Code of Practice for Higher Degree Research Supervision

A higher degree by research involves an independent supervised program of research where qualified individuals with relevant expertise supervise a candidate. The role of the supervisor is an important factor in the satisfactory progress of the candidature. The roles and responsibilities of key University staff, the candidate and supervisors are summarised in the University's Code of Practice for Supervision of Higher Degree Research Students. Candidates and supervisors are advised to acquaint themselves with this document.

Principles to Promote Excellence in HDR Supervision at Griffith University

In October 2014, the Board of Graduate Research endorsed the Principles to Promote Excellence in HDR Supervision Practices at Griffith University to be used as a guide for improving supervision practice, rather than as a formula or recipe for excellence in supervision. The principles are able to be interpreted and operationalised by supervisors within their own context, guided by evidence-based approaches, and in consultation with colleagues.

Expectations of supervision questionnaire

An effective working relationship between candidates and their supervisors is crucial to the successful outcome of every higher degree research candidature, which is the timely completion of a quality thesis. While supervisory styles and requirements may vary between supervisors and across disciplines, it is the responsibility of both the candidate and supervisor to discuss their expectations of the supervisory relationship, the amount and type of assistance required, and to agree on a schedule of contact. To facilitate this discussion, candidates and supervisors are encouraged to complete the Expectations of Supervision Questionnaire.

Supervisory team

The University will appoint a supervisory team that will share the intellectual, practical and administrative load for the candidature. Each candidate is supervised by at least two University based supervisors, one of whom is designated the principal supervisor and the other, the associate supervisor. Supervisors will be appointed to the supervisory team in accordance with the eligibility requirements below, as well as in accordance with the Higher Degree Research Supervisor Accreditation Policy. The Dean, Griffith Graduate Research School, following a recommendation from the Head of Element or delegate ( HDR Convenor) and Dean (Research), approves the supervisory team. The composition of the supervisory team will be reviewed as part of the candidature confirmation procedure.

The principal supervisor normally will be a member of staff of the candidate's element of enrolment. It is possible to have co-principal or associate supervisors from another element of the University, from another university, from industry or the relevant profession. Where an external supervisor is undertaking a considerable proportion of the supervision, they may be designated as an 'external principal supervisor'. Whatever the supervisory arrangement however, a Griffith principal supervisor must be appointed with administrative responsibility for the candidature.

The number of supervisors on a supervisory team will be determined by the requirements of individual candidatures and the supervisory roles/expertise required. In cases where a supervisory team comprises more than three Griffith staff members, the supervisory team may be required to provide the Dean (Research) with a supervision plan detailing the intellectual, practical and administrative responsibilities of each supervisor.

A co-principal supervisor may be appointed where the candidate's research project is multi-disciplinary and expertise in different aspects of the project is required. It is also appropriate that a co-principal supervisor be appointed to serve as an advisor or mentor to an inexperienced principal supervisor, or in conjunction with a supervisor who holds an Honorary, Adjunct, or Emeritus appointment. In all such circumstances the co-principal supervisors must have expertise appropriate to the candidate’s research topic and take equal responsibility for supervising the candidature. Where a co-principal supervision arrangement includes an inexperienced supervisor, the experienced Griffith supervisor is to be designated the administrative responsibility for the candidature. Where the co-principal supervisors are from different Groups, the supervisor from the Group in which the candidate is enrolled is to be designated the administrative responsibility for the candidature.

In some cases (for example, where the topic is multi-disciplinary or staff are inexperienced) an informal advisory committee could be formed to advise the candidate. Whatever the supervisory arrangement however, the supervisor with primary responsibility must be made clear.

Supervisor load allocation

Each supervisor is allocated a percentage load based on their role and contribution to the supervisory team. The load distribution for the supervisory team of each candidate will be allocated by the Dean (Research) on the recommendation of the Head of Element or delegate (HDR Convenor). The load will reflect the responsibilities allocated to each supervisor and the associated workload. Normally the split between the principal and associate supervisor will by 70% and 30%. For a supervisory team of co-principal supervisors, an equal load would normally be allocated to each supervisor, however this is at the discretion of the Dean (Research) who may allocate load with a variation of up to 20% to co-principal supervisors. To be designated as a principal supervisor, a minimum load of 40% must be allocated. Principal supervision loads of less than 40% will not normally be approved unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Where supervision from more than one element is involved, the University recognises the contribution of each element by sharing the load for the candidate across the elements concerned. Load is not attributed to external supervisors or shared with other universities. When determining the load distribution, Deans (Research) should not only take into account the relative supervisory input as outlined above but also the cost to the 'host' element of providing resources and facilities for the candidate.

Supervisor roles

Principal supervisor

A principal supervisor is primarily responsible for supervising the candidature by coordinating the supervisory team, providing the academic leadership within the supervisory team, and providing the principal guidance on the candidate’s research topic and its development. A principal supervisor will:

  • be an experienced supervisor with a track record of supervising at least one HDR doctoral candidate to successful completion (i.e. an accredited supervisor), or if inexperienced (i.e. a transitional supervisor), be a co-supervisor appointed in conjunction with an experienced supervisor
  • have research and/or professional expertise appropriate to the candidate's research topic
  • have access to sufficient time and resources to be an effective principal supervisor for the candidate
  • hold a qualification equivalent to that being supervised, or have published work in the area that satisfies the Dean, Griffith Graduate Research School that the supervisor is competent to supervise the proposed research
  • be a member of staff holding a confirmed or continuing appointment or fixed-term appointment of sufficient length for the purposes of supervision
  • be of recognised standing in their field of academic expertise
  • serve as an advisor or mentor to an inexperienced co-principal or associate supervisor.

Note: A staff member without a track record of supervising at least one HDR Doctoral candidate to successful completion (i.e. a transitional supervisor) may be appointed as a principal supervisor for a Masters Degree (Research) candidate.

Associate supervisor

A University associate supervisor will assist in the supervision of the candidate and provide specific expertise related to the candidate's research. The associate supervisor will:

  • act as principal supervisor during absences of the principal supervisor
  • hold a qualification equivalent to that being supervised, or have published work in the area which satisfies the Dean, Griffith Graduate Research School that the supervisor is competent to supervise the research
  • have research and/or professional expertise appropriate to the candidate's research topic
  • have access to sufficient time and resources to be an effective associate supervisor for the candidate
  • be a member of staff holding a confirmed or continuing appointment or fixed-term appointment of sufficient length for the purposes of supervision
  • be of recognised standing in their field of academic expertise.

External supervisor

An external associate supervisor will be from another university, from industry or a relevant profession and will provide specific expertise related to the candidate's research. The external supervisor will:

  • hold a qualification equivalent to that being supervised, or have published work or have sufficient professional experience in the area which satisfies the Dean, Griffith Graduate Research School that the external supervisor is competent to supervise the research.

Type of supervisory role based on academic appointment

To assist in defining supervisory roles based on the various academic appointments at Griffith, and the associated load allocation, refer to the Guidelines for Identifying Supervisory Roles and Load (PDF 29k),

A staff member with an Adjunct or Honorary appointment may be appointed as an associate supervisor where they are contributing to the work of the Element and have responsibilities for teaching and/or research and have been given access to appropriate resources and facilities to enable effective performance as a supervisor. Appointment as a co-principal supervisor may be approved where there are exceptional circumstances and where it is appropriate for the candidature.

A Professor Emeritus who wishes to continue an involvement with the University through an active program of research, contribution to teaching, or higher degree research supervision may be appointed as a co-principal or associate supervisor. A Professor Emeritus will be provided with access to appropriate resources and facilities in the relevant Element or Research Centre to enable the performance of this role.

Continuity and workload issues

When recommending a principal supervisor, the element must be mindful of the need to make all reasonable endeavours to ensure continuity of appropriate supervision for the duration of the candidature. Normally it is expected that the principal supervisor will provide this. In the event that the principal supervisor is unable to continue (for example, resigns from the University), the element must make every reasonable effort to provide new supervision arrangements in consultation with the candidate.

If for any reason prior to confirmation of candidature suitable supervision arrangements are not in place, confirmation of candidature may be postponed for no more than six months to allow the effectiveness of the supervisory arrangements to be assessed and for all reasonable endeavours to be taken to put in place suitable supervision arrangements, (refer to Information and instructions relating to Confirmation of Candidature).

If for any reason after candidature has been confirmed, the University is unable to provide suitable supervision arrangements, the candidate may be granted special leave of absence of up to twelve months. During this time, the University, in consultation with the candidate, will attempt to make arrangements to continue the candidature either at the University or another institution.

When establishing the supervisory team, the element must consider whether the supervisors have access to sufficient time and resources to be effective supervisors for the candidate. It is the responsibility of the Head of Element or delegate ( HDR Convenor) to consider a supervisor's overall supervisory workload before recommending that person as a supervisor of a candidate.

Change to supervisory team

Candidates and supervisors may apply to change supervision arrangements at any time. Requests to change supervision arrangements must be approved by the Deputy Dean (Research). Candidates or supervisors are requested to discuss their intentions to change the supervisory team with the currently appointed supervisors. A candidate should be consulted where there is a need to put new supervision arrangements into place (for example, if a supervisor resigns from the University). There may be times when candidates feel reluctant to discuss potential supervision changes with their current supervisor. In these cases candidates should raise the matter with the Head of Element or delegate ( HDR Convenor) or Dean (Research).

A request to appoint a supervisor to a supervisory team should only be made where the appointment is appropriate (i.e. sufficiently expert in the area of research, accredited to supervise, and has time available and an appointment of sufficient duration to supervise). In the event that a request is made to remove the principal supervisor from a supervision team by either the candidate or the supervisor, normally this will not be approved until a suitable alternative principal supervisor has been appointed.

Absence of principal supervisor

When a coordinating principal supervisor is unable to fulfil the requirements of the role for any period of time, alternative arrangements must be discussed with the candidate. If the period of absence will be greater than four weeks, the supervisor must notify the Head of Element or delegate ( HDR Convenor) or the Dean (Research) of the alternative arrangements. If a change to the supervisory team is required an Appointment of or Change to Supervisor request must be submitted via myGriffith, My Research, My Candidate Centre.

Supervisor professional development

In recognition of the importance of the supervisor role, the University makes available development opportunities for supervisors of higher degree research candidates, including the Higher Degree Research Supervision workshop series available through the Griffith Graduate Research School (GGRS). All supervisors are strongly encouraged to participate. GGRS has published on the subject of supervision, and conducts staff development workshops to assist staff members in their role as supervisors and mentors to higher degree research candidates. Information about these staff development opportunities is available through GGRS .

In addition, supervisors may be required to complete modules from the Higher Degree Research Supervision workshop series as outlined in the Supervisor Accreditation policy. Supervisors are advised to acquaint themselves with the supervisor accreditation process, and the Higher Degree Research Supervisor Accreditation policy.