Supervision of PhD students


According to the Study Regulations For Research Degree Programmes (6.1.6, 6.1.7), postdocs can normally not be nominated as supervisors (principal, second or third supervisors or advisers for PhD by Published Works) of PhD students. This includes Academic Clinical Lecturers.

This is not solely because of the fact that postdocs' contracts and study periods are rarely fully compatible, postdocs are likely to leave for other jobs or because they may not have sufficient experience, but also because of the responsibility held by supervisors in relation to the funding and success of the research project, as well as their accountability for potential students' complaints.

Exception: Senior Research Fellows appointed under the Queen's University Research Fellowship scheme (including Illuminate fellows, Vice-Chancellor's fellows and Patrick G. Johnston fellows) are eligible to be principal or second supervisors of PhD students, provided an experienced supervisor is also involved. Holders of equivalently prestigious personal independent fellowships (members of the Fellowship Academy) can also be granted this opportunity but need their Head of School/Institute to submit the RDP Exception Request - Supervisor Appointment form via for the consideration of the Chair of the Research and Postgraduate Committee. As for all supervisors, fellows need to complete QUB's "Supervising Research Students" training course (booking on iTrent).

For more information on supervision, visit the Supervision page of the Academic and Student Affairs website

Assistant Supervisor

This new role has been piloted in the MHLS Faculty for the academic year 2019-2020, and, since it received very positive feedback, has been approved to be maintained and extended to Queen's as a whole by the Research and Postgraduate Committee in May 2020. Actual implementation outside of MHLS may take some time as Schools' resources are directed towards responding to the pandemics.

The role of Assistant Supervisor has been created to officialy recognise and regulate the significant contribution of postdocs who are involved in the supervision of PhD students but who are not eligible to be listed as Supervisor (see above).

For more information about the role and to see if you are eligible, read the Assistant Supervisor Guidelines.

This role is not meant to create new tasks for postdocs but mainly recognise supervision already carried out.

The advantages for postdocs include an official title to use on their CV, an official appointment letter, the official recording of their contribution by Queen's (at a School level during the pilot in 2019-2020) and access to the supervisory meetings (which are an important development opportunity).

Process to be appointed as an Assistant Supervisor:

  • Principal Supervisors of PhD students will be informed of this new role in Summer 2019 and will offer this opportunity to postdocs they think are eligible. If you think you are eligible but have not been contacted by the Principal Supervisor of the student, don't hesitate to contact them and discuss the possibility of your appointment (this role being new, awareness of it will take time)
  • Fill up the Assistant Supervisor Appointment Form and ensure all the other people required to fill and sign it do so (the Principal Supervisor or both Co-Supervisors, the student and your PI if not a supervisor)
  • Send the completed form to the Director of Graduate Studies / Chair of Postgraduate Research Committee or nominee in your School (see form)

Once accepted, you will receive and official appointment letter by the PDC.

This role is being piloted in 2019-2020 and it is new to all staff involved in the processing of the applications so please be patient and report any issues to the PDC as feedback on both the role and the procedure will be sought to inform the future of the role beyond the pilot period.

Supervision of master and undergraduate students

This section is currently under investigation.