Guidance and resources to support you in recruiting a doctoral student, including sourcing funding, deciding on a supervisory team, arrangements for interviews and sample interview questions and selection activities.
Before you start thinking about recruiting a doctoral student (in research proposals for example), please contact the Admissions Team in the Doctoral College.
As supervisor, you have a key role in ensuring:
- the identification of a research project which is
- achievable in the time available
- supported by a suitable supervisory team
- not at risk should a key supervisor leave or the project direction flex slightly over time
- the recruitment of a suitable student:
- by interviewing all qualified applicants
- who is qualified to do the work
- following due EDI processes
- that the project and the student have sufficient finances in-place for the duration of the work
Details of responsibilities can be found at QA7 Section 4 Recruitment & Admissions and QA7 Appendix 1 Responsibilities of the Supervisory team.
Taking on a doctoral student
When asked about the level of challenge or the amount of time that supervisors must invest in students, the following were often mentioned by experienced supervisors
- the level of motivation that the student has for undertaking a doctorate or the specific subject area
- awareness of what the actual research process is actually like - i.e.different from being a taught student
- awareness of what you as a supervisor expects from the student in terms of developing independence
- awareness of what the student expects from supervision
- having a good project idea
- level of experience and knowledge that the students brings to the project - which will determine how much training and hands on guidance may be needed at the start of the doctorate
- adequate funding for the project
- culture and language issues
- part time study
- inherited students (inherited from another supervisor) – time needs to be taken to assess where the students has got to in their research
All of these factors may influence the amount of time you may need to invest in the student.
- How are these assessed and addressed in interview and selection?
- How these factors may influence the level of challenge and how will you approach these challenges with your co-supervisors?
- Funding might be sourced by the supervisor or students can be self-funded
- Current funding opportunities are listed on the Doctoral College’s Find funding for doctoral research webpage
- The Research and Innovation Services (RIS) offers advice for academics on how to find research funding opportunities and Alumni can sometimes help identify funding too
- The Research Grant Development Team can advise on funding opportunities
- The Alumni Team can sometimes source funding for studentships
As laid out in QA7, at some point before the student starts the lead supervisor will need to identify at least one co-supervisor to form a supervisory team. Depending on the situation, this could be at the stage of project development, recruitment or once the student has been recruited. The lead supervisor is responsible for setting expectations for the relationship between the lead supervisor and the rest of the supervision team.
The process of recruitment and selection
The Doctoral College Recruitment Team deals with all doctoral admissions enquiries received from prospective applicants, applicants, offer holders, staff and funders. See Guidance & Forms for staff involved in doctoral supervision for admissions guidance and forms.
The Research Supervisor’s Bibliography compiled by Stan Taylor for the UKCGE PG Research Supervision Network contains a selection of references relating to Recruitment and Selection.
The University’s Student Immigration Service (SIS) can provide advice and information on applying for a visas and CAS, and the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS).
Ensure candidates are given sufficient time in advance to prepare.
- Critique a research paper you have sent them in advance and discuss the paper during the interview
- Ask the candidate to do a short presentation of their view of the research idea and their proposed approaches to addressing the research questions or hypothesis
- Present a previous research project, its rationale, and the importance of the findings
- Ask the student to provide an example of some written work they have already produced (for example a report or assignment from their previous degree)
- If the student has written the research proposal you could ask them to produce a written response to any questions or challenges that you have for their proposal.
- Informal chat with other members of the research team – maybe over a tea or coffee
- Why you, why this project and why here?
- What are your expectations and what do you envisage your doctoral experience to be like?
- Describe a project you have managed and your approach to managing projects
- Explain time and task management approaches
- What skills do you bring, and which do you need to develop to be successful?
These sites provide useful examples of questions that you might want to ask, aimed at students to help them prepare for interview, but relevant to supervisors
- Be aware that we all have biases that could affect our ability to make the best recruitment decisions.
- The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) explains that ‘Implicit or unconscious bias happens by our brains making incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realising. Our biases are influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences’
- The ECU has some information and guidance to help you to avoid making biased selection decisions in a higher education context
- An interesting short test to uncover your own unconscious biases to be aware of is available via Project Implicit
- It is important that an objective assessment is made of all applications and that an auditable trail is kept of all decisions made
- Make sure you are also aware of the academic and English language entry requirements (check with the specific programme requirements)
- Supervisors must interview applicants (ideally through an interview panel) before making a decision on whether or not they should be offered a place - the interview decision record template can be found at Guidance & Forms for staff involved in doctoral supervision
- The lead supervisor should arrange the interview directly with the applicant and the Doctoral College informed when the interview is due to take place and, following the interview, its outcome
- Interviewers must not make any offer of a place to a potential student - this must be done via a formal offer letter from the Doctoral College