The Graduate School

Your Supervisory Team



All students are required to have a supervisory team, including a principal and a secondary or co- supervisor, with the principal supervisor having overall responsibility for the student and their research and the secondary or co-supervisor acting in a supporting role. The role of the supervisory team is to provide the student with advice, help and encouragement. Ultimately, however, the resulting thesis is the student’s own work, with their supervisors providing guidance throughout.


What can you expect from your supervisor(s) at Queen’s?

The Principal Supervisor’s responsibilities normally include:

  • Helping the student to draw up a research plan, and monitoring the student’s progress in relation to this plan through regular meetings and provision of feedback;
  • Ensuring that the student understands the nature and requirements of postgraduate research and the standards expected;
  • Ensuring that the student is aware of institutional-level sources of advice, e.g. careers guidance, health and safety legislation and equal opportunities policy;
  • Providing effective pastoral support and/or referring the student to other sources of such support, including training, student advisers (or equivalent) and others within the student's academic community;
  • Helping the student to interact with others working in their field of research, for example, by encouraging conference attendance, supporting him/her in seeking funding for such events, and in the submission of conference papers and articles to refereed journals as appropriate.

What can your supervisor expect from you?

Typically the postgraduate researcher is expected to:

  • Take responsibility for finding out what is expected and take the initiative in raising problems or difficulties;
  • Discuss with their supervisory team how to make guidance more effective and how to ensure consistency in the standards of work produced;
  • Undertake appropriate research training;
  • Generate his/her own ideas, undertake recommended reading, produce written work as agreed and inform supervisors of the progress of their research;
  • Decide when to submit the thesis and ensure that it is submitted on time and complies with associated regulations. 

Further Information

The Good Supervision Video is a helpful tool available via the PRDP website.

If you do have problems in your supervisory relationship you could:

  • Contact the Personal Effectiveness Consultancy Service, a professional and confidential 1-2-1 advice service available to postgraduate research students experiencing personal and/or academic problems. This service is based in the Postgraduate Student Centre (Tel: 028 90 97 25 85);
  • Speak to another member of staff in your School with whom you are comfortable; if the issue is with the principal supervisor, it may be a good idea to speak to your secondary/co-supervisor. They may then assist you in speaking to the Chair of the School’s Postgraduate Research Committee, who may then recommend consultation with the Head of School.

if you don’t feel comfortable speaking to anyone in your School about the issue, you can speak to the Education and Welfare Officer in the Student’s Union Advice Office or to one of the Sabbatical Officers in the Student’s Union.

It is your responsibility to let the School know if you are having issues in your supervisory relationship which are potentially detrimental personally or academically.

Detailed information on the role of both principal and secondary/co-supervisors is available in the QUB

Information on supervision and on key relationships within a postgraduate research programme is available here.