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PhD supervision

Student-Supervisor relationship

A good supervisory relationship is the essence of a successful PhD programme. Ideally, a PhD will be seen in terms both of its desired end result (the award of the degree) and the process by which that result is achieved. In this latter connection, the key word is relationship. This should be an open, honest and professional interaction between student and supervisors, based on mutual respect, trust and good-will.

There is no single prescription for an ideal supervisory arrangement. It should, however, be viewed as an evolving partnership, in which an initial student/teacher relationship develops towards increasing equality as the project reaches its culmination in the production of the thesis.

Good supervision relies on open communication between the supervisors and the candidate. At the outset of the project, it is important that all parties are clear about their expectations of each other. These expectations will be discussed as part of the "Student-Supervisor Agreement", which should occur early on in candidature and a copy of the agreement must be uploaded in eVision as part of the first progress report process.

It should be accepted by all concerned that the early phases of work may lead to problems which will need to be worked through in a constructive manner if the project is to flourish. Although academic matters will be of primary concern, students and supervisors should be prepared to talk candidly about other issues affecting the candidate's ability to make progress with the PhD.

Checklist for PhD candidates and supervisors

Download a sample checklist for candidates and their primary supervisors (Word)

The purpose of the checklist is to remind all concerned about important admission, ongoing and submission requirements.

The responsibilities of supervisors and candidates are detailed separately below.

Conflicts of interest

Supervisors and candidates are alerted to the conflict of interest provisions in the Ethical Behaviour Policy which state that any family or personal relationship between a supervisor and a student must be declared to the department as a conflict of interest or a potential conflict of interest. Arrangements to manage or remove the conflict of interest will then be put in place by the department.

The conflict of interest provisions also state that “the University strongly discourages, and staff should avoid entering into, an intimate personal relationship with a student at the university, particularly a student for whom they have responsibility.”

Failure by a staff member to disclose a conflict of interest may be considered a disciplinary matter by the University. While these provisions apply specifically to staff, candidates are alerted to them because they may suffer disadvantage and distress from any conflict of interest which is not managed in accordance with the policy.