Research Supervisors

Roles and Responsibilities of Supervisors

A supervisor is a member of the academic staff who is responsible for providing help, support and mentoring to a postgraduate student in order to enable the student to complete the research and produce a thesis to the best of the student's ability. The supervisor thus plays an important role during the student's candidature.

The roles and responsibilities of the University, Academic Unit, student and supervisor are set out in the University's Higher Degree Research Supervision and Resources Policy.

Roles and responsibilities of the Principal and Co-Supervisors

The University recommends co-supervision, where two or more supervisors may take differing roles and responsibilities depending on their expertise and experience with supervision.

The Principal Supervisor

—would be the supervisor who takes the lead in terms of accountability / administration of the process of supervision (e.g. taking carriage of annual reports etc).

The principal supervisor has primary responsibility for coordinating communication between the supervisors and the student. Where a supervisor is inexperienced co-supervision is mandatory.

In general, all members of the academic staff are eligible to become principal supervisors of students of higher degrees if they have at least:

  • a degree equivalent to or higher than that being supervised; or
  • are currently active researchers or have proven research records; or
  • have previous successful experience in supervision of postgraduate students

The Co-supervisor

—would normally have approximately equal responsibility in terms of research and research supervision to the principal supervisor and would contribute to annual reports, proposals etc.

Co-supervisors should:

  • be appointed at the outset of the program, particularly if any lengthy absences of the supervisor are planned or if expertise additional to that provided by the supervisor is required;
  • be involved as soon as practicable in the development of the student's research plan;
  • maintain a level of communication with the student and the other supervisors to allow adequate supervision whenever necessary.

Associate Supervisor

—would normally take less responsibility in terms of the candidates' research. They may act more in a consultative than a supervisory capacity. Both supervisors and student would need to be clear on the amount of contact time and input that an associate supervisor would be expected to contribute. Academics who act as a local supervisor, “support person”, for offshore candidates will also be known as associate supervisors. This category includes supervisors who are external to the University, e.g. those from industry or at other Universities.

Supervisory Panels

In some cases (eg. where the topic is multi-disciplinary or staff are inexperienced) a panel could be formed to advise the student.




Last reviewed: 15 March, 2013

Research Magazine Sticky

HDR scholarships