HDR Supervision Procedure
This procedure applies to the supervision of all higher degree by research candidates. It does not apply to students enrolled in undergraduate and coursework programs, including Honours programs.
The purpose of this document is to outline the requirements of a Higher Degree by Research Advisory Panel and Candidature Committee.
- Higher degree by research (HDR) candidates should be provided with high quality supervision that conforms to the standards set by the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015.
- The relationship between an advisor and their candidate should be characterised by mutual respect and trust.
- Primary Advisors of HDR candidates should be actively carrying out research and publishing in the relevant discipline area
- Continuity of supervision is one of the most important principles of good advisory practice.
- The University should ensure that the workload, performance and professional development of its advisors are effectively managed
- The University’s Register of Advisors should be managed to ensure that advisors are admitted to the register at the appropriate level.
The terms ‘supervisor’ and ‘advisor’ may be used interchangeably. The term ‘advisor’ is preferred at JCU, while recognising that ‘supervisor’ is broadly used in the sector and in the associated literatures.
The panel of advisors appointed by the Dean, Graduate Research to undertake the day-to-day supervision of the HDR candidate.
The Primary Advisor chairs the Advisory Panel and takes the lead in day-to-day supervision of the candidate. They should be on the Register of Advisors with either Primary Advisor or Advisor Mentor status. The Primary Advisor should be a member of the academic staff (or adjunct staff) of the College in which the candidate is enrolled, or be otherwise formally contracted and accountable to the University for supervisory duties.
Primary Advanced Advisor
The Primary Advanced Advisor chairs the Advisory Panel and takes the lead in day-to-day supervision of the candidate. They should be on the Register of Advisors. The Primary Advanced Advisor should be a member of the academic staff (or adjunct staff) of the College in which the candidate is enrolled, or be otherwise formally contracted and accountable to the University for supervisory duties. A advisory team that includes a Primary Advanced Advisor does not require an Advisor Mentor.
A Secondary Advisor works with the Primary Advisor or Primary Advanced Advisor in their supervision of the candidate. They should be on the Register of Advisors. Secondary Advisors should meet regularly with the candidate and the Primary Advisor/Primary Advanced Advisor in joint meetings.
The role of the Advisor Mentor on a Panel is to help develop the advisory capacity of the other members of the Panel, both individually and collectively. They should be on the Register of Advisors. An Advisor Mentor is not required on a Masters Advisory Panel. An Advisor Mentor is not required on a PhD Advisory Panel where at least one member of the panel is a Primary Advanced Advisor.
A committee constituted to monitor the progress of an individual HDR candidate.
Chair of Candidature Committee
An appointment made by the ADRE and approved by the Head of the College. They should be on the Register of Advisors. The Chair should be appropriately briefed on the responsibilities associated with the role.
An appointment made by the ADRE and approved by the Head of the College. The Independent Academic should be a member of the Register of Advisors but independent of the candidate’s Advisory Panel. They should be appropriately briefed on the responsibilities associated with the role.
A person with Primary Advisor Status who is nominated by the Dean of College at the time of the candidate’s enrolment to undertake the role of Primary Advisor should the Primary Advisor or Primary Advisor (Advanced) become unavailable during the candidature. They should be on the Register of Advisors.
Register of Advisors
A managed list of staff, adjunct staff, and Industry Partners of the University who are qualified to be appointed to the Advisory Panel of a higher degree by research candidate.
Dean or Nominee
The academic staff member with responsibility for the higher degree by research candidates enrolled in their College.
Note: Definition of terms not defined above may be found in:
A. Advisory Panel
1. Responsibilities of Advisory Panel
1.1 The Advisory Panel will be responsible for the day-to-day supervision of the candidate in accordance with the requirements of the JCU Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, the JCU Code of Conduct, and the Higher Degree by Research Code of Practice.
1.2 Members of an Advisory Panel must affirm their commitment to: (1) the JCU Code of Conduct, and (2) the Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships.
2. Composition of Advisory Panel
The Advisory Panel must:
2.1 Include at least two and up to four Advisors, at least two of whom must be on the Register of Advisors.
2.2 Include one person who is designated as Primary Advisor who is on the Register of Advisors with Primary Advisor status or higher.
2.3 If the Primary Advisor is external to JCU they must:
2.3.1 Be an adjunct staff member of the university; and
2.3.2 Be on the Register of Advisors; and
2.3.3 Have the approval of the College Dean to act as Primary Advisor.
2.4 Include at least one Secondary Advisor who is a member of the academic staff of the University and is on the Register of Advisors where the Primary Advisor is not a member of the academic staff of the University.
2.5 Additional Secondary Advisors may be appointed because of their expertise. These advisors may be external to the University and need not be on the Register of Advisors.
2.6 At least one member of a Doctoral Advisory Panel should have Advisor Mentor status on the Register of Advisors unless the Primary Advisor has “Primary Advanced Advisor” status. For clarity, there is no requirement for a Masters panel to include an Advisor Mentor.
2.7 A Panel must not consist only of adjunct staff members unless when approved by College Dean on a case-by-case basis.
2.8 The Dean, Graduate Research will approve the Advisory Panel for each HDR candidate on the advice of the Dean of College or nominee.
3. Continuity of supervision: Role of the Replacement Advisor
3.1 Advisors who anticipate an absence from the University, or will be leaving the University’s employ, should take into account the necessity for ongoing supervision of their HDR candidates and plan accordingly.
3.2 JCU Adjuncts or JCU contract-staff will only be permitted to be the Primary Advisor of HDR candidates if a formal agreement is signed by a Replacement Advisor.
3.3 If an advisor ceases to meet the requirements for continuing HDR supervision or for other reasons is not available to advise a candidate for a period exceeding six weeks, and no prior arrangements have been made, once made aware of this through usual college procedures the Dean of College or their nominee shall immediately, and in consultation with the candidate, nominate an alternative advisory arrangement (normally involving the nominated Replacement Advisor) for approval by the Dean, Graduate Research.
3.4 Alternative arrangements may include but are not limited to:
3.4.1 The appointment of the nominated Replacement Advisor for a specified period;
3.4.2 The re-weighting of roles of other members of the Advisory Panel to ensure continued support for the candidate during this period; or
3.4.3 The permanent replacement of the Primary Advisor, normally with the nominated Replacement Advisor.
3.5 Any change in Advisory Panel membership, including the addition of members, should be initiated by the candidate, the Candidature Committee and the College Dean (or nominee), who must complete of the relevant HDR Variation to Candidature form. Such changes must be approved by the Dean, Graduate Research. The Dean will only approve more than two changes to the person appointed as the candidate’s Primary Advisor under exceptional circumstances.
3.6 Should the Advisory Panel cease to comply with this Procedure, the College Dean must make reasonable efforts find a suitable and approved replacement as soon as possible.
3.7 In instances where a candidate’s Primary Advisor becomes unable to supervise the candidate and no suitable replacement can be found after reasonable efforts by the Dean of College and the Dean, Graduate Research, candidature may be discontinued.
B. Candidature Committees
4. Composition of Candidature Committee
4.1 The role of the Candidature Committee is to monitor the progress of an individual HDR candidate with respect to achievement of milestones; thesis submission and examination; and the application of review and/or discontinuation procedures.
4.2 The Candidature Committee of a doctoral candidate must include, but is not limited to:
- Chair of Candidature Committee
- Independent Academic
- All members of the candidate’s Advisory Panel
4.3 The Candidature Committee of a masters candidate must include, but is not limited to:
- Chair of Candidature Committee
- All members of the candidate’s Advisory Panel
NOTE: An Independent Academic is not required
5. Continuity of Candidature Committee
5.1 The Chair of the Candidature Committee and the Independent Academic may change during the candidature but must always be independent of all members of the Advisory Panel; for example, must not raise a conflict of interest by being near-relatives or partners. Where conflicts (e.g., co-authorship or shared grants) are present, a conflict of interest should be declared explaining mitigating strategies.
5.2 Chairs of Candidature Committees and Independent Academics must have received appropriate briefing for their roles.
C. Register of Advisors
The Register of Advisors for HDR candidates is maintained by the Graduate Research School.
6. Admission to the Register
6.1 Summary of criteria for admission to the Register of Advisors is provided at Table 1, below.
6.2 Applications for admission to the Register of Advisors should be made by completing the appropriate Application to Register of Advisors Form.
6.3 The minimum criteria for admission to the Register of Advisors include all of the following:
- A research doctorate or equivalent.
- An appointment at JCU (including an adjunct appointment) or a formal contract for supervision duties. This requirement also applies to Primary Advisors and first named-secondary advisors who are external to the university.
- Successful completion of the relevant Advisor Training and Development.
- Authorship of at least one ERA recognised publication (or equivalent creative output) in the preceding two years.
6.4 In addition to the essential criteria specified above, the criteria for admission to the higher levels of the Register of Advisors are as follows:
- Primary Advisor Status: ‘Research Active’ as defined by the Research Performance Model.
- Primary Advanced Advisor Status: ‘Research Active’ plus supervision to successful completion of at least one PhD candidate in the preceding five years.
- Advisor Mentor Status: ‘Research Active’ plus supervision to successful completion at least two HDR candidates in the preceding five years, at least one as Primary Advisor and at least one a PhD completion. When there is a shortage of academics with Advisor Mentor Status in a College, the Dean Graduate Research may approve: (1) a Primary Advisor being reclassified based on meeting requirements as Primary Advanced Advisor or Advisor Mentor; or (2) Advisor Mentors maintaining their classification as Advisor Mentor through successful completion at of least two HDR candidates in the preceding five years as Advisor Mentor.
Table 1: Criteria for admission to the Register of Advisor
Completion and maintenance of GRS Advisor Training & Development
Base Level of Publications
‘Research Active’ (see 9.4.1)
Successful HDR Supervision
Max # students as Primary
Primary Advisor Advanced
Yes, 1 PhD (as Primary or Secondary
Yes, 2 HDR (at least one as Primary advisor and at least one a PhD completion)
 Authorship of at least one ERA recognised publication (or equivalent creative outputs) in the preceding two years.
7. Reclassification on the Register
7.1 Advisors may apply to be reclassified on the Register of Advisors at any time by submitting an updated Application for Register of Advisors Form. As part of the reclassification process, the Dean Graduate Research will require advisors to attend additional professional development.
8. Continuation on the Register
8.1 Appointments to the register will be for 4 years.
8.2 Renewal is dependent on participation in an ongoing program of professional development demonstrating ability to access and apply HDR Supervision Policies and Procedures at JCU, plus demonstration of satisfactory advisory performance and additional professional development as determined by their Performance and Development Plan.
8.3 Line managers will consider the expectations of academics at the relevant level, accounting for indicators of advisor performance provided in annual reporting, in undertaking Performance and Development Planning. The advisor’s record will be available as an annual report provided by the Graduate Research School (GRS).
8.4 An annual report from the GRS to the relevant Dean and ADRE of College in each College will provide information on each advisor with respect to their: (1) meeting/not meeting Advisor Registration requirements, and (2) advisory performance.
8.5 Advisors who are (1) not meeting Registration requirements at their current level and/or (2) are deemed as having demonstrated unsatisfactory advisor performance by their line manager will not be approved for membership of any additional Advisory Panels by the Dean, Graduate Research until the relevant requirements and/or performance standards have been met.
8.6 The record of individual advisors will be considered by the JCU Research Education Sub-Committee Executive when awarding HDR scholarships and Advisor of the Year Awards.
8.7 Indicators of high performing HDR Advisors and potentially unsatisfactory supervision performance are summarised in Appendix A and B, respectively.
9. Recognition of Exemplary HDR Supervisory Practice
The Advisor of the Year Awards aims to encourage and reward staff who excel in advising higher degree by research candidates.
9.1 Line managers should refer to the Attributes of High Performing HDR Advisors (Appendix A) when considering applications for Advisor of the Year Awards, promotion and other professional development of HDR Advisors.
D. Advisory Workload
Advisory workload should be assigned to teaching or research in accordance with the JCU Academic Workload Guidelines.
10. Workload allocation
10.1 Workload management is undertaken by the College and should be consistent with the principles of the University’s Enterprise Agreement.
10.2 Staff and Adjunct Staff who have “Primary Advisor” status on the Advisor Register should not be the Primary Advisor of more than three (3) HDR candidates. Exceptions to this practice will only be granted by the Dean, Graduate Research with the written agreement of the relevant College Dean.
10.3 Staff and Adjunct Staff who have “Primary Advisor (Advanced)” status on the Advisor Register should not be the Primary Advisor of more than five (5) HDR candidates. Exceptions to this practice will only be granted by the Dean, Graduate Research with the written agreement of the relevant College Dean.
10.4 Staff and Adjunct Staff who have “Advisor Mentor” status on the Advisor Register should not be the Primary Advisory of more than seven (7) HDR candidates to minimise the risk to the university if they become unavailable to advise candidates due to unforeseeable circumstances. Exceptions to this practice will only be granted by the Dean, Graduate Research with the written agreement of the relevant College Dean.
10.5 Continuing staff who have signed an agreement to take over as Primary Advisor of a candidate whose Primary Advisor’s contract ends, must agree that, if their Primary Advisor responsibilities exceed the maximum designated for their Advisor level, they will discuss the resultant workload issues and risk to JCU with their College Dean.
10.6 Any restrictions on the award of stipend scholarships to applicants with Primary Advisors in particular categories will be outlined in the Scholarship Scoring Procedure.
11. Establishing good research practice
11.1 Advisors are responsible for guiding the professional development of HDR candidates in all matters relating to research conduct in accordance with the JCU Code of Responsible Conduct of Research, the JCU Code of Conduct, the Higher Degree by Research Code of Practice, the HDR Requirements and the Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships.
12. Avoiding conflict of interest
12.1 The JCU Code of Conduct states that staff must “take reasonable steps to avoid, or disclose and manage, any conflict of interest (actual, potential or perceived) in the course of employment”.
12.2 The Code also states that staff must “avoid placing [themselves] in direct positions of responsibility relating to the employment or studies of a person, where they have, or had, a close personal relationship with that person.”
12.3 The Primary Advisor must not be the immediate line manager of a candidate who is a continuing employee of the University.
12.4 Advisors who employ candidates on casual or fixed-term appointments must be mindful of: (1) the potential for conflict of interest if a candidate is too often required to prioritize paid work for the advisor over their own research; and (2) the differences between advisor/candidate and employer/employee relationships. If difficulties arise, the Dean, Graduate Research will work with the College Dean to organise alternative arrangements.
12.5 If any of these circumstances arise during the candidature, both parties must, within ten working days, inform one of the following: ADRE, Dean of College, or Dean, Graduate Research who will make consequential changes to the Advisory Panel and any other necessary arrangements.
12.6 Failure to divulge such information will be considered a breach of the JCU Code of Conduct.
12.7 An Advisory Panel that includes members who are near relatives or partners must also include at least one member who is independent of that relationship to enable the University to deliver its Duty of Care to the candidate. The Advisor who is independent of the relationship between the other advisors must be actively involved in the supervision of the candidate and must sign off on all HDR Candidature Milestones.
F. Research programs pursued at other approved organisations
Where a candidate’s research program is pursued at or in partnership with another approved organisation, the Advisory Panel must include an appropriate person associated with the organisation in which the research is carried out.
Related documents and policy instruments
This procedure is to be read in conjunction with the requirements of:
- the Higher Degree by Research Requirements
- the JCU Code of Responsible Conduct of Research
- the JCU Code of Conduct
- the JCU Enterprise Agreement
- the Higher Degree by Research Code of Practice
- the Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships
Appendix A – Attributes of High Performing Advisors
- The advisor has a record of their HDR candidates submitting their theses in less than 4 years FTE (PhD) and less than 2 years (MPhil) in the context of number of enrolments and advisory roles.
- The advisor has a record of their HDR candidates having their candidature confirmed in less than 1 year FTE (PHD) and less than 8 months (MPhil) in the context of number of enrolments and advisory.
- The advisor has engaged with scholarship in the area of supervisory practice.
- The advisor has successfully assisted underperforming HDR candidates to discontinue their candidature or to exit early with an alternative qualification.
- The advisor has a consistent record of their HDR candidates having at least one publication from their thesis research accepted for publication prior to thesis submission as the primary author.
- The advisor has an award for supervisory excellence from JCU or externally or has received formal advice that they have been short-listed for such an award.
- The advisor has HDR candidates who are working on an industry-relevant problem or community engaged issue.
- The advisor has developed and distributed a supervisory statement to their HDR candidates setting out their considered expectations of research supervision.
- The advisor has effectively mentored less experienced advisory team colleagues in order to develop their advisory capacities.
- The advisor has engaged the candidate in an effective research network.
- The advisor has actively supported their HDR candidates in developing and achieving their professional, personal, and career goals (as relevant).
Appendix B – Managing Under-performing HDR Advisors
Table 2 lists indicators of unsatisfactory supervision performance by an advisor of HDR candidates. Line Managers should use the table to identify and manage unsatisfactory supervisory performance.
It is important that these indicators are considered in the context of other information. For example, the record of an advisor may be distorted by a history of becoming the replacement advisor of candidates who experience considerable problems during their candidature.
An advisor may benefit from the implementation of an intervention strategy by their line manager. Such a strategy may include adding another advisor to the Panel, provision of a mentor, review of the advisor’s workload, or re-allocation of current supervisions.
Table 2: Potential indicators of unsatisfactory supervisory performance
One or more of the following Indicators:
Primary Advisor, Primary Advanced Advisor or Advisor Mentor
1.The advisor fails to meet the minimum expectations as defined in the Academic Performance Expectations Framework  for their level and focus
2. The advisor has failed to meet the agreed Advisor training and development and any other requirement stipulated by their line manager during the Performance and Development Planning process
3. The advisor has had a disproportionate number of HDR candidates request transfer to another advisor
4. The advisor has had a disproportionate number of candidates withdraw from the University
5. HDR candidates of the advisor regularly fail to demonstrate satisfactory performance in milestone reviews
6. HDR candidates of the advisor are regularly overtime in a way that demonstrates lack of effective progress monitoring
7. The HDR completion rate for the advisor is low
8. The HDR candidates of the advisor are not developing other expected scholarly research skills e.g., conference presentation/publication of work
9. The advisor has been identified as ineligible to supervise due to not meeting one or more of the eligibility criteria
10. The advisor has had an allegation of serious research misconduct upheld against them
11. The advisor has had an allegation of staff misconduct upheld against them
*The advisor may have their advisory load capped (for example, no further new supervisions until completions from current load are secured), or be downgraded from the current level of Register of Advisors accreditation or be de-registered from the Register of Advisors.
**The Advisor will be de-registered from the Register of Advisors.
Dean, Graduate Research
Date for next review:
20 May 2016
26 May 2016
Added that there must be written approval from the College Dean to be the primary advisor of >7 HDR candidates.
9 March 2017
14 March 2017
Added positive attributes. Added must be written approval from the College Dean to be the primary advisor of >3 HDR candidates if Primary Advisor level on the Register of Advisors (above rule for Advisor Mentor status advisors.)
18 July 2017
18 July 2017
Primary Advisors on Contract must have at least 3 years of contract at time of application to take a candidate AND must have signed an agreement with qualified secondary advisor.
17 Oct 2017
17 Oct 2017
Chairs of CC and Independent Academics must be trained. Align Procedure with recommendations of Broderick Review. Supervisory workload usually relates to "in-time" candidates.
15 Feb 2018
15 Feb 2018
Advisor mentors can maintain their status if they have completed 2 HDR candidates as advisor mentor in the previous 5 years.
4 June 2018
4 June 2018
If a Primary Advisor is not or ceases to be a paid employee of the university, the College Dean must approve their continuing to be Primary Advisor to their HDR Candidate/s.
16 August 2018
17 August 2018
Contract/Adjunct staff with contracts of any length can supervise. Qualified replacement advisor must sign agreement.
3 December 2018
3 December 2018
Add Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships
|24 April 2019||24 April 2019|
Remove requirement for an Advisor Mentor on Masters-level Advisory Panels, Add “Primary Advisor Advanced” level and rework to improve fluency.
|21-1||Minor amendment||13 Jan 2021||Amend inconsistencies in Table 1 and 6.4: Advisor Mentor criteria: Successful HDR Supervision: Yes, 2 HDR (at least one as Primary Advisor and at least one a PhD completion).|