Formal warning of unsatisfactory progress
A formal warning of unsatisfactory progress (often referred to as a ‘formal warning’) is issued to you if your advisory committee (includes your supervisors) determines that your progress is still not satisfactory at the end of your 'at risk' period, and that it is unlikely that you will be able to submit your thesis on time.
If you do not demonstrate satisfactory progress by the end of the formal warning period, your enrolment may be terminated.
How long is the formal warning period?
A formal warning lasts three months (irrespective of full or part time enrolment), and commences the date the notification is emailed to you. You are expected to be enrolled and continue to receive your scholarship during this period.
Your supervisors will provide support during this period.
When can a formal warning be issued?
- A formal warning can only be issued after you have been enrolled for at least three months (full or part time).
- Generally, a formal warning will occur after an 'at risk of making unsatisfactory progress' intervention outcome is unsatisfactory. However, your advisory committee (includes your supervisors) can request that you be issued with a formal warning of unsatisfactory progress at any stage of your candidature.
- If you have reached your maximum course duration and you have not submitted your thesis, and have not been approved for a late submission or to be lapsed candidature, a formal warning will be issued.
What happens if I receive a formal warning?
- Step 1
- You will receive an email with the dates of the three-month formal warning period, and the progress requirements that your committee have identified to get you back on track. The email will also notify you that your candidature may be terminated at the end of a formal warning of unsatisfactory progress if you do not meet the set progress requirements
- Step 2
- You will receive an email with a link to the online progress review form due at the end of the formal warning period
- Step 3
- At the end of your formal warning period, a progress meeting will be scheduled
- Step 4
- Your advisory committee chair will complete the online progress review form
- Step 5
- You’ll get an email from the University regarding the outcome of your progress review and the formal warning period
Implications for student visa holders
If you discontinue your candidature before the expiration of the three-month formal warning period, the University will cancel your Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) and inform the Department of Education and Training and the Department of Home Affairs. If you want to extend your stay in Australia for further study you will need to be admitted into a different course of study and apply for a new visa.
If the outcome of the formal warning is that your candidature is terminated, the University must notify the Department of Education and Training and the Department of Home Affairs. The Department of Home Affairs may then cancel your student visa, and you may not be granted another temporary visa for a period of three years.
I’ve been told I'm getting a ‘formal warning’
The University will send an unsatisfactory progress notification, with an attached ‘show cause’ notice, to your University student email address.
The show cause notice includes:
- the start and end date for the formal warning period
- the tasks you need to achieve that will result in a satisfactory progress outcome
- a due date by which you can appeal the decision by your committee to issue you with a formal warning of unsatisfactory progress.
What if I do not agree with my advisory committee?
This appeal of your advisory committee’s decision that you be issued with a formal warning of unsatisfactory progress is called a ‘request to be heard’. The written request to be heard must be submitted to Graduate Research (Academic Services) by the due date stated in the show cause notice. Be aware that the formal warning period is not delayed while this type of appeal is being heard. Refer to the University's Graduate Research Training Policy and the show cause notice you received for more details on how the process is conducted and what the potential outcomes of the hearing are.
Apply for a change to your enrolment
During the formal warning period
A formal warning means that the University has serious concerns regarding your ability to succeed in your course. If you choose to make changes to your enrolment you may find this will hinder your ability to demonstrate you have made satisfactory progress. Any application to make changes to your enrolment while under a formal warning will be considered, but may not be approved.
Applications for changes to candidature received after a formal warning of unsatisfactory progress has been issued require supporting documentation. Refer to the guidelines for supporting documentation when applying for special consideration.
Some examples of changes to enrolment are:
If you do apply to make a change during your formal warning period, the following factors will be taken into account when considering your request:
- course specific requirements
- academic progress to date
- supervisor and other resource availability
- prospects of success and the capacity to complete in a timely manner
- scholarships and other funding requirements
- compassionate or compelling circumstances.
During the appeal period to formal warning outcome
Once the formal warning period has ended, if you receive an outcome of unsatisfactory progress that recommends termination of your current degree (or transfer to another degree otherwise termination) you have short time to appeal the decision. During the appeal period any request for a change to enrolment is not possible, since it has been decided that you can no longer continue in your current degree.
Changes to the appeal period end date or questions you may have related to the appeal should be directed to the Academic Secretary via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aside from demonstrating satisfactory progress, you need to discuss how you are progressing throughout the formal warning period with your advisory committee (includes your supervisors), including any successes and any problems you encounter.
This period can be an emotional or difficult time, and you are encouraged to make use of the free support services available via Service Finder.
Student visa holders
Information for student visa holders who have been issued a formal warning of unsatisfactory progress can be found on our International students website. If you have further questions relating to potential issues for your visa, you should contact Stop 1.
If you would like assistance with your written submission for your request to be heard, the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) provides an independent advocacy service, the Student Union Advocacy Service.
If you have any questions about the formal warning of unsatisfactory progress process, you and your advisory committee (includes your supervisors) should talk to Graduate Research (Academic Services).
At the end of the ‘formal warning’ period
At the progress meeting held at the end of the formal warning period your advisory committee (includes your supervisors) will assess your progress against the documented progress.
You will then receive a formal notification of the outcome via your university student email.
The outcome will be either:
- satisfactory progress
- at risk of unsatisfactory progress
- unsatisfactory progress, where a recommendation of a change to enrolment is made to the Academic Board (eg transfer to masters or lapsed candidature)
- unsatisfactory progress, where a recommendation of termination of candidature is made to the Academic Board.
If the outcome at the end of the formal warning period is unsatisfactory progress, you can appeal to the Academic Board.
Student visa holders
Student visa holders who wish to appeal to the Academic Board must do so within 20 working days of receiving their outcome. If you do not lodge an appeal to the Academic Board within this time, the University will notify the Department of Home Affairs about your outcome.
If your appeal to the Academic Board is unsuccessful, but you still believe the outcome of the process to be unfair, you may also appeal to the Victorian Ombudsman. You must do this within 10 working days of receiving the Academic Board decision, and provide evidence of lodgement to the Academic Secretary.
Your right to appeal to the Victorian Ombudsman is not limited to 10 working days; however, the University must notify Home Affairs that you have not achieved satisfactory academic progress after 10 working days if no evidence of an appeal to the Ombudsman is received.
The University will only notify the Department of Home Affairs about your outcome if you do not appeal within the timeframes listed above, or you exhaust the appeal options listed above and the original decision is still upheld.
Where to get help
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your research workload or facing personal issues that are interfering with your ability to work, the University provides a free confidential counselling service.
You may also want to access any of the other services and resources available via Service Finder to support you when you need it. You can also refer to the Resolving problems page on the Graduate Research Hub if problems arise.