Formal Meetings with Your Supervisors

Formal supervisory meetings are an opportunity for you to discuss your progress, describe your findings, and alert your supervisors to any problems.

These meetings are an important part of your working relationship with your supervisory team 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.

Meeting Frequency and Format

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

Senate Regulation 9.100: Formal supervisory meetings for research students registered for the degree of PhD, MD, PsyD, or MPhil in the probation period shall normally be held at least monthly (MD, PsyD, or full-time PhD and MPhil) or every two months (part-time PhD and MPhil). Following successful completion of the probation period, formal supervisory meetings shall continue to be held every month (full time) or every two months (part time). All research students registered for the degree of PhD, MD, PsyD, or MPhil must ensure no more than 60 calendar days elapse between supervisory meetings (full time) or 90 calendar days elapse between supervisory meetings (part time).

We would suggest that 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.

Your Role in Supervisory Meetings

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 before, during, and after each meeting.

Before the Meeting

You are responsible for taking the initiative in planning and organising meetings with your supervisor. It is important that you should not go into these meetings empty handed – you should have a clear idea of what it is you want to discuss with your supervisor and usually some work that shows your progress since your last meeting and which you can submit to your supervisor for comment.

To that end, there are three things that you will need to do:

  • take the initiative in agreeing a mutually convenient schedule of meetings with your supervisor
  • prepare a short agenda of issues that you would like to discuss and forward a copy of the agenda to your supervisor a few days in advance of the meeting
  • prepare some work for you to discuss at each meeting - as with the agenda, your supervisor may find it helpful to receive before the meeting a copy of the work you intend to discuss

During the Meeting

While preparing for the meeting is important, you also need to take action during the meeting to ensure it is a productive experience. In particular, you need to:

  • arrive promptly and make sure you have with you everything you might need - a copy of the agenda, work to discuss, etc.
  • provide direction to the discussion and make sure that it follows the agenda - do not expect your supervisor to do all the talking, they will want to hear from you
  • ask questions - formal supervisory meetings are the best place for more detailed questions as they provide a private and quiet space in which you and your supervisor can think about the question and come up with a possible answer

After the Meeting

With the meeting over there are two more tasks you need to complete to maximise the effectiveness of your supervisory meetings:

  • produce a short report (no more than 100 words say) on what was discussed and, importantly, any actions that it was agreed either you or your supervisor should undertake
  • make time after each meeting to reflect on the feedback your supervisor has provided and its implications for what you need to do next
  • if your supervisor offers criticisms, you need to remember that this is done with aim of being constructive - be open to criticism and be willing to learn from your supervisor's experience

It is these final steps that research students often overlook. Keeping a written record of your formal supervisory meetings is very important – if you are registered on a PhD, MD, PsyD, or MPhil programme you will need to provide copies of these to complete your probation review. But even beyond the probation review they provide an invaluable record that you can draw on as you prepare your thesis for submission and use to check that you have addressed all the suggestions made by your supervisors.

Meeting Record Template

The Doctoral College has a template that you can use to record your formal supervisory meetings:



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