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Management of Research Students

*Changes agreed by BGS 17 June 2021 indicated in bold in section (f)

Academic departments are responsible for:

(a) Developing explicit mechanisms for determining and monitoring staff workloads in respect of teaching, research student supervision, personal research and administrative commitments so that the other duties of supervisors within their departments leave them sufficient time to supervise their research students to an appropriate standard.

(b) Drawing the attention of students and supervisors to the University’s Research Code of Conduct and putting in place a mechanism to ensure the review of students’ research proposals in accordance with the University’s Ethical Scrutiny Framework. The relevant documents are available on the Research and Impact Services website.

(c) The nomination (preferably for a period of more than one year) of a member of staff to act as Director of Graduate Studies (or equivalent) with responsibility, in collaboration with other members of the department as appropriate, for oversight of the selection and progress of research students, the allocation of supervisors and departmental procedures for the monitoring of the progression of research students, including reviewing the effectiveness of these procedures at departmental level. Departments should ensure that this person is clearly identified through departmental student handbooks.

(d) The nomination of a member of staff as an adviser/mentor/personal tutor for each research student, whom the student can consult in circumstances in which they do not wish to consult the supervisor or in the case of difficulties that the supervisor cannot or will not resolve. In departments with small numbers of postgraduate research students, this may form part of the duties of the Director of Graduate Studies. The nominated personal tutor must be clearly communicated to all PGR students, and will act as the informal personal tutor outside of the supervisory relationship, providing support or guidance if needed. The expectation is that the supervisor(s) continue to provide academic and basic wellbeing support to students under their supervision. The nominated personal tutor will offer to meet with their PGR students once a year (this may be in groups), with an initial meeting in students’ first term of year one. The focus of any personal tutoring will be on academic support and basic wellbeing with students being signposted and referred to other University development and support services such as the Faculty Senior Tutor as required..

(e) Putting in place appropriate arrangements for the admission of postgraduate research students. Great care should be exercised over the admission of research students and the allocation of supervisors. At least two members of academic staff should be involved in the decision to admit a student to a research degree. Departments are advised to consider requiring a candidate to submit written work and, if possible, attend an interview. Departments should look for evidence not only of academic ability but also of a general understanding of the nature of research in the chosen discipline. A candidate should be made aware of the type of research being undertaken within the department and by their allocated supervisor.

At least one supervisor must be identified at the admissions stage and communicated to Postgraduate Admissions. No candidate will be offered a place by the University if a supervisor is not identified. Departments should also bear in mind the requirement eventually to put in place arrangements for alternative supervision in the event of the first nominated supervisor not being able to continue to act for any reasons during the course of the student’s registration.

Care should also be exercised by departments in deciding whether a student should be admitted to full-time or part-time registration for a research degree, especially where it is evident that a student will be residing some distance from the University and/or will be required to undertake paid employment in order to finance themselves during their period of study. As a matter of guidance, full-time research students should expect to be required to devote 1800 hours per annum to their studies. Departments should seek the advice of the Doctoral College on such matters in appropriate cases.

(f) The allocation of a supervisory team to each research degree student, taking account of the subject expertise, skills and experience of staff and the provision of supervision throughout the period of registration, including any possible absences for study leave. Supervision will normally be provided by a designated primary supervisor, with primary responsibility for the student’s academic guidance, assisted by a team which may consist, inter alia, of one or two co-supervisors, the Director of Graduate Studies, the student’s adviser/mentor/personal tutor, and other members of academic staff who may be asked to train or advise the student in specific areas (e.g. research techniques or methods).


The primary supervisor should normally be a research-active member of academic staff from the student’s department/school/centre, with an open contract of employment of at least 0.5 FTE. Emeritus and retired members of staff or those on honorary appointments are not eligible to act as sole or primary supervisors.

Departments may appoint co-supervisors where, for example, additional specialist subject expertise is required. In many departments and centres, appointment of one or more co-supervisors is standard practice.All supervisors should be expecting to be available for the full duration of the student’s study, though staff who retire during the period of supervision may, if they are willing, continue as co-supervisors. Suitably experienced staff on teaching-only or research-only contracts are eligible to act as supervisors. Honorary or visiting staff can be appointed as co-supervisors in appropriate cases where they will be available for the whole period of the degree.

The appointment of a co-supervisor may be appropriate as a means of providing supervisory experience for new or less senior members of staff, including postdoctoral researchers, provided that the individual concerned has completed supervisory training. Departments should bear in mind that designated co- supervisors will not normally be eligible to act as an internal examiner for the student.

Where more than one supervisor is appointed for any student, the Department should ensure that the roles and time commitments of the supervisors are clear to both supervisors and student. It is recommended that percentage allocations for each supervisor should not normally be less than 20%. Where it is proposed that a student should be co-supervised by a person who is not a member of the University of Warwick staff, it is particularly important that a prior agreement is put in place between the department and the external co-supervisor and/or their employers as to the division of supervisory responsibilities and any payment for them.

Departments are advised to give particular care to arrangements involving an inexperienced supervisor. Staff who are on probation, postdoctoral researchers and staff with little or no experience of supervising research students in a University environment (even if there is no period of probation) should normally not be appointed as the sole or primary supervisor. If in exceptional circumstances, it is necessary to appoint such a person as the primary supervisor (e.g. because of their subject expertise), a member of staff with greater supervisory experience should be designated as the co-supervisor. A department should satisfy itself that all supervisors have received appropriate training (e.g. have completed the Academic and Professional Pathway for Teaching Excellence (APP TE) and that a satisfactory method for supporting and monitoring all supervisors is in place. Retired members of staff or those on honorary appointments are not eligible to act as sole or primary supervisors.

(g) Establishing clear procedures to allow for a change of supervisor should a student and/or supervisor feel this to be necessary. It is recognised that, should a student request a change of research topic to one in which the department has insufficient expertise to provide supervision, it may not be possible to find an alternative supervisor. In cases where appropriate expertise is not able to be provided within the department, the Director of Graduate Studies and Head of Department will ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to ensure the student is able to complete their degree.

(h) Making appropriate arrangements for the supervision of students during periods of absence of the supervisor(s) from the University of more than one month, such as during summer vacations or study leave, and in periods when the student is undertaking research away from the University for a similar period. Departments should make available to students information on the mechanisms through which informal and formal concerns about these arrangements may be raised, should this be necessary.

(i) Making appropriate arrangements for students whose supervisors suffer a prolonged period of illness.

(j) When a member of the supervisory team leaves the University, departments are responsible for putting in place appropriate alternative arrangements in consultation with the student and maintaining the requirements set out in section (f).

(k) Putting in place appropriate arrangements for the supervision of students who are expected to be away from the University for substantial and prolonged periods during the course of their studies, including periods undertaking fieldwork, and the review on at least an annual basis of the effectiveness and appropriateness of these arrangements. Departments should refer to the supplementary guidelines that can be found in the document entitled ‘Guidelines for the Supervision of Research Students Based Away from the University’.

(l) Submitting requests for a period of suspension for students when appropriate in line with the University procedures set out in section 1.

(m) Monitoring closely the progress of students throughout their period of study (including periods of extension) with the aim of supporting students in the submission of their research thesis, normally by the end of the period of formal registration, and in accordance with the Good Practice Guide on Monitoring Student Attendance and Progress. Formal departmental reviews of progress should normally be held at least on an annual basis. Where at any time it appears that inadequate progress is being made, or that submission might be delayed, the Director of Graduate Studies should discuss with the student and supervisor(s) a plan to improve progress. If necessary, periods of extension should be requested in line with the procedures set out in section 1. Where, exceptionally, it appears that, even after remedial action, a student’s lack of progress is such that they will not be able to complete their thesis to an adequate standard, the department should consult the Doctoral College as to the appropriate procedures to follow in the particular case.

(n) The prompt nomination of suitable examiners (and, where appropriate, examination advisers) for research degrees to the Doctoral College, normally at least one month before submission of the thesis and in accordance with University requirements and procedures as set out in the Guide to Examinations for Higher Degrees by Research.

(o) Providing students whose theses are referred for resubmission with appropriate advice on revising the thesis in line with the notes of guidance provided by the examiners. This advice would usually be provided by a member of the supervisory team.

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