Research Degree Programs

Code of Supervisory Practice in HDR

The Appendix is to be read in conjunction with the Section 4 Academic Regulations of the HDR program and the Section 5 Common Elements in Higher Research Degrees.



5.17.1 Introduction

The research enterprise is one that involves the candidate, the supervisor and the Sydney College of Divinity. Each of the three has responsibilities and obligations to ensure that the enterprise is fruitful.

The Academic Board of the Sydney College of Divinity, through its Research Committee:

  1. determines the eligibility of the candidate to undertake research at master’s or doctoral level;
  2. determines that the research project is appropriate for the degree;
  3. ensures that proper supervision can be provided and maintained throughout the research period;
  4. appoints supervisors expert in the areas of research and willing to undertake the obligations of supervision;
  5. establishes and monitors mechanisms whereby conflict between the supervisor and the student may be resolved;
  6. establishes procedures for all stages of the examination process;
  7. establishes procedures whereby staff inexperienced in supervision are assisted with supervision;
  8. establishes minimum reporting procedures;
  9. establishes examination criteria for theses;
  10. and, through its Research Ethics Committee:
    determines ethics clearance for research involving human subjects.

5.17.2 Policy Determination

In the light of these responsibilities the following Code of Practice governing supervision of research for higher degrees is adopted. The Supervisor

The supervisors are appointed by the Research Committee, after consultation with the candidate. See 5.5 in the Common Elements in HDR.

The Sydney College of Divinity expects that supervisors will:

    • Assist the student to identify and refine a thesis topic suitable in scope and intellectual challenge for the particular degree.
    • Advise the student on appropriate source material and its availability.
    • Monitor the progress of the work by scheduling regular meetings with the student as mutually convenient. Some meetings should be in person but others may be by email or other means. The supervisor should normally expect to be in communication with the candidate about once a month and never less than once a semester. Frequency will probably vary according to stage of development of the thesis. It is the responsibility of the student to maintain appropriate communication with the supervisor, but the supervisor should contact the Research Director if an inexplicable silence occurs and continues to the extent that it is not possible to complete the semester report with input from both the supervisor and the student.
    • With the candidate, provide a progress report on the candidature at the end of each semester, to be sent to the Research Director for consideration by the Research Committee.
    • Record the outcomes or decisions taken at each meeting with the student and reflect such matters in the semester report.
    • Report on issues concerning the student’s progress to the Research Committee at other times should the supervisor deem it necessary.
    • Provide advice to the student in relation to presentation of short papers at the Research Seminars.
    • Provide critical comment on drafts of sections of the work.
    • Read and critically comment on the final draft of the thesis.
    • Certify that the thesis meets the requirements of the College and is ready to be presented for examination, or advise the candidate and Research Committee otherwise, with reasons.
    • Suggest the names of the requisite number of possible examiners plus at least one other.
    • Encourage the student to become part of the wider academic community by participating in seminars and conferences.
    • Advise the successful candidate on possible avenues of publication.
    • Provide ongoing assistance to students who have been required to amend and/or re-submit their theses (see section on Rewriting below).
    • Alert the Research Committee, through the Research Director, to any problems encountered in the supervisory relationship.
    • Inform the student and the Research Committee, through the Research Director, of any planned extended leave so that arrangements may be made for the associate supervisor to take over the supervision.
    • Ensure effective communication with the associate supervisor. The Associate Supervisor

The associate supervisor will:

    • Respond to requests from the student for occasional meetings, in person or by email or other means, as mutually convenient.
    • Provide guidance in respect of research resources for particular purposes and read relevant .sections of draft material as requested by the student.
    • Take on the role of acting principal supervisor during any period of prolonged unavailability on the part of the principal supervisor.
    • Inform the student and the Research Committee, through the Research Director, of any planned extended leave. The Student

The student will:

    • Submit to the Research Director in the Office of the Dean an application to enrol and a Summary of Research Intentions. Where candidates have already approached one or more potential supervisors to discuss the proposed area of research they should indicate this in their initial Summary of Research Intentions. The application and the Summary of Research Intentions are considered by the Research Committee, and the appointment of a supervisor and associate supervisor is included in the determinations of the Committee.
    • Become familiar with the regulations governing the submission and examination of theses.
    • Arrange with the principal supervisor for regular meetings at mutually convenient times. Some meetings should be in person but others may be by email or other means. The student will normally be in communication with the supervisor about once a month and never less than once a semester. It is the responsibility of the student to maintain appropriate communication with the supervisor.
    • Arrange with the associate supervisor to meet as needed to assist progress.
    • At the end of each meeting, have a clear idea of what work is to be done before the next scheduled meeting. Difficulties encountered in carrying out the work should be communicated to the supervisor (or associate supervisor) before the date of the scheduled meeting.
    • Provide drafts of sections of work to the principal supervisor at agreed intervals.
    • Alert the Research Committee, through the Research Director, to serious problems encountered in the supervisory relationship. Supervision of Students Living Outside Sydney

In order to make advanced theological education available to those who wish to benefit from it, the College permits some candidates living away from Sydney to pursue higher degrees by research. In order to carry out its responsibility to ensure adequate supervision the College requires of such students that they:

    1. Arrange for a substantive meeting with their supervisor twice per semester in person or by email or other means.
    2. Communicate at least briefly with the supervisor at least once a month, irrespective of the progress that has been made in the month that has elapsed.

In addition, in some cases, the Research Committee may require students to devote some period to the writing of the thesis in ongoing close contact with the supervisor. This may entail residing for a time close to the supervisor’s workplace. The associated costs will be met by the student. Difficulties in Supervision

From time to time, students and supervisors may experience difficulties in the supervisory relationship. Disappointment at adverse comments on a draft, increased workload or personal circumstances may cause discouragement or disenchantment with the research task. In many cases, these setbacks are temporary, and either resolve themselves or are overcome through renegotiation of the thesis timetable by the student and supervisor, keeping in mind the due completion date. Advice may be sought by either party from the Research Director or the Dean.

If the difficulties prove to be of a more intractable nature, candidates may avail themselves of the informal and formal grievance procedures. See 5.16 in the Common Elements in HDR. Examination of Thesis: the Supervisor’s Subsequent Role

When the Research Committee invites the candidate to carry out further work on the thesis, the Dean will forward the examiners’ reports to the supervisor, who will be invited to write a response that will include a recommendation on how long the candidate might need to complete the re-writing.

The role of the supervisor will be to assist the candidate to appreciate shortcomings in the thesis and to implement the examiners’ recommendations as affirmed by the Research Committee in the time allowed. See 5.15 in the Common Elements in Higher Research Degrees. Difficulties of Students from a Non-English-Speaking Background

The thesis submitted for examination must be clearly written in English and the expression should not hinder the reading and comprehension of the argument. For those candidates with a non-English background, proof-reading and advice on felicitous expression and correct English are particularly important. Such students may be recommended to seek the assistance of persons competent in English. Any arrangements that may ensue are completely independent of the Sydney College of Divinity. In any modification of expression, the content of the thesis must remain the work of the candidate.

If there is any doubt, the Research Director should be consulted.

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