Guidance for staff on student administration and support
Divisional boards and department/faculty boards are responsible for placing every research student that they admit under the supervision of a member of the University or other competent person, and for keeping the performance of the person in the role under review. In the case of divisional boards, this responsibility is delegated to and discharged by, departmental/ faculty boards. A responsible board may, for sufficient reason, change the supervisor of any student, or arrange for joint supervision by more than one supervisor, if it deems it necessary.
The responsible board must ensure that the person(s) appointed is appropriately qualified according to stated criteria and is aware of and implements divisional policy relating to the training needs of new and inexperienced supervisors. The board should be aware of the arrangements provided at all levels (department/faculty/division/University) for training for supervisors (especially new supervisors) and for continuing staff development in connection with all aspects of research supervision; and ensure that there is advice available for colleagues on training needs as appropriate.
The responsible board must also ensure that appropriate substitute arrangements are made in the case of the supervisor’s absence, illness or sabbatical leave.
It must be recognised that, once admitted, a research student remains the responsibility of that board (unless formally transferred elsewhere) while the student is entitled to be on the register of graduate students.
Where permitted by the terms of any sponsorship agreement, supervisory responsibilities can be changed at the request of either the student or a supervisor. This falls under the remit of the responsible board.
New students should be made aware of when they can expect their supervisor to be appointed, where it is not the practice to assign supervisors before admission.
Each research student should be given an identified single point of contact who is the main supervisor. The student should be advised who the alternative contact is if the main supervisor is not available. This may either be the second supervisor or an additional designated member of academic staff able to provide advice and support. To avoid misunderstandings, the names, contact details and responsibilities of the main and any other supervisors are provided to research students at registration and readily available throughout their programme.
In addition to advising the student about the appointment of the supervisor, the responsible body should also ensure that as soon as possible students know:
The responsible board should be in a position to know whether reports have been completed by both student and supervisor and returned at the end of each reporting period up to and including the term in which the student submits his or her thesis but not beyond this term. It is important that the Director of Graduate Studies or other officer monitors the return of reports, and pursues unreturned reports after an appropriate time. The Director of Graduate Studies should review all reports via the Graduate Supervision Reporting (GSR) and investigate any concerns that are likely to affect the progress of the student’s research.
In agreeing to supervise a research student, the supervisor must recognise and accept the responsibilities both to the student and to the relevant department, faculty and division implicit in the supervisory relationship
Where possible, the supervisor should assign the student some directed reading before arrival. This might be of a general background nature so as to put the student in a position to discuss the topic with the supervisor soon after arrival, or it might form the start of a survey of current literature. The supervisor is required to meet the student not later than the second week of Full Term.
The supervisor should ensure, in co-operation with the student, that the main framework for the student’s work is established as speedily as possible during the first term.
This may include all or some of the following:
The University does not stipulate (beyond the use of the term ‘regularly’) the number of meetings between research student and supervisor, which may be expected each term, since this will vary widely according to the subject, the individual, and the stage of the research reached. However, each department/faculty has been asked (via divisional codes of practice for supervision) to recommend a minimum frequency of formal supervisory contact for resident students and to state this on departmental websites. While variation from this figure is permissible, the onus will be on the student and supervisor jointly to agree to deviate from the recommendation. In addition, the University does not set down a common format for recording the outcomes of those meetings, although it endorses the view that both supervisors and students should keep some record of supervisory meetings.
It is the responsibility of the supervisor to provide the student with regular information as to the student’s progress (to ensure that the student feels properly directed and able to communicate with the supervisor), and, where problems arise, provide guidance and assistance as to necessary corrective action. The supervisor should alert the Director of Graduate Studies to any problems experienced in supervising the student.
The completion of the quarterly supervision report, to which both student and supervisor contribute via Graduate Supervision Reporting (GSR), is mandatory for supervisors. Departments/ faculties are responsible for taking any action required in cases of non-submission by supervisors.
Timetable for reporting
Students will have a three week reporting window, and supervisors will have a four week reporting window, but they will also be able to report as soon as the student has submitted their report. The Director of Graduate Studies is able to view reports and may submit comments at any time during the reporting period. The college advisor may also view reports at any time and record the number of meetings held with the student. The exact reporting dates will be published in Graduate Supervision Reporting (GSR), following the timetable below:
Timetable for Reporting (PDF)
Content of reports
The discussion of the information to be recorded in the supervision report by the student and supervisor should be viewed as part of a regular review of progress. Each report should also state the nature and extent of recent contact with the student, and, if there has been none, state why this is so. At the end of the first term, the supervisor and student should review, not only academic progress, but also how well the student has adjusted to their new work environment, how well the environment is meeting their needs, and plans to remedy any deficiency. The quarterly report should also include a review of the student’s professional and career development since the previous report, giving both the student and supervisor an opportunity to reflect on skills already developed and to think about areas for further development. The student is also invited to indicate the level of contact they have had with their college advisor during the reporting period.
Flagging of concerns
GSR includes a mechanism by which a student or supervisor may flag that they have concerns about the student’s academic progress. This flag will also be visible to the DGS and college advisor. The flagging system should only be used for concerns about academic progress or problems with the project. It should not be used to report a concern about problems in the student-supervisor relationship or in the work environment. These concerns should be raised with the DGS in the first instance, and be pursued through the department/ faculty’s complaints procedure if necessary. If the supervisor has concerns about the student’s academic progress, these should be discussed with the student before being flagged on GSR.
The flagging mechanism in GSR has three categories: minor concerns, major concerns, or severe concerns. The DGS should review all flagged concerns and take action as appropriate. A severe concern flagged in GSR should result in a meeting with the DGS without delay (this may be via Skype or similar in the case of part-time students). The DGS should note in GSR the action being taken to resolve the matter.
The supervisor should avoid absence on leave without appropriate temporary supervision having been arranged for the student. (Leave will not normally be approved without such arrangements being in place.) Heads of department/faculty should take this requirement into account when managing requests for sabbatical leave
The supervisor is expected to:
Supervisors of all students, whether in the arts or sciences, should consider carefully the safety implications of their students’ research. Those supervising students (particularly in the sciences) are responsible for all aspects of safety under their control, and in particular for the safe conduct of all experiments carried out in the course of their students’ research. In the event of an accident, inadequate supervision may render the supervisor liable to prosecution. Supervisors should also ensure that their students are aware that in the event of injury to other persons as a result of their negligence, the student could be subject to civil claims for damages. Advice on the legal responsibilities for safety may be obtained from the University Safety Officer (NEW LINK). For their part, students must carry out research with proper regard to good health and safety practices. Supervisors and students should be aware of the need for adequate health insurance and health precautions when travelling abroad. In case of doubt, reference should be made to the University Medical Officer
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