Policy Academic Governance HDR Application Procedure

HDR Application Procedure

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This procedure has been established to specify how applications for Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidature are to be made.

This procedure addresses HESF Standards 1.1: Admission, and 4.2: Research Education.


These requirements apply to applicants for HDR courses offered by the University, and to relevant University staff involved in the application assessment process.


Terms mentioned in this document and not defined here are defined in the Glossary of Terms for Policies in the Student and Teaching and Course Management chapters of the University Policy Library and in the Higher Degree by Research (HDR) Requirements.


A person wishing to gain entry to and enrolment in a Higher Degree by Research at James Cook University must follow the procedures outlined below and at the graduate Research School (GRS) ‘How to Apply’ web page.

1. Application Procedure

1.1 Prior to submitting a formal HDR application, prospective applicants are encouraged to assess their eligibility against the Entry Requirements in the HDR Requirements.

1.2 Prior to submitting a formal application, prospective applicants must first engage with a Primary Advisor in their area of research interest. This can be done in various ways including, but not exclusive to the following:

  • using the JCU Research Portfolio to find a Primary Advisor in the relevant area of research interest and contacting them directly to confirm they agree to take on the role.
  • Using the Available Projects page to find a project of interest, then contacting the lead investigator directly to confirm they agree to take on the role.
  • Submitting an Expression of Interest outlining the prospective applicant’s research interests to be connected with an appropriate Advisor.
  • Contacting an Advisor already known to the prospective applicant (e.g. a former advisor) to confirm they agree to take on the role

1.3 The potential Primary Advisor is strongly advised to interview the prospective applicant.

1.4 The Primary Advisor is to respond to a formal Expression of Interest or provide advice to the HDR Administrator within their College who may respond on the Primary Advisor's behalf.

1.5 A Primary Advisor may decline to supervise a prospective applicant for reasons including, but not limited to, the following:

  • A lack of supervisory capacity due to current or expected supervisory commitments
  • The applicant’s research not matching their own expertise, experience or research plans
  • Concerns regarding the applicants’ suitability for, or readiness to undertake the proposed research degree
  • The Primary Advisor’s anticipated employment at the University not aligning with the time frame for the proposed degree (e.g. duration of contract, retirement plans)
  • Concerns regarding the applicant’s capacity to comply with the UN and Australian Autonomous Sanctions legislation.

1.6 When a Primary Advisor has informally agreed to supervise a prospective applicant, APP_FORM_01 Higher Degree by Research Application Form should be completed.

1.7 Applications must be made through the University’s online application system, eStudent.  In the online application the applicant must:

1.8 Once a complete application has been received, the GRS will ensure the information provided is sufficient for the application to be assessed. International applicants will also be assessed for English Language Proficiency and Australian qualification equivalence. If the applicant is from a country that is subject to United Nations and Australian Autonomous Sanctions, the GRS will take the required action(s) in accordance with the HDR United Nations Autonomous Sanctions Procedure.

1.9 The complete application and APP-FORM-02 HDR Application Assessment & Outcome form will be forwarded by the Graduate Research School to the appropriate College for assessment.

1.10 The College Dean (or their nominee) will provide their endorsement of that the candidate is eligible for admission into the degree (APP-FORM-02), as well as provide an assessment for the scholarship application on the Scholarship Scoring Sheet if the candidate has indicated they wish to be considered for a centrally funded scholarship.  The APP-FORM-02 HDR Application Assessment & Outcome form and Scholarship Scoring Sheet (if relevant) must be sent back to the GRS.

1.11 The Dean, Graduate Research will determine the outcome of eligibility of admission of an application, and advice of this outcome will be forwarded to the GRS Academic Services team.  Where the applicant has also indicated their wish to be considered for a centrally funded Postgraduate Research Scholarship, the Scholarship Scoring Sheet will be assessed as per the HDR Scholarship Scoring Procedure.

1.12 If an applicant is successful in their application for admission to a HDR and has met all requirements, the GRS will prepare an Offer for the degree program.

1.13 If the applicant was not successful in their application for admission to a HDR, they will be notified that their application has been declined.  Where an application has been declined, the applicant will be provided with justification for this outcome, e.g. insufficient research capacity or lack of supervisory capacity.

1.14 The Offer for Admission or Offer Declined notification will be sent to the applicant via the email address specified in their application and will be copied to the nominated Advisors and College.

1.15 Where an application for admission has been declined, the applicant may appeal the decision in writing to the Dean, Graduate Research within ten (10) University working days of notification of the outcome as outlined in the Student Review and Appeal Policy and Procedure.

NOTE: At any stage of the procedure, the Primary Advisor, College Dean or nominee or Dean, Graduate Research or nominee may:

  • Ask for more information from an applicant or their primary advisor
  • Decline an application
  • Recommend specific conditions of offer or enrolment
  • Offer an alternative degree to the applicant.

1.16 An applicant who wishes to change their Offer for Admission should contact the GRS in writing prior to the expiry date of the Offer for Admission to specify the change being sought.

1.17 Applicants who wish to defer their commencement should contact the GRS to determine a new commencement date.  The new commencement date must be within the same calendar year, and the Advisory Panel and College must be able to support the new commencement date.  If the applicant wishes to modify their commencement date to a different calendar year, they must reapply via the online application process.

The request for a deferral may be denied if the original conditions of the Offer for Admission cannot be met at the proposed amended commencement date, for example the availability of the Advisors cannot be assured or the required resources will no longer be available. In these cases the offer may be rescinded.

1.18 The Offer for Admission will specify a date by which the applicant must formally indicate their acceptance of the Offer. Failure to accept the Offer by the specified date may result in the Offer being rescinded.

1.19 International applicants must meet the University requirements, such as the payment of fees, for a Confirmation of Enrolment to be issued in order to apply for an Australian visa.

1.20 An applicant whose Offer expires or is rescinded may be required to submit a new application, where it is determined by the Dean, Graduate Research that the original application is no longer sufficiently relevant.

Related policy instruments

HDR Requirements

HDR Expression of Interest form

APP_FORM_01 Higher Degree by Research Application Form

HDR Recognition of Prior Learning Application Form

HDR United Nations Autonomous Sanctions Procedure

HDR Scholarship Scoring Procedure




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

Approval Details

Policy DomainAcademic Governance

Policy Sub-domain

Research Education

Policy Custodian

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research

Approval Authority

Academic Board

Date for next Major Review


Revision History

Version no.

Approval date

Implementation date


23-117/07/202304/08/2023Major reviewManager, Graduate Research School
20-1 29 October 2020 29 October 2020 Add Recognition of Prior Learning Link 


16 June 2019 16 June 2019

Merge candidature and scholarship applications



21 March 2016

29 March 2016


Contact personDean, Graduate Research