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Under Review Procedure for Doctoral Candidates making Unsatisfactory Progress

Category Research
Type Procedure
Approved by Board of Graduate Studies, 4 September 2014
Date Procedure Took Effect 4 September 2014
Last Approved Revision
Sponsor Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise)
Responsible Officer Dean, Graduate Research School
Review Date 4 September 2016

Purpose

This procedure puts in place a protocol for setting clear expectations for doctoral candidates when there are ongoing concerns about progress and likelihood of completion.  The aim of the procedure is to provide advice and support to assist the candidate to meet the requirements of the degree or to consider other options if completion of the degree is not likely.

The procedure also provides for the termination of a student’s candidature and establishes the process to be followed before this is done.

Organisational Scope

This procedure applies to all PhD and professional doctorate candidates.

Definitions

Candidate refers to a student studying towards a PhD or professional doctorate.

Progress Meeting refers to a formally established supervisory meeting where progress is discussed and includes the six-monthly or annual progress report meetings provided for under the doctoral regulations as well as special meetings convened under this procedure because of concerns over progress.

Under Review refers to the status of a candidate who has not been making satisfactory progress and who, through one or more progress meetings, has been set a series of tasks against which their progress is to be closely monitored and assessed

Under Review Period refers to the period of time set for the candidate’s progress to be closely monitored and after which progress is to be assessed. The period may be of any appropriate length up to six months but is typically two to three months in duration.

Under Review Memorandum means a memorandum detailing the expectations of the Under Review Period.

Policy Content

1.    Under Review Process

(a)    When issues of progress first arise these should be discussed with the candidate and appropriate steps taken to assist the candidate to improve their progress. If these less formal steps do not result in satisfactory improvement this Under Review Procedure should be initiated. 

(b)    The decision to place a candidate Under Review is made by the Dean of the Graduate Research School, usually on the recommendation of the candidate’s supervisory team when they have ongoing concerns about progress and likelihood of completion.  A supervisor’s recommendation to place a candidate Under Review requires the endorsement of the Head of Department.

(c)    The candidate will be formally notified by the Dean of the Graduate Research School that they are to be placed Under Review and at that time will be provided with a copy of these procedures.  The candidate will also be informed of support services available and of an independent person (such as a Postgraduate Coordinator or senior academic in the department) to consult, since this process can be very stressful.

(d)    Once the Dean of the Graduate Research School has confirmed that a candidate is to be placed Under Review, it is the role of the supervisors, in conjunction with the candidate and the Head of Department, and in consultation with the Dean of the Graduate Research School, to prepare an Under Review Memorandum detailing the conditions for the Under Review Period.  As a minimum, this memorandum should include:

i.    The duration of the Under Review period;
ii.    The research work that is to be submitted for consideration by the end of the Under Review period;
iii.    The required quality of the work, i.e. it needs to be at a doctoral  level, and in final draft form;
iv.    The assistance to be provided during the period, including the meetings that will be held;
v.    Possible outcomes from the Review; and
vi.    The signatures of the candidate, supervisors and Head of Department(s).  

Examples of MOU requirements can be provided by the Graduate Research School.

(e)     In the event of any disagreement over the terms of the Under Review Memorandum, or any unreasonable delay in its completion, the terms of the memorandum may be settled by the Dean of the Graduate Research School and issued to the candidate.

(f)    When a candidate is Under Review it is expected that the department(s) will take active steps to provide reasonable support and opportunity for the candidate to rectify progress issues and if possible meet the requirements of the Under Review Memorandum.

(g)    At the end of the Under Review period the primary supervisor, in consultation with any co-supervisors and the Head of Department, will provide a report to the Dean of the Graduate Research School advising the candidate’s progress against the requirements of the Under Review Memorandum.

(h)    If the supervisors and the Head of Department are satisfied with progress the Dean of the Graduate Research School may determine that the candidate can continue in the degree. 

(i)    If the supervisors and/or the Head of Department continue to be concerned with progress or if the Dean of the Graduate Research School considers there to be other reasons to do so, the Dean of the Graduate Research School in consultation with the supervisors and the Head of Department, shall arrange an independent assessment of the candidate’s work to determine if it is of a standard to allow continuation in the programme.  

(j)    If this independent assessment finds the candidate’s work is of a standard to allow continuation in the programme, the Dean of the Graduate Research School may determine that the candidate can continue in the degree. 

(k)    Continuation in the programme under (f) or (h) may be on the basis that the candidate is no longer Under Review or may be subject to a further Under Review Period and a new Under Review Memorandum.
 
(l)    If the independent assessment raises concern that the candidate’s work is not of a standard to allow continuation in the programme, the Dean of the Graduate Research School will refer the matter to the Graduate Research Committee for consideration of termination of the candidature under the processes of clause (2) below. 

2.    Terminating doctoral candidature after Under Review period

(a)    Where a recommendation is made that candidature be terminated, the Graduate Research School will:
i.    Investigate possible options for transfer into an alternative programme of study, including investigating fee and visa implications.
ii.    Contact the candidate advising them that the termination of their candidacy is being considered, advising them of any alternative study options that have been identified, and providing them with the opportunity to provide a written response to the material on the basis of which the matter is to be considered.

(b)    In considering a recommendation for termination, the Graduate Research Committee will take into account:
i.    Any relevant background file data on the candidate provided by the Dean of the Graduate Research School;
ii.    The recommendation of the supervisors;
iii.    A letter from the candidate (if they wish to contest the recommendation for withdrawal from the doctoral programme).

Note that while the availability of options for transfer into another degree shall be explored for the benefit of the candidate, the availability or otherwise of such an option will not be taken into account in the Graduate Research Committee’s decision as regards termination of candidature.     

(c)    If the Graduate Research Committee endorses termination of candidature (with or without a recommended transfer into a different degree programme), it will inform the candidate and supervisors of this recommendation, advise the candidate of support services available to assist them to cope with this result, and alert them to the process for seeking Leave to Appeal the decision.  The candidate will also be advised that they can opt to transfer programme/withdraw from the degree (whichever is applicable) voluntarily, in which case they must advise the Graduate Research Committee of their decision to do so within 10 working days of being sent the decision letter.

(d)    If the candidate does not communicate a decision to withdraw voluntarily or transfer from the doctoral programme and/or apply to the Registrar to seek leave to appeal within 10 working days of receiving the decision letter, then the Graduate Research Committee will withdraw the candidate permanently from the doctoral programme.



Contact for Further Information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, contact the Dean of the Graduate Research School on dean.grs@otago.ac.nz