Policy Research Management James Cook University Research Centres & Institutes Policy

James Cook University Research Centres & Institutes Policy

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This policy sets out the principles and processes relating to the establishment, governance, renewal and disestablishment of the University’s research Centres and Institutes.


This policy applies to the development of research Centres and Institutes at all James Cook University campuses.

The policy does not apply to research ventures established with significant external funding and specific governance requirements (e.g., Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs), ARC Centres of Excellence, partnerships and joint ventures).

Policy and Procedures

The role of research Centres and Institutes is to advance the productivity and standing of research and research training at James Cook University by:

  • Identifying and promoting areas of institutional research excellence

  • Strengthening research capability

  • Engaging with research users and other stakeholders

  • Attracting external funding

  • Improving the quality and quantity of research outputs

  • Aligning resources with research productivity

  • Enhancing the career development and research opportunities of staff

  • Attracting high quality staff and higher degree by research (HDR) students

  • Enriching the research culture of the university

  • Fostering collaboration across disciplinary and Faculty boundaries.

Research Centres and Institutes are intended to be primary avenues through which JCU interacts regionally, nationally and globally with governments, industry, NGOs, communities and other research institutions.

The portfolio of Centres and Institutes should project the University’s strategic intent and enable the development of critical mass and focus through concentration of resources in areas of research strength which have national and international profile.

Research Centres and Institutes are expected to make significant contributions to the research culture of Schools, Faculties and the University, including training and mentoring of HDR students and early career researchers.

1. Roles of Centres and Institutes

The University recognises four categories of research groupings:

  • Institutes

  • Level 1 Centres

  • Level 2 Centres

  • Collaborative Ventures.

1.1    Institutes

Research Institutes should visibly project the University’s strategic intent to our stakeholders and play a critical role as a portal between the University and a broad spectrum of research stakeholders.

They may be prominent, large scale, multi-disciplinary research groupings or entities to lift research capacity and performance through strategic leadership, coordination and collaboration between allied research Centres.

They deploy expertise and capabilities in pursuit of clearly articulated socio-economic objectives that connect to, and are of significance to public policy, industry and the community; regionally, nationally and globally.

Institutes bring together the expertise of research Centres and the academic staff at large, to provide an enabling and business development role. They promote cross-disciplinary research opportunities to address issues that individual researchers or research Centres which, on their own, lack sufficient capability or critical mass.

Institutes have the responsibility to actively engage Centres and collaborative ventures in the development and delivery of research and research training.

1.2    Level 1 Centres

A Level 1 research Centre comprises a significant group of leading researchers working collaboratively in a clearly defined field of inquiry. As with Institutes, Level 1 Centres are expected to articulate their socio-economic objectives with reference to the interests of governments, industry and/or communities.

Membership is typically cross-School and in general a Level 1 Centre will have at least five key researchers who can demonstrate a national or international reputation for research excellence. Level 1 Centres perform a role in fostering the development of early career researchers.

Researchers from other research providers, industry, government or NGOs may be members of Centres.

It is intended that Level 1 Centres will have alignment with one or more Institutes although that does not preclude establishing a non-aligned Centre in, for example, an emerging field of research.

1.3    Level 2 Centres

A Level 2 Centre has at least three active key researchers working collaboratively in a clearly defined field of inquiry. Relative to Level 1 Centres, the research may be more disciplinary focused and the membership can be drawn from one School. Level 2 Centres should be able to demonstrate a developing reputation and potential for growth.

1.4    Collaborative Ventures

Collaborative ventures are a broadly defined class of research activities characterised by the significant involvement of external agencies. Some involve partnerships with other research providers, as well as with a funding body; e.g., ARC Centres of Excellence and CRCs. Other examples of collaborative ventures include partnerships, joint ventures, and alliances.

Collaborative ventures typically have external financial and/or governance requirements and, accordingly, are not covered under this policy.

2. Establishment, Duration and Renewal of Research Centres and Institutes

2.1    Establishment by the University

Approvals for the establishment, renewal, or disestablishment of Centres and Institutes are as follows:

  • Institutes: by University Council on advice from the Vice-Chancellor

  • Level 1 & 2 Centres: by the Vice-Chancellor, on advice from the Provost.

Proposals for Institutes and Centres will normally be considered by Research Committee.

2.2    Relationships with Faculties and Schools

The University recognises that some flexibility is appropriate in setting out selection criteria for Centres and Institutes and in defining relationships with Faculties and Schools.

Typically, Faculties will sponsor and manage Institutes, through a Director who reports to the respective PVC. A Faculty may be involved with more than one Institute and an Institute may be sponsored by more than one Faculty. For Institutes that are strongly cross-Faculty, line management may be through the Provost rather than a designated Faculty PVC.

Institutes will work in close collaboration with Level 1 Centres within their area of interest. A Level 1 Centre may involve staff from several Faculties and it may align with more than one Institute. Level 1 Centres ordinarily report to Faculties, through a designated PVC.

Level 2 Centres are located within Schools and their reporting line is to a designated Head of School. A Level 2 Centre may include staff from more than one School or Faculty. Level 2 Centres may seek to align with the activities of Institutes.

Academic staff can be members of Institutes and Centres. However, their employment relation and reporting remains with the line manager identified in their terms of employment. Centres and Institutes may recruit their own staff.

2.3    Establishment processes

2.3.1 Institutes

It is anticipated that there will be only a small number of Institutes at any time. From time to time, proposals will emanate from strategic planning discussions at senior leadership Levels. There is no annual call for proposals.

Proposals for an Institute will include:

  • Statement addressing all aspects of section 1.1 of this policy

  • a business plan

  • proposed KPIs, and

  • outline of proposed Governance arrangements.

Proposals will be submitted to the Provost for consideration.

Proposals will normally be referred by the Provost to Research Committee for comment and advice.

2.3.2 Centres

There will be a two-stage process for establishing Centres.

Stage 1 – Expression of Interest

A call for expressions of interest in the establishment of research Centres will be made annually.

An EOI will indicate:

  • Field of inquiry

  • Alignment with JCU’s Strategic Intent

  • Capacity to enhance the objectives of the Faculty and University

  • Potential to address a research need not currently met by existing structures

  • Track record of proposed lead members

  • Relationships to other research Centres and Institutes in the University

  • External relations

The EOI will be authorised by relevant Faculty PVC(s) and is to be submitted to the Provost for review.

Stage 2 – Full application

Within one month of the submission of EOIs, the Provost will invite full applications for selected proposals. Full applications will be in a format established by the Provost and will:

  • Address the selection criteria

  • Provide a strategic and business plan describing its proposed activities

  • Propose relevant KPIs.

2.4    Selection criteria for Centres

The Provost, in consultation with Faculty PVCs, will apply appropriate selection criteria and guidelines.

Selection criteria will include:

  • Alignment with institutional Strategic Intent

  • Collaborative links with other parts of the University, other research institutions, Government, industry, NGOs, community or the professions.

  • Developmental pathway, e.g., intent to move from Level 2 to Level 1 or Level 1 to host an ARC Centre of Excellence or CRC.

  • Quality of members, including the requirements for the involvement of research leaders. Indicatively, at least 5 key researchers of high research standing are required for a Level 1 Centre and 3 for a Level 2 Centre.

  • Total research capacity, including honours, HDR and post-doctoral researchers.

  • Standing of the nominated Director.

  • Capacity to supervise and mentor HDR students and ECRs

  • Governance arrangements

  • Financial plan.

Full applications will normally be referred by the Provost to Research Committee for comment and advice.

2.5    Duration

Institutes and Level 1 Centres are established for an initial period of five years, with an option for renewal subject to satisfactory review.

Level 2 Centres are established for an initial period of three years, with an option for renewal subject to satisfactory review.

A recommendation to renew Institutes will be made by the Provost to the Vice-Chancellor. A recommendation to renew Level 1 and 2 Centres will be made by a PVC to the Provost.

2.6    Affiliation of academic staff

Staff who are employed through Schools and Faculties can be members of Institutes and Centres, but their employment relation for the purposes of remuneration, assignment of duties and performance management is with the respective School/Faculty.

Institutes and Centres may employ staff directly, in which case their immediate supervisor will be the Centre/Institute Director. In the event that any staff are employed jointly by a Centre/Institute and a School/Faculty, their duties will be agreed between the Head of School/Faculty PVC and the Centre/Institute Director. Performance management will be similarly agreed.

2.7    Reserved name

Research groups at JCU may not use ‘Institute’ or ‘Centre’ in their title without successfully undergoing the application and renewal processes, as set out in this policy.

2.8    Websites

All Institutes and Centres are required to establish and maintain a web page on the University’s website. The responsibility for web pages rests with the Centre/Institute.

3. Governance of Research Centres and Institutes

The university vests the management of research Centres and Institutes in a Director, who will act in consultation with an Advisory Board/Committee.

3.1    Directors


There will be a Director appointed for Institutes by the Provost in consultation with relevant PVC(s). Institute Directors will report to the PVC(s) of the sponsoring Faculty(s). If Institutes are strongly cross-Faculty, reporting may be to the Provost.

The Institute Director should have a distinguished track record in research, but their key role as Director will be in the broad area of research leadership and business development. This includes identification of research opportunities and funding sources relevant to the research ambit of the Institute, fostering and encouraging researchers to take advantage of these opportunities, and ensuring the development and support of staff and Centres affiliated with the Institute.

Ordinarily, the role will be full time or a significant (>50%) fractional appointment.


There will be a Director appointed for Level 1 Centres by the PVC(s) of the sponsoring Faculty(s). Level 1 Centre Directors will report to the designated PVC. Where Level 1 Centres are particularly aligned with an Institute, the Centre director may report to the Institute Director at the discretion of the PVC(s).

Directors of Level 1 Centres will be an active researcher with a distinguished track record who will report to the designated PVC of the sponsoring Faculty(s).

It is expected that ordinarily Level 1 Directors will allocate up to 50% of their time, including research time, to the activities and leadership of the Centre.

Directors of Level 2 Centres will be appointed by the designated Head of School in consultation with relevant PVC(s).

Directors of Level 2 Centres will be an active researcher with a distinguished track record who will report to the Head of the sponsoring School. They are expected to allocate a significant proportion of time (e.g., 30-40% or more including research time) to the activities and leadership of the Centre.

3.2    Membership

Participation in the activities of Institutes and Centres will be based on demonstrated research achievement, taking account of performance relative to opportunity. ECR and HDR students are encouraged to be part of Centres and Institutes.

Internationally recognised research indicators including performance in attracting research income, winning grants, quality and quantity of publications, and HDR supervision will be generally common to such assessment.

Membership of an Institute or Centre does not necessarily qualify for membership in aligned Institutes or Centres.

While research achievement will be a common determinant, it is recognised that individual Institutes and Centres will vary in their approach to membership. It is the responsibility of PVC(s) of the sponsoring Faculty(s) to decide on membership, with advice from relevant Schools, Institutes and Centres.

3.3    Management and advisory committees/boards

Each Level 1 Centre and Institute must establish both a management committee and an advisory board/committee. Management committees and advisory committees/boards must operate under Terms of Reference, approved by the respective committee. Terms of Reference should be reviewed every two years.

Membership of Institute management and advisory committees requires the approval of the Provost in consultation with relevant PVC(s).

Membership of Level 1 Centre management and advisory committees requires the approval of the relevant PVC(s).

Level 2 Centres will have a management committee with management and advisory functions. Membership of a Level 2 Centre management committee requires the approval of the relevant Head(s) of School [HoS(s)].

3.3.1    Centres

Level 1 Centres will have a management committee, comprised of some members of the Centre. The management committee must also have at least one HoS and/or PVC as a member. The advisory boards of Level 1 Centres must include a PVC and at least 2 members who are external to the University.

Level 2 Centres will have a management committee, comprised of some members of the Centre and should normally include a HOS. There is not a standing requirement for external members.

3.3.2    Institutes

The management committees of Institutes may be comprised of both internal and external members, but there is no standing requirement in terms of external members.

Ordinarily, at least half of the members of the Advisory Board of an institute will be external to the University. The Provost, the Institute Director, and at least one PVC from a sponsoring Faculty will be members of the Board.

4. Funding and Institutional Support

4.1    Funding support

Research Centres and Institutes will be eligible to apply for University funding subject to availability. Although there is no guarantee of funding, the University will endeavour to resource its Institutes and Centres according to its means.

The running costs of Institutes and Centres will normally be the responsibility of their sponsoring Faculty or Faculties. Level 2 Centres are expected to be funded by their sponsoring Schools and/or Faculty.

Research Centres and Institutes should demonstrate a capacity to earn external funding and this capacity will constitute a performance criterion in performance reviews.

Funding allocated to Centres and Institutes through the Division of Research and Innovation will normally be through a competitive process. Funding decisions will be made by the Provost on the advice of Research Committee and on the basis of performance and strategic alignment.

Institutes, Centres, Schools and Faculties are entitled to report research outputs for promotional purposes, but research block funding associated with research outputs is allocated to Faculties.

4.2    Other institutional support

The University will provide support for research Centres and Institutes through the Division of Research and Innovation in the areas of research grant and contract administration. The Graduate Research School provides support in terms of HDR training. The Advanced Analytical Centre provides support and access a range of research infrastructure, instruments and equipment.

Research support services should be provided in the most cost-effective way possible, and Centres and Institutes are expected to use generic or centrally provided specialist research services where practicable so as to minimise duplication.

Schools and Faculties will provide support in terms of accommodation and facilities and will also provide relevant administrative support.

5. Legal Status

Research Centres and Institutes are not independent legal entities. Any research agreements with external bodies must be processed through the research office and executed in accordance with Council delegations.

6. Research Training and Development of Early Career Researchers

Research students will normally be enrolled through a School or Faculty. Centres and Institutes are expected to assist in attracting high calibre research students and in providing a supportive, high quality research training environment for HDR students.

Honours students should be encouraged to participate in the activities of the research Centre or Institute as appropriate.

7. Reporting and Review

Research Centres and Institutes are subject to periodic reporting and review.

7.1    Annual and final Reports

All research Centres and Institutes are required to submit an annual report on research and related activities and a final report in the 5th year of operations for an institute or Level 1 Centre or in the 3rd year for a Level 2 Centre. Institutes will submit their reports to the Vice-Chancellor, Level 1 Centres to the Provost and Level 2 Centres to the relevant Faculty PVC.

Guidelines for annual and final reports are developed by the Provost.

Costs for annual and final reports are born by Centres and Institutes.

7.2    Review

Institutes and Level 1 Centres will be subject to an internal review at the end of their 3rd year of operation, and to a full review in their 5th year. Final reviews (in the 5th year) will be a panel appointed by the Provost and will comprise at least 2 external members.

Level 2 Centres will be reviewed in their 3rd year. The review panel will normally be comprised of internal members only.

The Provost, in consultation with the relevant PVC(s), may cause a review to be conducted prior to the final year review if they believe performance or changes in strategic focus warrant it.

The draft report of both internal and final reviews will be provided to the management committees of the relevant institute or Centre. The committee will have 30 days to respond to any findings or recommendations.

The completed reports will then be provided to the relevant PVC(s) and the Provost.  A formal response to the findings or recommendations of the review will be provided by both the PVC(s) and the Provost to the management committees within 30 days.

Costs of reviews are born by Centres and Institutes.

8. Disestablishment of Research Centres and Institutes

Either the VC, the Provost or the relevant Faculty PVC(s) may initiate a process to disestablish a research Centre or Institute, for example when:

  • Performance is unsatisfactory or consistently fails to meet agreed KPIs

  • Membership falls below agreed Level and/or there is significant loss of key researchers

  • The entity is merged into another structure

  • The Centre/institute is not financially viable

  • The Centre/institute no longer aligns with the JCU’s strategic objectives.

Approval Details

Policy sponsor:

Deputy Vice Chancellor Research

Approval authority:

Academic Board

Approval date:


Version no:


Date for next review:


Modification History


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

Quality, Standards and Policy



Policy sponsor and approval authority amended to reflect approved policy framework


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