Supervisory Roles and Eligibility

At UNSW, all aspects of Higher Degree Research (HDR) supervision are governed by the HDR Supervision policy, procedure and guidelines, including eligibility criteria, supervisory panel requirements, and supervision practices.

Every candidate must have a supervisory team consisting of at least two supervisors, one of whom is designated the primary supervisor for administrative purposes. The team can consist of either:

  • one primary and one or more secondary supervisors

  • two joint supervisors

  • a supervisory panel


Primary Supervisor

The primary supervisor takes primary academic responsibility for HDR candidatures. The primary supervisor is also the primary administrative contact for all candidature matters, including variations to candidature and the Research Progress Review. Candidates must be enrolled in the same School and Faculty as their primary supervisor.

Secondary Supervisor

The secondary supervisor has specific expertise that is useful to the candidate’s research program and is available as an advisor to the candidate during the course of their candidature. 


Joint Supervisor

Two joint supervisors who take equal responsibility for the research are appointed when there is a formal equal collaboration and sharing of resources to support the candidature, or where the candidate is working in a multi-disciplinary project and joint supervisors have expertise in different aspects of the project. One of the joint supervisors must be nominated as primary supervisor, meeting the eligibility criteria and acting as administrative contact for GRS.


Conjoint Supervisor

Conjoint academic staff may be appointed as primary supervisors of a candidate carrying out research in a clinical School or an approved UNSW affiliated centre, institute or location provided that they meet the eligibility conditions under the Higher Degree Research Supervision Guidelines. If the staff member has a concurrent substantive position with UNSW, they will need the written approval of their Head of School or equivalent before being appointed as a supervisor. 


Panel Supervision

A supervisory panel is comprised of three or more supervisors, and may include a member of industry, or an external person. One member of the Panel must be nominated as the primary supervisor and the remainder as secondary supervisors.

The roles of each of the panel members must be agreed by the candidate and Postgraduate Coordinator at the start of the candidature or the commencement of these supervisory arrangements. 


All supervisors must meet the eligibility criteria set out in the Higher Degree Research Supervision procedure.

The eligibility criteria for primary supervisors include the following:

  • be a full-time or fractional full-time employee of UNSW as a member of the academic staff

  • have successfully supervised at least two HDR candidates to completion as primary or joint supervisor OR meet the exceptions in 2.1.2 of the procedure

  • hold a doctoral degree or have equivalent research experience

Early career researchers who have not supervised at least two HDR candidates to completion may still register to be a primary supervisor provided that they meet all other eligibility criteria, and a joint supervisor is also appointed to the supervisory team.

For a full list of eligibility criteria for each supervisory role, please refer to the Higher Degree Research Supervision procedure.