Appointing the Supervisory Team for Research Students

Every research student should have a supervisory team comprising at least two members. The use of supervisory teams helps to avoid disruption to the research student's degree programme should one of the supervisors be unavailable for a period of time.
Composition of the Supervisory Team

Each supervisory team must comprise at least two members and include:

  1. a clearly identified first supervisor – the first supervisor must have expertise in the student’s area of research and carries primary responsibility for the student’s supervision
  2. a second or co-supervisor – the second supervisor must have expertise relevant to the student’s area of research and either assists the first supervisor in the provision of guidance and support to the student or has a co-supervisor role

The first supervisor must be one of the following:

  1. a member of the University’s academic staff
  2. a research fellow of the University
  3. a clinical or scientific member of staff of the National Health Service, or an academic member of staff of the Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit, holding an honorary position with the University

Where the first supervisor is a clinical or scientific member of staff of the National Health Service, the second supervisor must be a member of the University’s academic staff.

Other honorary and emeritus staff of the University must not be appointed as first supervisors.

The second supervisor must be one of the following:

  1. a member of the University’s academic staff
  2. a research fellow of the University
  3. a clinical or scientific member of staff of the National Health Service, or an academic member of staff of the Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit, holding an honorary position with the University

Where the second supervisor is a clinical or scientific member of staff of the National Health Service, the first supervisor must be a member of the University’s academic staff.

Other honorary and emeritus staff of the University must not be appointed as second supervisors.

Appointment of the Supervisory Team

Responsibility for appointing the supervisory team rests with the Head of Department or their nominee - for example the Department's:

  • Postgraduate Tutor
  • Director of Research
  • Deputy Head of Department

The first supervisor should normally be identified as part of the admissions process and the Department must specify a named first supervisor at the point at which a formal offer of admission is made to a PhD, MD, PsyD or MPhil programme.

It is recognised that other members of the supervisory team may not be appointed until after the applicant has confirmed their acceptance of the offer of admission. If known the names of other members of the supervisory team should be specified at the point at which a formal offer of admission is made to a PhD, MD, PsyD or MPhil programme. Otherwise the names of other members of the supervisory team should be specified as soon as possible following a formal offer of admission.

The supervisory team for research students registered for the degree of DClinPsy, DSocSci, EdD, or EngD may not be appointed until after the initial registration of the research student. Research students registered for these research degree programmes should be informed of the names of the members of their supervisory team as soon as one has been appointed.

Eligibility for the Supervisory Team

In addition to individual members of each supervisory team meeting the requirements described above, the supervisory team must also have appropriate experience of the supervision of research students.

The first and second supervisors should normally between them have experience of successfully supervising at least three research students to completion. This experience may have been gained at the University or elsewhere.

Members of the University’s academic staff on probation may be appointed as either first or second supervisor. If a member of academic staff on probation is appointed as first supervisor, the other members of the supervisory team must between them have experience of successfully supervising at least three research students to completion.

Departments may appoint a supervisory team with less experience, but this should normally be in exceptional cases only. The approval of the Head of Department is required if it is proposed to appoint a supervisory team with less experience. Departments are encouraged to keep a record both of why the appointment of a less experienced team was necessary and of the approval of the Head of Department or their nominee.

Conflicts of Interest

Supervisors should not be appointed to, or be allowed to remain appointed to, a supervisory team where:

  • they will be supervising a research student with whom they have or have had a close personal or professional relationship

or

  • they have or have had a close personal or contractual relationship with another member of the same supervisory team

Members of the supervisory team must declare any such relationship(s) to the Head of Department or their nominee. The Head of Department or their nominee shall be responsible for making alternative supervision arrangements. The Head of Department or their nominee may, in exceptional circumstances, agree to the supervisory arrangements continuing unchanged – but only with full disclosure to and the agreement of the research student.

Changes in the Supervisory Team

Changes in the membership of the supervisory team should be avoided as far as possible. Where such a change is unavoidable the Department must ensure that both the research student and the Graduate School Office are notified of the change(s).

Where it is necessary to appoint a new member of the supervisory team, the responsibility for approving the appointment of the new supervisory team member(s) rests with the Head of Department or their nominee.

Use of External Supervisors

A third member of the supervisory team may be appointed if needed. The third supervisor is not required to be a member of the University’s academic staff and the use of non-University staff as third supervisors may be appropriate where the research student will undertake a placement in industry or is registered under a split-site arrangement.

Honorary and emeritus staff of the University may be appointed as third supervisors.

The Graduate Dean is responsible for approving the appointment of a third supervisor who is not a member of the University’s academic staff. Such supervisors shall be designated as external supervisors.

Requests for the addition of an external supervisor should be made on the appropriate form.

If an external supervisor is appointed, it must be made clear to all parties that full control over supervision rests with the University.

Supervision Loads

Members of the University’s academic staff should normally at any one time supervise no more than the equivalent of nine full-time research students with a maximum headcount of twelve. The Department may specify a lower maximum supervision load if appropriate – for example, for part-time staff.

In calculating supervision loads, the Department shall normally take account of both first and second supervisory appointments that are held. The Department shall normally use the following weightings:

HeadcountFull-Time Equivalent
First Supervisor Appointments

1 x Full-Time Student

1 x Part-Time Student

1.0 FTE

0.5 FTE

Second Supervisor Appointments

1 x Full-Time Student

1 x Part-Time Student

0.5 FTE

0.25 FTE

The approval of the Head of Department is required if it is proposed that a member of staff should supervise more than the specified maximum number of research students.

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