Policy Academic Governance HDR Supervision Procedure

HDR Supervision Procedure

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The purpose of this document is to outline the requirements of a Higher Degree by Research Advisory Panel and Candidature Committee, consistent with these overarching principles:

  • 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.
  • HDR supervision practices are also informed by the broader Researcher Supervision Procedure.
  • Primary Advisors of HDR candidates should be actively carrying out research and publishing in a relevant discipline area.
  • Continuity of supervision and candidature committee is one of the most important principles of good advisory practice.
  • College leaders, or equivalent, oversee workload and performance management of advisors. They should work with the Graduate Research School (GRS)  to ensure advisors’ professional development is effectively managed.
  • The JCU Register of Advisors should be managed to ensure that advisors are admitted to the register at the appropriate level. In assessing applications Colleges and the Graduate Research School make discretionary
    decisions about supervisor experience and research experience and capacity.


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 terms ‘supervisor’ and ‘advisor’ may be used interchangeably. The term ‘advisor’ is preferred at JCU, while recognising that ‘supervisor’ is also used in the sector and in the associated literatures.

Advisory Panel

The panel of advisors nominated by the ADRE on behalf of the College Dean and approved by the Dean, Graduate Research (or nominee) to undertake the day-to-day supervision of the HDR candidate.

The Advisory Panel, led by the Primary Advisor, is expected to support a candidate’s timely completion by enabling:

  • research work and write up
  • contingency planning
  • access to resources
  • management of milestone preparation and events
  • compliance with governance requirements
  • appropriate record keeping on meetings and progress
  • dissemination of research for academic and community   impact
  • engagement with industry, business, government,   community and the broader academy
  • career planning and transferable skills development
  • negotiation of appropriate meeting arrangements.

Advisory Panel members each take a holistic and responsible approach to candidature management, offering pastoral care and staying alert to candidate and advisory panel well-being, referring matters as needed. Advisory Panel members review and negotiate expectations with the candidate as required.

Primary Advisor

The Primary Advisor leads the Advisory Panel and the effective supervision of the candidate. The Primary Advisor’s role involves guiding alignment of research with award requirements including to:

  • informing the scope and focus of the research supporting and enabling the research education of the candidate and acculturation into their research community
  • overseeing milestone management to support the candidate’s achievement of timely progress to completion
  • ensuring effective communication within the advisory panel
  • guiding and reporting on candidature milestones
  • Inform the scope and focus of the research

One Primary Advisor is required at all stages of HDR Candidature and will be appointed for the duration of the candidature.

A Primary Advisor will be on the JCU Register of Advisors with either Primary Advisor or Advisor Mentor status. The Primary Advisor will be a member of the academic staff (or adjunct or conjoint staff) of the College in which the candidate is enrolled, or be otherwise formally contracted and accountable to the University for supervisory duties.

Secondary Advisor

A Secondary Advisor works with the candidate, the Primary Advisor and other panel members to enable progress to enable timely completion. A Secondary Advisor’s contribution is negotiated in the context of the panel, and may include:

  • disciplinary knowledge and expertise
  • knowledge of research methods and methodology
  • knowledge of research education.

One Secondary Advisor is required throughout HDR Candidate and will be appointed for the duration of the candidature. A Secondary Advisor may act for the Primary Advisor when they are unavailable.

Additional Secondary Advisors can be added to a maximum of four advisory panel members.

A Secondary Advisor will be on the JCU Register of Advisors.

External Advisor

External Advisors may bring expertise from other organisations and/or may represent a research partner organisation, including conjoint appointments. Details of industry-based external advisors must be captured for reporting purposes.

Up to two External Advisors in addition to the Primary and Secondary Advisor can be appointed to the Panel for the duration of candidature to a maximum of four panel members.

External Advisors are not required to be on the JCU Register of Advisors and are not usually members of the University’s academic staff.

Advisor Mentor

Advisor Mentors provide leadership on advisory practices to the JCU community. The role of the Advisor Mentor on an Advisory Panel varies and may include:

  • developing the advisory capacity of the other members of the Advisory Panel, both individually and collectively
  • applying their own experience and knowledge of HDR management and academic disciplinary practices to support the candidate to progress timely completion
  • contributing to planning contingency, resource access, compliance with governance requirements and research work and write up.

An Advisor Mentor is not required on a Masters Advisory Panel.

An Advisor Mentor is required on a Doctoral Advisory Panel where the Primary and Secondary advisors are not experienced (i.e. have no record of at least one PhD completion).

Advisor Mentors can be requested by the Candidate, Panel member, ADRE or other key stakeholder at any point from admission onward through candidature. A Mentor may join a panel for part or all of a candidature.

Advisor Mentors will be on the JCU Register of Advisors.

Candidature Committee

A Candidature Committee is constituted to monitor the progress of an individual HDR candidate.

A Doctoral Candidature Committee includes a Chair, Independent Academic and the Advisory Panel. At least one of the Chair and Independent Academic will have relevant expertise.

A Masters Candidature Committee does not require an Independent Academic.

A Candidature Committee is normally appointed in preparation for the Confirmation of Candidature Milestone and is appointed for the duration of candidature.

Chair of Candidature Committee

A Chair of Candidature Committee is nominated by the Advisory Panel and appointed by the ADRE on behalf of the College. The Chair has responsibility to engage with the candidate and Advisory Panel through milestone processes to review candidate capacity, and the scope and range of the research.

The Chair will work with the Candidature Committee to evaluate and advise on the sustainability of the candidature accounting for time, infrastructure and human resource considerations.

The Chair’s role in supporting timely completion, through milestone processes, includes:

  • acknowledging successes
  • identifying any issues, contingencies or additional action as required
  • responding to the candidate’s circumstances or concerns
  • recommending additional support and mentoring as required
  • overseeing the Committee’s efficient and effective reporting on milestone outcomes.

Chair of Committee nominees will be on the JCU Register of Advisors. The Chair will complete GRS professional development requirements prior to nomination, and may be briefed by the ADRE about particular responsibilities associated with the role at the time of appointment.

Independent Academic

An Independent Academic is nominated by the Advisory Panel and appointed by the ADRE on behalf of the College.

The Independent Academic’s role is to support timely completion and may be negotiated to include:

  • assessing the candidate’s capacity and scope of work required for successful completion
  • critiquing aspects of the project or candidature
  • informing effective communication within the panel
  • advocating for the candidate and their candidature

The Independent Academic will be a member of the JCU Register of Advisors. The Independent Academic is encouraged to complete GRS professional development requirements and may be briefed by the ADRE on particular responsibilities associated with the role.

JCU Register of Advisors

A managed list of staff, adjunct and conjoint staff, and industry partners of the University who have completed professional development requirements and are qualified to be appointed to the Advisory Panel of a higher degree by research candidate.

College Dean or Nominee

The academic staff member with responsibility for the higher degree by research candidates enrolled in their College.

College Deans or their nominee (usually the ADRE)  are responsible for taking action where a panel member has become unavailable and for the nominating an alternative advisor following consultation with key stakeholders.

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, Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships and the Higher Degree by Research Code of Practice.

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 JCU Register of Advisors.

2.2 Include one person who is designated as Primary Advisor who is on the JCU Register of Advisors with Primary Advisor status or higher.

2.4 Include at least one Secondary Advisor who is a member of the academic staff of the University and is on the JCU Register of Advisors where the Primary Advisor is not a member of the academic staff of the University.

2.3 If the Primary, Secondary or Advisor Mentor is not a JCU academic staff member they must:

2.3.1 be a formally appointed adjunct or conjoint staff member of the university; and

2.3.2 be on the JCU Register of Advisors; and

2.3.3 have the approval of the College Dean to act as an Advisor.

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 JCU Register of Advisors.

2.6 At least one member of a Doctoral Advisory Panel should have at least one PhD completion as Primary Advisor, otherwise an Advisor Mentor is required on the panel.

2.7  There is no requirement for a Masters panel to include an Advisor Mentor, though one may be recommended by the ADRE or others as appropriate at any point during candidature.

2.8 A Panel must not consist only of adjunct and/or conjoint staff members unless when approved by College Dean on a case-by-case basis.

2.9 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 adjunct/conjoint 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, unless their appointment is for the full duration of candidature.

3.3 Alternative arrangements may include but are not limited to:

3.3.1 the appointment of the nominated Replacement Advisor for a specified period;

3.3.2 the re-weighting of roles of other members of the Advisory Panel to ensure continued support for the candidate during this period; or

3.3.3 the permanent replacement of the Primary Advisor, normally with the nominated Replacement Advisor.

3.4 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.

3.5 The Dean of College or their nominee shall be responsible, after consultation with the candidate and other key stakeholders as required, to nominate an alternative advisory arrangement (normally involving the nominated Replacement Advisor) for approval by the Dean, Graduate Research where:

3.5.1 an advisor ceases to meet the requirements for continuing HDR supervision, or is not available to advise a candidate for a period normally exceeding six weeks where no prior arrangements have been made, or

3.5.2 the Advisory Panel cease to comply with this Procedure.

3.6 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 progress, 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. Where conflicts (e.g., co-authorship or shared grants, near-relatives or partners) are present, a conflict of interest should be declared and managed in accordance with the JCU Code of Conduct .

5.2 Chairs of Candidature Committees and Independent Academics must undertake appropriate professional development to be eligible to hold the status on the JCU Register of Advisors.

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 JCU Register of Advisors is provided at Table 1, below.

6.2 Applications for admission to the JCU Register of Advisors should be made by completing the appropriate Application to JCU Register of Advisors Form.

6.3 The minimum criteria for admission to the JCU Register of Advisors include:

  • a research doctorate or equivalent.
  • an appointment at JCU (including an adjunct or conjoint appointment) or a formal contract for supervision duties.
  • successful completion of required Advisor Professional Development.
  • authorship of at least one ERA recognised publication (or equivalent creative output) in the preceding two years.Those without an academic, adjunct or conjoint appointment may only be External Advisors.

6.4 In addition to the essential criteria specified above, the criteria for admission to the higher levels of the JCU Register of Advisors are as follows:

  • Primary Advisor Status: ‘Research Active’ as defined by the Research Performance Model.
  • Advisor Mentor Status: ‘Research Active’ plus supervision to successful completion of at least two HDR candidates in the preceding five years, at least one as Primary Advisor and at least one a PhD completion. Advisor Mentors maintain 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 JCU Register of Advisors

Advisor level

PhD held

Completion and maintenance of GRS Advisor Training & Development

Base Level of Publications

‘Research Active’ (see 6.4)

Successful HDR Supervision

Max # students as Primary

Secondary Advisor






Primary Advisor





If Primary and Secondary have no completions, an Advisor Mentor is to be appointed for a PhD candidature

3 (up to 5 with college dean approval)

Advisor Mentor





Yes, 2 HDR ( at least one as Primary advisor and at least one a PhD completion)


[1] 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 JCU Register of Advisors at any time by submitting an updated Application for JCU Register of Advisors Form . As part of the reclassification process, the Dean Graduate Research will require advisors to undertake additional professional development.

8. Continuation on the Register

8.1 After appointments to the register, currency will be reviewed every 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 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.8.4 In undertaking Performance and Development planning, line managers will consider the expectations of academics at the relevant level, accounting for indicators of advisor performance provided in annual reporting,. The advisor’s record will be available as an annual report provided by the GRS.

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 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, adjunct and conjoint staff who have “Primary Advisor” status on the JCU Advisor Register should not be the Primary Advisor of more than three HDR candidates.  Exceptions to this practice will be granted by the Dean, Graduate Research with the written agreement of the relevant College Dean.

10.3 Staff, adjunct and conjoint staff who have “Advisor Mentor” status on the Advisor Register should not be the Primary Advisory of more than seven HDR candidates to minimise the risk to the university if they become unavailable to advise candidates. Exceptions to this practice will be granted by the Dean, Graduate Research with the written agreement of the relevant College Dean.

10.4 Continuing staff who have signed an agreement to take over as Primary Advisor of a candidate whose Primary Advisor becomes unavailable, 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.

10.5 Any restrictions on the award of stipend scholarships to applicants with Primary Advisors in particular categories will be outlined in the Scholarship Scoring Procedure.

E. Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships

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 procedures (see Related Documents).

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 College Dean will work with the Dean, Graduate Research 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.

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 roles.
  • 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, as the primary author, from their higher degree research accepted for publication prior to thesis submission.
  • 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 their HDR candidates 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).
  • The advisor has a record of successful rescue supervision or assisting teams overcome barriers to bringing candidates to completion.

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 or Advisor Mentor

Secondary Advisor

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 Advisor fails to identify and instigate contingency plans to support progress, avoid delays and demonstrate good practice in responding to the dynamic nature of research work.



9. The HDR candidates of the advisor are not developing other expected scholarly research skills e.g. conference presentation/publication of work



10. The advisor has been identified as ineligible to supervise due to not meeting one or more of the eligibility criteria or for reasons identified by HR or the College Dean



11. The advisor has had an allegation of serious research misconduct upheld against them



12. 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 JCU Register of Advisors accreditation or be de-registered from the JCU Register of Advisors.

**The Advisor will be de-registered from the JCU Register of Advisors.

Related policy instruments

This procedure is to be read in conjunction with the requirements of:



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

August 2024

Revision History

Version no.

Approval date

Implementation date


22-1 13  June 2022 13 June 2022 Clarify advisor mentor panel requirement  
21-2 10 August 2021 21 August 2021 Clarify advisor roles, remove “Primary Advisor Advanced. MAJOR REVIEW  
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).  


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.



3 December 2018

3 December 2018

Add Principles for Respectful Supervisory Relationships



16 August 2018

17 August 2018

Contract/Adjunct staff with contracts of any length can supervise.  Qualified replacement advisor must sign agreement.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.)



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.

Contact person Dean, Graduate Research