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Expectations of the Post Graduate Researcher

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Expectations of the Supervisor

All PGR projects should have a main supervisor and one or more co-supervisors. The co-supervisors should be meaningfully involved in the supervision of the PGR, albeit not necessarily attending every meeting and at a level reflected in the credit split.

The main supervisor should schedule regular meetings with the PGR, normally weekly but at least fortnightly. These should involve only the supervisor(s) and the PGR. The PGRs should be expected to bring work and ideas to the meeting, but the supervisor should actively seek evidence of progress and should discuss reasons for lack of progress with the PGR. Whilst the supervisor should honestly assess progress and should inform the PGR if progress or work is not satisfactory, the supervisor should also make constructive suggestions to the PGR for future work.

Group meetings or workshops are an excellent forum for PGRs to learn how to conduct research, and to see a wider view of the subject than their own project, which is an essential component of a research programme, but these cannot replace one to one progress meetings with PGRs.

PGRs are here to learn, and the main supervisor has the primary responsibility for ensuring that they are educated as well as assessed. In the case of research PGRs they are here to learn how to become independent researchers. Whilst the final evaluation (submission of the PGR’s thesis and its examination) must determine whether or not the PGR has attained the level of an independent researcher, the educational process, led by the main supervisor, must constructively guide them to that point throughout the programme.

The supervisor’s behaviour towards the PGR must at all times remain calm, professional and constructive, in both oral and written communications. Whilst deficiencies in PGRs’ work must be clearly explained to the PGR, derogatory comments should not be used. Whilst group meetings will inevitably discuss the work that PGRs present, and the analysis and questioning of work that would normally occur in conferences or other research meetings is essential, this should be conducted professionally and in a constructive manner. Deficiencies in progress should be discussed with the PGR individually and not in front of other PGRs or staff (except co-supervisors).

PGRs have a right to request and receive regular feedback on written work. Writing is a vital component of research training and the development of academic writing skills must be supported by the supervisor(s).

PGRs have a right to request a mock viva, and if they wish to do this the supervisor(s) should arrange one.

The thesis is the responsibility of the PGR, who must decide the final content of the thesis and when the thesis is ready to be submitted. The PGR must have ultimate responsibility for his/her own research activity, and in relation to the final thesis, the supervisor’s opinion is only advisory and the PGR has the right to decide when to submit and if to follow the advice of the supervisor. Thus the PGR takes responsibility for submitting his thesis for examination and for the consequences. The requirement that the PGR is able to correctly decide what research to present and is able to correctly judge the value of the research presented in the thesis at the time of submission is implicit in the nature of programme, the award of which is a statement that the PGR has become an independent researcher.

Whilst it is natural that supervisors will wish to support their PGRs, applications for special consideration and progress reports for internal purposes and for external sponsors must always be completed accurately, completely and honestly.

Contact Hours

As a rough non-perscriptive guide - all supervisions are a unique interaction between supervisor and PGR. However, you should typically expect to provide supervision of at least:

  1. Weekly supervision should be around 1h per week for 52-6 weeks is 46h.
  2. Reading over reports/papers etc 12 h pa (1h a month) indeed some paper time should be with the supervsior as they get benefit; and in the first year very few publish at all so the 36/48h distributed over 3 or 4 years is asymetrically distributed.
  3. Assistance with 9m RPR and yearly progressions - asymetrically distributed so on average 2h per year.
  4. Final thesis reading and corrections 10h.
  5. Using 4 years as the norm which then accounts for additional duties such as internal examiner and external examiners of PhDs

This gives a total of 70h pa for 4 years per PGR.

Research Supervision

Remember that keeping good records (of supervision, meetings, etc) is essential, and key to showing that decisions were reasonable in all the circumstances. There must be evidence that supervision took place.

A thorough induction to set expectations is key, with an appropriate and comparable replacement if the PGR misses induction for good reason.

It is important to provide clear information about who to contact if they are experiencing issues with their supervisor(s) that cannot be resolved via discussion _with_ the supervisor(s).

Where progress is not satisfactory, this should be made very clear to the PGR (and recorded).

Clear information about supervisory support during the writing-up period should be provided.

The Department expects all supervisors to be familiar with and abide by the University’s Supervision Policy [1].

On Commencement of PGR’s Research

  1. Ensure induction is carried out; both mandatory University and local induction
  2. Ensure suitable training which may be formal and/or ‘on-the-job’ is provided for all tasks including research group/collaborator-specific training
  3. Decide on the amount and level of supervision that will be required until the PGR can work independently
  4. Ensure there is an assessment of risk for the actual work to be undertaken by the PGR
  5. Advance preparation for end of work - share expectations of what will be needed at the end of their research (for example; handover of data, disposal of material)

Throughout the PGR’s Project

  1. As part of the regular feedback meetings on research output, include safety issues in order to evaluate whether any change in the nature and level of supervision is required
  2. Ensure assessment of risks is reviewed in response to planned changes in research scope and training requirements re-evaluated in response.

Towards the end of a research project

  1. Set time aside to ensure handover of all relevant information and materials are transferred or disposed of before the PGR leaves.