It is important to establish a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities early on. As a supervisor you will be working with a doctoral researcher and a wider team over three or more years, so spending some time thinking about how these relationships will work can be valuable.


The supervisory team

As a supervisor you will normally be part of a supervisory team. This arrangement provides support for your researchers, but it can also cause confusion, particularly around where responsibilities lie. A doctoral researcher should have an identified single point of contact, normally the main supervisor. Your researchers should be clear on the responsibilities of the other team members and know who to contact is if the main supervisor is not available.

Working with a supervisory team can provide valuable staff development and grounding in the skills required to become an effective research supervisor. For supervision of your first doctoral researcher it is usual to have an experienced supervisor in the team to support you.

Relationship with the doctoral researcher

Make clear from the start how you expect the relationship to operate. Ask your researchers for their expectations, and agree the following:

  • Level of support expected from you and level of independence expected from your researchers
  • Frequency of meetings
  • When and how you can be contacted - making yourself available and setting appropriate limits
  • What other support you, or the department, will provide in terms of induction, training and development, introduction to the academic community, seminars and workshops
  • That your researchers have copies of all the relevant documents provided by the institution and understands their responsibilities
  • That you both understand  the regulations on registration, upgrading, submission process and extension rules


This content has been adapted from content provided on the Vitae website.