School policy on research student supervision

This policy applies to all PhD and MPhil candidates.

The Confirmation and Supervisory panel

A Confirmation and Supervisory Panel (CSP) should be established for every research student, upon their enrolment. As part of their induction package, every student will receive a form requiring them to list the members of their CSP panel. Once completed, the form should be signed by all members of the CSP, and by the student, and a copy lodged with the Head of School (HoD). This should be completed within six weeks of commencement of students candidature.

Aims and benefits of the CSP system

The principal aim of the CSP will be to support the student in his or her endeavour to complete a high quality research thesis in a timely fashion. The presence of the CSP broadens the base of knowledge and experience that the candidate can call on for guidance in this endeavour. The candidate will have a variety of people with a good knowledge of his or her research available to interact with, providing a richer research environment. In the event of unforeseen circumstances, in which the supervisor(s) become unexpectedly unavailable, other School members are well acquainted with the nature of the student's work, and the situation of the student, so are better placed to provide interim supervision, and arrange suitable alternatives.

The CSP provides an avenue, other than the HoD, for conflict resolution, should the need arise.

Composition of the CSP

The panel should consist of at least three people including the supervisor(s) and at least one other staff member of the School of Mathematics and Statistics. The CSP may include staff members of other Schools of The University of Melbourne. CSP members who are not also members of the staff of the University of Melbourne are possible, with the approval of the HoD. CSP members should be chosen to best understand and appreciate the kind of research the candidate intends to undertake. It is recommended that the chair of the CSP be a member of the School of Mathematics and Statistics other than the supervisor.

Selection of the CSP

The appointment of the panel shall be done by the supervisor in consultation with the student, and shall be made subject to the approval of the student. The CSP should be established within one month of the commencement of the student's candidature.

Primary duties of the CSP

It is recommended that the CSP should meet with the student at six-monthly intervals but at least once a year, for both full-time and part-time candidates. In the event that a student is not in Melbourne, other arrangements should be made to report on the progress.

Only the student and the CSP members should be present; this should be a private meeting. However other persons may be invited either by the CSP members or by the student, provided at least two weeks notice is given and all CSP members and the student register their approval of the invitation. One week prior to the date of each meeting, the student should give a brief written summary of his or her progress to date, and a plan for the completion of the thesis, with timeline appropriate to the research. The plan should be especially detailed for the upcoming six months. The student should also include a section itemising any other issues he or she wishes to raise with the committee at the meeting. At the meeting, the student will be given an opportunity to speak to and elaborate on the summary, plan and issues to be raised that he or she submitted to the CSP. Members of the CSP may question the student and seek elucidation of the matters presented. The CSP will discuss with the student his or progress, give feedback to the student, and offer constructive advice. In the case of any issues of conflict among supervisor(s) and student, the CSP may seek to resolve these; indeed the CSP should be viewed as the first port of call in such cases.

After each meeting the CSP shall prepare a brief written report, summarising the feedback and advice given to the student in the course of the meeting. All members of the CSP should sign this report. The CSP report together with the student's written submission to the CSP will be given to the HoD.

At least annually, all members of the CSP must attend a formal presentation by the student on their research work. This may take the form of a School or research group seminar, a conference presentation, or other similar form of presentation. The annual presentation may coincide with a six-monthly CSP meeting, but may also be a separate event. The CSP is to provide advice on the confirmation of students to the HoD, and will continue to meet throughout the candidature of the student. The CSP will be responsible for recommending extensions past the third year of candidature.

In cases of unsatisfactory progress identified by the CSP, the procedure outlined in the Report & Recommendations of the Faculty of Science Research Higher Degree Working Group (see attached) shall be adhered to.

Extraordinary meetings

Any member of the CSP or the student can request an extraordinary meeting of the CSP to deal with issues that cannot wait until the next meeting. Obviously such meetings should be kept to a minimum and only called in extraordinary circumstances.

Secondary duties of the CSP

Upon induction and at each meeting with the CSP students must complete a written "Employment Declaration". CSP and the student should ensure that paid work will not jeopardize the completion of the course of study in the time allowed. It is recommended, as a guide, that no more than 9 hours per week, during normal working hours, would be desirable. Scholarship holders may "top up" their scholarship from other sources that support their study, such as "top up" scholarships or awards, up to 75% of the scholarship value. Other activities undertaken outside normal working hours, including part time work, that generate income (any amount) are allowed so long as their activity does not interfere with the progress of the studies: advice from the Head of School should be sought if in any doubt.

Other considerations

It is of prime importance that all students be made aware upon induction of the CSP system. It is also vital that students understand that the CSP will NOT be responsible for passing their thesis, rather that this decision is made by anonymous examiners, often based at overseas institutions. Thus any feedback, comments, advice, or verdicts on progress issued by either the CSP or the student's supervisor(s) are made simply and purely with the aim of ensuring that the student's thesis will ultimately succeed in this examining process. All members of the CSP have as their principal aim the successful graduation of the student. Although the CSP and supervisor(s) must be called upon to "judge" a student's work, this is only to ensure that the student is able to produce a thesis that is of quality, and that will pass the external refereeing process; their role is certainly NOT "judgmental", and the student should feel free to go to their supervisors and the CSP for support at all times - the CSP is "on their side".

Recreational leave

As stated in the University Postgraduate Guide, candidates may take up to four weeks of recreation leave in each year by arrangement with their supervisors. Application does not need to be made for recreation leave and the leave taken will not alter the submission date. However, it is strongly recommended that for absences of more than one week, students give their supervisors sufficient advance notice to ensure that their research program is not unduly disrupted. The recommended notice period is equal to the leave to be taken, e.g. four weeks advance notice is suggested for a four week period of leave.