Coursework Professional Doctorates Guideline

Document Number000775
Date Last Amended8 December 2011

1.      GENERAL

These guidelines are to be read in conjunction with the Rules Governing Professional Doctorates and provide detail not specifically covered in the Rules. Faculties should use the Rules and guidelines when developing program proposals, to ensure that new programs comply with the University’s requirements.

As well as being a guide for Faculties the guidelines are also intended to be a useful resource for coursework professional doctorate students and for their instructors and supervisors.



The University’s policy on Review of Progress applies to the coursework component of professional

Before embarking on the research component of the program, students should be made aware of any early exit options, where such options exist (Clause 29 of the Rules Governing Professional Doctorates refers). Where the structure of the program is such that the final stage is a major research project, the student should not normally commence that research project until they have successfully completed all coursework units in the program. All coursework components should normally be completed before submission of the final research component.

It is the responsibility of the principal supervisor to monitor the progress of a candidate during the research component of the program against a structured completion plan which must be developed at the commencement of the research component by the candidate in consultation with the supervisor, and to ensure that inadequate progress or work below the standard generally expected is brought to the student’s attention. Regular contact between the student and supervisor should facilitate the early identification of problems and the provision of timely academic counselling.

Formal progress reports are to be submitted around the mid-point of any of the student’s research components of 40 units duration or greater. Specific professional doctorate progress report forms have been developed for this purpose, and will be provided to the program convenor for distribution to students as required. The student should complete their section of the progress report and then submit it to their supervisor. When the supervisor completes their section the form should then be forwarded to the program convenor.

If the student wishes to use the form to raise problems about their program, they may submit the form directly to the program convenor without giving it to their supervisor. In cases where the program convenor is the student’s supervisor, the form can be submitted directly to the Faculty’s Assistant Dean (Research Training).

The program convenor must report to the Research Training Sub-Committee all cases of unsatisfactory
progress, and the steps to be undertaken to redress the progress to ensure completion within the specified time requirements. The details of all students required to enrol beyond the normal period of candidature must be reported to the Research Training Sub-Committee.




Each coursework professional doctorate student will have a principal supervisor appointed for the research component of their program. The Faculty may also appoint a co-supervisor if desired. If the student is enrolled on an external basis the Faculty may appoint, in addition to the principal supervisor, a suitably qualified person who is resident at, or near the place of study, to provide advice and support to the student.

The Faculty must ensure that the principal supervisor is suitably qualified to supervise the student and has a satisfactory record of postgraduate supervision. Supervisors of coursework professional doctorate students will hold a PhD or DBA or equivalent. In special cases a supervisor without a doctorate may be appointed, 2 10/05/2006 where they have an equivalent combination of academic qualifications and professional and research attainments. The Faculty will ensure that at least one of the supervisors is a continuing member of staff or a staff member on a contract which is long enough to cover the period of the research component of any student they may be supervising.

A person is only to be appointed as a principal supervisor if they can reasonably be expected to be able to provide supervision for the duration of the research project.

The Faculty must make provision in the appointment of supervisors for access to the supervisor should corrections need to be made to the thesis following the determination of the examination outcome by the
Research Training Sub-Committee.

The principal supervisor must have relevant knowledge, expertise and interest in the student’s research

Depending on the structure of the program it may be appropriate for applicants to indicate on their
application for enrolment the general area in which they intend to carry out the research, so that the Faculty can determine, before accepting the student, whether suitable supervision will be available. If no suitable supervisor can be found for a proposed topic, either the applicant should be asked to select another topic if appropriate, or the application should be rejected. No student should be allowed to commence the research component of their program unless a suitable supervisor has been found.

A supervisor will not normally be responsible for more than five full-time equivalent research students,
including professional doctorate students, at any one time. Where it is proposed that a supervisor undertake supervision in excess of this number, the program convenor must satisfy the Head of School and the Pro Vice-Chancellor that the additional supervisory load will still allow the supervisor to discharge satisfactorily the responsibilities set out in the section headed “Responsibilities of Supervisors” below. The Pro Vice- Chancellor must be satisfied that the workload of the supervisor is such as to allow sufficient time for the adequate supervision of all candidates he or she is supervising.


The responsibilities of supervisors are set out in section C “Responsibilities of Supervisors” of the Code of Practice for Research Higher Degree Candidature.



It is the responsibility of the principal supervisor of the research component of a coursework professional doctorate to advise the candidate of appropriate ethical practices and where required, supervise and endorse an application for clearance to the University and any other appropriate ethics committee and to ensure that the research is conducted in accordance with the terms of the approval of the ethics committee(s). Ideally, the University’s ethics clearance procedures should be detailed in any research methods course taught prior to the commencement of the research project.

The person nominated as principal supervisor of a coursework professional doctorate student who will need ethics clearance for their project should ascertain the deadlines for the meetings of the relevant ethics committee(s) and ensure that applications for approval are lodged in good time for approval to be obtained prior to the intended commencement date of the research component of the student’s program.

For any research involving human participants, human tissue, records or information which identifies individuals and which is not in the public domain (eg health, student, employment records, restricted electoral rolls, private documents) or human research data in an unpublished form, human ethics pproval must be obtained before the research can commence. This is a Commonwealth government requirement. Students undertaking the research component of a coursework professional doctorate program apply for human ethics approval to the relevant Faculty’s Research Ethics Committee.

A coursework professional doctorate student will need approval from the University’s Animal Care and Ethics Committee (ACEC) if they propose to undertake a research project in which animals are used. An animal is defined as any vertebrate (other than a human being) and includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

3 10/05/2006 ACEC approval is obtained by the student’s principal supervisor on behalf of the student. The principal supervisor will appear as the Chief Investigator on the application form. The Chief Investigator must be a member of staff of the University, Hunter Area Health Service, Avondale College, Wildthing Environmental Consultants or other Accredited Research Establishments for which the University of Newcastle ACEC acts as the nominated ACEC.



Detailed thesis examination procedures have been developed by the Office of Graduate Studies, and will be made available to professional doctorate program convenors. The procedures are aligned with the procedure for the examination of research higher degree theses. In general terms the following procedures will apply.

            Submission of Thesis

Professional Doctorate Thesis Preparation and Submission provides the detail of the timing and format of the thesis submission.

The principal supervisor of a professional doctorate thesis is required to submit a certificate concerning the acceptability of the thesis for examination. This certificate is to accompany the thesis when it is submitted. If the supervisor is not willing to certify that the thesis is acceptable for examination, the Assistant Dean (Research Training) will determine whether or not to send the thesis for examination.

            Appointment of Examiners

The candidate’s supervisor will nominate two recommended examiners and one reserve examiner for endorsement by the Head of School and approval by the Assistant Dean (Research Training). While the Rules allow for one of the examiners to be internal, in the interests of the University’s international reputation, it is preferable for both examiners to be external to the University. The reserve examiner must be external to the University.

In the interests of transparency of process and upholding the University’s reputation, the Research Sub-
Committee has determined that students of the same supervisor shall not have more than one examiner in common. That is to say, where two examiners are nominated for student A, then only one of these can be nominated for student B.

            Examination Outcome

Examination reports will be considered by the Research Training Sub-Committee.

The Office of Graduate Studies will notify the student, Head of School, supervisor and Assistant Dean (Research Training) of the outcome. The Research Sub-Committee will monitor corrections to the thesis and the Pro Vice- Chancellor will be advised of a final result (pass/fail).



The University has established a student grievance procedure which outlines both the formal and informal means though which issues of concern may be resolved. All students should be provided with a copy of the procedure at the commencement of their studies. The program convenor should be familiar with the procedure and should ensure that all staff teaching in the program or supervising the research component of students in the program are also made aware of the procedure.



Monitoring the Progress of Professional Doctorate Candidates in the Research Component of the Program 000956

Approval AuthorityAcademic Senate
Date Last Amended8 December 2011
Policy SponsorDeputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)
Policy OwnerDean, Graduate Studies
Policy ContactExecutive Officer, Graduates Studies (Policy)
Amendment History

8 December 2011 - Inclusion of Section 7 Related Documents by Governance and Policy, based on New Guideline 000956 approved 5 December 2011 by DVC (Research) - Monitoring the Progress of Professional Doctorate Candidates in the Research Component of the Program.