Policy Research Education Graduates Attributes of Research Higher Degree Programs Policy and Procedure

Graduates Attributes of Research Higher Degree Programs Policy and Procedure

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Policy and Procedure


1.1          As Australia's leading tropical research university, James Cook University has established the overall qualities, skills, knowledge and abilities that should be achieved by candidates when completing research higher degree programs including Masters by research, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and research professional doctorates. These core attributes reflect and build upon the aspirations, beliefs, values and guiding principles to which JCU subscribes. As outlined in the University’s Strategic Intent. In particular, James Cook University aims to produce graduates with the expertise and intellectual curiosity required for sustainable development of our communities, and able to conduct research to provide the knowledge and understanding needed to meet the challenges facing northern Australia and the tropics world-wide.

1.2          The following principles have been adopted in developing the statement of research higher degree attributes:

  • to the extent possible, the attributes should be indicators of general and discipline-specific knowledge, skills, qualities and abilities;
  • the statement of attributes must cater for the diversity of disciplines in the University while providing a framework for the University as a whole;
  • the statement of attributes should be based on international benchmarks;
  • the process of embedding the graduate attributes must occur at college or discipline level;
  • there should be qualitative differentiation between research Masters and Doctoral professional (research masters and PhD) graduate attributes.

1.3           It is expected that:

  • the graduate attributes listed below will be fostered during the research higher degree process, supplemented by a personal development program which will be developed by the candidate and supervisory team during the confirmation of candidature process and monitored via the annual reporting process;
  • research higher degree students will develop these attributes in the context of their personal goals, career aspirations and disciplinary opportunities;
  • Appendix A suggests a series of ways the attainment of the attributes might be gauged;
  • Appendix B identifies processes at the college or discipline level for embedding the graduate attributes.


2. Statement of Attributes

2.1 James Cook University research higher degree programs aim to provide graduates with the opportunity to develop the following attributes.

2.2 Knowledge and skills in the field of study

  • In-depth, significant knowledge at the forefront of the field;
  • Advanced understanding of key perspectives related to the field.

2.3 Effective communication

  • Capacity to communicate ideas effectively to a range of audiences inside and outside the field of study or discipline and to the wider community;
  • Capacity to communicate knowledge for the education of others, which may include teaching and supervision;
  • Ability to work collaboratively and effectively with others, within a range of teams and contexts, respecting individual roles and responsibilities.

2.4 Critical judgement and research skills

  • Ability to engage effectively in the discipline’s philosophy of enquiry and discourses ;
  • Ability to conduct independent and original research and scholarship, which may be demonstrated by:
  • understanding and developing concepts;
  • formulating viable research questions;
  • accessing and managing information at an advanced level;
  • designing and implementing methodologies appropriate to the discipline or field of study;
  • analysing and synthesising information or data from a variety of sources;
  • critically analysing one's own research and placing this research in a broader (preferably international) theoretical, practical and policy context;
  • setting research goals, planning, and ordering activities to complete a complex project within available resources.

2.5 Independence, creativity and learning

  • Ability to make a substantive and independent contribution to knowledge in the discipline or field of study in an original and scholarly way;
  • Ability to apply existing skills and knowledge to identify and formulate new problems;
  • Ability to develop inventive solutions, demonstrating flexibility and resourcefulness;
  • Ability to identify and take serendipitous advantage of research opportunities;
  • Ability to lead projects in the discipline.

2.6 Ethical and social understanding

  • A clear understanding and demonstration of ethical, legal, social and civic responsibility as a researcher and member of the discipline;
  • Capacity to understand and respect interdisciplinary and diverse cultural perspectives, and the roles and expertise of others;
  • Appreciation of local, national and global issues and the social and philosophical contexts relating to research and practice in the discipline, particularly in the tropics (if appropriate to the discipline);
  • Commitment to professional development and the discipline or profession, and a willingness to listen and respond to constructive feedback.

3. Comparative Attributes of Graduates of Research Masters and Doctoral programs

3.1 The difference in the attributes of graduates of research Masters and Doctoral programs is of a qualitative rather than quantitative nature, with Doctoral graduates demonstrating a higher level of attainment of the same knowledge, skills, qualities and abilities.

3.2 Compared with graduates of research Masters programs and Doctoral graduates will demonstrate a greater:

  • depth and breadth of knowledge, including 'cutting-edge' knowledge, and skills;
  • emphasis on original contribution to knowledge;
  • ability to conduct independent research;
  • capacity to perform larger, and more complex research tasks;
  • level of responsibility for design, conduct and reporting of research.


Indicators of Successful Attainment of Graduate Attributes

Graduates of research higher degree programs will demonstrate their attainment of graduate attributes through a variety of means.

Indicators may include successful completion of:

  • Academic milestones (including confirmation of candidature, mid-candidature review, annual reports and pre-completion seminar);
  • Written thesis /dissertation (which may include published papers and performance works);
  • Academic progress reports, including a record of timely completion of project tasks and objectives;
  • Seminar and research group presentations;
  • Adherence to ethical guidelines;
  • Where such activities have been undertaken, successful completion of:
  • Journal paper reviews;
  • Scholarly publications;
  • Conference presentations (oral and poster);
  • Oral thesis defence;
  • Public performances/displays (where appropriate);
  • Media interviews;
  • Demonstration of strong performance in teaching (for example, curriculum design, seminars, lectures, tutorials) through student feedback, teaching evaluations, peer observation and evaluation, and other assessment mechanisms;
  • Training courses and professional development workshops;
  • Written defence of thesis assessors’ comment;
  • Industry placement;
  • Applications to ethics committees;
  • Contribution to preparation of tenders and grant applications for contract research, research consultancies and competitive research grant projects;
  • CV preparation.


Embedding Graduate Attributes – Research Training and Learning Experiences

Research higher degree training provides candidates with the opportunity to acquire graduate attributes through a variety of learning experiences that may vary according to the discipline.

These include:

  • Meeting candidature milestones;
  • Preparation of confirmation of candidature documents and seminar presentation and response to feedback;
  • Preparation of mid candidature review documents and seminar presentation (if required) and response to feedback;
  • Preparation of pre-completion seminar presentation and response to feedback;
  • Preparation of thesis chapters and response to feedback;
  • Writing and editing manuscripts for publication and response to feedback;
  • Contribution to preparation of research tenders and grant applications;
  • Preparation of applications to ethics committees;
  • Applying for travel scholarships and other grants;
  • Working with professionals and peers;
  • Supervision and mentoring by supervisory team;
  • Participating in and presenting at seminars and/or journal clubs;
  • Conference attendance and presentation (oral and poster);
  • Providing feedback to the oral presentations of others;
  • Opportunities to perform and display work and receive feedback;
  • Participation in team work and collaborative projects;
  • Assisting supervisors in reviewing journal articles;
  • Co-supervision/associate supervision for undergraduate, honours and postgraduate coursework students);
  • Co-teaching or contribution to teaching especially with members of supervisory team;
  • Opportunities to network with international experts in discipline (for example, conference attendance, interacting with international visitors, international thesis assessors, publishing in international journals);
  • Industry/organisational placements or part-time employment;
  • Membership of and participation in professional organizations, committees;
  • Training opportunities;
  • Completion of graduate certificate or graduate diploma in higher education teaching and/or or commercialisation;
  • Participation in research skills program and other training courses/workshops/seminars/debates/case studies, for example;
  • AV skills;
  • Report writing skills;
  • Oral presentation skills;
  • Preparation of publications;
  • Tutoring skills;
  • Lecturing/teaching skills;
  • Supervision skills;
  • Media presentation skills;
  • Advanced library and information search skills;
  • Research skills;
  • Data analytic techniques;
  • Specific technical skills related to thesis area;
  • Commercialisation boot camps;
  • Ethical and professional issues in the discipline;
  • Career planning, CV writing, job applications and interviews.

These attributes have been informed by the corresponding attributes produced by the University of Queensland and the former attributes approved for JCU in the context of JCU’s Strategic Intent.


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

Approval Details

Policy Sponsor


Approval Authority

Academic Board

Date for next Major Review (in accordance with the Policy Handbook)


Revision History

NOTE: A minor amendment will not result in a change of the next major review date.

Approval date - the date the approval authority approved the establishment, minor or major amendment or disestablishment

Implementation Date - the date the policy was published in the Policy Library and is the date the policy takes effect


Approval date

Implementation date



18-1 30/04/2018

Changes made to reflect headline restructure 30/04/2018.

Quality, Standards and Policy
17-119/01/201727/01/2017Minor amendments to align with current organisation structure and current delegation practiceQuality, Standards and Policy Officer




Policy sponsor and approval authority amended to reflect approved policy framework.







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