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Higher Degrees by Research Procedure 9 Submission, Examination and Classification

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Section 1 - Summary

(1) This Procedure outlines Higher Degree by Research (HDR) thesis submission, nomination of examiners, examination, amending the examined thesis, and the classification and conferral process.

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Section 2 - HESF/ASQA/ESOS Alignment

(2) HESF: 7.2 Information for Prospective and Current Students; 1.4 Learning Outcomes and Assessment.

(3) ESOS Act: Part 3 Division 2; Part 5 Division 2.

(4) Standards for RTOs: Standard 5; 7; Schedule 6.

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Section 3 - Scope

(5) This Procedure applies to domestic and international candidates and University staff administering this Procedure.

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Section 4 - Definitions

(6) International Standing – Defined as publications or grants of international standing, international collaboration or international research experience.

(7) Thesis Classification – The classification of a thesis is the process whereby a result is assigned to a HDR degree/thesis based on the majority result from the examiners reports.

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Section 5 - Policy/Regulation

(8) See Higher Degrees by Research Policy.

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Section 6 - Procedures

Part A - Summary of Roles and Responsibilities

Roles

Responsibilities

Office for Researcher Training, Quality and Integrity (ORTQI) Place the candidate under examination when the Release of Thesis has been signed by the Research Institutes.
Send the electronic copy of the thesis to examiners and follow up on examiner reports, as required.
Upon receipt of the examiners’ reports, release the reports to the candidate, supervisors and Chair of Examiners.
Receive and forward the Recommendation on Classification documentation to the appropriate academics for an outcome.
Principal Supervisor Submit Nomination of Examiners for the candidate’s thesis. 
Chair of Examiners Endorse Nomination of Examiners.
Make recommendation for Classification of Thesis.
Dean, Graduate Research Approve Nomination of Examiners.
Approve Thesis for Classification. 
Make Recommendation for conferral of degree.  
Deputy Director, Research Institute Approve the timing of the full submission of the Thesis by Creative Project for examination.

Part B - General

(9) HDR candidates will have their thesis examined by at least two external examiners.

(10) The examination process varies by degree type.

(11) The relevant Deputy Director, Research Institute, or their nominee, acts as Chair of Examiners for HDR theses and has academic responsibility for the examination process.

(12) The ORTQI manages the conduct of the examination and classification process.

(13) Where the Principal Supervisor or Associate Supervisor is also the Deputy Director, Research Institute (or nominee), he or she is unable to act as Chair of Examiners and another senior academic must act as the Chair of Examiners for that candidate's thesis. ORTQI must be advised of the appointment at the time the thesis is submitted for examination.

(14) During their first year of study (EFT), PhD (Integrated) candidates will be required to submit a Year 1 Thesis.  This thesis is normally examined internally. Please refer to Part C for further information.

Part C - PhD (Integrated) – Year 1 Thesis Requirements and Examination

(15) A PhD (Integrated) Year 1 Thesis is to normally be between 12,000 and 15,000 words and relate to a research project conceptualised as a sub-project of the planned PhD.  Candidates will use the feedback received from the examiner(s) in the preparation of their candidature proposal and if approved, their overall PhD thesis.

(16) The Year 1 thesis is to be assessed at the level of AQF 9.

(17) PhD (Integrated) Candidates must submit their Year 1 Thesis by the due dates for the semester in which they are due to submit their Year 1 Thesis for examination.

(18) The Year 1 Thesis will be examined by a member of the candidate’s supervisory team who has been involved in supervision during the Year 1 program. This name should be submitted to ORTQI (Academic Programs) no later than the commencement of the semester in which the Year 1 Thesis is to be submitted. All Year 1 Theses will also be moderated within ORTQI (Academic Programs).

(19) In cases where a candidate achieves a 70% average across the Coursework units but a grade of 45%–69% in the thesis, the candidate will be offered the opportunity to revise and resubmit the Year 1 Thesis, for maximum grades of 50%, in the case of a student achieving 45%-49%, and 70%, in the case of a student achieving 50%-69%. This will not involve a complete rewriting of the thesis, but the candidate will be required to address the Examiner’s numbered key concerns using track changes and outlining the responses and changes in the summary sheet. The revised thesis will be assessed by Academic Programs with this result being the higher of the two grades attained for the Year 1 Thesis.

(20) A PhD (Integrated) candidate who achieves a pass of 50% or above in all units including the Year 1 Thesis, but does not fulfil the hurdle requirement (70% average across the coursework units and 70% in the Year 1 Thesis) will be eligible for a Master of Research Practice exit award.

Part D - PhD and Research Masters: Nomination of Examiners

(21) The specific requirements for each degree type are:

Degree

Traditional, Creative Project (no live component) and with Publications

Thesis by Creative Project (with a live performance and exhibition)

Doctoral degrees Two appropriately qualified experts of international standing in their discipline/field. Three appropriately qualified experts of international standing in their discipline (two plus a reserve).
Master Research Degrees Two appropriately qualified experts of international standing in their discipline/field. Three appropriately qualified experts of international standing in their discipline (two plus a reserve).

(22) For the submission of the final thesis, potential examiners should:

  1. be appropriately qualified experts of international standing in their discipline/field;
  2. be external to Victoria University (VU);
  3. normally be associated with a university or research institution;
  4. have demonstrated current research expertise relevant to the thesis;
  5. be free of conflict of interest in relation to the other examiner, the candidate, supervisors and University in accordance with the official University Conflict of Interest in Thesis Examination Guidelines at the time of nomination and throughout the examination process;
  6. have been advised and agree to examine the thesis on a confidential basis.

(23) Where the procedure (see clause 57) calls for a replacement examiner/s or third examiner, the Principal Supervisor will be contacted to provide an appropriate additional examiner.

(24) Supervisors will invite candidates to provide a list of their suggestions for suitable and/or unsuitable examiners. The Principal Supervisor, however, is responsible for all aspects of the nomination process including contacting potential examiner/s, ensuring the documentation required for the nomination is complete and submitting it for approval, which may or may not include the candidate’s suggestions. In the event that a candidate makes contact with a potential examiner/s during the nomination process, their nomination will be null and void.

(25) Prior to the nomination being submitted to ORTQI, the Principal Supervisor must inform the candidate of their proposed nominations to ensure that any conflicts of interests are managed effectively.

(26) The Principal Supervisor should discuss any potential conflicts of interests with the Chair of Examiners.  Final approval of examiners rests with Dean, Graduate Research.

(27) The Principal Supervisor should establish that the nominated examiners will be available to assess the thesis at the anticipated time of submission, and are available to provide a report within a six-week time frame.

(28) The Principal Supervisor should establish that the nominated examiners will be willing and able to re-examine the thesis if a ‘deferred’ recommendation is submitted.

(29) The Principal Supervisor should establish that the nominated examiners will agree to examine the thesis on a confidential basis. If the examination of a thesis is subject to further confidentiality obligations, the examiners will be asked to sign and return a "One Way Confidentiality Deed Poll" after they have been approved as an examiner.

(30) If it is known at the time of nomination that an examiner is not able to provide their report within a six-week period however the Principal Supervisor wishes to proceed with the nomination, the Principal Supervisor must inform the candidate as to when they expect the report to be received. In addition, receive the candidate’s written agreement with the arrangement. This should be provided with the nomination documentation.

Submission of Nominations

(31) In nominating examiners to the Chair of Examiners, the Principal Supervisor must submit the following documentation:

  1. provide a copy of the draft thesis abstract;
  2. provide information about each nominated examiner that demonstrates their research and research training expertise in relation to the specific project, as well as their international standing in the field (usually no more than two pages per examiner);
  3. identify and declare any major or minor potential conflicts of interest in accordance with the University Conflict of Interest in Thesis Examination Guidelines;
  4. confirm that the candidate is aware of the identity of the examiners (as per the Nomination of Examiners application);
  5. confirm that the candidate has not had contact with the nominated examiners during the nomination process;
  6. confirm that the candidate and the supervisors will not contact the examiners during the examination process and thereafter until their thesis has been classified by the University. In the event contact is made with an examiner/s during the examination process, the examiner/s will be null and void (as per the Nomination of Examiners application);
  7. in the event that a replacement examiner is required after the thesis has initially been released for examination, a Nomination of a Replacement Examiner form will need to be submitted.

(32) The Chair of Examiners is required to rigorously assess the suitability of the nominated examiners as per the requirements as specified in clause (22) and may reasonably expect that a Principal Supervisor secure alternative examiner(s) if the nominated examiners are not deemed suitable.

(33) If examiners have not been nominated prior to the submission of the thesis for examination, ORTQI will contact the Principal Supervisor to ascertain when examiners will be appointed and inform the candidate that there is a delay to the nomination.

(34) When a Principal Supervisor has failed to nominate examiners two weeks after thesis submission, the Chair of Examiners will be responsible for assisting to identify potential examiners and ensuring that the completed Nomination of Examiners application is submitted to ORTQI no later than one month following thesis submission. In such cases, the Deputy Directors may nominate the Principal Supervisor for de-registration for failing to nominate examiners in a timely manner.

(35) As examiners are required to be affiliated with a university or research institution, generally only those email addresses associated with a university or research institution will be used for the delivery of the thesis to an approved examiner.

Part E - Endorsement and Approval of Examiners

(36) The Chair of Examiners will review the suitability of examiners based on clause (22) and if appropriate, endorse the Principal Supervisor's recommendation of examiners. The nomination will be forwarded to ORTQI for further review by the Dean, Graduate Research. Examiners will only be considered as appointed when the Dean, Graduate Research has provided final approval.

(37) Only in exceptional and well documented circumstances will the Dean, Graduate Research approve two examiners currently employed by the same institution or with a prior close collaboration.

(38) If a Conflict of Interest arises during or after the examination, the Dean may annul one or both examiners' reports in which case replacement examiner(s) will be appointed as per clause (57).

(39) Once examiners are approved and the candidate has met all submission requirements as outlined in Part F, the thesis can be forwarded to the approved examiners.

Part F - Submission of Theses for Examination

(40) Candidates are responsible for presenting their thesis in an academic register and format for higher degrees by research and to make the following declarations in relation to research compliance:

  1. ethical approval (if applicable). In addition, Human Research Ethical Approval Numbers must be cited in the body of the thesis;
  2. integrity and authenticity (candidates can check the originality of their thesis using authenticity verification software reports; refer to Thesis Submission Requirements webpage);
  3. co-authorship (particularly but not solely in the case of Thesis with Publications); and
  4. Statement of level of editing (if applicable).

(41) Principal Supervisors are responsible for assessing the thesis is of an examinable standard and specifically that the thesis:

  1. has an appropriate academic register and format for a higher degree by research; and
  2. is research compliant as per clause (40).

(42) The following general requirements must be met for a thesis to be accepted by ORTQI for examination:

  1. the candidate must be currently enrolled;
  2. all required coursework and candidature milestones must be satisfactorily completed;
  3. the thesis title must be identical to the title registered with the University. Where there has been a change of title from that which was approved at candidature, candidates must confirm the change and the reasons for it on the Release of Thesis form;
  4. the thesis must be accompanied by a completed and signed Release of Thesis form in which the Chair of Examiners endorses the Principal Supervisor's recommendation that the thesis is of examinable standard. Once the Release of Thesis is signed by the Chair of Examiners, the candidate is officially placed under examination and the examination process has commenced;
  5. the signed candidate declaration, using the approved Student Declaration template must be included in the thesis; and
  6. one PDF electronic copy of the thesis (the University is committed to Planetary Health and as such, will not print hard copies of the thesis. The candidate will be responsible to provide ORTQI with a temporary bound copy of their thesis if requested by an examiner. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure the submitted hardcopy is the same version as the submitted electronic copy).  

(43) Once a candidate has submitted their thesis for examination, they are not required to re-enrol. They will, however, remain a candidate of the University until their thesis has been classified.

(44) International candidates who have submitted their thesis for examination are responsible for ensuring that their visa status is current and correct if they wish to remain in the country.

(45) Scholarship stipend payments will cease once the Release of Thesis is signed by the Chair of Examiners.

(46) If there is disagreement as to whether the thesis is of an examinable standard, the matter should be discussed among the candidate, supervisor(s), the Chair of Examiners and the Deputy Director, Research Institute (or nominee). If resolution cannot be found, the matter should be referred to the Dean, Graduate Research.

(47) In exceptional circumstances, if a candidate insists on submitting the thesis (or re-examined thesis) against the advice of their supervisors and Chair of Examiners, the candidate will be asked to sign a declaration that releases the University from any responsibility should the nominated examiners adversely appraise the thesis.  The signed declaration should accompany the thesis. In this situation and where the thesis is being submitted for initial examination, the relevant Deputy Director, Research Institute (or nominee) will be responsible for nominating examiners. If the supervisor decides to withdraw their supervision at the point of thesis submission, the Deputy Director, Research Institute (or nominee) will also ensure supervisors are formally in place for when the examiners’ recommendations are received.

Special Requirements for Submission of a Thesis by Creative Project and Analytical Written Component

(48) In all cases where the creative project does not include a live performance or exhibition, the three required components for submission, the Creative Component, the Analytical Written Component and the Thesis Abstract must be submitted simultaneously.

(49) ORTQI should be notified at least six months in advance of the timing of the initial presentation where the creative project involves a live performance or exhibition.  The timing, in relation to the full submission of the Thesis by Creative Project for examination, will be planned and formal approval sought from the Deputy Director, Research Institute (or nominee), prior to the appointment of examiners and notification to the ORTQI.

(50) The formal submission of the Analytical Written Component may occur prior to, simultaneous with, or after the live performance or exhibition, but must occur no later than four calendar months following the conclusion of the live performance or exhibition. The scheduling of the live performance or exhibition must take this into account.

(51) All examiners will be provided with the Thesis Abstract no less than 10 University business days prior to their scheduled attendance at the live performance or exhibition. In addition, if the candidate has opted for the Analytical Written Component to be read prior to the viewing of the performance or exhibition, then this must also be provided no less than 10 University business days prior to the scheduled live performance or exhibition.

(52) If the candidate is unable to formally submit the written component of the work within four calendar months (regardless of EFT) of the live performance or exhibition then an Application for Extension form must be completed prior to the due date.

(53) Failure to formally submit the written component by the due date, or apply for an extension by the due date, will result in the commencement of Unsatisfactory Progress proceedings against the candidate.

Part G - Examination or Re-examination

(54) ORTQI will email the approved examiners:

  1. University’s examination guidelines as well as any additional guidelines in relation to the University’s expectations of the standards and outcomes for that specific research degree; 
  2. the electronic copy of the thesis;
  3. examiner’s report template; and, 
  4. honorarium documents 

    normally within five University business days following receipt of the thesis and/or approval of examiners. Examiners will be requested to confirm receipt of the thesis.

(55) Examiners are provided six weeks from the date the thesis was dispatched to them to return their examination report. Examiners will receive a reminder from ORTQI after five weeks and contacted again once the six-week period has lapsed. In the event that an examiner's report has not been returned after 10 weeks, a replacement examiner is normally appointed.

(56) If a Conflict of Interest arises during the examination and/or classification processes, as per clause (38), the Dean, Graduate Research will be responsible for the appropriate management of the Conflict of Interest. This may include the appointment of replacement examiner(s).

(57) If, at any time, an examiner is no longer able to assess a thesis, a replacement examiner will be appointed.  Supervisors will be required to discuss the nomination with the candidate as per clauses (24) and (25).

(58) Once the thesis is submitted for examination, at no time during the examination process should candidates or their supervisors contact the examiners as per clause (31e).

Examination of Theses that include a Live Performance or Exhibition

(59) Examiners of Live Performances or Exhibitions will be advised of the format of the examinable work at the time of their engagement by the University, including when they will be required to attend a live performance or exhibition.

(60) One Reserve Examiner is appointed in the event that one of the two original examiners is for some reason unable to attend the exhibition or performance, or to complete other aspects of the examination process.

(61) All examiners including the Reserve Examiner are expected to attend the exhibition or performance of the candidate’s creative work as a component of the thesis.

(62) The third examiner will be designated the Reserve Examiner. The Reserve Examiner is required to produce an examination report but the report will be for feedback only unless:

  1. a primary examiner is unable to attend a performance and ORTQI has been unable to contact another examiner; or
  2. a primary examiner has been able to attend the performance but unable to write a report on the performance project; or
  3. a primary examiner is late in providing a report on the performance project.

(63) The candidate will only receive the examination reports from the first two examiners unless:

  1. one of the original examiners has been replaced; or
  2. there is a divergent result between the first two examiners;
in which case they will receive all available examination reports.

(64) The examiners will write independent reports on the creative project, including a short description of the Creative Component and its execution, and provide their report and recommendation within six weeks of receiving the formal submission.

(65) At no time shall the examiners communicate with each other, the supervisor or the candidate about the live performance or exhibition until their the thesis has been classified.

Part H - Examiner Recommendations and Overall Classification

Examiner Recommendations

(66) Examiners are required to make one of the following recommendations on the thesis/major work in an initial round of examination:

  1. PASSED without further correction; or
  2. PASSED, subject to minor corrections as outlined in the examiner’s report;
  3. PASSED, subject to substantial amendments as outlined in the examiner’s report;
  4. DEFERRED, with the candidate permitted to revise the thesis for re-examination;
  5. FAILED;

(67) In the event that a thesis requires Re-examination, examiners may only make of the following recommendations on the thesis/major work in a re-examination of the thesis:

  1. PASSED (after re-examination);
  2. FAILED (after re-examination).

Overall Examination Outcomes, including Pending Outcome: Re-examination

(68) If, after an initial round of examination and receiving two examiners’ reports and: 

  1. an overall Thesis Classification Outcome is obtained (i.e. two Pass or two Fail Recommendations), the examination process will be deemed to be completed; or 
  2. an overall Thesis Classification Outcome cannot be obtained one Pass and Fail, or one Pass and one Deferred, or one Fail or one Deferred, a third examiner will be appointed; or 
  3. an overall Thesis Classification outcome cannot be obtained because of two Deferred Recommendations (i.e. Pending Outcome), the candidate must re-enrol and revise their thesis prior to re-examination (refer to clause (71-80) and Tables 1b-c). 

(69) If, after an initial round of examination and receiving three examiners’ reports (as per Clause 68b) and: 

  1. an overall Thesis Classification Outcome is obtained (i.e. a majority of Pass or Fail Examiner Recommendations), the examination process will be deemed to be completed;
  2. an overall Thesis Classification Outcome cannot be obtained (i.e. without a majority of Pass or Fail Examiner Recommendations), the candidate must re-enrol and will have an opportunity to revise their thesis in response to the examiners’ reports received and submit it for Re-examination. The examination process is considered Pending: Re-Examination.  Refer to Table 1d.

Table 1a: Initial Examination: Pass/Deferred/Fail resulting in a Pending: Re-Examination

  Initial Examination Re-examiniation
Examiner A or B Passed* Passed
(Initial examination)
Passed
(Initial examination)
Examiner A or B Deferred Passed
(Re-examination)
Failed
(Re-examination)
Third Examiner Failed Failed
(Initial examination)
Failed
(Initial examination)
Overall Thesis Classification Outcome Pending:
Re-examination
Passed Failed
*Passed: based on Passed recommendations: without further correction/minor corrections/substantial amendments

Table 1b: Initial Examination: Pass/Deferred/Deferred resulting in a Pending: Re-Examination 

  Initial Examination Re-examination
Examiner A or B Passed* Passed
(Initial examination)
Passed
(Initial examination)
Passed
(Initial examination)
Passed
(Initial examination)
Examiner A or B Deferred Passed
(Re-examination)
Failed
(Re-examination)
Passed
(Re-examination)
Failed
(Re-examination)
Third Examiner Deferred Failed
(Re-examination)
Passed
(Re-examination)
Passed
(Re-examination)
Failed
(Re-examination)
Overall Thesis Classification Outcome Pending:
Re-examination
Passed Passed Passed Failed
*Passed: based on Passed recommendations: without further correction/minor corrections/substantial amendments

Table 1c: Initial Examination: Deferred and Deferred resulting in a Pending: Re-Examination 

  Initial Examination Re-examination
(Note that a Third Examiner may be required)
Examiner A or B Deferred Passed
(Re- examination)
Failed
(Re- examination)
Failed
(Re- examination)
Passed
(Re- examination)
Examiner A or B Deferred Passed
(Re-examination)
Failed
(Re-examination)
Passed
(Re-examination)
Failed
(Re-examination)
Third Examiner Not Applicable Not Applicable Not Applicable Passed
(Re-examination)
Failed
(Re-examination)
Overall Thesis Classification Outcome Pending:
Re-examination
Passed Failed Passed Failed

Table 1d: Re-Examination: Passed/Failed and Deferred resulting in a Pending: Re-Examination 

  Initial Examination Re-examination
Examiner A or B Passed Passed
(Initial examination)
Passed
(Initial examination)
Passed
(Initial examination)
Passed
(Initial examination)
Passed
(Initial examination)
Examiner A or B Failed Failed
(Initial examination)
Failed
(Initial examination)
Failed
(Initial examination)
Failed
(Initial examination)
Failed
(Initial examination)
Third Examiner Not Applicable Passed
(Initial examination)
Failed
(Initial examination)
Deferred
(Initial examination)
Passed
(Re-examination)
Failed
(Re-examination)
Overall Thesis Classification Outcome   Passed Failed Pending Re-examination Passed Failed

(70) When a thesis is re-examined, an Overall Thesis Classification outcome can be obtained (i.e. with a majority of a Pass or Fail Examiner Recommendations). As such, after the Re-examination of a thesis has concluded, the examination process will be deemed to be completed.  

Requirements for Re-examination 

(71) If any of the examiners recommend that the thesis be deferred in an initial round of examination and no outcome can be obtained, the candidate will be required to re-enrol by the date stipulated by ORTQI after which they normally have a maximum of up to 9 months (EFT) to undertake a revise their thesis and submit it for re-examination. The candidate should reference Higher Degrees by Research Procedure 3 Pre-Candidature and Candidature to determine if tuition fees are to be incurred.

(72) Where an examiner(s) who originally examined the thesis is unable to re-examine the revised thesis, a replacement examiner will be appointed and will be advised at the time of appointment that they are examining a revised thesis. The examiner will make a recommendation either Passed (after re-examination) or Failed (after re-examination). 

(73) After discussing the reports with their Supervisors, the candidate and their Principal Supervisor are required to meet with the Chair of Examiners within two weeks after re-enrolment to agree on the approach to be adopted for undertaking a major re-write of the thesis.

(74) If there are extenuating circumstance that lead to a candidate requiring more than up to 9 months (EFT) to make changes to the thesis prior to submitting it for re-examination, the candidate must submit the Application for Extension form to ORTQI no later than two weeks prior to their original deadline. The candidate may be granted up to three additional months (EFT) by the Deputy Director, Research Institute (or nominee).

(75) Should a candidate fail to re-enrol as required, and should they wish to submit for their thesis for Re-examination they will be required to apply for Reinstatement of Candidature. The University reserves the right to reject an application for Reinstatement of Candidature.  

(76) Failure to resubmit the thesis for re-examination within the agreed timelines will result in Unsatisfactory Progress proceedings being invoked as per Higher Degrees by Research Procedure 4 Progress.

(77) Candidates submitting their thesis for Re-examination must complete the Response to Examiner template outlining the substantive changes made to their thesis. This documentation will be forwarded to the examiner(s) who recommended deferred or their replacement examiner, along with the:

  1. Revised thesis;
  2. Original Examiner Reports (examiner reports will be de-identified as required);
  3. Examiner Report Template for them to complete;
  4. Honorarium documents.

(78) At the time of re-examination, the candidate must ensure that the revised thesis demonstrates they have met the criteria as stated in Higher Degrees by Research Procedure 8 Thesis Requirements - Part C Broad Thesis Requirements by HDR Degree. 

(79) The examiner(s) who deferred the thesis in the initial round of examination, or their replacement examiner(s), will only be able to make the recommendations as listed in Clause (67a-b).

(80) The examiner(s) will be advised that comments may be included with their recommendation but these are only to be minor such as in relation to grammatical errors or presentation of the thesis. 

Overall Thesis Classification Recommendations and Advice to Candidate

(81) After completion of the examination process, the Examiners’ Thesis Recommendations are used to determine the Overall Thesis Classification Recommendation with the majority recommendations determining the overall classification outcome. See Table 2. 

Table 2: Overall Recommendations for Thesis Classifications

Recommendations for Thesis Classification Overall Thesis Classification
Based on at least a majority of recommendations of Passed in an initial or second round of examination.  Passed
Based on at least a majority of recommendations of Failed in an initial round or second round of examination.  Failed

(82) ORTQI will send the examiners’ reports to the Candidate, copied to the Supervisors and Chair of Examiners, advising them of the Overall Thesis Classification Recommendation (i.e., Passed Classification or Failed Classification). If after an initial or second round of examination, the majority of examiners recommend that the thesis be failed, this will be conveyed to the supervisory team, Chair of Examiners and Deputy Director in the first instance. The Principal Supervisor will be responsible to convey the recommendation to the candidate and notify ORTQI when this has been actioned. Candidates will be advised of their access to Victoria University Advocacy. 

(83) Overall Failed Thesis Recommendations will be conveyed to the Research and Research Training Committee after any Appeal Processes (See Part J) have been concluded. 

(84) The University will pay examiners on receipt of their examination report an honorarium rate, set in accordance by Universities Australia.

Requirements for Thesis Classification

(85) Candidates whose Overall Thesis Classification Recommendation is Passed are required to discuss the reports with their Principal Supervisor or with their Principal Supervisor and Chair of Examiners (see Table 3) prior to preparing their Response to Examiners to the satisfaction of their Supervisors. Candidates must refer to Table 3 below to comply with response timelines to submit their amendments and/or classification and respond to all Examiner comments using the Response to Examiner Template. 

(86) Candidates whose thesis was re-examined are only required to respond to examiners who were part of the re-examination process. 

(87) If the candidate requires additional time to revise their thesis and respond to examiners beyond what is outlines in Table 3, the candidate must complete Application for Extension form within two weeks of receiving their examiners’ reports. Normally no more than four additional weeks will be granted and only in exceptional/extenuating circumstances.

(88) Where a candidate fails to submit their revised thesis or their classification documentation within the timeframe that applies to them, and have not applied for an extension, the Institute will commence Unsatisfactory Progress proceedings (as per Higher Degrees by Research Procedure 4 Progress). 

Table 3: Summary of Response Timelines to Submit for Classification

  Requirement to re-enrol Timelines: Classification Submission Approval on Response Approach Academic(s) Recommending Classification Academic Approving Classification
Passed: based on a combination of passed recommendations of without further correction and/or minor corrections No Six weeks Principal Supervisor Chair of Examiners Dean, Graduate Research
Passed: Based on Passed recommendations including without further correction, minor corrections and/or substantial amendments. No Three months Principal Supervisor and Chair of Examiners Academic Review Panel Dean, Graduate Research
Passed: After Re-examination No one month Principal Supervisor Deputy Director Dean, Graduate Research
Failed: After Re-examination N/A N/A N/A Academic Review Panel Dean, Graduate Research

Part I - Thesis Classification

(89) In the case of all higher degrees by research degrees, the classification will be simply 'Passed' or 'Failed' and the result recorded on the transcript will be S (ungraded pass) or U (ungraded fail).

(90) In the case where the thesis has been classified as 'Failed':

  1. the result will be recorded as such following the three-week period allocated to candidates to appeal the overall outcome (Part J – Appeals);
  2. the thesis cannot be revised and resubmitted for any other research degree at VU.

Classification Documentation

(91) The following documentation is required for classification of theses:

  1. Recommendation on Classification;
  2. Supporting letter/memo from the Principal Supervisor (only for Theses with an Overall Failed Recommendation);
  3. Summary of Responses to Examiners Reports;
  4. Thesis citation in electronic format template (only for Theses with an Overall Passed Recommendation);
  5. Amended Thesis;
  6. Examiners Reports (only for Theses with an Overall Failed Recommendation).

(92) ORTQI will forward the completed classification documents for overall passed theses as per Table 4.

Classification Process

(93) After reviewing theses with an Overall Thesis Passed Recommendations:

  1. based on a combination of passed recommendations without further correction and/or minor corrections; or
  2. passed after re-examination,

    and being satisfied with the thesis and related documentation, the Chair of Examiners will make a recommendation to the Dean Graduate Research (or nominee) that the thesis be classified as Passed. The Dean, Graduate Research will review the Recommendation for Classification and be responsible for the approval of the thesis classification. 

(94) After reviewing theses with an Overall Thesis Passed Recommendations, other than those listed in Clause 95, and being satisfied with all documentation, on behalf of an ARP, the Chair ARP will recommend to the Dean, Graduate Research (or nominee) that the classification be approved. The Dean, Graduate Research will review the Recommendation for Classification and be responsible for the approval of the thesis classification. 

(95) Chairs of Examiners or ARP or the Dean, Graduate Research may request further information and/or amendments to be made prior or making their recommendation or approval. Any amendments requested and the revised thesis and documentation must be submitted within one month (EFT) of the notification from the Chair of Examiners or ARP or the Dean, Graduate Research, otherwise Unsatisfactory Progress Proceedings will be invoked.

(96) Once the Dean, Graduate Research (or nominee) has approved the classification of the thesis, ORTQI will notify the candidate in writing of the requirement to supply an electronic (PDF) copy of the final version of the thesis and completed VU Research Repository form by the date stipulated. This is a prerequisite in order to be eligible to graduate. If restricting access to the thesis, a Restricted Access to a Thesis form should be lodged with the completed VURR. Failure to provide the completed Restricted Access to a Thesis form will result in the thesis being available in the Library repository 24 months from conferral of the award.

(97) Once the candidate's thesis has been classified, all candidate entitlements, including any allocated study space will cease as per the Space Allocation Guidelines

(98) After reviewing theses with an Overall Thesis Failed Recommendation and being satisfied with all documentation, on behalf of the Academic Review Panel (ARP), the Chair will recommend to the Dean, Graduate Research (or nominee) that the Overall Failed Thesis Classification be approved. 

Table 4: Summary Classification Pathway for Theses

  Academic(s) Recommending Classification Academic Approving Classification
Passed: based on a combination of passed recommendations without further correct and/or minor corrections. Chair of Examiners Dean, Graduate Research
Passed: Based on Passed recommendations including without further correction, minor corrections and/or substantial amendments. Academic Review Panel
Passed: After Re-examination. Chair of Examiners
Failed: After Initial Examination or Re-examination Academic Review Panel, 
Subject to the conclusion of any Appeal Process

 Academic Review Panels

(99) An Academic Review Panel (ARP) will normally be comprised of two members nominated by the Dean, Graduate Research:

  1. a senior academic (Level D or E) from the candidate’s Research Institute who is an experienced Principal supervisor, normally Level 3, and who has not had any association with the thesis. The senior academic will act as the Chair of the ARP;
  2. a Deputy Director Research Institute in which the candidate is not associated. 

(100) Where any candidate has been the subject of Unsatisfactory Progress Proceedings and their thesis is subsequently submitted to an ARP for classification, an individual who participated in the Unsatisfactory Progress Proceedings cannot serve as a member of that Panel. Any other conflicts of interest must be declared to the Chair of the ARP prior to review of the candidate’s documentation.

Restricted Access to a Thesis

(101)  Where there are commercial intellectual property issues, or the circumstances of the research project warrant the imposition of a measure of secrecy, the candidate may discuss with the supervisory team restricting partial or full access to the thesis. Candidates should consider whether restricting access would impede their ability to publish their research or to make their work and achievements known to potential employers. A thesis can be restricted for up to two years. In exceptional circumstances, a further extension to restrict access may be granted.

(102) The completed Restricted Access to a Thesis form is submitted with the electronic copy to the ORTQI as per clause (96). The Dean, Graduate Research approves applications for restricted access to a thesis. If approved, the ORTQI notifies the candidate, supervisory team and the library.

(103) Once the restricted period has lapsed, the thesis will become available to the public unless the candidate reapplies for a further extension.

Part J - Appeals

Appeal on Overall Thesis Classification Recommendations

(104) In the event of an appeal of an Overall Thesis Classification Outcome, the process as outlined in clauses (106-123) of this Procedure must be followed.

(105) An appeal must be on one or more of the following grounds:

  1. procedural irregularities in the examination process;
  2. evidence of prejudice or bias in the examination process.

Lodgement of Notice of Appeal

(106) A candidate who wishes to appeal the Overall Thesis Classifcation Outcome must lodge a notice of appeal with the Manager, Graduate Research Admissions & Candidature within 15 University business days of the original decision.

(107) The notice of appeal must clearly state the ground(s) for appeal, summarising the basis for each ground(s) and include any relevant material on which the candidate wishes to rely.

(108) The Manager, Graduate Research Admissions & Candidature will refer the matter to the Chair of the Research and Research Training Committee.

Chair of HDR Examination Appeal Panel (HDR EAP)

(109) The Chair of the Research and Research Training Committee, or nominee, is the Chair of the HDR Examination Appeal Panel (HDR EAP). The Chair will be administratively supported by the Manager, Graduate Research Admissions & Candidature (or nominee).

Functions of the HDR EAP Chair

(110) The Chair of HDR EAP will consider the notice of appeal and any relevant supporting documents and take any of the following actions:

  1. if she or he considers that the appeal lacks merit, the Chair may dismiss the appeal without referring the matter to a HDR EAP for hearing;
  2. if she or he considers that a clear error or procedural deficiency has occurred, the Chair may remit the matter back to the original decision maker/s for reconsideration, with guidance on how to remedy the error or procedural deficiency; or
  3. refer the appeal to HDR EAP for hearing in accordance with this Procedure. 

(111) Having regard for the need for fairness to both the University and the HDR candidate and pending the final determination of the matter, the Chair may also make one or both of the following interim directions:

  1. to suspend the implementation of the decision that is the subject of the appeal; or,
  2. to make any other direction that may be reasonable in all the circumstances.

Appeal Panel Composition

(112) An Appeal Panel will be elected by the Chair, Research and Research Training Committee or nominee and must consist of five persons (including the Chair) as follows:

  1. Panel Chair:  Chair of the Research and Research Training Committee, or nominee;
  2. Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, or nominee
  3. A Deputy Director of a Research Institute other than that in which the candidate is associated, or nominee;
  4. A senior researcher from Research Institute in which the candidate is associated;
  5. Academic Board's Graduate Research Student representative, or nominee.

(113) The appeal will be treated as an academic matter for the purposes of the composition of the HDR EAP.

(114) Wherever practical, the membership of the HDR EAP will remain the same throughout the hearing of the matter notwithstanding any adjournment.

(115) The HDR EAP must not include anyone who has, or who may reasonably be perceived to have, a bias or conflict of interest in the matter.

(116) The candidate will be notified of the composition of the HDR EAP and this can only be challenged if evidence is provided to the Chair, prior to the hearing, detailing perceived prejudice or bias against the candidate.

Appeal Hearing

(117) Unless agreed otherwise, a candidate making an appeal will receive at least 10 working days' notice of the hearing of the appeal. 

(118) In determining an appeal, the HDR EAP –

  1. will make a majority rule decision;
  2. will act impartially and fairly in all circumstances;
  3. may follow any procedure it considers appropriate;
  4. will not be bound by legal rules of evidence, technicalities or legal forms, and may inform itself in relation to any matter in any manner it thinks fits;
  5. will give the candidate the opportunity to present material and submissions (either in person or in writing) in support of the appeal and to respond to any other material relating to the appeal;
  6. will consider any material presented or made available to it; and
  7. will allow the candidate to have a support person and/or to be assisted with the preparation and presentation of their case by a student advocate, provided that the support person or student advocate is not –
    1. an Australian legal practitioner, unless with leave of the Chair; or
    2. involved or alleged to be involved in the matter being determined.

Decision

(119) Following the hearing, the HDR EAP must –

  1. allow the appeal in whole or in part; or
  2. dismiss the appeal.

(120) If the appeal is dismissed, the HDR EAP must confirm the original decision.

(121) If the appeal is upheld, the HDR EAP will:

  1. set aside the failed classification; and
  2. may either –
    1. annul the examination in its entirety and direct a re-examination of the current thesis;
    2. substitute the overall classification with an overall pass classification, which may be subject to no, minor or substantial amendments as set out by the HDR EAP.   

(122) Following the decision of the HDR EAP, the Chair of the HDR EAP must provide written notification of the decision within five University business days, to:

  1. the candidate; and
  2. the Manager, Graduate Research Admissions & Candidature; and
  3. the Dean, Graduate Research who will inform the Research and Research Training Committee of a Failed Thesis if the appeal is dismissed.

(123)  The decision of the HDR EAP will be final and there is no further avenue for appeal within Victoria University. If the candidate wishes to seek an external review of the University decision, refer to the Student Appeals Procedure, Part E – External Appeal.

Part K - Conferral of Award

(124) The Dean, Graduate Research provides a list of candidates who have been classified as having satisfied all the requirements for the award to University Council, which authorises the conferral of the awards, for HDR degrees.

(125) The Dean, Graduate Research provides the Research and Research Training Committee, for transmission to the Academic Board, with an annual report on the examination and classification process and the quality of the outcomes achieved.

(126) On confirmation of receipt of the electronic copy of the thesis by ORTQI and conferral by the University, a Notice of Completion, academic transcript and an Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement (AHEGS) are generated by Assessments and Completions and forwarded to the graduand.

(127) Following conferral, doctoral candidates may use the title "Dr".

(128) The graduand will be invited to participate in the next round of graduation ceremonies where the testamur will be presented. Candidates who graduate in absentia can organise for their testamur to be collected from campus or mailed for a fee.

(129) Candidates only need to apply to graduate if they are enrolled in a course and wish to exit this course with a lower (alternate) award. In this instance, candidates will need to complete the Application for an Award Alternate Exit form.

Part L - Conflict of Roles

(130) No individual may be involved in dual or multiple roles. Where the potential for a conflict of roles exists the following alternate delegations will normally apply:

  1. For Deputy Director, Research Institutes who is also the Principal Supervisor - The Dean, Graduate Research (or their nominee; normally a senior academic).
  2. For the Dean, Graduate Research who is also the Principal Supervisor – Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research or nominee.