Guidelines Milestone Review Panel and Academic Progress Review (APR) Panels

Application of these guidelines

1. The milestones to which these guidelines apply are:

  • Confirmation
  • Mid-Candidature Review / Progress Review
  • Pre-Submission Seminar / Final Review

2. Faculties may have their own Faculty specific milestones or reviews (such as a three month or six month review). These are outside the scope of these guidelines.

3. These guidelines are to be read in conjunction with the Graduate Research Progress Management Procedures.

4. These guidelines also apply to any Academic Progress Review process that may arise outside the milestone schedule.

Preparing for a milestone

5. The chair of the Milestone Review Panel (MRP) constituted to review the student's progress plays a key academic leadership role in ensuring that all participants - the student, supervisors and panel members - give serious attention to the importance and mandatory nature of the milestone review process.

6. Students should be reminded of the need to prepare appropriately for the milestone, and should be instructed to provide any documentation to be reviewed by their supervisor/s in sufficient advance of the milestone due date to give the supervisors adequate time to provide feedback.

7. Supervisors should be reminded of their responsibilities and a duty of care to the student. They are expected to provide written feedback to the student in a timely and constructive manner.

8. It is the collective role of the student's supervisors and the chair and panel members of the MRP to ensure the review process is conducted in a supportive, educative, constructive and fair manner and follows the policy and procedures.

9. If a student is not sufficiently able to present to the best of their ability at the milestone, they should be counselled regarding potential options available to them. Such options include applying for an extension to the milestone where the research has been delayed by circumstances beyond the student's control (refer to paragraph 11 below).

10. There are no provisions for either a pre-Mid Candidature Review or a pre-Pre-Submission Seminar extension unless it has been determined that exceptional circumstances apply, in which case a request for an extension, which has the support of the Associate Dean (Graduate Research), should be sent to Monash Graduate Education for consideration by the Vice-Provost (Graduate Education) (or delegate).

11. Examples of reasons considered beyond the student's control include:

  • failure of the supervisor/s to provide constructive feedback in a timely manner
  • chronic medical conditions that impact on a student's progress and productivity where the student is able to provide supporting medical documentation
  • delays to ethics approval
  • loss of data
  • equipment breakdown
  • loss of access to equipment
  • unexpected change of direction of research due to external or other factors (for example, legislative requirements)
  • delays to experimental work
  • environmental or other factors leading to delayed access to, or loss of, a research site/s
  • delays in being granted visa approval to travel to another country/countries to access research sites and/or archival repositories
  • delays in accessing archival, museum or other research sites due to delays in getting approval to access such sites
  • unexpected changes to supervisory arrangements which have impacted on the student's progress and ability to undertake their research.

12. Applications for an extension for grounds other than these will be considered where exceptional circumstances apply.

13. Illnesses other than chronic medical conditions that impact on a student's progress and productivity are not considered grounds for an extension unless it is determined that exceptional circumstances apply, as students experiencing a period of sickness should apply for leave of absence at the time of their illness and not retrospectively.

14. The specific purpose of each milestone is described in the Graduate Research Progress Management Procedures.

Milestone Review Panel (MRP)

15. The Head of Academic Unit (or delegate) is to convene and chair a Milestone Review Panel (MRP) to review the student's progress against the milestone prior to its due date. The Chair must be an academic from within the student's faculty.

The MRP (and any subsequent meeting of the MRP where it is required to reconvene) can only be scheduled on a working day of the University, as defined by the Monash University (Academic Board) Regulations. Consideration must also be given to not scheduling a date and time which conflicts with the requirements of a strict religious observance obligation by a student or staff member who has identified to the University that this religious observance forms an obligatory part of their religious belief, in accordance with the Guidelines to Accommodate Students and Staff with Strict Religious Observance Obligations (Australia). The Faith Communities Council of Victoria publishes a Multi-faith Calendar which can be used as a reference for staff and students.

16. Where delegation of responsibility occurs, the Head of Academic Unit should ensure that the academic appointed to take on the role is sufficiently experienced in relation to graduate research student matters, e.g. Graduate Research Coordinator or other appropriately qualified academic from within the student's faculty.

17. In addition to the Chair, the MRP must comprise at least two appropriately qualified independent members, one of whom is to be an academic staff member of the University.

18. At least one of the independent members of the MRP is to be conversant with the student's general area of research.

Please note:

  • Where appropriate, the Chair can nominate additional members to be on the MRP, including panel member/s external to the University with relevant expertise;
  • No panel member, including the Chair, should be (or have been) directly involved with the student's specific project, for example, as a current or former supervisor. No panel member should also be a currently enrolled graduate research student of the University.

19. It is important for the chair to avoid any potential or perceived conflicts of interest in relation to the panel membership, including themselves. Independence means that a panel member cannot be (or have been) a supervisor of the student. Although the supervisors provide input into the review process, they are not formal members of the panel and do not have a direct decision-making role in determining the milestone outcome.

General conduct of the milestone review

20. The Chair is responsible for organisng the time, date and place for the milestone review.  The Chair may delegate that responsibility to another staff member.

21. Some academic unit or programs encourage students to play an active role in organising the milestone. In such cases, administrative and academic support should be provided to the student where appropriate, in the form of booking venues and organizing equipment, advertising the event etc.

22. It is expected that academic units play an active role in supporting students to prepare for the milestone, as students may be anxious in the lead up to a milestone and may require additional support and assistance.

23. Where possible and practical, the presentation (and any subsequent meeting of the MRP where it is required to reconvene) should not be scheduled at a date and time which conflicts with the requirements of a strict religious observance obligation by a student or staff member who has identified to the University that this religious observance forms an obligatory part of their religious belief, in accordance with the Guidelines to Accommodate Students and Staff with Strict Religious Observance Obligations (Australia). The Faith Communities Council of Victoria publishes a Multi-faith Calendar which can be used as a reference for staff and students.

24. Where the MRP is aware that the student is registered with the University's Disability Support Services, reasonable adjustments should be applied to the format and conduct of the milestone presentation where appropriate. Reasonable adjustments enable people with disability to participate in the work and study environment along with their peers.

25. Reasonable adjustments in the university environment refer to measures or actions taken to ‘level the playing field', enable students with disability to participate on same basis as other students and reduce the impacts of their condition on their studies.

26. Staff should consult with the Disability Support Services where advice or assistance is required to determine whether reasonable adjustments are required and/or the form in which they might take.

27. Students should be advised of the membership of the Milestone Review Panel in advance of the milestone due date.

28. Students should provide the final version of the required written work to members of the MRP at least 5 working days in advance of the scheduled oral presentation, unless academic units or faculties have their own specific requirements in relation to timing of the submission of written work.

29. The oral presentation itself should be conducted in a way that is respectful of the student and gives appropriate recognition to the importance of the occasion.

30. The student's oral presentation (in whatever forum it takes place) should be advertised. It is the Chair's responsibility to ensure that conduct at the presentation is at all times collegial and encouraging of the student, such that the student is provided with a fair opportunity to demonstrate satisfactory progress. Any feedback provided to the student should be constructive and action-focused where specific requirements or tasks need to be addressed.

31. The chair of the MRP should actively intervene if the discussion goes awry or if any members of the panel or the audience do not treat the process in a collegial way. Audience members should be reminded that the student is expected to present progress appropriate to the milestone and the particular stage of their research.

32. In other cases, minor amendments are required, which are to be completed within one week (equivalent full-time) of the milestone presentation date to the satisfaction of the panel. Minor amendments include suggestions from the panel which are intended to enhance the student's research project, but do not indicate overall unsatisfactory progress by the student. They may also include minor clarifications to the written document or typographical or spelling errors.

Format of the milestone review

33. The suggested standard format for the oral presentation component of the milestone is as follows:

  • The student makes a 20 minute presentation on their research, typically incorporating a review of the literature, the research completed to date, the research issues that will be addressed, a proposed research plan, a timetable for the research, and a statement on any possible resource implications.
  • The presentation is open to staff, students, and the public.
  • Any member of the audience can ask questions of the student. The student should be able to respond without assistance from their supervisors. If appropriate, the chair can seek assistance from the supervisors if that is deemed appropriate.
  • The milestone review is then closed to all but the MRP members and the student. The chair and panel members may ask questions of the student along the following themes:
    • the student's research progress to date,
    • the student's presentation and research plan,
    • whether the student's work is of sufficient quality to merit being deemed satisfactory for the purposes of the milestone;
    • whether the student has sufficient resources to successfully complete their course of study within the prescribed timeframe; and
    • any other issues of relevance, including completion of mandatory research integrity training, intellectual property and ethics issues.

34. In the case of students seeking to transfer from a research master's degree to a PhD, the MRP must make a recommendation on whether the student should or should not be transferred into the PhD, taking into consideration the research that the student has undertaken to the present, and their reasons for applying to transfer into the PhD.

35. Following meeting the student, the MRP is to then meet with the student's supervisors, providing them with an opportunity to give feedback and input, including providing a fair and reasonable assessment of the student's progress to date, including achievements or milestones met by the student (for example, authoring or drafting publications, presenting their research to peers etc.).

36. Supervisors are also to be provided with the opportunity to raise any issues or concerns with the panel. While the supervisors do not have a formal vote in the decision of the MRP, they are expected to and must be given the opportunity to provide input into, and contribute to, the decision of the MRP. They should also contribute to discussions on the student's progress and the future phases of the research project in the presence of the student.

37. In certain circumstances, the student may be able to meet the requirements of the oral component of the milestone through a presentation at an alternative forum such as a conference, as outlined under paragraph 60 of the Graduate Research Progress Management Procedures.

Milestone Outcome

38. The MRP is to make a recommendation on whether the student's progress has either met or not yet met the requirements of the milestone using the Milestone Report Form.

39. In making its decision, the chair and members of the MRP need to consider all factors, and whether, if there are progress issues, mitigating circumstances may apply.

40. Mitigating circumstances may include (but are not limited to): previously undisclosed health issues of the student; failure of the student's supervisor to meet their obligations under the Code of practice for supervision of doctoral and research master's students, including a failure to provide constructive and timely feedback to the student; and delays beyond the student's control, including delays outlined under paragraph 11 above.

41. A recommendation of the MRP must be supported by a majority of its members and, in the event of the votes being equal, the chair has the determining vote.

Progress deemed to be unsatisfactory

42. If the MRP determines that the student has yet to meet the requirements of the milestone, the chair and members of the MRP need to exercise critical judgement in determining what constitutes major amendments. For example, what are the standards of the discipline or area to which the student seeks to make a contribution? What are the issues (omissions, failures to grasp fundamental concepts of methodology etc.) which amount to a recommendation that the student's progress is not satisfactory and they have not met the requirements of the milestone?

43. Examples of a student not having yet made satisfactory progress may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • The student is not able to demonstrate that their research will/is making a substantial and original contribution to knowledge of the subject with which it deals;
  • The student is unable to demonstrate familiarity with, and understanding of, the relevant literature;
  • The research methods adopted are not appropriate to the subject matter and are not being properly applied;
  • Depending upon the milestone and the stage of the student's enrolment, the student is unable to demonstrate that their results are suitably set out and accompanied by adequate exposition;
  • The quality of academic writing and general presentation are not yet of a standard appropriate to the degree in which the student is enrolled.

44. Where the MRP determines that the student has yet to meet the requirements of the milestone on the day of the student’s presentation, it is recommended that the Chair of the MRP informally and clearly communicate reasons why the student’s progress is considered unsatisfactory at the time of the presentation.

45. Where the Panel is unable to make its decision on the day of the student's presentation - for example, it requires further information from the student, supervisor/s or other relevant parties before it can make its decision - it must ensure that it communicates to the student both verbally and in writing the estimated date when a decision is likely. At all times, the Panel must ensure that a decision is made as expeditiously as possible, and that the student is advised of support services available to them at the university.

46. It is not the role of the MRP or supervisors to get personally involved in the student's particular circumstances. Any support provided should be relevant and proportionate.

47. A decision that the student is yet to meet the requirements of their milestone - that is, their progress is not satisfactory - must be appropriately communicated to the student, and the student must be advised of the relevant resources and services as appropriate (e.g. the Monash Postgraduate Association, counselling services).

48. In the notice of unsatisfactory progress, the chair of the MRP must provide the student with a clear list of tasks they are required to complete and the timeframe in which they are to do this. The timeframe for the student to address the progress issues should be fair and reasonable (determining this may require consultation with the supervisors).

Ensuring procedural fairness in relation to MRP deliberations

49. It is the role of the chair and panel members of the MRP to ensure procedural fairness, or natural justice, is applied to the student where unsatisfactory progress has been identified. Procedural fairness is concerned with the process used to reach a decision, rather than the actual outcome reached. It requires that a fair process be used to reach a decision.

50. Procedural fairness consists of three broad principles:

  • The student must be provided with a reasonable opportunity to prepare a response;
  • The student is provided with an adequate opportunity to present their response; and
  • The MRP is to make reasonable inquiries before making a decision, and act in good faith. This includes a freedom from bias, or the appearance of bias, and to make a decision based on a balanced and considered assessment of the information and evidence placed before it.

51. A decision by the MRP must be based upon evidence and not on speculation. The panel's standard of proof must be based on a balance of probabilities.

52. The MRP may receive sensitive information as part of its review of the student's progress. The MRP should take steps to ensure respect for the sensitivity of this information by release on a need-to-know basis.

Format for the reconvened meeting of the MRP

53. MRP must be reconvened to consider the student's response to the tasks set.

54. At the reconvened MRP the student may be accompanied and assisted by a support person who is not legally qualified, unless that person is an officer of the Monash Postgraduate Association, in which case they can be legally qualified. The student is not to be legally represented by this person.   However the Chair may invite the support person to speak on behalf of the student where they believe it is beneficial to establishing the facts.

55. The chair should establish an appropriate format for the meeting, ensuring that the student has a reasonable (but not unlimited) opportunity to present their case and respond to questions from panel members.

56. It is important that the chair and panel member engage in the process in the spirit of inquiry, noting that no formal determination has been made in relation to the student's progress and all matters need to be considered and weighed up.

57. The suggested format for this meeting includes:

Initial discussion of the panel

  • The chair should brief panel members of the format and invite them to ask questions of the student should they require clarification at any time during the meeting.

Student presentation

  • The student, if they choose to be in attendance, should be invited to present their case, respond to matters raised by the panel and answer questions from the panel members.
  • The student's case should outline the evidence and be relevant and concise in format.

58. In undertaking its final assessment of the student's progress, the chair and MRP panel members are required to consider all evidence provided, including supporting documentation provided by the student and supervisors.

59. The chair and the MRP panel must be prepared to make a decision of unsatisfactory progress if it is warranted and the student has failed to make satisfactory progress despite assistance and extra time provided.

60. The procedure for making a determination is outlined in the Graduate Research Progress Management Procedures.

61. Associate Deans of Graduate Research are encouraged to provide guidance to the chair of the MRP if asked to do so in managing matters around progress management. This is particularly important if the chair has any concerns or wishes to seek independent advice about the student's particular case.

Academic Progress Review Panel

62. An Academic Progress Review Panel (APRP) is constituted outside of the milestone review process to determine if the student's progress is unsatisfactory and if termination of enrolment is potentially warranted, in accordance with section 9 of the Graduate Research Progress Management Procedures.

63. The APRP is constituted on academic progress grounds only. This is in contrast to a situation where a student has, without appropriate explanation, failed to return from a period of approved leave or study away, failed to complete a milestone within the required timeframe or failed to re-enrol, in which case the matter is dealt with under the Graduate Research Termination Procedures.

64. Additionally, allegations of research misconduct are not considered grounds for an academic progress review within the context of these guidelines or the Graduate Research Progress Management Procedures. Research misconduct matters relating to graduate research students are dealt with under part 7 of the Monash University (Council) Regulations and Student Discipline Guidelines.

65. Prior to constituting an Academic Progress Review Panel (APRP), the student's supervisors should have made clear attempts to support the student to address issues affecting the student's ability to progress their research at both the level and volume required. Intervention may include (but is not limited to): encouraging the student to seek support from University services, including counselling; directing students to Monash English language support services; advice regarding taking a period of leave; transferring from full-time to part-time enrolment; withdrawal from the degree and applying for re-admission at some later point, etc.

66. Interventions should be documented - for example, via email or other written communication.

67. Where this intervention has failed - for example, the student has repeatedly failed to respond to their supervisor or supervisors' requests for written work and meetings to discuss progress - the student's main supervisor is to request the Head of Academic Unit (or delegate) to convene, and chair, an APRP meeting to consider the matter, following the step-by-step process prescribed under section 9 of the Graduate Research Progress Management Procedures.

68. It is important for the chair of the APRP to avoid any potential or perceived conflicts of interest in relation to the panel membership. The constitution of the APRP is prescribed under section 9 of the Graduate Research Progress Management Procedures.

69. In formally advising the student of unsatisfactory progress, the chair of the APRP must provide sufficient details as to why the student's progress is unsatisfactory along with a date and time of a meeting with the APRP to consider the issue, determine the tasks required to demonstrate satisfactory progress and the timeframe for completion of these tasks, as per the Graduate Research Progress Management Procedures.

Format for the initial meeting of the APRP and the student

70. The APRP (and any subsequent meeting of the APRP) can only be scheduled on a working day of the University, as defined by the Monash University (Academic Board) Regulations.

71. Where possible and practical, the APRP meeting (and any subsequent meeting) should not be scheduled at a date and time which conflicts with the requirements of a strict religious observance obligation by a student or staff member who has identified to the University that this religious observance forms an obligatory part of their religious belief, in accordance with the Guidelines to Accommodate Students and Staff with Strict Religious Observance Obligations (Australia). The Faith Communities Council of Victoria publishes a Multi-faith Calendar which can be used as a reference for staff and students.

72. Where the APRP is aware that the student is registered with the University's Disability Support Services, reasonable adjustments should be applied to the format and conduct of the milestone presentation where appropriate. Reasonable adjustments enable people with disability to participate in the work and study environment along with their peers.

73. Reasonable adjustments in the university environment refer to measures or actions taken to ‘level the playing field', enable students with disability to participate on same basis as other students and reduce the impacts of their condition on their studies.

74. Staff should consult with the Disability Support Services where advice or assistance is required to determine whether reasonable adjustments are required and/or the form in which they might take.

75. The student may be accompanied and assisted by another person who is not legally qualified, unless that person is an officer of the Monash Postgraduate Association, in which case they can be legally qualified. The student is not to be represented by this person.  However the Chair may invite the support person to speak on behalf of the student where they believe it is beneficial to establishing the facts.

76. The chair should establish an appropriate format for the meeting, ensuring that the student has a reasonable opportunity to contribute to the determination of the tasks set for demonstrating satisfactory progress, and the timeframe determined for completion of these tasks.

77. Subsequent to this initial meeting, the APRP must issue to the student, in writing, the tasks and timeframe agreed to, as well as the date, time and place that the APRP will convene to review and discuss the students' progress against the tasks set. The Chair is, however encouraged to informally advise and clearly communicate to the students at the meeting itself of these tasks and the agreed timeframe for their completion.

Ensuring procedural fairness in relation to APRP deliberations

78. In considering unsatisfactory progress, the APRP must ensure that procedural fairness, or natural justice, is applied to all parties involved. Procedural fairness is concerned with the process used to reach a decision, rather than the actual outcome reached. It requires that a fair process be used to reach a decision.

79. Procedural fairness consists of three broad principles:

  • The student must have notice of the case to answer and a reasonable opportunity to prepare a response;
  • The student is provided with an adequate opportunity to present their response; and
  • The APRP is to make reasonable inquiries before making a decision, and act in good faith. This includes a freedom from bias, or the appearance of bias, and to make a decision based on a balanced and considered assessment of the information and evidence placed before it.

80. A decision by the APRP must be based upon evidence and not on speculation. The panel's standard of proof must be based on a balance of probabilities.

81. The APRP may receive sensitive information. The APRP should take steps to ensure respect for the sensitivity of this information by release on a need-to-know basis.

82. The student should be advised in writing of support services that are available to them from the Monash Postgraduate Association (MPA) and from Student Services, as per the Graduate Research Progress Management Procedures.

Format for the APRP meeting

83. The student may be accompanied and assisted by another person who is not legally qualified, unless that person is an officer of a recognised student association connected with the student's campus. The student is not to be represented by this person.

84. The chair should establish an appropriate format for the meeting, ensuring that the student has a reasonable (but not unlimited) opportunity to present their case and respond to questions from panel members.

85. It is important that the chair and panel member engage in the process in the spirit of inquiry, noting that no formal determination has been made in relation to the student's progress and all matters need to be considered.

86. The suggested format for a meeting of the APRP includes:

Initial discussion of the panel

87. The chair should brief panel members of the format and invite them to ask questions of the student should they require clarification at any time during the meeting.

Student presentation

88. The student, if they choose to be in attendance, should be invited to present their case, respond to matters raised by the panel and answer questions from the panel members.

89. The student's case should outline the evidence and be relevant and concise in format.

90. In making its decision, the chair and members of the APRP need to consider all factors.  Where there are progress issues and mitigating circumstances apply, an additional period of time may be considered in which to comply with the requirements set.

91. Following the final meeting of the APRP, the Chair must make a recommendation regarding the student's progress as outlined in the Graduate Research Progress Management Procedures, with the recommendation to be forwarded to MGE within the prescribed timeframes.