Computers Provided by CSE

Please read this page fully before completing a request form.

See our FAQ page if you want further explanation of how CSE provides computers.

What this policy covers

  • This policy directs CSE to provide one computer for each higher-degree research student and staff member (except short-term or casual appointments). It is intended that the computer be the person's primary work computer while they are working at CSE.
  • When the computer stops working, or is not suitable for normal computing tasks, CSE will repair or replace it. (If damage occurs due to negligence the Head of School may require other action.)
  • The computer will be funded by CSE operating equipment funds. Where a special research need exists other funds can be added to pay for some enhancements.
  • The computer and associated peripherals remain the property of UNSW and must be returned when the persons association with CSE ends. Equipment that is still useful will be reallocated at the discretion of the Computer Support Group (CSG).
  • To qualify for any operating funds the purchase must come from a UNSW preferred supplier. Only a small number of makes and models will be supplied under this policy.

What this policy does not cover

Equipment not covered include:

  • Things that are not a desktop or laptop computer, such as: monitors, keyboards, special input or display devices.
  • More specialised computers such as research workstations.

Those other things must be bought outside this policy and usually without using the CSE operating fund.

People not covered

Fully-funded researchers

Many funded contract research positions support the full cost of research. Such contracts should fund equipment instead of CSE operating funds unless otherwise agreed by the Head of School.

Visiting Academics and Exchange Students, Short-term or Casual Employees

Generally, people on casual, short-term, exchange, or visiting appointments to CSE will not be assigned a primary workstation. Instead those people will be given access to shared office space (Visitor Lounge) in CSE or be directed to use hot-desks.

Such people will have:
  • A personal UNSW computer account, giving access to our computing resources.
  • Computing resources such as file storage, wireless networking, remote login servers (Linux) and printing.
  • Shared-access desktop computers running mainstream operating systems (presently Windows, macOS or Ubuntu-Linux) which will be available to use in the Visitor office space. (The computers are shared, so administrator control will not be granted.)
  • Desks for comfortable laptop use, fitted with monitors, keyboards and mice.

Once a computer account is set up, any problems using these resources can be resolved quickly by CSE's Computer Support Group (CSG).

The shared office spaces and hot-desks are not suitable for personal computer equipment, besides portable devices.

Special arrangements will need to be made for visitors who will use private office or need exclusive use of a workstation computer. They will be given a working computer from spare equipment that CSG or an academic can make available. The computer will be similar to one a researcher might receive.

People this policy covers

Academics and other Researchers

This is anyone who is a:

  • Higher Degree Research Student
  • Academic Staff Member (Teaching, Research …), or
  • Research Support Staff Member paid by CSE operating funds
  • Not a short-term or Exchange Student.
These people are referred to as "Researchers" in the rest of this document.

Researchers will be provided with a computer according to the guidelines:

Administration staff

They will be assigned a CSE computer according to their duties. This will be determined by their supervisor and the Computer Support Group (CSG).

The other aspects of this policy will apply, such as repair and replacement by CSG when required.

Your Primary Work Computer

Most researchers will just need an ordinary computer to work on and may use other shared servers for intensive computing tasks. In that case they will select a computer from our standard equipment list.

The list will be updated periodically, depending on market availability, technical merit, WH&S guidelines and UNSW computer purchase guidelines.

Extra Software

Some common software is covered by site licences at CSE and can be installed on the computer by the researcher at no extra cost.

Software that CSE is not already licensed to use should be paid for by special research funds.

A Special Primary Work Computer

If you have a special research requirement for an enhanced computer it can be bought instead of one from the standard list. (Or you require an Apple computer, which has an enhanced cost.)


  • CSE will only contribute the same operating funds as for a computer on the current, standard equipment list.
  • To fund the rest of the cost of you must use your UNSW research funds, or those of your supervisor.
  • CSE will not use your personal money to buy a computer. Only money from UNSW accounts.

What equipment will be funded?

It must be the computer you sit at and use daily. If it is significantly different from a standard computer then CSE will not provide operating funds. See: Guidelines for Equipment Selection.

The purchase must include, or these items must already be available:

  • Keyboard and Mouse, or similar peripherals you intend use to control the computer, such as a drawing pad.
  • A Monitor — These are already on desks in CSE office spaces according to this policy. A headless computer will not qualify for CSE operating funds.
  • Cables to connect computer to the monitor. Only standard cables, such as full-size Display-Port cables are available from CSG. If the computer you buy uses mini connectors, or has a USB-C output, you will need to also buy the cables and adapters to connect it to the monitor.
  • at least three years on-site warranty.

This is a requirement to keep the equipment useful for longer and for safe working in CSE. These items must be used with the computer for it to qualify for any operating funds. The cost of these items cannot be discounted against the cost of the computer. eg: Supplying your own monitor does not mean we charge you less to buy extra RAM.

Who owns the special computer?

The computer remains the property of CSE and, if the person using it leaves CSE, it will be reallocated at the discretion of the Computer Support Group. Due consideration will be given to reallocating the computer within the research group that partly funded it.

How to obtain a CSE supplied computer

(Procedure Updated 22-Nov-2023)

All computer purchases should follow the University’s centralised process for buying IT equipment. Order from the UNSW IT Procurement page.

Staff and HDR students should request budget approval and cost code from the School Manager prior to making the purchase, to ensure CSE budget compliance.

The CSE standard primary work computer will be a Dell Laptop (currently Dell Precision 3480 - i5 - 32GB - 1TB). Other models, will be a Special Primary Work Computer (see above). To fund any extra cost you must use your UNSW research funds, or those of your supervisor.

Once the laptop or MacBook has been issued, staff/HDR’s should present to CSG Office to have it registered in the equipment register as a School asset so that we can maintain oversight on the ownership and understand which machines we are supporting.

Computers not from a UNSW Preferred Supplier

CSE operating funds cannot be used to purchase a computer that is not from a UNSW preferred supplier. The purchase must be paid for wholly from research funds or other funds. Such purchases are outside the scope of this policy.

Replacement of old, faulty, or lost computers

The end-of-life for a computer will be defined by CSE asset disposal policies. When the computer reaches its end-of-life CSE will provide the researcher with a replacement computer from operating funds.

Before the end-of-life the following rules apply:
  • Faults will be repaired under warranty where possible.
  • If a computer has been damaged, lost, or stolen then the researcher must provide the Head of School's office with an explanation of what happened to the computer and an assurance they exercised all due care for the computer. The Head of School will decide what replacement computer CSE will provide to the researcher.
  • CSE will supply one power supply per laptop. If the power supply is lost then CSE will not buy another. (But you may use you own research funds to buy one.) Failed power supplies will be replaced, typically under warranty, so long as the failed device is returned to CSG.
  • If the computer cannot be used for normal research computing tasks because it is not powerful enough it will be replaced with one that is. Note that for special computing requirements additional funds may be required to purchase newer or more powerful equipment.
  • If the computer cannot be used for normal research computing tasks due to hardware failure it will be fixed under warranty. If it cannot be fixed under warranty it will be replaced by a similar or better computer.
  • The replacement computer will be funded by operating funds. Note that CSE will only provide enough funds to replace your equipment to the point where you would have a standard working computer.
  • Laptop batteries are not covered by warranty in the same way as the rest of the laptop. CSE will replace a laptop battery if it fails before the end-of-life of the computer and if replacement batteries are still available from the supplier.
CSE will not:
  • Replace one of your two computers if one of them still works
  • Pay the full replacement cost of a high-end workstation
  • Replace an item you bought for your computer — not one of our standard supply.

When the person already has their own computer

People may come to CSE with their own computer. If the computer can practically be used for CSE work we recommend the person continue to use it. For instance, a researcher might have already configured their computer to run their research software or might be comfortable with the environment they are already using.

CSE can provide a new computer at a later time when the researcher's own computer is too old or fails.

Peripherals, such as a monitor can be supplied if this helps the researcher use their existing computer.

Guidelines for Equipment Selection

This policy describes what computer will be bought wholly or partly from CSE operating funds. It allows some flexibility in what computers are bought to cater for the variety in legitimate computing tasks undertaken in the School. However, the policy commits the school to providing a mostly normal and generally useful computer to each person. It is not intended to subsidise the cost of a greatly enhanced computer.

For a computer to be bought from operating funds these rules apply:
  • It is normally a desktop, but may be a laptop if a supervisor considers a laptop more suitable for daily work.
  • It is to be selected on suitability (rather than desirability); CSE do not support the purchase of Apple hardware for the installation of Windows in favor of macOS.
  • The user will work on the computer directly (rather than remotely) to perform most of their day-to-day computing tasks.
  • It is able to run desktop applications as well as software for programming and compiling.
  • It is expected to remain useful for several years so should be reasonably powerful.
  • It is easy and inexpensive to repair. It should not be easy to damage or lose.
  • It is a good price for the capabilities CSE desires.
  • The purchase must come from a UNSW preferred supplier.
  • It is similar to other computers at CSE so it can be reassigned or swapped if the person returns it. This also means that a solution to a problem on one computer is likely to apply for many other computers at CSE.

CSE will not provide operating funds where there is a compromise on economic pricing or on general or long-term usefulness. This may be for extra computing power, aesthetics or portability. An example would be an light-weight laptop. These are generally less powerful and more likely to be damaged or stolen than a cheaper, heavier laptop. Other examples are computers with more CPU cores, RAM, disk, or other resources than is normal for a commodity computer. Such as:

  • A shared login computer with many cores
  • A high-end desktop workstation able to perform intensive computing tasks
  • An expensive laptop with a CPU and RAM normal for a desktop computer

We urge you to use the shared servers at CSE for intensive computing rather than buy a new, expensive computer for yourself.

Goals of this Policy

  • Reduce administrative burden for processing purchases
  • Simplify paperwork for those submitting requests for equipment by offering simple choices.
  • Provide a "standard working computer" to a researcher or staff member. Thus the researcher does not spend time finding vendors and selecting equipment within a funding allowance.
  • Save money by selecting more modest equipment
  • Save money and time with bulk purchases of common items (eg: laptop locks)
  • Allow a small stock of computers and monitors to be kept for immediate allocation to researchers.


Written by: Robert Doran.
Reviewed by: CSE Head of School Executive Officer, CSE Finance Office Manager, Computer Support Group IT Manager.
Introduced as policy: April 8, 2010.

The policy has been occasionally updated since, sometimes to fix confusion about the meaning.

Changes to this document are required when the source of computers changes or the CSG Manager reconsiders which types of computers are considered standard or fully-funded by CSE Operating funds.

Last edited by simong 07/03/2024

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