Supervisors provide research students with personal and academic advice and direct a research project following the guidelines set out by the University. They are a research student's first point of contact with the Department if any difficulties arise during the research student programme.
Supervisors are allocated by taking into account:
- the requirements set out by a research student's funding body
- the expertise of the member of staff
- the research area of the research student
The general pattern is for each student to have a primary supervisor and a second supervisor. In some cases students are given joint supervision and the main supervisory duties are shared equally. One of the joint supervisors remains nominated as a primary supervisor for administrative purposes. Supervisors (but not the primary supervisor) may sometimes be drawn from other Departments.
Where a supervisor is expected to be absent for an extended period of time (e.g. study leave or summer research projects) the PGR Team will advise students of the alternative supervisory arrangements. Most supervisors continue with supervision during study leave.
It is not possible to stipulate precisely the nature and organisation of the supervisory relationship or the roles of different types of supervisor, but the following tries to clarify areas where there may be some confusion. The definitive statement of departmental or university policy on supervision can be found in the Graduate Research Office´s Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes For Research Students and Supervisors.
The Roles of Different Types of Supervisor
Primary supervisors are responsible (through the postgraduate team) for all communications regarding the student´s progress to their funding body, to faculty and to the course manager. The primary supervisor is responsible for scheduling meetings, commenting on drafts, and determining the overall pattern of work in negotiation with the student.
Second supervisors are responsible for providing general support and advice as appropriate (for instance on issues in their areas of specialised competence such as methodology). In the first month of registration the student should meet at least once with their second supervisor. In some instances it may be appropriate for particular supervisory sessions to involve both primary and secondary supervisors. This is a matter of negotiation between the supervisors and the student.
Formally, the second supervisor has two roles:
- Review meetings – Once per year there should be a review meeting involving the student and primary and second supervisors. The aim of this meeting is to provide an overview of the student’s progress. At this meeting the student should provide a brief (one side of A4) summary of their progress to date.
- Pre-final draft review – The second supervisor will read the entire draft prior to submission and, in negotiation with the primary supervisor and the student, advise on any amendments that are necessary before submission.
We would normally expect supervision sessions to involve both supervisors. This is especially the case in the first semester. At the end of the first semester the supervisors and student should have negotiated how they want the supervision to be shared and the responsibilities of each supervisor. For instance, while it may be appropriate that both supervisors attend every supervision session and both comment on every draft, there are times when this may be neither desirable nor appropriate. There needs to be a clear understanding by all parties of their separate and shared responsibilities. It is essential that one supervisor assumes responsibility for all communications regarding the student´s progress to their funding body, to faculty and to the course manager.
For full-time research students, we would expect supervisory meetings to be held once per month. Allowing for holidays, this would equate to a minimum of 10 supervisory sessions per year. For part-time students we would expect a minimum of six meetings per year. In the first semester of registration supervisory meetings will probably need to be more frequent and as a general rule meetings should be once every two weeks.
Supervisors should ensure that supervisory sessions are uninterrupted as far as possible by telephone calls, personal callers and departmental business. Although it is not possible to dictate the precise length of meetings we would expect a period of at least one hour to be set aside for each supervision session.
The department has agreed that completion of Supervision Forms is compulsory. The forms should detail the agreed work schedule for the next meeting. The completion of this form is the responsibility of the student who will copy it to the supervisors. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that this is done. These forms are available on the departmental website.
Evaluation of Supervisors
The Department and the University Graduate Research Office carry out an annual evaluation of supervision and the Department seeks to feed back the general results of this into the training of supervisors.
If specific problems arise with the supervision process either supervisor or student or both should first contact the course manager who will advise and, where necessary, refer to the Director of Research and/or Head of Department. Similarly, if you are unhappy with any aspect of your work as a research student, and do not wish to consult your supervisor directly, please contact the course manager or any other member of the team.