Guidance, information and support for the development of good supervision, recognising that supervision is a skill that needs to be developed and nurtured.  Guidance is also provided as to what good supervision might look like.

Expectations and Responsibilities

As supervisor, you have a key role in ensuring that you:

  • develop and maintain an up-to-date knowledge of university processes
  • develop and maintain an up-to-date knowledge support structures – for both you and your students
  • critically evaluate your supervisory style and approaches
  • use the full range of support around you in ensuring that you continue to improve your supervision

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Characteristics of successful supervision

Given the uniquely close but professional relationship between supervisor and student, how you supervise can have a direct bearing on the future of your student, both in terms of their future trajectory and how they subsequently work with colleagues in the future.  A good supervisory can inspire and encourage, whilst a poor supervisor can dishearten and discourage.

Every supervisory relationship is unique. What is good in one relationship or discipline might not be considered effective in another and that things like culture, expectations and personalities can impact on whether a supervisory relationship is positive. However, the following list provides a general idea of the types of characteristics a good lead or co-supervisor might possess.

  • Having detailed knowledge of the subject / research area
  • Providing regular feedback
  • Being available, as appropriate
  • Providing regular academic and pastoral support
  • Being approachable and empathetic (but you are not expected to be a counsellor or to solve issues without the correct knowledge or experience)
  • Listening to students’ needs / worries
  • Signposting to appropriate support and guidance elsewhere, when required
  • Communicating regularly with fellow members of the supervisory team, clarifying responsibilities within the team from the start
  • Clarifying expectations and responsibilities between the supervisory team and the student
  • Showing respect
  • Providing motivation
  • Encouraging broader research and development activities (including training and development, having an interest in the student’s career development, and encouraging public engagement, publication, conference attendance and external networking
  • Encouraging the student to engage with the local research community
  • Being knowledgeable of, and adhering to regulations and policies
  • Facilitating timely completion of doctoral events such as candidature, confirmation, progress reports, final viva)
  • Providing support to enable students to successfully meet deadlines, and pass their final viva before their end of registration
  • Regularly discussing and reviewing students’ workload
  • Not supervising more students than is manageable

This list is purely a guide of good practice and that the full responsibilities of a supervision team can be found in QA7 Appendix 1.

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Your continued professional development as a doctoral supervisor

Good supervision is a professional skill that demands attention through ongoing development and refinement.

Supervisors in any academic department will be at various stages, levels and needs, and these are not necessarily a function of age or years spent supervising.

Professional development opportunities to support you as doctoral supervisors

Introduction to doctoral supervision

This is core session that is mandatory training for probationers on a teaching and research contract.  It is highly recommended for all who are new to doctoral supervision. As well as providing tips and tools for different parts of the doctoral supervision process, this session offers the opportunity to consider some of the issues and challenges associated with doctorate supervision.

20/10/2021 | 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm | BOOK HERE

08/02/2022| 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm | BOOK HERE

Doctoral Supervision Action Learning Set

This session is designed to help you think deeply about an issue you have encountered in doctoral supervision with the aim of getting peer support in finding a way forward. You will work in a group with 3 or 4 to address any challenging or complex issues. The session will be structured to allow each of you to share an issue in depth, and explore and resolve this issue using sharing, reflection, and open honest feedback.

19/01/2022 | 1:30 pm - 4:05 pm | BOOK HERE

18/05/2022 | 1:30 pm - 4:05 pm | BOOK HERE

Doctoral Supervision Masterclass

The masterclass an opportunity for experienced supervisors to discuss research supervisory issues with their colleagues. Supervisors will be able to share their experiences of what works and what doesn’t and get suggestions for dealing with complex situations. The masterclass will draw on the facilitator’s experience of working with thousands of research students and research supervisors across the world.

19/10/2021 | 9:30 am - 12:00 pm | BOOK HERE

Giving feedback on academic writing

A lack of timely and constructive feedback can be a great source of anxiety for students and block their swifter development as a productive critical thinker and researcher. This research- and practice-informed course will explore with you better ways for giving feedback on writing. The course will include opportunities for you to reflect on your own writing and feedback practice, and decide, with awareness of recommended practices, which approaches are likely to work best for you and your students.

01/11/2021 | 10:00 am - 12:00 pm | BOOK HERE

Managing and developing people (in a research context)

This workshop will provide a tool kit of skills, techniques and support to create maximum performance in your role. It focuses on some of the crucial behaviours required for managing and leading people in challenging situations.

02/02/2022 | 10:00 am - 12:30 pm | BOOK HERE

11/05/2022 | 10:00 am - 12:30pm | BOOK HERE

Confident conversations

Managers at the University have a vital role to play in listening and providing advice, support and guidance and also sometimes difficult messages - to team members, to students and to colleagues. These conversations can be difficult to have but are essential to developing and supporting others. The aim of this workshop is to enhance communication skills and to provide effective approaches to help you engage in confident conversations in all aspects of your professional role. The workshop is highly interactive and allows space for reflection, practise and application to your own role.

More information

The University of Glasgow has made available a collection of short videos used in their Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PgCAP):

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Professional recognition

Pathway to HEA Fellowship for experienced staff

University of Bath supports all academic staff who wish to gain HEA fellowship.

Fellowship brings you a range of benefits including:

  • consolidating your personal development and evidence of professional practice in your higher education career
  • providing a valuable measure of success which is increasingly recognised by international institutions
  • demonstrating your commitment to teaching, learning and the student experience, through engagement in a practical process that encourages research, reflection and development
  • enabling you to identify your expertise with the entitlement to use post-nominal letters (AFHEA, FHEA, SFHEA, PFHEA)
  • providing assurance that your institution is fully aligned with UKPSF practice and a badge of assured quality
Using supervisory practice as evidence in your HEA Fellowship application

Doctoral supervisors normally occupy the roles, or are at the career stages, defined in Descriptors 2 and 3 of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF).

Descriptor 2 incorporates established practitioners with extensive roles in learning and teaching, which includes all those acting as principal or second/associate supervisors.

Descriptor 3 incorporates experienced practitioners who have roles in co-ordinating, managing, supporting, and mentoring others in relation to learning and teaching. Many staff, for example directors of doctoral training centres/postgraduate studies/research degree programmes, mentoring research supervisors, and postgraduate research tutors, undertake these functions in relation to doctoral supervision and meet the D3 criteria.

More information about how you can use your supervisory experience as part of your HEA Fellowship evidence here.


Research Supervisor’s Bibliography

The 4th Edition of the essential Research Supervisor’s Bibliography – compiled by Professor Stan Taylor – contains the key references in the literature on research supervision according to topics. Download the full bibliography as a PDF.


Research Supervision Recognition Programme

The Research Supervision Recognition Programme is a route to recognition specifically for supervisory practice. Becoming a UKCGE Recognised Research Supervisor, you can demonstrate to your university, peers and candidates that your supervisory practice has been recognised by a national body.

All applicants receive comprehensive, constructive feedback on their application with recommendations on development opportunities where appropriate. 100% of the pilot participants and 75% of community consultation respondents thought that the recognition programme would be beneficial for professional development

To apply, you are required to Write a reflective account of your supervisory practice in relation to the Good Supervisory Practice Framework, obtain two personal references, and submit with a £75 application fee. A two-person panel will peer-review your application. Regardless of the outcome, they will give comprehensive feedback.


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