Quality Assurance and Improvement in Higher Degrees by Research

POLICY NO: RES-15.1

DATE OF APPROVAL: 24 March 2000; 24 September 2004

AMENDMENTS: Academic Board September 2004

REFERENCE AUTHORITY: Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President (Research and Innovation)

CROSS REFERENCES:
Care and Use of Animals for Teaching and Research Purposes (RES 3)
Authorship Policy (RES 12)
Confidentiality of Students' Personal Information (A 46)
Biological Hazards and Genetically Modified Organisms (RES 4)
Honorary Academic Titles Policy (C 16)
Human Research Ethics Policy (RES 2)
Ionising Radiation Policy (HR 29)
Higher Degrees By Research Policy (RES 10) and Academic Regulations
Health Safety and Injury Management Policy (C 6)
Quality Assurance and Improvement: Programs, Courses and Teaching Arrangements (A 35A)
Higher Degree by Research Supervision Policy (RES 18)
Research Degree Graduate Qualities
Higher Degree by Research Scholarships and Prizes Policy (RES 9)
Research Funded by Tobacco Companies (RES 14)
Responsible Practice in Research Policy (RES 1)
Coursework Scholarships and Prizes (A 50)
Sexual Harassment (C 12)
Student Fees and Loans (A 47)
Students with Disabilities (C 7)
University Activities - Intellectual Property: Ownership and Commercialisation Guidelines
University Activities - Research and Consultancy Guidelines
Student Complaints Resolution (C 17)
Acceptable Use of Information Technology (IT) Facilities (C 22)
Code of Good Practice: Relationships between Staff and Students
Code of Good Practice: Research Degrees Management and Supervision
Code of Good Practice: Research in Honours Degrees and Degrees with Honours
Code of Good Practice: University Teaching


Preamble

Quality assurance and the continuous improvement of the University's higher degrees by research are fundamental to the mission of the University of South Australia. In this policy Higher degrees by research refers to research degree programs with at least two-thirds research, as defined by the Commonwealth Government's Department of Education, Science and Training.

The mechanisms for the evaluation of the quality of research education, including the establishment of a continuous improvement process, are linked to the University's annual strategic planning processes.

Quality Assurance and Improvement in Higher Degrees involves:

(a) the systematic consideration of stakeholder views and benchmarking activities about the quality of higher degrees by research and the research education support activities for candidates and supervisors

(b) the aggregation, analysis and interpretation of candidates' feedback about their perceptions of the quality of their research degree experience

(c) examiners' ratings and comments on theses submitted at the culmination of the research degree candidacy

This policy establishes a Quality Assurance Framework (Appendix A), which includes a range of performance indicators against which standards are established and benchmarked.

The framework covers four major areas:

1. the policy environment encompassing research policies, codes of good practice, academic regulations, the program approval process, and the administrative support structures and processes to implement the policies and procedures

2. the supervision process and supervisor professional development activities

3a. the research degree program in which the candidate is enrolled, including the process of independent research which leads to a thesis

3b. the provision of adequate physical and financial resources to enable the research degree candidate to complete the research in a timely way

4. the research culture supporting the research candidate to completion, which includes the full range of research education support activities provided throughout the University

The quality assurance and improvement policy seeks to promote higher degrees by research that

  • involve innovative research that serves industry and/or the community
  • enables graduation within the time allocated for the degree
  • develops learning in a research-rich environment
  • develops research skills in the context of the Research Degree Graduate Qualities

Policy

1. The University will evaluate the quality of its higher degrees by research using candidate and stakeholder feedback, with benchmarking against best practice.

2. The University will monitor the quality performance of each program annually. This will include benchmarking against the Postgraduate Research Experience Questionnaire (PREQ), and other agreed research education indicators.

3. The University will develop a schedule for comprehensive review and evaluation of research degree programs.

4. The University will monitor the performance of each candidate annually.

5. The University will monitor and evaluate the resources and support activities for research degree candidates.

6. The University will evaluate the University provided professional development activities for supervisors.

7. The University will monitor the timeliness of completions and evaluate the outcomes of thesis examination performance.

8. The University will monitor the participation rates of candidates in targeted equity groups.

9. The University will monitor the membership of the Register of Current Higher Degree by Research Supervisors.

10. Scheduling of reviews and reporting of outcomes will form part of the University's annual planning and review process, and responsibility for implementing the arrangements outlined in this policy rests primarily with the Divisions and Institutes, including the Whyalla Campus. .

Procedures

1. Under delegated authority from Academic Board, Research Degrees Committee (RDC) is responsible for establishing the Research Education Quality Assurance Framework (Appendix A) and for specifying quality indicators, in line with the University's strategic direction

2. Research Degrees Committee is responsible for advising the Corporate Planning Group on the strategic priorities in research education

3. Divisions will report on the quality indicators as part of their Corporate Review and Planning reports under the corporate planning cycle, including the Research Education Quality Assurance Framework

4. Corporate Planning Group will evaluate the Divisions research education planning and reviews and provide feedback on required performance improvements

5. Divisions will implement strategies to improve research education performance in subsequent corporate plans

6. Research Degrees Committee will assess on a regular basis the appropriateness and effectiveness of the quality indicators in the Research Education Quality Assurance Framework

Appendix A
Research education quality assurance framework

Quality Focus 1: Policy environment

Policies and Codes

Care and Use of Animals for Teaching and Research Purposes RES - 3
Authorship Policy RES - 12
Confidentiality of Students' Personal Information A - 46
Higher Degrees by Research RES - 10, and regulations
Equal Opportunity C-2
Biological Hazards and Genetically Modified Organisms RES - 4
Responsible Practice in Research RES - 1
Human Research Ethics RES - 2
Ionising Radiation HR-29
Health Safety and Injury Management C-6
Program Approval Policy and Procedures
Quality Assurance and Improvement: Programs, Courses and Teaching Arrangements A-35A
Higher Degree by Research Supervision RES - 18
Research Degree Graduate Qualities
Research Degree Scholarships and Prizes RES - 9
Research Funded by Tobacco Companies RES - 14
Sexual Harassment Policy C-12
Student Fees and Loans A - 47
Students with Disabilities C - 7
Outside Work Policy HR - 32, see also Intellectual Property guidelines; Research & Consultancy guidelines
Student Complaints Resolution C - 17
Acceptable Use of Information Technology (IT) Facilities C-22

Codes of Good Practice
- Principles of Student Assessment
- Relationships between Staff and Students
- Research Degrees management and supervision
- Supervising Research Students
- Research in Honours Degrees programs
- University Teaching

Quality Indicator:
Policies, codes and guidelines including all research education contexts and are regularly reviewed through Academic Board

 

Structures Academic Board
Research Degrees Committee
Division/Institute Research Management Committees - chaired by Deans, Research Education (or equivalent)
Research Degree Coordinators/ Research Education Portfolio Leaders (or equivalent)
Supervisors
 
Program Approval Process Standards:

Documentation and processes are consistent across all contexts and modes of delivery.

Approval trail includes: School Board; Division/Institute Research Committee (or equivalent); Division Board; Research Degrees Committee and Academic Board.

Quality Indicator:

Clear and transparent process of the approval trail.

 

Program Review Standards:

RDC selects aspects of the research degree programs for focus of review in any one year, for example participation rates in targeted equity groups, examination processes, scholarships, admissions criteria, thesis presentation, coursework components of professional doctorates, assessment criteria. Reviews are to include International and Australian benchmarks for good practice.


RDC may also select particular programs for review, for example Masters by Research, Professional Doctorates, Doctor of Philosophy, PhD by publication.

Quality Indicators:

Trends in enrolments and by funding source

Student Satisfaction as indicated in exit surveys, Graduate Destination, PREQ and SEQ

Participation rates of candidates in targeted equity groups, in particular indigenous candidates and the number of women in Engineering and Information Technology

Essential Information Standards:

Clear and consistent Letters of Offer provided to research degree candidates

Clear and consistent Candidature and Scholarship Information provided to research degree candidates

Clear and consistent information on the Research Degree Graduate Qualities, including Statement of Agreement available to research degree candidates and those involved in research degree management

Responsibilities for Research Degree Candidates under the Code of Good Practice: Research degrees management and supervision made available to research degree candidates

Orientation Session arranged and advised to new research degree candidates

Division Research Degree Handbook kept up-to-date on the web and a copy provided to new research candidates

Up-to-date Research Degrees Web Site

Quality Indicators:

Research Candidates receive essential information early in candidature

Evaluation of Orientation session

Signed Statement of Agreement recorded on candidate's record

First Planning and Review meeting documented in accordance with Research Degree Graduate Qualities

Support services Student and Academic Services
Research and Innovation Services
Campus Central - ID Cards
Information Strategy and Technology Services
Teaching Innovation Unit
The Library
USASA
Quality Indicators:

All service providers contributing to the research candidates Orientation and Research Education program

Service Agreements with the Dean of Graduate Studies

Service Standards published and regularly reviewed

 

Quality Focus 2: Supervision process

Supervision Standards:

Workload allocation to Supervisors in line with University guidelines.

Principal Supervisors to be members of the Register of Current Higher Degree by Research Supervisors

 

Quality Indicators:

Number of Candidates per Supervisor

Benchmarking with other universities, in particular ATN partners

Student satisfaction with Supervisors as indicated in PREQ, SEQ and other surveys

Supervisor Professional Development  Standards:

Supervisors (including Adjuncts and Offshore Supervisors) are provided with opportunities to develop skills and attributes to support their research candidates

Deans Research (or equivalent) to monitor annual participation at supervisor professional development activities every three years

Supervisors attend ongoing professional development

Quality Indicators:

Program of development activities available each year

Access to On-line available to support face-to-face program

Evaluation of University-run professional development activities

Professional development is recorded every three years and monitored by Divisions/ Institutes

Research Degree Coordination Standards:

Workload allocation to Research Degree Coordinators in line with approved Position Description (SMG April 2004)

Provision of professional development seminars for Research Degree Coordinators

Quality Indicators:

Timely candidates' annual reports

Proportion of reports where intervention is required by the RD Coordinator

 

Quality Focus 3: Research degree program

Completions Standards:

Candidates complete within the allocated time for the degree

Candidates withdrawing

Candidates undertake independent research

Candidates demonstrate the development of the Research Degree Graduate Qualities in the final review of progress

 

Quality Indicators:

Number of candidates going over their allocated time of funded candidature

Quality of the examiners' comments:

Number of examinations conducted

Number of re-submissions required

Number of conflicting reports

Allocation of resources and facilities Standards:

Resources provided to research candidates are in line with University guidelines

Quality Indicators:

Resources provided to research candidates in each area

Planning, Review and Report of Progress Standards:

At least two documented planning and review meetings (minor and major) to be undertaken between the Candidate and Supervisor

Annual report of progress to Student and Academic Services to enable re-enrolment

 

Quality Indicators:

Number of Annual Reports received by Student and Academic Services

Number of continuing candidates whose progress is subject to further monitoring

Number of candidates whose progress is considered to be unsatisfactory

 

Quality Focus 4: Research culture

Research Education Support Activities Standards:

University and Division-specific support programs to be provided for research candidates

ATN e-Grad school to be publicized to research candidates

Supervisors and Candidates to negotiate specific activities tailored to the requirements of the candidate and research project

Institutes, Schools and/or Research Centres to run their own research seminars for research candidates

Candidates publish, as outlined in the Research Degree Graduate Qualities

Quality Indicators:

Number of candidates participating in Research Education Support Activities

Programs documented as part of the Research Degree Graduate Qualities

Evaluation of each workshop

Number of candidates publishing

Research Proposal confirmed (Provisional candidacy)  Standards:

Research Proposal submitted within the first twelve months of full-time equivalent candidacy, or the maximum period determined by the Division

Candidates transferred from provisional candidacy after approval of the Research Proposal

Statement of Agreement documenting Research Degree Graduate Qualities to accompany research proposal

Quality Indicators:

Number of research proposals approved within the required time and candidacy confirmed

Number of candidates who require extensions to provisional candidacy

Number of candidates having candidacy confirmed.

Number of candidates suspended.