Policy renewal project

The Board of Graduate Research (BGR) has embarked on a project to review all research training policies during 2015-2017.

Research training policies have been grouped into suites around stages in the candidature lifecycle:

  • Admissions (including scholarships)
  • Supervision and support/resources
  • Candidature and progress management
  • Examination
  • Research degrees (including course lifecycle and partnerships, joint PhDs)

The examinations suite is now complete and work has begun on the candidature and progress suite.

New examinations policy and procedures

After a comprehensive period of consultation La Trobe has a new set of policies and procedures governing examinations for all higher degrees by research.

The new suite includes much more detail to make the process clearer and more transparent for candidates, supervisors and other staff involved in examinations.

The main benefits of the new suite are:

  • it will be easier for candidates to include publications in their theses
  • greater clarity around the management of examinations, including submission of theses, nomination of examiners, outcomes of examination and their communication to candidates, and the management of amendments and appeals
  • opportunities to celebrate graduate research excellence through revised procedures for the award of the Nancy Millis Medal.

Transition arrangements

To facilitate a period of transition, the new policy suite will be implemented in two main phases:

  1. For all candidates enrolled in their degrees prior to 9 September 2015 - the former policy and procedures applies to these candidates until 3 January 2016. From 4 January 2016 the new policies and procedures apply unless a candidate can make a case for any disadvantage experienced from the application of the new policy.
  2. For all candidates who enrolled after 9 September 2015 - the new policy and procedures are effective.

Any candidates in part (1) above who feel they may be disadvantaged by these changes may contact the GRS Examinations Team at exams.grs@latrobe.edu.au.

FAQS and more detail about these changes

(1) What has changed?

The new examinations policy suite contains a lot more detail to guide you, your supervisors and other staff through all stages of the examination process. However there are some specific and substantive changes.

(2) What types of thesis can be submitted at La Trobe?

Two modes of thesis submission have now been approved at La Trobe:

Thesis mode (with or without publications)

This type of submission will consist of either a fully unpublished thesis, entirely authored by you, or a combination of published and unpublished papers with framing material.

Practice-based mode

In this mode of submission there is a significant practice-based research output. This sometimes constitutes the whole submission (for example a novel that includes a research component) but more often will consist of an output such as an exhibition of creative works, a film, a script or a website, accompanied by other written components such as an exegesis or catalogue.

(3) What has happened to 'thesis by publication'?

There is no longer a separate 'thesis by publication' mode. This means that you can include as chapters in your thesis papers that have been submitted, accepted or published in journals, as long as these form a coherent part of the research being described in the thesis. Importantly you must have made a substantial contribution to each paper that is included.

All candidates are encouraged to publish papers during candidature but you no longer need to decide in advance that you are submitting entirely in this mode. However you should discuss your plans to include publications in your thesis with your supervisor early in your degree. Your supervisor will help you determine how to combine any potential publications with the rest of your thesis and what constitutes sufficient output in your discipline.

There is additional information that needs to be included when a thesis contains publications such as the status of each publication (submitted, accepted, published) and a description of the author contributions. For more details on how papers should be included in a thesis see the Schedule for presentation of theses in higher degrees by research [PDF 72KB].

(4) How many publications do I need to include?

There is no predetermined number of publications that should be included in a thesis, especially where you are also incorporating unpublished chapters and significant framing material. Your supervisor will help you determine what is sufficient output for your discipline but generally the sum should be equivalent to the research output in a traditional thesis (see Schedule for presentation of theses in higher degrees by research [PDF 72KB]).

(5) Do I need to be first author of all publications?

While you do not need to be first author of all publications that are included in your thesis you should be able to demonstrate a substantial contribution to all the papers included in the main part of your thesis.

(6) Can I include publications authored prior to commencement of my candidature at La Trobe?

Publications submitted or published prior to commencement of candidature cannot be included unless this work was undertaken during a degree at the same level at another university from which you have transferred to La Trobe.

(7) I've had a number of papers published but they don't fit directly into my thesis, should I include these papers and if so, how?

Your supervisor will help you determine which papers should be included in the main body of your thesis. Papers that do not link directly to your research topic, or to which you have not made a significant contribution, can be included in a list of other publications elsewhere in your thesis.

(8) What happens if I fail my PhD examination?

Where, on the basis of your examiners' reports, the La Trobe Graduate Research Advisory Panel determines that a PhD cannot be awarded, a fail recommendation is normally made.

In some of cases, where a thesis is deemed by examiners' reports to be of very good quality but does not meet the originality and new knowledge requirement for a PhD, an Advisory Panel may recommend the award of a Master's by research degree.

This recommendation can only be made where the thesis requires no or minor amendments. There is no longer any opportunity for re-submission or re-examination in these circumstances. The new Examination Procedures provide more detail on this.

(9) Has the appeals process changed?

A new process of appeal through a Graduate Research Examinations Appeal Panel has been outlined in the new Examination Procedures following a clarification concerning University statutes during the review.

(10) How will I find out the results of my examination?

The Graduate Research School will provide direct notification of the outcome of your examination at the same time as your supervisors - previously your supervisor would receive the initial notification and then let you know.

(11) Have there been any changes to the time limit for amendments?

These have not been specified in the past. After examination where there is a recommendation by a Graduate Research Advisory Panel that amendments are required to your thesis, you will now have 4 weeks to complete minor amendments and 12 weeks for major amendments.

You will have to apply for an extension if you cannot complete the required amendments within the specified time. Extensions related to examinations should be directed to: exams.grs@latrobe.edu.au

(12) Have there been any changes to the award of the Nancy Millis Medal?

The process for selecting recipients of this award has been changed. Previously awardees had to be nominated by both examiners as being in the top five per cent of theses they had marked. Nominations for this medal will now come from School Graduate Research Coordinators on the basis of examiner reports and recommendations and will be approved by the Board of Graduate Research.

(13) Have there been any changes to the nomination of examiners?

A number of provisions have changed with the nomination of examiners (see the new procedures above) to improve the overall integrity of the examination process:

  • Supervisors are asked to nominate three examiners prior to the commencement of every examination. A supervisor may note their preferred reserve examiner but are asked to not advise their nominees. A reserve examiner should not be aware of their status in order not to prejudice their assessment of the thesis.
  • The Examinations team in the Graduate Research School will expedite the process of examination to the extent possible but will not be able to disclose any information about the progress of the examination to any candidates or staff members.
  • Supervisors are now asked to nominate two international examiners for a PhD thesis to allow for an appropriately qualified reserve to be drawn upon where required. Where this is not possible supervisors are asked to provide a justification of any alternate nominations for the approval of the Chair of the Board of Graduate Research.
  • Conflict of interest provisions for the nomination of examiners have now been outlined.

(14) I'm about to submit, have there been any changes to the procedure around submission of theses

More complete information has now been included about the submission requirements for theses in the Thesis Requirements, Submission and Retention Procedures (see above) and the Schedule for presentation of theses in higher degrees by research [PDF 72KB].

You should pay particular attention to the more detailed sections on copyright restrictions and publication in the Library repository. Where copyright has not been obtained for any material within a thesis you will need to submit both a redacted and full version of your thesis for your final submission to the repository.

(15) As a current candidate, I feel disadvantaged by these changes. How can I appeal?

As advised above under Transition arrangements, if you were enrolled prior to 9 September 2015, the changes will not apply to you until 4 January 2016. If you feel that you are at all disadvantaged by these changes you have an opportunity to explain this to the Examinations team at exams.grs@latrobe.edu.au.

If you enrolled in your degree after 9 September 2015 the new policies and procedures will apply to you from the commencement of your course.

(16) Who can I speak to if need more information about the new policy and procedures?

Please read carefully whichever of the policy suites applies to you, depending on your date of enrolment. Both are available online - the new suite is on policies and procedures page, the old suite is below.

If you are still unclear about the changes, please contact the GRS Progress and Examination team at exams.grs@latrobe.edu.au

(17) How can I provide feedback about these changes?

You can forward your feedback to the GRS Progress and Examinations team at exams.grs@latrobe.edu.au. Note however that the University-wide consultation period for the policy has now closed and the revised policy has been approved by University Academic Board. There will not be any further amendment to the policy and procedures though we will consider any feedback in the post-implementation review of this suite.

(18) I provided feedback about these changes and it wasn't taken into account, why not?

The GRS received a considerable volume of excellent feedback through the consultation process. Each piece of feedback was carefully considered by the GRS and the Board of Graduate Research and this resulted in many changes to the policies and procedures.

Where individual feedback has not been incorporated into the final revised suite, this may be due to a number of factors including legislative and other regulatory constraints, the prevailing view of the University community, or areas where the University needed to make adjustments to achieve best practice after considerable benchmarking in the sector.

Please be assured however that your feedback was carefully considered and the GRS respects your view. We also encourage you to submit further feedback when we review future policy suites.

Former policies and procedures

For all candidates enrolled in their degrees prior to 9 September 2015 - the former policy and procedures applied to you until 3 January 2016.

Examination of Theses for Higher Degrees by Research Policy [PDF 41KB]

Examination of Theses for Higher Degrees by Research Procedure [PDF 45KB]

Examination Guidelines for all Higher Degrees by Research [PDF 180KB]

Examination Guidelines for a PhD in Visual Arts [PDF 113KB]

Schedule for Presentation of a Thesis for a Higher Degree by Research [PDF 133KB]

Thesis by Publication Guidelines [PDF 134KB]

New research misconduct procedure for higher degree students

On 9 April 2015 a new Academic Integrity Statute [PDF 84KB] came into effect at La Trobe. Part 3 of the Statute applies to allegations made against higher degree students undertaking research at La Trobe. This includes students undertaking a minor thesis in a postgraduate coursework degree and candidates in any higher degree by research.

The new Higher Degree Student Research Misconduct Procedure [PDF 80KB] explains the steps that will be undertaken when an allegation against a student is received, including procedures for appeal. When an allegation against a student appears to have substance the Board of Graduate Research will refer the matter to an Academic Misconduct (Research) Officer (Misconduct Officer) based in the relevant College for investigation.

The Schedule of Responses and Penalties for Student Research Misconduct [PDF 72KB] details the options available to Misconduct Officers after they reach a finding in relation to an allegation.