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This section of the Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes (RDPs) relates to regulation 6.1 of the Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes.

  • Appointment of Skilled Supervisors

    The Head of School (or nominee) is responsible for staff within the School and will normally appoint the supervisory team to a particular student upon their acceptance of a place on the RDP.  The School will consider and appoint the most appropriate supervisory team to supervise the research project. 

    Appointment Criteria

    The Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes, regulations 6.1.1 – 6.1.10 outline the criteria for the appointment of supervisors at the University.  These regulations ensure that Schools delegate supervisory responsibilities to suitably qualified academic staff.   

    Where a lecturer on probation is appointed as a principal supervisor,  the member of staff must have gained a doctoral degree and have at least three years’ experience since its award and should be employed on a contract that would cover the duration of the proposed research degree to be supervised. In addition, the second supervisor must be a senior academic with considerable experience of successful doctoral supervision - this would be someone at senior lecturer level or above with experience of successfully supervising at least two doctoral students through to completion as principal supervisor.

    Individuals employed on an Education contract are eligible to be appointed as second or co-supervisor, and where their current scholarly research is of significant relevance, considered for the appointment as principal supervisor with an experienced co-supervisor on a Research and Education contract.

    Each member of the supervisory team is expected to be actively engaged in research and/or scholarly activity. This means that the person is a subject specialist and currently active in research and/or educational scholarship, as demonstrated by a publication record which includes both recently published work and work in progress, or active involvement in on-going projects.

    See the Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes, Regulation 6 for more information.

    Exception Requests

    In exceptional circumstances, it may be appropriate for staff who do not meet the criteria for the appointment of supervisors, for example holders of prestigious, personal postdoctoral fellowships who have considerable postdoctoral experience, to be considered for appointment.  In such instances, the Head of School/Institute may request a concession to the regulations to permit the appointment by completing the RDP Exception Request - Supervisor Appointment Form (Microsoft Word).  This will be considered by the Chair of the Education Committee (Quality and Standards) or nominee, who will take advice from the appropriate Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and determine whether the proposed individual is permitted to be appointed as a supervisor.

    Supervisors appointed by exception must also complete the mandatory supervisor training course, and, where appropriate, be supported by an experienced second supervisor.

    Training and Development

    Supervisors are required to have the appropriate training and skills to perform the task of supervision satisfactorily.  Supervisors new to the role of supervision must attend a one-day training course, which is delivered by the Graduate School.  There are three sessions per year, usually held in November, February and May, which are bookable through iTrent. Please email for any queries. For queries about probationary requirements, please contact Wendy Marsh, People and Culture (

    All supervisors (including those working in industry or professional practice) are expected to engage in developmental opportunities, to equip them to supervise research students, and to meet requirements for continuing professional development.  People and Culture and the Centre for Educational Development offer a range of ongoing personal development opportunities to build skills relevant to supervision for staff.


  • The Supervisory Team

    Supervisory teams are normally appointed and made known to new students by the end of the induction process.  The supervisory team normally comprises a principal supervisor and a secondary or co-supervisor.  A third, external supervisor may be appointed where a student’s research is interdisciplinary, to provide a link between the disciplines; or to facilitate international engagement. Download further guidance on the composition of supervisory teams (PDF).

    Supervisors who are Partners

    Should the supervisors be partners, the following safeguards will be implemented:  

    1. Appointment of a third, internal supervisor – this will be a senior academic with significant RDP experience whose role will specifically be to facilitate project progression and appropriate supervision.  They will be required to attend two documented meetings per year together with the student and other supervisors and will be otherwise available for the student to discuss any specific concerns in confidence.
    2. Full disclosure – students will be specifically informed of the relationship between the supervisors at the start of their RDP.
    3. Opportunities to raise concerns – students will be advised that they are able to raise concerns relating to their supervision, in complete confidence, both through Annual Progress Review and by contacting their adviser of studies, Director of Postgraduate Research Students or Chair of the School Postgraduate Research Committee at Centre/Institute/School level.
    4. RDP procedures – sections relating to supervision in School RDP handbooks provided to all students will be reviewed and updated to include all of the above.

    Managing Changes to the Supervisory Team

    In line with the Postgraduate Admissions Policy, section 4.1.2, Schools consider whether appropriate supervision can be provided and maintained throughout the research period when admitting a student to a RDP.  The Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes, regulations 6.1.8 – 6.1.10 outline School responsibilities for ensuring the appointment of appropriate supervision in the event of a supervisor being unavailable for a significant period of the student’s research, or should a change in supervisor be required under different circumstances such as at the student’s request.


  • Responsibilities of the Supervisor
    1. The student is responsible for the eventual success or failure of the RDP.  (See Responsibilities of Students towards the University and their Supervisors).  The supervisory team provides the student with advice, help and guidance over the course of the RDP, enabling access to relevant training and development opportunities, to support the completion of the RDP (see Useful Contacts).
    2. In line with the Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes, regulation 6.1.11, at an initial supervisory meeting, the supervisor(s) and student agree the roles and responsibilities of the student and each member of the supervisory team; and the frequency, duration and format of formal meetings.  In addition to the mandatory, recorded, ten (six for part-time and thesis-only students) formal meetings per year between the supervisors and student, there are normally additional, informal meetings as required, depending on the needs of the student and the supervisory team.  Students and supervisors are jointly responsible for ensuring that regular and frequent contact is maintained.
    3. Responsibilities are normally shared out amongst members of the supervisory team, however it is expected that the principal supervisor has overall responsibility, with the second or co-supervisor providing a supporting role.
    4. The principal supervisor must ensure the student is made aware of relevant policies and procedures including the Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes, Conduct Regulations, procedures for the use of similarity checking software, and specific policies, including gaining ethical approval, and health and safety practices at School level.
    5. The principal supervisor should ensure that the student understands the nature and requirements of postgraduate research, including progress requirements and deadlines, and is aware of the expected standards as a research student.
    6. The supervisory team should agree with the student what training and development requirements need to be fulfilled as part of the requirements for the completion of the RDP.
    7. As highlighted in the Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes, regulation 6.2, the supervisory team should agree an initial research plan with the student, which may be subject to change during the course of the RDP.
    8. The supervisory team (and in most cases the principal supervisor) should provide timely and constructive feedback on the student’s work and overall progress within the RDP, raising any concerns about progress at an early stage with the student.
    9. The supervisory team should ensure that appropriate records are maintained in relation to supervisory meetings, progress monitoring, and Annual Progress Review (including differentiation).
    10. The supervisory team should provide appropriate pastoral support as required, by providing advice and/or referring the student to other sources of support, including relevant support services.
    11. The supervisory team should help the student interact with others working in the field of research, for example, encouraging the student to attend relevant seminars and conferences; supporting the student in seeking funding for such events as required; and where appropriate, supporting the submission of conference papers and articles to refereed journals.
    12. The principal supervisor is responsible for informing the School if, for any reason, any member of the supervisory team is unable to undertake their supervisory responsibilities for a significant period so that appropriate arrangements can be made to ensure continuity for the student.
    13. The second or co-supervisor may be required to act as the principal supervisor, should the principal supervisor be away from the University for a prolonged period of time.

    The Students' Union has developed a Student-Supervisor Relationship Toolkit, which provides useful guidance on establishing the relationship between student and supervisor.

  • Supervisor Workload

    Schools should ensure that the existing teaching, research and administration commitments of potential supervisors are fully taken into consideration before they are appointed, allowing supervisors to have sufficient time to monitor and support the progress of the student’s research, and to respond to the student in a timely manner.

    A principal supervisor (pro-rata for co-supervisors) will normally be responsible for a maximum of six postgraduate research students (FTE).  However, there are instances where the area of research, level of supervisory experience and/or staff availability allow for a larger cohort.  In approving supervisory teams, the Head of School (or nominee) shall ensure that supervisory allocation is consistent with experience and availability.


  • Assistant Supervisor

    In addition to the supervisory team which comprises the principal and second or co-supervisor, students have access to support from a number of areas including other research staff in the research cluster/School, a School postgraduate research adviser and/or tutor, and other individuals/support areas across the University.

    Following a pilot carried out in 2019-20 in the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, an assistant supervisor role has been created to officially recognise and regulate the contribution of postdoctoral researchers to the supervision of PhD students.  The Assistant Supervisor Guidelines provide further information including roles and responsibilities, eligibility criteria and the appointment process.

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