Supervising Research Candidatures

Effective supervision of research candidates requires knowledge of the processes, policies and practices that govern the candidature life cycle, from admission to graduation. The information below outlines key concepts and requirements to keep in mind when recruiting new candidates, supporting candidates through candidature milestones, preparing for graduation, and establishing new scholarships.

Additional information is provided in the How to Apply, ScholarshipsGetting Started, Managing Your Candidature, and Thesis sections of the website.

The Graduate Research School is here to support supervisors and candidates throughout the candidature experience. For help or advice regarding any admission, candidature, or thesis examination matters, please contact us



The HDR admissions process has been designed to ensure that candidates have the capacity to meet the academic, ethical and time requirements of a research higher degree. Recruitment of the best research candidates often results from considerable communication between supervisors and applicants. Below are some things to keep in mind when considering whether to supervise a new research candidate.


Admission and application requirements

During the admissions process, candidates are assessed against a number of minimum admission requirements, including the academic requirements for their preferred research higher degree program and the English language requirements for their Faculty. It is worth noting that candidates applying for admission to a PhD program must demonstrate that they have achieved a minimum of Honours 2.1 or equivalent. For a guide to demonstrating this equivalence, please refer to the Honours 2.1 Equivalence Information Sheet

Applications can only be considered once applicants have submitted all supporting documentation, and can demonstrate English language proficiency. Applications and satisfactory documentation must be submitted by the relevant deadline as per Key Dates. For further information regarding the admissions process and supporting documentation, please visit How to Apply

Once an applicant submits their application, the nominated supervisor will receive an email notification directing them to accept or decline the nomination through GRIS. When responding to the nomination, the supervisor also needs to confirm that a pre-admission interview took place, confirm the applicant’s research area, and provide answers to questions regarding sanctions (if applicable). For more information, visit GRIS.


Finding the right match

All supervisors must conduct a pre-admission interview with prospective candidates. The interview provides an opportunity to ensure that you have compatible research interests and working styles, to consider whether appropriate resources, space and infrastructure will be available for the proposed research project, and to provide the candidate with feedback on the quality of their research description. Supervisors should prepare for interviews by reviewing an applicant’s written research description and resumé, and should contact the applicant’s referees where further information about their research and/or professional background is needed. Sample interview questions are provided in the HDR Admissions Guidelines.


Scholarships and Financial Support

Before agreeing to supervise a potential research candidate, it is important to consider what type of financial support will be available to them during their candidature: 

  • If the candidate intends to undertake a full time study load, do they have a scholarship or another source of funding for their living expenses? 

  • If the candidate is an international student, how will they pay tuition fees? 

  • Will the applicant be competitive for a UNSW Scholarship (top 5% of H1E), or will I have a TFS stipend?

  • Is the candidate planning to study part time and work during the remainder of the week? This is not an option for international candidates, as they are required to enrol full time under the ESOS Act. Part time domestic candidates are required to dedicate at least 17 hours per week to their research project. 

Setting Up Scholarship Funding

Scholarships can come through a range of sources, such as grant or industry funding, donor funding, external/government bodies etc. 

External scholarship providers will pay the candidates directly. 

The duration of a postgraduate research scholarship should be no more than two years for a Research Masters candidate, and four years for a Research Doctorate candidate.  

Scholarships through UNSW must be paid from one UNSW account into an Australian bank account nominated by the candidate. If a UNSW account has not been opened, contact UNSW Research Grants and Contracts or School/Faculty Finance team. 

Once the account is set up, the Scholarship is then to be set up with the Graduate Research School to establish the conditions, payment details and to link to/pay the recipient. Candidates must be enrolled, active, and not have submitted their research thesis. 

TFS stipends are managed through the Main Award process. Supervisors/Schools choosing to pay for other expenses will pay directly (eg OSHC directly with provider, Tuition Fees with UNSW Fees, research expenses through NS Financials).

Advertising of scholarships can be supported by UNSW. Contact the Engagement team at

Establishing a New Postgraduate Research Scholarship

Once the account set up and candidate enrolled, download and complete the Scholarship Proposal Kit and submit the completed form to the Graduate Research School.

Scholarships created using the Scholarship Proposal Kit will have the same conditions and rate as the Research Training Program (RTP) stipend unless otherwise stipulated.

For instructions on how to complete the Scholarship Proposal Kit form, including how to calculate scholarship stipend rates, please refer to the Scholarship Proposal Kit Information Sheet



Scholarship Proposal Kit Information Sheet

Scholarship Proposal Kit


Changing a Postgraduate Research Scholarship

Scholarships set up as lump sums or in total over periods scholarships cannot be adjusted. 

Scholarships set up as per annum scholarships can be adjusted, but need to be requested a month in advance minimum, due to the HDR scholarship pay cut-off dates. The following changes can be made by emailing the Admissions and Scholarships team:

  • Increase in rate - provide the new per annum rate, and the date this is to be increased

  • Extension of expiry date - provide the new expiry date

  • Change the account codes - provide the new account codes, and the date these are to change (please note account changes will only be effective on the first day of a pay cycle)

Changes may take 2 weeks to be processed and will be confirmed once processed.

Managing Milestones

Getting Started

Once a candidate has been accepted into a research higher degree program, they need to follow a number of steps to complete their enrolment and formally commence their studies. This formal enrolment should be completed by the start date for the relevant term. A step by step guide to this commencement process is available at Getting Started.

When a candidate formally commences their studies, it is good practice to establish a clear framework for the supervisory relationship and management of the project. This should include an agreement regarding mutual expectations with respect to roles, responsibilities and communication, and mutual understanding of the stages of the project. Templates for candidature commencement meetings and communication plans are available in the HDR Supervision Guidelines.


Setting milestones

Candidates must submit their thesis within the maximum time of candidature for their research program. To ensure that a candidate maintains progress, it is essential to set milestones that are appropriate to the stage of the candidature.

For the first stage of research, milestones may include:

  • determining the gaps in knowledge or selecting suitable topics in the field that will help focus the research and producing a critical literature review;

  • formulating a proposal to address these gaps in knowledge or chosen topics;

  • conducting preliminary investigations to assess feasibility of approaches.

For a PhD candidate, these milestones should form the basis of the requirements for a confirmation review.

In the mid to late candidature stages, appropriate milestones should be regularly set and reviewed, and should involve re-evaluation of the candidate’s training and skills development needs. Tools to conduct a training needs analysis are all available in the HDR Supervision Guidelines.

The formal mechanism for reviewing progress against these milestones is the Annual Research Review of Progress. Enrolment in a PhD program is also subject to Confirmation. Detailed information regarding both of these processes is available at Managing Your Candidature.

It is the primary supervisor’s role to assist candidates with their preparation for these events, and ensure that they have a clear understanding of their purpose and benefit. Primary supervisors are required to submit their review of the candidate’s enrolment, research and candidature details through GRIS.


Candidates with Mitigating Circumstances

If a candidate is experiencing mitigating circumstances that have an impact their ability to maintain progress and/or submit their thesis within the maximum time of candidature for their research program, their Supervisor or Postgraduate Coordinator may implement a management plan outlining a clear pathway to completion.

For more information, please visit Management Plans.


Overtime Enrolment

Candidates are required to complete their degree within the maximum time permitted for their research program: 4 years full-time equivalent for PhD candidates, and 2 years full-time equivalent for Master’s by Research and Master of Philosophy candidates.

If a candidate is unable to submit their thesis within the maximum time permitted, they may apply to the Faculty Higher Degree Committee for permission to enrol overtime.

Candidates who exceed the maximum time permitted for their program are at risk of non-completion, making it especially important that their progress is closely monitored. The overtime application process set out in the Progress Review and Confirmation of Research Candidatures Procedure is designed to support candidates to complete their program.

1. Complete a Research Progress Review

A candidate who is unable to submit their thesis on time must participate in a Research Progress Review. Remedial actions must be developed to address the issues impeding progress, along with revised milestones. As outlined in section 6 of the Progress Review and Confirmation of Research Candidatures Procedure, candidates who are unable to submit their thesis on time may only receive a marginal or unsatisfactory result.

2. Submit an application through GRIS

The candidate should apply for an extension of their candidature by submitting the GRIS Variation of Candidature form at least two weeks before the census date for the term when their extension will occur. Extensions are considered by your Faculty’s Higher Degree Committee (HDC) for approval.

3. Participate in another Research Progress Review within three months

The candidate must participate in another Research progress Review within three months, during which they will be reviewed against their revised milestones. If the panel considers that the candidate is on track for submission of their thesis by the agreed deadline, they should receive a satisfactory outcome, and have new milestones set, resulting in a thesis submission prior to the next appropriate census date.


Variations to candidature

Candidates may request a change to their candidature, such as a change of study load, program leave, program transfer, and change to research area. Supervisors should seriously consider the impact of a Variation on a research candidate, and consider the information on this process available at Managing Your Candidature.


Research Integrity

Research Integrity is UNSW’s commitment to creating and maintaining an environment that promotes responsible research conduct. UNSW also has an obligation to education Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidates on research integrity issues. All candidates are automatically enrolled into a Research Integrity module after their initial enrolment, and must achieve an 85%+ pass in this module's compulsory assessment.

To assist with discussions of Research Integrity with research candidates, supervisors should use iThenticate, a software tool that assists with plagiarism detection and similarity checks. iThenticate should be used collaboratively between candidate and supervisor as a supervisor-guided learning process. Incorporation of this tool regularly into all stages of the candidature will encourage feedback on appropriateness of referencing and discussions of plagiarism, both of which are essential components of academic writing.


Supervisors should encourage candidates to write early and often, and prepare a realistic plan that sets out how long it will take to:

  • gather, prepare and analyse their data/material,

  • develop any required skills (eg computer programming),

  • write their thesis.

It’s important that both supervisors and their candidates remain on the same page regarding this plan for submission, and revise it as needed.

Supervisors must review their candidate’s thesis to ensure that it conforms to the UNSW requirements. During this review process, supervisors should use iThenticate, a software tool that assists with plagiarism detection and similarity checks, to help provide feedback on the candidate's acknowledgement of others' work.

Once satisfied with their candidate’s thesis, there are two main steps supervisors need to complete in the lead up to thesis submission.


Step One Nomination of Examiners

Candidates are required to lodge their Notification of Intention to Submit via the Thesis Examination Management (TEM) system on myUNSW two months before they submit their thesis. Once this step has been completed, their primary supervisor is asked to nominate two external examiners.

It is important that the thesis is examined independently and the process is free from actual or perceived bias or preferential treatment. To achieve this, it is critical that members of the academic staff avoid nominating examiners with a perceived or actual conflict of interest. Please refer to the Higher Degree Examiner Conflict of Interest Guide.

Prior to nomination, supervisors may invite their candidate to advise them of any potential examiners who they do not wish to examine their thesis.

Once examiners have been nominated, supervisors must maintain confidentiality throughout the examination process. If a candidate discovers the names of their examiners while their thesis is under examination, this can result in serious ramifications, and may result in a charge of academic misconduct.

Step Two Supervisor's Certificate

In the lead up to submitting their thesis, candidates are required to record their 350 word abstract on the TEM system. Once they have completed this step, their primary supervisor must complete a Supervisor’s Certificate via the TEM system at myUNSW to confirm that the thesis is in a format that is suitable for examination, and that the abstract accurately represents the thesis.

If, after review, a primary supervisor decides that a thesis is not suitable for examination, they must advise both the candidate and Postgraduate Coordinator in writing of the reasons for their assessment. For more information, visit Before Thesis Submission.