University Research Centres

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University Research Centres (URC) Policy

Policy Code: RS978


This policy was adopted by Academic Board at its meeting of July 1999. As stated in the University’s Research and Research Training Management Plan 2001, the Centres policy was developed to support the central University research objective of: Identifying and focussing on existing research strengths and existing areas of potential strength.

The main objectives for establishing URCs at the University are:

  1. To increase productivity in research by setting up strategic alliances of individuals and groups so that the outputs are greater than would be the case if individuals worked separately.
  2. To ensure a sustainable research effort over a 3 to 5 year period by creating a “critical mass” of researchers in selected areas, and
  3. To act as a platform for the submission of competitive research grants and the development of collaborative links with industry.


University Research Centres are part of a four-tiered system, with the following definitions:

Individual Researchers: working within and/or across Schools.
Research Cluster: developmental area within and/or across Schools.
Research Group: area of research significance within and/or across Schools.
University Research Centre: area of research strength within and/or across Schools.

Policy Statement

These tiers are designed to provide clear pathways for those individuals and Schools wishing to increase their research activity and performance.

Researchers wishing to use the terms Research Cluster and Research Group should use the following indicators to choose appropriate nomenclature. The establishment of a URC is determined by the Vice Chancellor.

Individual researchers (working within and/or across Schools)

The adoption of this policy does not preclude productive research undertaken by individual researchers.

Research Cluster (developmental research area within and/or across Schools)

This level should involve a minimum number of staff sharing a common research interest and have relevance for the research needs of the region serviced by the University.

Examples of performance indicators expected from a Research Cluster could include the following:

  • presentations at regional conferences, workshops, exhibits and forums;
  • outputs in any of the existing DETYA categories, including unrefereed publications and conference papers;
  • successful grant applications at the University level (ie. FedUni Research Grants) and state level;
  • active research links with regional institutions;
  • collaborative links with regional industry;
  • successful supervision of at least honours students.

Research Group (area of research significance within and/or across Schools)

Research Groups must demonstrate a national profile in addition to servicing the needs of the region. These outputs could be demonstrated by:

  • presentations at national conferences, workshops, exhibits and forums;
  • outputs in the weighted DETYA categories, including publications in refereed scholarly journals, conference volumes and research books;
  • successful grant applications at the University level (ie. ARC Small Grants);
  • a record of applications to competitive national research funding organisations making it through to the final round;
  • active research links with national institutions;
  • collaborative links with national industry;
  • successful supervision of research postgraduate students.

University Research Centre (area of research strength within and/or across Schools)

Whilst the primary purpose of URCs is to advance research and research training, it is accepted that in some circumstances teaching of courses may be offered by a URC. In such circumstances the appropriate Head of School will be identified to ensure the quality of the course according to the expectations of Academic Board and the University.

Selection criteria for designated URCs include:

  • Relevance to University strategic priorities.
  • Evidence of strong regional links.
  • Evidence of potential to be nationally/internationally competitive.
  • Evidence of sound funding base.
  • Evidence of track record.

URCs represent the final developmental stage of a research area within the University and must demonstrate research output of international significance, in addition to national and regional importance. “International significance” is demonstrated by the following:

  • presentations at international conferences, workshops, exhibits and forums;
  • outputs in the weighted DETYA categories, including publications in refereed scholarly journals, conference volumes and research books where these are of international significance;
  • successful grant applications at the national level (eg. ARC, NHMRC);
  • active research links with overseas institutions;
  • collaborative links with international industries;
  • successful supervision of research postgraduate students.

Designation as a University Research Centre

Submissions for designation as a URC will be considered by a selection panel and must address the required selection criteria.

In order to address the selection criteria, submissions should include details on the following:

  1. the proposed structure, governance and management, including the relationship to the host School, the composition of a management committee and, where appropriate, the quality assurance processes of any teaching undertaken by the Centre;
  2. details of cross-disciplinary linkages between Schools and within Schools;
  3. a proposed program of research and an explanation of how this aligns with strategic directions of the University;
  4. curriculum vitae of all members, including a complete listing of all research output within the last five years and indications of national and/or international profile;
  5. details of active research links with other institutions and public sector/industry partners through joint research grant applications, exhibitions, or publications;
  6. quantitative and qualitative performance indicators and targets with milestones by which the group can be evaluated and reviewed;
  7. a budget proposal covering Centre activities for the first three years of operation as a URC, including details of:
  8. internal and external research funding gained by proposed members in the last five years and proposed for the next three years;
  9. current infrastructure support and an indication of future support required;
  10. an indication of the commitment to the research focus area by School/s through direct funding and/or time release for staff actively participating in the group;
  11. the total amount requested for support from central operating funds, to a maximum of $60,000 per annum for three years, with full justification for this amount within the overall budget framework of the Centre.

URCs will receive rolling triennial base funding subject to review on an annual basis. This will be determined after critical review of projects and research activities undertaken by the URC - in particular, performance in the following:

  1. Success in attracting nationally competitive grants, public sector funds, and cash support from industry.
  2. Publications in the weighted DETYA categories.
  3. Higher degree by research completions.

Members of designated University Research Centres will not be eligible to apply for internal university research grants, as the ability to obtain research project support from the national competitive grants system or other external sources is a necessary condition for establishment and continuing designation as a Centre. In addition, Centres will receive central University triennial base funding, enabling longer-term, programmatic, research support structures to be put in place. An exception to the internal grant eligibility exclusion for Centre members may be made where an applicant can demonstrate that the distinctiveness of their research proposal places it outside the URC to which they belong.

The calculation of performance-based School distributions of university research funds will include the output of Centre members.

Selection Process


The decision to establish a University Research Centre will be made by Council acting on advice from the Vice Chancellor who in turn will receive advice from:

  1. Academic Board.
  2. Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research).
  3. Ad hoc expert group(s), as appropriate.


The decision to continue or close a University Research Centre will be made by Council acting on advice from the Vice Chancellor who will include with his/her recommendations the views and recommendations of Academic Board.

Revised at Academic Board meeting AB01/4 on 6 June 2001.