Making the Most of Supervisory Meetings

Supervisory meetings are an opportunity for discussing your progress, describing your findings, and alerting your supervisor to any problems. These meetings are an important part of your relationship with your supervisor and will play a big role in shaping how effective that relationship is; so it is important that you spend some time thinking about what you can do to make these meetings as constructive as possible

Making Your Supervisory Meetings More Effective

If you have ever been involved in a formal meeting you will know that two key roles are those of the chairperson and the secretary. The chairperson is there to lead the meeting and make sure it comes to a final decision on any points of discussion while the secretary handles administrative matters like scheduling the meeting date, taking minutes of the discussions, and recording the decisions made.

In your meetings with your supervisor, you will combine both of these roles. To make the most of your meetings with your supervisor and to ensure that these are as constructive as possible, it may be worth thinking about your role in more detail.

There are a number of things that you will need to think about at each stage:

Frequency of Supervisory Meetings

You and your supervisory team should at the start of your research degree discuss how often you will have formal supervisory meetings and whose responsibility it will be to schedule these. Having regular formal supervisory meetings is usually beneficial to both sides, so we would suggest that these meetings are held at least:

Before the Probation Review

  • monthly for research students on MD, PsyD, or full-time PhD and MPhil programmes
  • every two months for research students on part-time PhD and MPhil programmes

After the Probation Review

  • every month for research students on full-time programmes
  • every two months for research students on part-time programmes

Formal supervisory meetings for research students registered on other doctoral degree programmes are held at least monthly (full-time programmes) or every two months (part-time programmes). However, formal supervisory meetings on these programmes may not commence until the research student has completed all taught components of the programme.

Formal supervisory meetings with campus based research students will normally be conducted in person. Formal supervisory meetings with distance learning research students may be conducted by any appropriate means of communication, but meetings in person should be used where possible.

If You Cannot Attend a Meeting

There may be occasions when you cannot attend a scheduled meeting with your supervisor(s). Where this is unavoidable, it is important that you:

  • give your supervisor(s) as much notice as possible
  • explain why you are unable to attend
  • take the initiative in agreeing a mutually acceptable alternative date/time to meet

As we have seen, it is important that you maintain regular contact with your supervisors and how formal supervisory meetings are an essential aspect of this. Research students should therefore make every effort to attend formal supervisory meetings as scheduled and not get into a habit of missing/cancelling these. It can be tempting to avoid supervisory meetings, particularly if you happen to be experiencing problems that are affecting your work or progress. However, this is extremely dangerous.

Firstly, it is when you are having problems that you are most in need of your supervisors' advice and feedback. Secondly, consider it from your supervisors' perspective - regularly missing/cancelling meetings will give your supervisors the impression that you are not interested in their help or support; so why later, when you do need it, should your supervisors make the effort for you? You supervisors are just as keen as you are that you complete your research degree successfully - attending supervisory meetings as scheduled and making use of your supervisors' support gives you the best chance of doing this and demonstrates your own commitment.

You and Your Supervisors - Making Supervision Work for You

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