections, a css detailing the corrections must be submitted for review and endorsement by the Principal Supervisor, Head of Department and AD HDR prior to printing, binding and submission of the final version of the thesis.

Three hard bound copies are required for both PhD and MPhil. One copy goes to the Library, one to the Department and one to the Principal Supervisor.

Following the examination process, MQ HDRC determines whether a candidate has fulfilled the requirements for the award of a degree and makes recommendations to Academic Senate. These recommendations are considered at the following meeting of Academic Senate who approves award of the degree. Academic Senate approvals from meetings in September, October, November, December and February will be included in the April/May graduation ceremonies. Academic Senate approvals from meetings in March, April, May, June, July and August will be included in the September graduation ceremonies.

More detailed information on the thesis examination process can be viewed from this website.