Policy Academic Governance JCU Higher Degree Research Graduate Attributes Policy

JCU Higher Degree Research Graduate Attributes Policy

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This policy outlines the attributes central to the development of JCU Higher Degree Research Graduates.


This policy applies to candidates undertaking a Higher Degree by Research program delivered by JCU.


Except as otherwise specified in this Policy, the meaning of terms used in this Policy are as per the Policy Glossary.


The many challenges facing human societies in the third decade of the twenty-first century require innovative, evidence-based solutions.

Higher degree research (HDR) in our universities is the engine of Australia’s research efforts.

Higher degree candidatures are spaces for innovation, for testing new ideas and approaches though systematic processes, and through active collaborations.

For James Cook University, higher degree research provides the mechanism for addressing the University’s strategic emphasis on social, cultural and environmental sustainability, and for promoting a better life for all in the global tropics.

Candidates completing a higher degree by research at James Cook University investigate contemporary problems, working individually and together from within and across different disciplines to purposefully research solutions.

For candidates, the educational benefits of undertaking a higher degree by research are a means for realising their intellectual capacity while contributing to their scholarly field of interest. Candidates assume control over their projects, develop themselves as active and engaged adult learners and develop high level research, collaborative and transferrable skills that position them to make an enhanced contribution to their profession.

The HDR program at James Cook University is closely allied to the professions, to community and to industry. Our educational aim is to position our graduates to pursue careers within multiple sectors of society, within Australia and internationally. Our graduates enrich their professions through advancing theory and enhanced skills, they contribute to the generation of new knowledge and they bring heightened understandings to consideration of existing conditions.


James Cook University produces higher degree by research graduates with disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise and intellectual curiosity in alignment with the University’s commitment to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Our graduates conduct rigorous research that creates new scholarship and understanding. They have the confidence to become knowledge leaders and agents of change to respond to challenges facing northern Australia and the tropics worldwide. JCU HDR graduates are equipped to pursue a wide range of careers in academia, industry, the public sector, the professions, and emerging fields of endeavour.

The following attributes are central to the development of our graduates. Each attribute should be interpreted through the relevant disciplinary or interdisciplinary context, recognising that all individuals bring knowledge, skills, social and cultural competencies, personal goals, and career aspirations to their research candidature.

Description of HDR Graduate Attributes

Higher Degree by Research Graduate Attributes are described within five categories:

  1. Discipline Expertise
    1. Graduates possess disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge at the forefront of their field
    2. They understand methodologies, theoretical perspectives and practice and have the ability to apply these to the praxis of original research
    3. They demonstrate the technical capabilities that enable ethical collection, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of data.
  2. Engagement and Influence
    1. Graduates are able to actively participate in national and global, disciplinary and interdisciplinary networks to ensure their research is informed by different perspectives
    2. They are able to undertake research collaboratively, respectfully and effectively within teams and within and across different professional and disciplinary contexts
    3. They are able to articulate scholarly arguments clearly and convincingly, in a variety of formats
    4. They are able to communicate the meaning and impact of their research findings to local, Australian and international communities.
  3. Innovation and Impact
    1. Graduates recognise the contribution their research makes in their field, or fields, and bring innovative, evidence-based solutions to discussions of problems.
    2. They seek to maximise the impact of their research by undertaking knowledge exchange in Australia and internationally
    3. They demonstrate a commitment to life-long learning to remain at the forefront of knowledge and innovation in their chosen research fields.
  4. Career capability
    1. Graduates are able to identify their transferable skills (e.g. problem solving, critical thinking, time management, and written and oral communication) gained throughout their HDR candidature and apply these to diverse professional settings
    2. They can work within specified budgetary and material parameters to produce outcomes that effectively answer research questions in a timely way
    3. They recognise and develop personal attributes known to be valued by employers, such as initiative, honesty, autonomy, judgement, resilience and adaptability.
  5. Integrity and Social Responsibility
    1. Graduates commit to truth, accuracy, and social and environmental responsibility as researchers and as members of one or more disciplinary communities
    2. They understand and respect interdisciplinary and diverse cultural perspectives when engaging with education, business, industry, government, non-government and other sectors of society beyond the academy
    3. They can appreciate the social, environmental, cultural, gender and philosophical perspectives informing research and practice in their disciplinary and professional contexts at different levels and scales.

Embedding Graduate Attributes

Higher degree by research education provides candidates with the opportunity to acquire graduate attributes through a number of scaffolded learning experiences that may vary according to discipline. Attributes are developed while performing discipline-specific research and working with advisory teams and enrolling academic units, and through professional development activities as part of a program managed by the University’s Graduate Research School.

Indicators of Successful Attainment of Graduate Attributes

Graduates of higher degree by research programs will demonstrate attainment through indicators such as (but not limited to):

  • Successful completion of candidature milestones
  • Successful completion of the higher degree by research program
  • Publication of peer-reviewed research papers, reports and other scholarly outputs
  • Presentation of research at scholarly and professional conferences
  • Quality of critical thinking skills, analysis and written communication as measured in the assessment of the examined thesis
  • Successful completion of University sponsored professional development activities
  • Successful engagement with business, industry, professional associations, government departments and non-government bodies and communities by completing an internship, or mentoring program, or other collaborative research-based endeavour.
  • Demonstrated capacity to realise the potential of research findings though effective communication with the broader community.

Related policy instruments

Higher Degree by Research Requirements Policy

Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research


NOTE: Printed copies of this policy are uncontrolled, and currency can only be assured at the time of printing.

Approval Details

Policy DomainAcademic Governance
Policy Sub-domainResearch Education

Policy Custodian

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research

Approval Authority

Academic Board

Date for next Major Review


Revision History


Approval date

Implementation date






Policy established to replace the Graduate Attributes of Research Higher Degree Programs Policy and Procedure.

Dean, Graduate Research


graduate attributes, higher degree by research, graduate success, candidate milestones

Contact person

Dean, Graduate Research