Confirmation of Candidature -- mockup

On initial enrolment into your PhD, you are given 'probationary' status. Candidature is 'confirmed' after you present a satisfactory, detailed research proposal to your School — in both written and oral forms.

Confirmation of your candidature is the most significant milestone in the first year of your doctoral research.This information will help guide you through the process!

Purpose

Confirmation of Candidature determines the likelihood that your doctoral research project will result in a high quality thesis and/or by completed in the required time.

For many students it provides the first opportunity to formally present a research proposal to peers, colleagues and superiors. It may also be the first time you obtain critical feedback on your work.

Helpful information is available to assist you prepare for your oral presentation.

The confirmation panel

A panel of UNE academics from your School determines the confirmation of your candidature.

About the panel

When confirming a student's candidature, Research Services acts on the recommendation of the Confirmation Panel, convened by the student's Higher Degree Research Co-ordinator.

Your Confirmation Panel is a panel of at least 3 people including your Principal Supervisor, the HDR Co-ordinator and a representative from your disciplinary area. You may also elect to have a represenative present who is there at your invitation (optional)

Each panel member will have something particular to contribute to your project. In many Schools the members of the Confirmation Panel are available to support the candidate and the project throughout the degree.

Your School will advise you of the membership of your Confirmation Panel and its nominated Chairperson.

The 'Confirmation of Candiature Proforma' is a tool designed to help you discuss with your supervisor the progress you are making with your project and how well your relationship is working.

This form is normally posted to you around six months into your candidature. It is a customised form pre-printed with your contact and supervision details - which you check and update if necessary.

If your form doesn't arrive or you lose the original form, contact your School for a replacement.

The confirmation process

What is Confirmation?

On initial enrolment in a PhD, students are given 'probationary' status. Candidature is 'confirmed' after the student presents a satisfactory, detailed research proposal to their School - in both written and oral forms.

The process of presenting your research outline and work to date is referred to as 'confirmation'. It can take place any time after 6 months of full-time candidature and before the end of 12 months full-time candidature.

You will find detailed information about the confirmation process and its requirements in the Confirmation of Candidature Procedures and the specific Confirmation of Candidature Information for Doctoral Students.

Note that the Confirmation of Candidature policy advises that the specific aims of the policy are to:

  1. Identify early in students' candidature any support and guidance necessary for their proceeding successfully to the next major stage of their research;
  2. assess progress to date and the academic preparedness of the candidate to complete their degree (or course);
  3. provide an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate written and other necessary research skills appropriate to the doctoral level of study; and
  4. achieve more timely and successful completions.

To be completed in the required time, the project must be well-matched to the candidate's abilities and the School's resources.

All of these factors will be assessed through confirmation.

Purposes and benefits

The confirmation process is designed to identify at an early stage any major problems that may hinder timely completion of a satisfactory research project and thesis.

While it will feel like you are the one being assessed in this regard, a Doctoral degree is always a joint venture between candidate, supervisor(s) and a School or Faculty. The confirmation process is thus designed to enable the candidate and the School to evaluate:

  • The scope and merit of the project
  • The progress of the research program
  • The appropriateness of the methods and techniques being employed
  • The capacity of the candidate to undertake the research at this time, including any development needs
  • The department's ability to adequately resource and supervise the project

Many students find the confirmation process to be affirming, if not enjoyable. They feel more confident about their project, and their abilities to complete that project, after presenting and defending it to a panel of experts.

Certainly, you can be confident after confirmation that you have a viable project, with no glaring gaps or omissions.

Completing confirmation is also an achievement, a PhD milestone. Your project will now be focussed and defined, and you will have a written blueprint for the work to be done over the next two to two-and-a-half years.

  • Confirmation is a very important milestone. It achieves three things:
    • It reviews the candidate's progress
    • It evaluates the research plans that have been developed
    • It allows the student to receive some constructive feedback

I think the best thing about the confirmation process was the feeling of accomplishment after one year. So you can then take a break... congratulate yourself, relax and feel that sense of accomplishment you might not feel again for two years.

Requirements
Research Services administers all PhDs.

The University requires all Research Doctoral students, in the first year of candidature, to complete as part of the Confirmation of Candidature process, the following tasks or milestones.

Candidates are required to have:

  1. presented a detailed research proposal for formal approval within the first 6 months of candidature for full-time students and within the first 12 months for part-time students; (refer to UNE's 'Writing a research proposal')
  2. completed an annotated bibliography or literature review if not included in proposal;
  3. applied for ethics approval where relevant;
  4. passed safety course where required;
  5. completed successfully any required coursework units;
  6. completed other approved development activities needed – e.g. units in statistics, academic writing, intellectual property and electronic literacy including use of electronic databases; and
  7. presented their progress to date at an interview with the Confirmation Panel (an interview without the presence of the Principal Supervisor will also be available to students).

These may need to be adapted according to specific School requirements. Any School specific requirements should be provided to the student early in their candidature.

The requirements specified under points 6 and 7 must be communicated to each student in writing as part of the induction process.

Check with your supervisor whether there are specific guidelines and requirements for confirmation in your School.

If there are special requirements noted on your enrolment, you'll be aware of them. The other common elements of confirmation - the report, the presentation and the defence - are discussed individually in this module (click on the highlighted links).

Note that to confirm your candidature you also need to complete Part 1 ‘Candidate Details’ of the  Confirmation Proforma for Doctoral Awards and submit this form to your Principal Supervisor before the end of your first 6 months of full-time candidature. Your Principal Supervisor will complete Part 2 and then pass the documents to the Chair of the Confirmation Panel.

The Confirmation Process

When does the confirmation take place?

Full-time candidates: 6 months after enrolment
Part-time candidates: 12 months after enrolment.

The following 4 sections outline some of the steps you should consider as you begin to plan for confirmation.

Early Days

We recommend talking with your supervisor 3 months into your candidature about the confirmation process in your School. You might like to ask:

  • How is confirmation handled in this School? (for example, does the student or supervisor schedule the oral presentation?)
  • What word length is expected for the written report (closer to 3,000 or 10,000 words)?
  • When and where might you give the seminar (oral) presentation?
  • Who is likely to be on your Confirmation Panel and when will you be advised of its membership?
  • Does the School have any additional requirements for confirmation?
  • Is your supervisor able to show you copies of later-year students' confirmation reports to give you an idea of the appropriate format and level of detail?
  • Is it possible to attend other students' confirmation presentations - when and where are they held?

Be sure to establish a rough timeframe for your own confirmation - one that takes into account any holidays or leave that you and your supervisor may have planned.

The Confirmation Report

Your written report or research proposal, must meet the requirements of your School. Ask your supervisor about any School guidelines for preparation of the research proposal.

To satisfy the Confirmation process, your report must include:

  1. A concise statement of the research question(s)
  2. A critical summary and analysis of relevant literature
  3. As appropriate to the discipline of study, an explanation of the conceptual framework to be used and/or a summary of experimental methods and equipment requirements
  4. A summary of progress to date including preliminary data, resources developed etc
  5. An argument for the relevance and importance of the study
  6. A proposed schedule and timeline for the phases of the study, including a date for submission, which should be on or before the date determined by SGS
  7. A brief bibliography
  8. A list of publications produced or presentations made during probationary candidature.

UNE has provided a guide to writing a research proposal which may be of assistance when you start on this path.

We'd suggest that when you begin to write your report you use these requirements as preliminary sub-headings. If you reorganise the material later, check that you have provided the information necessary to satisfy each requirement.

Items 7 and 8 are pretty straightforward. A brief bibliography usually means 1-3 pages of the main studies and papers that you will be drawing on in your project. The list of publications or presentations is often only a couple of lines - your confirmation presentation included.

Item 6, the timeline, needs to show that you have thought through all the requisite stages of your project and allowed a reasonable amount of time for each major task.

The Verbal Defence

Handling of the 'verbal defence' varies significantly from School to School and Faculty to Faculty. In some Schools it is relatively informal, like a chat between project colleagues; in other Schools the candidate will be formally questioned, much like a job-interview.

Ask your supervisor what you can expect and how to best prepare for this element of confirmation.

Generally, however, you can expect pointed questions about your skills, your plans, even your personal situation. It is, after all, the Committee's job to assess:

  • The 'feasibility, format and resource requirements' of the project
  • The ability of the candidate to satisfactorily complete the project at the required standard

Also expect Committee members to offer feedback and make suggestions - for example, about questions you might like to follow up, studies or papers to read, a technique you might like to try.

This is part of the Committee's job, so don't feel that suggestions necessarily indicate deficits in the way you have approached a task or your work to date.

Consider all advice and suggestions carefully, but don't feel bound to implement or pursue every point. Just be sure that you could justify the decisions and choices you make - as always!

What are some of the things you can do to help settle the nerves?

  • Discuss your confirmation meeting with your supervisors
  • Learn a bit about the people who will be at the meeting
  • Have a dummy confirmation committee meeting with fellow PhD students, where they can question you about your project
The Recommendation of the Confirmation Committee

Your Confirmation Committee will make 1 of 3 recommendations. It can recommend that:

  • Candidature is confirmed (with possibly some conditions applying); or
  • Candidature is not confirmed on the basis that progress is unsatisfactory.

In special circumstances, the Chair of the Confirmation Panel may apply to the Higher Degree Research Committee to extend a student's probationary candidature period (up to 3 months). This may be done, for example, if the candidate is required to revise and resubmit their confirmation report.

If the Confirmation Committee were to recommend termination of a student's candidature, it would need to have strong and documented grounds supporting the action.

For this reason, termination of candidature should never come as a complete surprise to the candidate. Most commonly, the student will have been informed on several occasions by his/her supervisors, HDR Co-ordinator or Head of School that there were concerns about the project, the progress of the research, the candidate's abilities or some other significant matter.

Unsatisfactory Progress

Where pregress is deemed by the Panel to be unsatisfactory, the student will be given the opportunity to respond to a 'show cause' letter from the Dean of Graduate Studies. Students must respond to the Dean of Graduate Studies within 21 days of receipt of the letter.

The Higher Degree Research Committee will review the show cause correspondence, will notify the student of the Committee's recommendation, and in the case of an unfavourable decision, inform the student of the appeal process.

The decision on unsatisfactory progress is final, barring the exercise of the right of appeal.


If you require additional information, please contact us.