Higher Degree Research Examination Policy

Fact box

Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to outline the procedures to regulate the examination of an Alphacrucis College (AC) Higher Degree Research (HDR) thesis or portfolio.

Scope

All delivery sites of the College.

Policy

Research theses and portfolios completed by AC HDR candidates are examined by appropriately qualified external experts. The HDR examination process is an integral part of ensuring the academic quality, originality and integrity of AC courses. It adheres to international benchmarking standards and promotes dissemination of the research.

Examiners

Each Master of Philosophy (MPhil), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Ministry (DMin) thesis/portfolio is examined by a minimum of two external examiners. HDR examiners must:

  • be of international standing in the field and external to AC (both for PhD and DMin and at least one for MPhil);
  • be research active in the field;
  • hold a doctorate degree or equivalent to the one of the thesis/portfolio being examined;
  • not have any relevant conflicts of interest.

Conflict of Interest

Appointment of examiners should consider any real or potential conflict of interest. A conflict of interest will normally result in the non-appointment of an examiner. AC adheres to the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2018) which requires researchers to identify, manage and declare circumstances and associations that may give rise to a conflict of interest.

Excellence in Research Award

AC is committed to excellence in research training. AC Excellence in Research Award aims to recognise and reward HDR graduands who demonstrate creativity, innovation and excellence in research training.

Responsible for implementation

Deputy Vice President - Research and Standards

Key stakeholders

HDR candidates, supervisors, HDR Program Directors, Deans


Procedures

HDR Examination Procedures

Appointment of Examiners

Prior to selection of potential examiners, the candidate is asked by the principal supervisor to list any examiners they wish to exclude due to conflict of interest or other reasons. A total of three potential examiners is suggested by the principal supervisor to the HDR Program Director. Potential examiners must then be approved by the HDR Program Director. The selected names will remain confidential. The supervisors and the candidate are not to make direct contact with the examiners until after the examination process is complete. The examiners, however, are allowed to engage with one another during the examination process.

Submission requirements

The requirements for submission for examination are that the candidate:

  1. must be currently enrolled at the time of submission;
  2. cannot submit for examination before the minimum duration of candidature (2.5 years for doctoral candidates; 1 year for masters candidates), unless otherwise approved by the relevant Program Director;
  3. must have successfully completed all prescribed coursework components of the program;
  4. must have successfully completed all compulsory milestone reviews or received an exemption from the milestone;
  5. the principal supervisor must confirm the thesis/portfolio complies with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research and has been prepared so that it meets legislative requirements in relation to copyright and privacy;
  6. thesis/portfolio is approved by the supervisor as being of examinable standard. If the candidate chooses to submit for examination without the approval of the supervisors, this must be noted by the candidate on the front cover of the submission.

Format of submission for examination

The thesis/portfolio shall be submitted electronically to the Student Management System in the form specified. If requested by examiners, a printed version will be provided by the candidate.

Examination of a Research Thesis or Portfolio

Examiners are given eight weeks to complete the examination. Each examiner provides an independent detailed written report to the Deputy Vice Preside (DVP) – Research and Standards in accordance with the AC Guidelines for HDR Examiners. The report should detail how the thesis/portfolio has or has not met the learning outcomes of the course and provide the candidate with feedback for improvements or revisions.

Examination Outcomes

The examination will have the following possible outcomes:

  • C1 passed with no changes
  • C2 passed with minor changes – candidates have two months to complete the changes and resubmit to the HDR Program Director for approval, including a list of the revisions completed by the candidate;
  • C3 passed with major changes – candidates have four months to complete these changes and resubmit to the Research Committee for approval, including a list of the corrections and amendments completed by the candidate. If the Research Committee is dissatisfied with the changes, the candidate might be asked to revise and resubmit;
  • C4 revise and resubmit - candidates must resubmit a revised thesis/portfolio after a further period of research, substantial reorganisation or reconceptualisation. Candidates have up to 12 months to complete these changes and then re-submit the thesis/portfolio for examination. Only one resubmission is allowed. Resubmission of a thesis/portfolio follows this process:
  • the initial examiners are invited to re-examine the revised work at the end of the 12-month revision period. If one or both are not available new examiner/s will be sought;
  • after re-submission examiners of the research are provided with the revised version of the thesis/portfolio and a document from the candidate listing amendments made and justification for any recommended amendments not made;
  • theses/portfolios will follow the usual examination process and be graded according to the Guidelines.
  • C5 fail - the thesis/portfolio is not of the appropriate standard for an HDR award and no further submission is allowed.

In the case of a C3 result or as otherwise specified by the AC Classification of Examinations Schedule 1, the HDR Examinations Advisory Committee (EAC) is convened and prepares a report.

The DVP Research and Standards determines the examination outcome, as per the AC classification of HDR examinations outlined in the AC Guidelines for HDR Examiners, based on the two examiners’ reports and recommendations, and, if an HDR EAC has been convened, the Candidate’s Summary Report of Revisions and/or the Adjudicator’s Report. In the case of a C5 the DVP Research and Standards refers the final decision to the Research Committee for review and ratification.

HDR Examinations Advisory Committee

HDR EAC is an ad hoc committee of Research Committee and the terms of reference are outlined in the Academic Board Terms of Reference Policy. HDR EAC shall strive for gender balance.

The committee is convened concerning:

  • classification of disparate examiners’ reports in accordance with the examination classification schedules;
  • amount and type of amendments or revisions to the research that may need to be made by the candidate;
  • need for any additional support to be provided to the candidate in the case of a classification of revise and resubmit;
  • recommendation of the appointment of an adjudicator where the examiner’s reports are unable to be reconciled;
  • or whether, in rare cases, an examiner should be disqualified in the event that there is evidence of bias, or conflict of interest on the examiner’s part, which was not disclosed at the time of appointment.

The candidate’s supervisors are invited to attend the HDR EAC meeting in advisory roles. Any supervisors who attend the meeting are expected to contribute to the discussion but are not members of the committee and cannot be involved in the determination of the classification recommendation. De-identified examiners reports are provided to the supervisor/s but information within the reports must be kept confidential.

In the event that the senior academic available to be a member of HDR EAC is an associate supervisor, the principal/joint principal supervisor will provide a written response to the examiners’ reports, and any briefing necessary, to the associate supervisor so they can contribute fully to the discussion.

Should HDR EAC request clarification on any aspect of an examiner’s report the HDR EAC Chair will notify the Program Director of the query and it will be relayed to the relevant examiner/s. Direct contact with examiners must not be made by the candidate, supervisors, or members of HDR EAC.

Once the classification has been determined, the HDR EAC Chair informs the Program Director, who informs the candidate and supervisors. In the event of a C3 or C4 recommendation being made, HDR EAC must specify the number and type of amendments or revisions required by the candidate.

Adjudicators

If the examiners reports are substantially different and irreconcilable, an adjudicator is appointed by the DVP Research and Standards, as recommended by the principal supervisor. An adjudicator is not an additional examiner, but a discipline expert nominated to evaluate the soundness of the initial two examiners’ recommendations. They must meet the criteria of an examiner.

After an adjudicator is appointed, the following occurs:

  • The candidate is asked to prepare a response to the deidentified examiners’ reports within eight weeks.
  • The adjudicator will receive the graded thesis/portfolio, both de-identified examiners reports, the candidate’s response to the examiners’ reports, and a report from the chair of the HDR EAC.
  • Adjudicators assess whether the examiners have:
    • appropriately assessed the substance of the candidate’s thesis/portfolio;
    • erred in their judgement of the thesis/portfolio;
    • reviewed the work at a level appropriate to the degree; and
    • made their recommendation in accordance with the examiner guidelines.
  • Adjudicators provide a report detailing the strengths and weaknesses of the examiners’ reports, and a recommended classification, limited by the recommendations given by the original two examiners.

Award of MPhil in lieu of PhD

The DVP Research and Standards may deem that the candidate's work is not sufficient for the award of a PhD but is sufficient for the award of an MPhil. The DVP Research and Standards will notify the Program Director and the Program Director will then advise the candidate of this decision. Candidates must advise the Program Director within 20 business days that the MPhil will be accepted. If the MPhil is not accepted, the DVP Research and Standards may fail the candidate.

Appeal against final examination result

Candidates whose examination has been completed and who have a result of ‘Fail’ may appeal against any perceived procedural irregularities in the conduct of the thesis/portfolio examination. Complaints must adhere to the AC Complaint and Grievance Resolution Policy.

Completion of degree

Once all required revisions have been completed and approved by the DVP Research and Standards, the candidate is eligible to apply to graduate. All primary research data is stored by AC for at least five years after successful completion of the thesis. HDR candidates must submit a digital copy of the successful thesis/portfolio to the AC Library.

Additional Requirements for LOTE

For a HDR LOTE thesis/portfolio, a summary of the two examiners reports must be provided in English to the Program Director. If the HDR EAC is convened regarding a HDR LOTE thesis/portfolio, the HDR EAC must include a senior academic fluent in the language of the thesis/portfolio. The Summary Report of Revisions must be tabled to HDR EAC in English.

Selection Process for the Excellence in Higher Degree Research Award

The Research Committee annually administers the AC Excellence in Research Award. Criteria includes:

  • completed doctoral course within four years FTE from the commencement of candidature;
  • have had the first submission achieve an examination result of C1 or C2;
  • been nominated by the principal supervisor.

The AC Excellence in Research Award is presented at the relevant graduation ceremony, or privately by appointment.