Guidance and resources for managing and reviewing the progress of your student, including your responsibilities as a supervisor, progress reports, completing Candidature and Confirmation, and adapting your supervision style through the doctorate.
As supervisor, you have a key role in ensuring that you:
- have regular meetings with your student
- to comply with UKVI requirements, ensure you regularly meet with your international student in person
- with your student, identify clear work plan and milestones
- encourage the student to raise any concerns immediately with you
- step in at an early stage if the student is demonstrating any progression issues
- where issues are not resolved, to seek guidance from the Director of Studies and the Doctoral College - and contact the Student Immigration Service if your student is a visa holder
- ensure that all progress reports are completed in a timely manner
- support the student in preparing for progression points e.g. Confirmation for PhD students
- in the event of you or a member of the supervision team leaving or is unable to supervise, you MUST ensure arrangements are made for alternative supervision.
Details of responsibilities can also be found in QA7 (Sections 10 & 11 and Appendix 1).
“Understand that PhD students have a life outside of their PhD, and that just as their PhD impacts that life, their life will impact their PhD. A good supervisor creates a space where their student feels able to come to them to discuss elements of their life, and supports them to manage the balance of PhD and personal life.”
“Having a meeting (maybe every 2-3 months or so) with the entire supervisory team, where the topic of discussion is more on how we can best work together as a team taking into account, our current state of wellbeing, the stage of the PhD, the other commitments of the supervisors, etc., could really help. It would ensure we are all on the same page, aiming for the same goals, and are understanding of how we each would like to work/communicate”
- Plan for difficult conversations using the University of Sheffield’s difficult conversation planner for supervisors.
- Advice through the Postgraduate Research Supervision Network
- Vitae have some quick tips to supervisors ongiving effective feedback to your student
Formal monitoring of progression
It is important for you to have an overview of the academic milestones (written for doctoral students) and to discuss these with your students so they know what to expect. See also this guide for students approaching the end of their studies - it gives step-by-step advice on the different stages that students need to go through. The Doctoral College monitors data on the completion of these academic milestones and any events which are not completed will be escalated to an appropriate person where required.
Most doctoral students, apart from those on a Professional Doctorate, are required to undertake Confirmation. The Confirmation process is one of the principal ways in which the University determines whether a student is progressing well with their research and that their project is appropriate for a PhD. It is a key milestone; obtaining Confirmation can be a condition of continued funding for researchers in receipt of studentships.
Confirmation normally happens 12 months after initial registration for full-time students or 18 months for part-time students. Students have a maximum of two attempts at Confirmation.
At Confirmation, the Progression Board of Examiners will assess:
- the Confirmation report or other written work produced in support of the Confirmation application
- the student's performance in an oral examination which may involve a presentation
- the student's progress to date as determined by their supervisors
- the student's skills training record
If your student is required to complete Confirmation, you will need to support them through the process, see QA7 section 11. As per QA7 Appendix 1, it is your responsibility as supervisor to ensure that you have read, and that the student is aware of, the various departmental/School/Faculty/Doctoral College guidance regarding the Confirmation process. For Confirmation, it is expected that you will:
- read a draft of the Confirmation Report / and or chapter (where applicable) and provide constructive feedback
- seek formal approval of the membership of Progression Board of Examiners
- complete your part of the Confirmation Form in liaison with both your student and Director of Studies (where necessary)
The Doctoral College have developed Confirmation Guidance for Students which you may wish to direct your student to. There is also staff-facing Confirmation Process Guide to provide information on the requirements of staff. QA7 Appendix 5: Confirmation of PhD registration also provides advice to your student on how to prepare for the process. You will also be required to nominate Examiners for the Progression Board of Examiners. This is done through a task in SAMIS and you will be sent a reminder near to the deadline for Confirmation to complete this task.
There are a number of student-facing forms and forms which are supervisor-led that you may be involved in completing. These are are required for student progression (some of which are for official progression points and others are for changes in circumstance).
Maintaining motivation and gaining independence
Further resources and support
- QA7 Sections 10 & 11, Review & Progress, and Progression Points
- The Research Supervisors Network has advice, videos and blogs on a range common issues in supervision.
- Vitae has produced the following advice and guidance for supervisors:
- Dr Kay Guccione has undertaken a study on doctoral relationships on behalf of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education: Trust me! Building and breaking professional trust in doctoral student-supervisor relationships
- Plan for difficult conversations using the University of Sheffield’s difficult conversation planner for supervisors
- Supervising Stressed Students: from the University of Sheffield
- If your student is suffering from mental health issues, physical illness or disabilities please contact Student Services