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Developing an institutional framework for supporting supervisors of research students: A practical guide.



This booklet describes the outcomes of a unique interinstitutional project undertaken in Ireland between 2008 and 2012 to develop a common framework for the support of supervisors of postgraduate research students. The experiences of the seven institutions who ultimately participated in the project are summarized in the form of a series of commentaries on approaches to such training, and a description of the primary elements of the final framework itself. It is intended that this information may be of use to any institutions interested in developing their own supports for research supervisors, and ultimately will be of benefit to the supervisors themselves and, of course, their students.
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
Developing an institutional framework for
supporting supervisors of research students
A practical guide
1. Introduction
NAIRTL’s Supervisor Support and Development Working Group:
Alan Kelly, University College Cork (Chair of Working Group), Lucy Byrnes,
National University of Ireland, Galway, Veronica Campbell, Trinity College Dublin,
Janet Carton, University College Dublin, Siobhan Harkin, Waterford Institute
of Technology, Anna Marie Leonard, National University of Ireland, Galway,
Pat Morgan, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ciara O’Farrell, Trinity
College Dublin, Catherine O’Mahony, NAIRTL, and Niall Smith, Cork Institute of
The production of this publication was a collaborative effort between the
members of NAIRTL’s Supervisor Support and Development working group, with
thanks for comment and input to Hugh Kearns, Flinders University, Australia.
NAIRTL is a collaborative initiative between University College Cork (lead
partner), Cork Institute of Technology, National University of Ireland Galway,
Trinity College Dublin and Waterford Institute of Technology. It is supported by
the Higher Education Authority under the Strategic Innovation Fund. For further
information on other educational activities undertaken by NAIRTL please email or write to: NAIRTL, Distillery House, Nor th Mall, Cork, Ireland.
ISBN: 978-1-906642-51-8
For further information regarding this publication please contact Professor Alan
Kelly, Dean of Graduate Studies, University College Cork at
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
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Copyright © NAIRTL 2012
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Published and distributed by: NAIRTL
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
3. Framework
2. Key themes & issues
1. Introduction
place to provide support and training for research
supervisors, including obligatory structured
courses with a range of activities, ideally organised
within larger programmes leading to formal
qualications. In parallel, informal evidence arising
from discussions within Irish Higher Education
Institutions in the last number of years has strongly
indicated growing demand for structured training of
supervisors of research (PhD and Masters) students.
Thus, in Ireland and elsewhere, many Higher
Education Institutions are currently striving
to establish formal procedures for the
professionalization of supervision and the support
of academic staff in this critically important element
of their work.
In parallel, in many cases, qualitative changes
in the nature of supervision are rapidly being
introduced, e.g., increasingly structured quality
assurance procedures, such as the use of Thesis
Committees, Advisors, regular progress reviews, and,
more recently, introduction of skills development
programmes for PhD students. Research supervisors
thus face an increasing challenge in meeting
academic quality assurance standards and
supporting skills acquisition for their students, and
are encountering new roles and responsibilities
which are not associated with the traditional
apprenticeship model of research training.
1.1 The changing context of supervision
The nature of graduate education in Ireland, as
in many countries, has undergone a fundamental
restructuring in recent years. Ambitious targets
for increasing PhD student numbers, establishing
Graduate Schools, and introducing structured PhD
programmes have been set, and academic staff in
all institutions have key roles to play in achieving
these objectives. In considering the changes in
doctoral education from a student perspective and
developing the best quality graduate education
system, it is critically important to identify and
address the needs of those supporting, creating
and developing the research postgraduate students
(Masters and PhD). This is recognised by many
national regulatory authorities; for example, in
Ireland, the Higher Education Authority in its recent
Strategic Plan 2012-20161 referred explicitly to the
need for greater use of quality metrics and standards
in PhD education.
However, much of the focus in graduate education
is, perhaps not surprisingly, concerned with student
education. The need for support, development and
training of staff, while very important, has not been
directly addressed in many cases, and certainly
in the Irish context, although some institutions
have addressed this area in an informal manner,
the outcomes of which have helped inform the
development of the framework. Specically, most
third-level institutions providing doctoral education
have not traditionally had formal structures for
training of staff, particularly new or inexperienced
staff, in supervision of research students.
Emerging international best practice in many
countries involves formal structures for the
development of supervisory skills among staff,
frequently as a prerequisite to being allowed to
accept PhD students, and often in parallel with
requirements such as compulsory co-supervision
for inexperienced super visors. The 2007 European
University Association (EUA) report on ‘Doctoral
Programmes in Europe’s Universities: Achievements
and Challenges’ (EUA, 2007) includes the demand
that universities must do more to improve
mechanisms for supervision and assessment,
and must also ensure that professional skills
development is an integral part of all doctoral
The importance of supervision was also explicitly
recognised in the EU context in the Salzburg
Principles (2005 and 2010, I and II)2, as follows:
Supervision must be a collective effor t with
clearly dened and written responsibilities
of the main supervisor, supervisory team,
doctoral candidate, doctoral school, research
group and the institution, leaving room for
the individual development of the doctoral
candidate. Providing professional development
to supervisors is an institutional responsibility,
whether organised through formal training or
informal sharing of experiences among staff.
Developing a common supervision culture
shared by supervisors, doctoral school leaders
and doctoral candidates must be a priority for
doctoral schools. Supervisors must be active
In the UK, the Higher Education Funding Council
for England (HEFCE) policy on ‘improving standards
in postgraduate research degree programmes’
has, for a number of years, indicated that all new
supervisors must under take mandatory specied
training. Likewise, in Ireland, the Irish Universities
Quality Board’s ‘Good Practice in the Organisation
of PhD Programmes in Irish Higher Education’
recommended in 2009 that methods be put in
The Higher Education Authority
Strategic Plan 2012-2016 & the
Salzburg Principles (2005 and 2010
I and II)
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
6. Resources on VLE
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
HEA strap 1216eng 22/3/12 09:45 Page 1
Salzburg ii
EuroPEan univErSitiES’ achiEvEmEntS
SincE 2005 in imPlEmEnting
thE Salzburg PrinciPlES
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
3. Framework
Heads of Department/School/Institutes and
Department Managers who need to be aware
of regulations and best practice for research
students in their Department;
Administrative staf f in Departments or central
ofces who deal directly with postgraduate
In any institution, it is likely that the training needs
of these diverse categories may require different
sessions/courses, or parts thereof. For exper ienced
staff, for example, particularly those with research
leadership responsibilities, keeping up to date with
policies, practices and developing their capability
to support and manage diverse research staff roles
within a team or centre is a critical development
step, and the participation of such staff in
training sessions for less experienced staff will
unquestionably yield valuable benets. Also, it is
clear that administrative and academic staf f could
benet from combined initiatives that build bridges
and understanding between these key sources of
support for students.
Thus, the Working Group proposed to develop a
multi-strand strategy for suppor t of staff involved in
research student supervision and support, involving
induction sessions for new staff, workshops
for experienced staff, and suppor t through
development of training materials, guidelines and
handbooks, and an on-line forum for discussion of
An agreed division of elements to be developed and
piloted in each partner institution was agreed to
allow eventual sharing of materials and experience
between partners, and joint collaborative initiatives.
Added value was a natural consequence of the
collaborative nature of the project across so many
1.2 Developing an inter-institutional
In Ireland, a project was commenced in 2008 to
develop a framework to provide training and support
for academic supervisors of research postgraduate
students, including workshops, short courses and
other initiatives. This project was funded through
a major national initiative, the National Academy
for Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning
(NAIRTL), which was in turn funded by the Irish
Higher Education Authority through its Strategic
Innovation Fund.
The project initially involved three universities
(University College Cork [co-ordinating the project],
National University of Ireland, Galway and Trinity
College Dublin) and two Institutes of Technology
(Cork and Waterford), each of which was represented
on the project Working Group by a senior ofcer
with responsibility for graduate education (e.g.,
Dean of Graduate Studies). This group met 4-6
times per year over the course of the project to
discuss plans for training development and share
experiences of roll-out and delivery of training
elements. Approximately half way through the
project, University College Dublin joined the group
and, at a later stage, Dublin City University adopted
the training framework which had been developed
and also joined the Working Group. Thus, this project
is notable for engaging in a single purpose a high
proportion of the institutions in one countr y, and
hence representing a very signicant proportion of
the total PhD student population in Ireland.
The initial discussions of the Working Group
considered in detail existing good practice in a
number of institutions, where programmes were in
place that could serve as models for developments
elsewhere and nuclei for their own larger
developments. However, where such programmes
were in place, they existed solely at an institutional
level, without an over-arching, national, common
approach; thus, prior to the commencement of the
project, co-ordination of supervisor development at
an inter-institutional level had not been considered
in any strategic sense.
In the initial stages of developing the Irish
framework, a number of key themes to be
addressed in the training and support for
supervisors were identied:
Working within institutional administrative
systems relating to postgraduate education (e.g.,
registration, examination);
Mentoring and support of individual students,
and guiding the development of students as
independent researchers (e.g., advising on
training strategies, helping students with
Personal Development Plans/Training Needs
Analysis or other developmental tools, giving
students criticism, drawing on existing support
services for students in difculty);
Understanding key stages of progress for
students and projects, and appropriate principles
of project management;
Managing academic aspects of supervision (e.g.,
preparing students for evaluations, examinations
and theses).
In addition, it was recognised that there are a
number of different categories of supervisory
staff, whose training needs may be substantively
different, for example:
Early-stage researchers working with students,
usually as co-supervisors (e.g., post-docs);
Newly-appointed academic staff without
experience of supervision (including
probationary staff);
Newly-appointed academic staff without
experience of supervision in an Irish HEI;
Academic staff with experience of super vision,
either within or new to an Irish HEI;
Research staff who do not hold academic
positions, but who are in day-day contact with
students, e.g., in research centres;
Minimum lecturing content, maximum
use of discussion
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
6. Resources on VLE
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
3. Framework
1.3 Overview of Guide
This guide is comprised of ve additional sections.
Section 2 explores the main considerations
when developing the workshop programme for
your institution, i.e. the audience and delivery
methodologies. Section 3 provides details of the
ve workshop framework devised by the NAIRTL
working group including learning outcomes and
suggested exercises. Section 4 identies the benets
of Supervisor development programmes and the
recommendations of the NAIRTL working group on
how best to support and develop these activities at
an institutional and national level. Section 5 is an
extensive bibliography of supportive literature of
relevance to workshop coordinators, super visors and
postgraduate research students. Section 6 provides a
link to an online Virtual Learning Environment which
is populated with template workshop programmes,
case study examples and similar materials for the
development and delivery of your own workshop
When courses were being designed, the guiding
principle was as follows:
Minimum lecturing content, maximum use of
discussion, case studies, reection, exercises
etc., based on a survey of international best
Blending academic disciplines for generic
areas where possible, perhaps with follow-up
individual sessions for particular disciplines,
and subsequent support through, for example,
on-line resources;
Drawing on a mix of international experts and
experienced supervisors for course development
and delivery.
Within the partner institutions, and under the
NAIRTL umbrella, the issue of formal accreditation
of training for staf f was carefully considered. The
possibility of integrating such staff development
within (e.g., as a module, or part of a module, of)
formal programmes such as Certicate/Diploma/
Masters Programmes in Teaching and Learning
in Higher Education programmes was discussed,
and this approach adopted in different ways
as appropriate for each partner institution. In
general, it was intended that the training and skills
development could perhaps be taken as stand-alone
activities, but also be awarded credit in formal
qualications taken in parallel or at a later date.
As one model for formal accreditation within the
project, the Centre for Excellence in Learning and
Teaching (CELT) at NUI Galway delivers a 10-credit
(within the European Credit Transfer System,
ECTS) module entitled Postgraduate Research
Supervision, as part of the Certicate/Diploma/
MA in Academic Practice (or it can be taken as a
stand-alone module with or without credit). The
module consists of seven three-hour workshops,
which take place on alternate Friday af ternoons
in the Spring semester. Supporting resources
include relevant on-line modules and recommended
reading, provided via the Blackboard Virtual
Learning Environment. Workshop presentations
are delivered by CELT academic staff, exper ienced
supervisors, external speakers and senior leaders in
the university (e.g. the Vice-President for Research
and the Dean of Graduate Studies) and discussion
and sharing of practice is actively encouraged.
Class size is limited to twenty-two participants, and
assessment is based on participation in workshops
and preparation of a 5,000 word project report/
paper. This module has now been delivered four
times since 2008/09 to about sixty academic staff
members from NUI Galway. Evidence of the positive
impact of this module on postgraduate research
has been signicant including changes to the PhD
examination regulations, publication of a guide for
students preparing for their viva, and development
of a policy on article-based PhDs, all initiatives that
have arisen from papers submitted as part of this
Whatever model of Supervisor support is adopted, to
ensure high rates of participation by academic staff,
clear benets must be demonstrable, or elements
must be formally associated with ongoing training
and induction programmes.
The overall inter-institutional project was managed
by the Working Group, working closely with the
NAIRTL management team and relevant other bodies
and ofces, within and across the institutions.
In line with each HEI’s research strategy, the
programme was developed in such a way as to
facilitate a unied approach to enhancing the
research supervisory capacity and quality and
ultimately the research activity of each institute.
This approach was based on a common framework for
knowledge acquisition and assessment of progress.
Develop a workshop programme for
your institution
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
6. Resources on VLE
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
3. Framework
2. Key Themes & Issues
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
category will help to establish a vibrant supervisor
development culture.
Finally, it must be recognized that the introduction
of such supports requires supervisors, and others, to
have a willingness to learn new ways of interacting
with students. Examples of the latter include how to
develop and monitor student personal development
plans, how to employ new technologies such as
e-portfolios, and how to learn less well-dened skills
such as conict resolution.
2.2 Targeting the right audience
A key question in developing a supervisor training
framework concerns identifying the desired
audience. The prole of the intended audience has a
signicant impact on the framework and content of
the support programme. Programme co-ordinators
should dene the target audience using, for
example, the following headings:
New (to the Institution) and Inexperienced
Research Supervisors
New and/or Inexperienced Research Supervisors
Experienced Research Supervisors
The disciplinary distribution of the intended
audience should also be claried. The experience of
the institutions involved in the NAIRTL Supervisor
Support and Development working group has been
that, in general, mixed audiences gain the most from
programmes delivered in a workshop-style model.
The next element for consideration is the level
of requirement for attendance, and whether the
programme should be offered as a compulsory
or voluntary support mechanism. Experience
has shown that the initial introduction of such
programmes are embraced more readily by staff if
the nature of attendance is voluntary; a compulsory
requirement to attend could be introduced at a later
The prole of the intended audience
has a signicant impact on the
framework and content of the support
2.1 The requirement for institutional
When implementing a supervisor support
and development framework, there are many
considerations which need to be taken into account
with respect to supporting academic staff.
A critical consideration is to ensure that the idea
of a formal Framework for Supervisor Support and
Development has been adopted at the highest
levels within the institution after signicant
consultation amongst the relevant ofcers, bodies
and committees; a highly visible working group
on supervisor training may help in this regard. It
is important to embed the framework within the
policies governing postgraduate research education
via the Academic Council or equivalent responsible
body within the institution. Many frameworks are
possible and staff will have different opinions; thus,
different institutions may implement training in
different, but equally valid, ways. The cr itical issue is
to have a framework that works within the strategic
and operational constraints of each institution and
that is clearly recognised as institutional policy.
Designing a framework for a particular institution
should take into account the diversity of supervisors’
previous experiences, time commitments, sizes
of research group, discipline areas and so forth. A
one-size-ts-all approach is unlikely to be successful
even within an individual institution. It is important
to avoid isolating disciplines; the world is an
inherently multidisciplinary place and supervisors
who can work effectively in a multidisciplinary
environment can bring a richness of experience and
a broader working ethos to their students that will
help the students in their research careers, whilst
simultaneously enhancing the supervisor’s own
research capacity.
It must also be accepted that establishing an
appropriate framework takes time and that such a
framework must be customised to reect individual
institutional structures. Some staff will be less
supportive of both the structured PhD approach and
the supervisor support and development framework,
however, and establishing the framework is only part
of the overall process. Implementing it may require
something of a cultural change within an institution
and this is one reason why it is important to ensure
that the framework is widely discussed and formally
The introduction of the Structured PhD model in
many HEIs, in Ireland and elsewhere, has added
a signicant degree of complexity to the support
mechanisms required within an institution.
Consequently, it is important for managers and
staff at all levels within an organisation to be aware
of what is involved in delivering a high quality
structured PhD programme and what the associated
benets are for the organisation. While this might
be well understood in relation to supporting the
postgraduate students themselves, it is perhaps
less understood and appreciated in relation to the
benets of supervisor support.
Since the introduction of structured programmes
for both PhD students and supervisors should be
seen as a strategic investment by an institution,
it is important for super visors and managers to
understand that an upfront investment of time and
effort in the support and development of super visors
will have benecial results for the institution in the
long run. While providing supervisor support must
be seen as an ongoing process within an institution,
over time it can be expected that the process will
involve less investment of time and resources as
more staff are appropriately trained. At any given
time, some academic staff will be directly involved
in the supervision process, others will have a role
in supporting it, and yet others will fall into the
category of advocates or champions; understanding
the support and information needed for each
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
each other from sitting together), who will
work together on the various exercises and
case study discussions which are integral
parts of the workshops.
v. Varied delivery methods (e.g., formal
presentations, case studies, topics for small
group discussion, video clips) is found to
work best in terms of engaging staf f in
workshops. Case Studies (some internal to
Institution but perhaps anonymised or made
generic but still relevant, and some from
external sources) can provide excellent foci
for discussion.
vi. Participation and/or presentations by
research students (at appropriate life cycle
stages for relevance to the topic under
discussion) and experienced supervisors
have been consistently found to add valuable
perspective and raise interesting points for
vii. Use of support materials (e.g., folders or
resource packs containing key policies, quick
guides, frequently used forms etc.), with
particular emphasis on currency of document
versions and opportunity for participants
where possible to provide input and feedback
on implementation, in particular of new
policies. The inclusion of facts and gures
relating to doctoral studies (internal and
others as appropriate) is also useful.
viii. Visible support from senior management
(e.g., workshops being opened by Registrar,
participant nomination by Faculty/School
Head), as mentioned earlier, shows clear
institutional endorsement of the importance
of such training.
ix. Requesting information on participant
training needs and expectations in advance
(or in a ve minute brainstorm at the start of
the session) can ensure that needs are best
Acting on participant feedback and implementing
suggestions from the supervisors attending the
workshops ensures continuous development
and relevance. In addition, shorter forum-style
workshops (e.g., lunchtime sessions) have been
found to complement the principal training
framework of workshops etc., and have proven
to work well for (i) small institutions where most
of the research supervisors have engaged with
development workshops fairly quickly and (ii) larger
institutions to keep the training “alive” for those
staff who have done the formal training. Forums are
breathing grounds for good ideas, but care must be
taken to ensure that these do not become a place
where researchers simply complain about problems,
rather a place where solutions and peer supports are
Conversely, experience has shown that the provision
of excessive volumes of material does not work
well. It appears that it is better for supervisors to
be walked through the supervisor training maze
rather than parachuted into it with a map. The
volume of material and level of expertise should be
correlated with the time available to the supervisor
and having too much material can turn them against
the process. In addition, a key caution is to ensure
appropriate moderation at sessions, to ensure
broad participation in discussions, and particularly
the participation of new supervisors, rather than
dominance by individual participants.
As mentioned above, support from senior institution
management for a support programme for
supervisors is critical, as they can easily place the
value of staff and their supervisor y practices in the
context of the Institution’s strategy and emphasise
this importance.
Local academic management (e.g., school or
discipline level) should be invited by co-ordinators
to communicate the advantages of programme
attendance; in some cases selection of appropriate
attendees may be made by Heads of School or
equivalent. Other models have been equally as
effective by targeting their intended audiences by
direct communication.
The audience can also be targeted through local
Human Resources/Staff Support and Development
ofces, where requests for additional ‘training’ and
support in research supervision are often directed
by staff.
2.3 Delivery methodologies
The combined experiences of the members of the
project described have led to a number of recognized
key factors for success in delivery of supervisor
training, as follows:
i. The choice of staff for delivery of workshops
is a key decision. In the Irish project,
workshops were typically delivered by a
mixture of academic staff (experienced
supervisors, typically with functional
responsibility in the area of graduate studies,
e.g., Dean or Head of Graduate School) and
staff from ofces with specic responsibility
for the topic in question (e.g., Careers,
Examinations, International Education).
Input from directly involved practitioners
ensures that the context is appropriately
tailored to the training and audience, and
that discussions and questions can be best
handled. It has also been found that there
is some benet in the participation of staff
from other institutions (but within cognate
practices and systems) as ‘guest’ presenters,
to provide a relevant but yet slightly external
ii. The length of workshops is obviously a
key issue, and workshops have ranged in
length from 2 - 6 hours in the Irish project.
The length is also correlated closely with
frequency and, in one participant institution
(University College Cork), the programme
was ultimately embedded as a series of ve
3.5 hour (afternoon-long) workshops, run
at approximately monthly intervals over
the academic year. Models used in the other
member institutions included a blend of
full-day and half-day workshops, ultimately
moving to half day workshop models as
iii. The use of mixed disciplinary audiences (as
opposed to organising workshops at School
or College level, for example) enhances
group discussions in workshops and
encourages both openness of participants
in discussions and learning from different
areas (as well as frequently reassuring
participants that similar issues arise in
very different disciplines). By reecting
on their experiences and on the student
perspective, and perhaps by discussion of
the literature of supervision pedagogy,
evaluations of supervision can take place in
a cross-discipline environment of systematic
dialogue, reection, peer review, and shared
iv. Small groups (15-30) are generally found
to work best in terms of balancing a
critical mass of ideas and participation
with manageability, and ensuring that all
participants can contribute directly. These
staff are frequently encouraged to sit in
groups of ve (normally randomised, perhaps
through colour-coded name badges, to
discourage staff from similar areas who know
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
3. A Framework of Development Workshops
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
3. Framework
Suggested Content and Tasks/ Exercises
A key message for this workshop will be the
changing nature of the role of the institution
and supervisors vis-á-vis research students. It
is important to remember that most supervisors
will themselves have experienced a very different
structure when undertaking their own studies.
A brief brain-storming session on the perceived
roles of supervisors and the institution at the start
of the workshop will assist in determining attendee’s
level of knowledge and stimulates discussion early
in the workshop. It is also useful to ask participants
what they expect to learn from the workshop.
It is essential that the roles and responsibilities of
the supervisor and the following institutional ofces
(as appropriate to the institution) are descr ibed:
Academic Council, and relevant sub-committee(s)
Dean of Graduate Studies, or equivalent
Graduate Studies Board, or equivalent
Research ofce, including Vice-President for
College/Faculty, including Dean
School/Centre/Department/Discipline, including
Research Student Supervisory Committee
Rather than providing an exhaustive list of all roles
and responsibilities, it is recommended that key
responsibilities are highlighted in the workshop, and
supporting documentation referred to for the rest.
Attendees should also be advised on how to keep
abreast of changes to policies in the future.
As Structured PhD programmes are still relatively
new in many institutions, it is important that the
general principles governing such programmes in
the institution are described, including information
on generic and transferrable skills training and
advanced discipline-specic modules and their
accreditation. Information on the input of graduate
When the project described was initiated, the initial
phase concerned agreement of a broad framework
within which the training would be structured. This
phase lasted around 6 months, and consisted of
reviews of training frameworks available elsewhere
and literature in the area. Based on this review and
discussion between the Working Group members
thereof, it was initially agreed to divide the training
into two main themes:
a. The relationship between the supervisor and
the institution
b. The relationship between the supervisor and
the research student
The second theme was immediately accepted as
requiring signicantly more hours of training than
the rst, and was subdivided into a number of
themes based around the concept of the research
student life-cycle, from recruitment to viva and
Each of the elements of training developed around
these themes and sub-themes will be discussed in
the following sections. It should be noted that the
full plan for each workshop was developed in roughly
the sequence described, and typically each workshop
was rolled out in one institution at least before the
next was fully developed, with constant review and
sharing of experiences between the Working Group
members informing ongoing development.
3.1 The supervisor and the Institution
Workshop overview
The rst workshop in the programme focuses on
the relationship between the supervisor and the
institution, in terms of explaining the var ious layers
of regulatory framework (e.g., local, institutional,
national and perhaps international) within which
supervisors and students operate. For example,
in the case of Irish institutions, which have been
challenged in recent years to develop ambitious
structures and targets for graduate education, a key
element of this workshop is to explain the key policy
drivers and political considerations within which
institutions have developed their own policies and
practices, thus ensuring that attendees understand
the broad context for the developments which affect
their roles as supervisors. In addition, this workshop
should provide supervisors with an overview of the
institutional supports in place for research students.
This workshop is particularly relevant to supervisors
who are new to the institution, or who are
supervising their rst student.
As the role of supervisors in Irish institutions has
changed considerably in recent years, due primarily
to the introduction of doctoral schools/structured
PhDs, it should also be kept in mind that shorter,
more focused workshops, e.g. lunchtime sessions,
may be useful in informing experienced super visors
of the changed roles for supervisors and the
institution. Seminars by invited external speakers
(both national and international) on the changing
nature of research degree education are also a useful
way to raise awareness and to engage supervisors.
The workshop should take 3 - 4 hours.
Key supervisor responsibilities should
be highlighted in the workshop
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
Salzburg II Principles (2010)
Good Practice in the Organisation of PhD
Programmes in Irish Higher Education (Irish
Universities Quality Board, 2009)
Institutional Regulations for Research Degrees
and Guidelines
Relevant Research Degree ‘Goals’ from
Institutional Strategic and Operational Plans
A dedicated institutional portal for supervisory
support on the local Graduate Studies website is a
very useful resource for future reference.
All participants should be invited to complete a
brief questionnaire at the end of the workshop,
particularly asking if their expectations for the
workshop were met. Suggestions received should
inform future development of this workshop.
Who should deliver this workshop?
It is important that senior members of the
institution are involved in delivering this workshop,
e.g. the Dean of Graduate Studies, and/or Vice-
Deans for Graduate Studies. Presentations by staf f
from the Graduate Studies and/or Postgraduate
Admissions Ofces, or equivalent, on institutional
processes also serve the useful function of
introducing supervisors to the relevant support
staff. For case studies, it is also useful to involve
representatives from other relevant ofces in the
institution. Research funding is a very signicant
consideration for most research degree programmes.
It may be useful for institutional Research ofces to
participate in this workshop to describe their role in
supporting research students and their supervisors.
Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this part of the training,
supervisors will be able to:
Outline the policy issues nationally and
internationally which inform local guidelines.
Recognise the general nature of, and be able
to access details on, the key institutional
regulations and processes governing
postgraduate education.
Identify who, other than the supervisor, provides
support and training for students.
students into decision making bodies, such as
College boards, Academic Council and Governing
Body and postgraduate societies should also be
Table 1 provides a list of core activities that all
supervisors need to understand and the main
considerations associated with each. It is suggested
that attendees work in groups, and each group
is assigned an activity to discuss. Additional
considerations for each activity might be: who
needs to be contacted in each case; expected timing
of the various steps etc. Depending on the time
available and the knowledge of the particular group
of attendees, it may be useful to extend this section
using more specic activities which would be more
rarely encountered, for example, registering an
international student, seeking a leave of absence for
a student, or adding a co-supervisor. Short vignettes
or case studies are particularly useful in describing
situations where student support services may
be required, for example, a student experiencing
nancial difculties, or health issues.
There is an abundance of literature on the role of
supervisors and institutions. A useful information
pack for this workshop will provide a considered
selection of relevant materials (with a list of
additional sources as further reading for those
interested). Examples of current relevant materials
Table 1: Responsibilities of supervisors and the institution
Activity Considerations
Registration What is process for applying, admitting and registering students?
Approval of
Who can act as supervisor?
What is the role of primary and co-supervisors?
What is the role of Supervisory teams?
Monitoring of progress Who is responsible?
Are there yearly progress reports?
Who determines transfer from Master to PhD or vice versa?
Is there a right of appeal on a transfer decision?
Examination Who decides that the thesis is suitable for examination?
Who selects the internal and external examiners?
What input has the student into the selection of examiners?
How often can external examiners act?
What are the criteria for award of the PhD?
Can the supervisor attend the viva?
Who writes the report of the examination?
Who approves the examination report?
When is the student informed of the result?
Who monitors corrections if required?
What are the rights for appeal of the result?
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
3.2 Supervision lifecycle 1:
preparing to supervise and optimising
quality student recruitment
Workshop overview
The rst stage of the student life-cycle, as applied to
this training framework, concerns the key question
of how to nd the best student and preparation
by the supervisor for receipt of the student. Many
supervisors will testify that careful selection of
students in the rst instance optimises the chances
of a successful process and outcome. Understanding
the processes of recruitment within their own
institution and implementing key quality processes
(such as interviewing, written material analysis,
general assessment of prociency in language of
study), are important rst measures in framing the
PhD candidature. This workshop should take
2 - 3 hours.
Suggested Content and Tasks/ Exercises
Key topics which may be covered here include the
How do I nd students? The area of recruitment
of research students is of key importance, and in
general contributions from institutional ofces
with responsibility for admission, international
recruitment and research funding during
this workshop can provide participants with
important perspective and ideas. The challenges
and responsibilities of recruiting international
students (and associated issues, from visas to
cultural compatibility and nancial aspects such
as fees) should also be considered here.
How do I identify a good research student? A
useful exercise here is for participants to list (5
minute table discussions with a ip-chart) the
characteristics of an ideal research student, and
then perhaps discuss which of those need to be
innate to a student before they start (as opposed
to developing during the project) and how
these can be recognized during the recruitment
process. Case studies which specically address
examples of recruitment of students without
demonstration of written or oral ability are ideal
to discuss at this stage. The roles of interviews
(formal and informal, in person or via the web),
references and other supports in a decision as
to whether to accept a research student can be
discussed, as well as the difference between
considering a student who the super visor already
knows (e.g., through an undergraduate research
project) or does now know at all (and who may be
entirely new to the university or even country).
Whose project is it anyway? One major difference
across disciplines may concern the different
scenarios where a student is effectively hired
to work on a project which is already in place
through funding the supervisor has secured (a
model perhaps most common in the sciences)
or where the student comes to the supervisor
with a clear proposal for an exact project,
which may even be self-funded by the student
(perhaps most common in the humanities). In
this project origin can be sown the seeds of the
student-supervisor relationship in the future,
as well as issues to do with ultimate intellectual
ownership and responsibility of the work, and
even student motivation. In addition, the success
or failure of the research can be determined by
non-convergent expectations at the outset of the
work. Discussion of this issue has proven very rich
in these workshops, particularly when staff from
very different disciplines share experiences and
perspectives. The use of tools such as learning
agreements, student-supervisor contracts or
candidature plans to structure the initial student-
supervisor discussions should be explored here,
where locally relevant.
To ensure that adequate preparation has been made
before undertaking super vision, the Institution
can, for example, encourage staf f to complete Table
2, which is a checklist of areas to consider before a
research student is recruited.
Who should deliver this workshop?
A number of key institutional players can contribute
to workshops in this area (Graduate Studies,
International Ofce, Recruitment and/or Funding
Ofce, experienced supervisors).
Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this part of the training,
supervisors will be able to:
Approach recruitment of research students in
a manner which maximises the likelihood of
selecting the best candidate for a position.
Assess a potential student who presents with
a research idea in terms of their suitability for
postgraduate research.
Navigate the institutional procedures involved
in recruitment and commencement of a research
Identify potential sources of funding for research
students, and institutional sources of advice and
expertise on such matters.
Table 2: Recruitment Checklist
Yes / No Question for supervisor
I am appropriately qualied to supervise at Masters or PhD level as required
and have expertise in the designated area.
I am familiar with policies, regulations and relevant ofces etc. as
highlighted in section 3.1 (and these are available in a resource folder or on a
dedicated website).
I have agreed or identied an appropriate area of research for the student in
question which is likely to lead to a timely completion of the thesis.
I have ensured that appropriate student resources are available (including,
desk, chair, laboratory space etc.).
Where appropriate, I have identied/ secured appropriate funding required
for commencement and completion of the programme.
I will request and review written material and determine all necessary
prociencies (including language skills) of selected applicants through
appropriate mechanisms (such as by interview).
I will attend/ utilise any appropriate support mechanisms as provided to me
by my Higher Education Institution or by an external provider.
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
3.3 Supervision lifecycle 2:
making progress
Workshop overview
The objective of this workshop is to support
supervisors during the “making progress” part of
the supervision life cycle and to provide them with
relevant resources. The themes pick up on those
covered in the workshop described in section 3.2,
and are intended to address the initial stages of
a research student’s work (perhaps the rst two
years), where they are developing skills, eshing
out their research topic and gaining independence
as a researcher. This is a particularly challenging
phase for the supervisor, as the key elements for
success of the student’s work are determined here,
and a balance of ownership and direction of the work
must be found, as well as the establishment of a
productive working relationship between supervisor
and student.
Training in this workshop should cover the areas
summarised below, as appropriate to individual
institutional context and for which supervisors will
need to have knowledge and awareness. For each
area, suggestions are made as to the content of
the training and ideas on how the training could be
structured by individual institutions. This workshop
should take 2 - 3 hours.
Suggested Content and Tasks/ Exercises
In terms of content for this workshop, this will
depend on the manner in which postgraduate
training is structured in the institution (i.e.,
whether the institution has developed a structured
PhD approach or not and if graduate schools exist).
In any case, a basic overview presentation of the
policies and procedures covering this stage could
be provided, accompanied by a pack containing the
relevant policies and forms (see Table 3).
An area of particular relevance to this workshop
(and increasingly so in many institutions) is the
training framework for structured PhD education,
where it exists in the institution. Participants
could be introduced to any nationally agreed
principles which exist in this area (e.g., joint skills
statement in the UK3 or PhD skills statement in
Ireland4), and then the institutional practice in
this regard explained, along with information
on available training workshops or courses and
responsible ofces (full details of this should
be provided in a resource pack or as a handout).
Following this information provision, the key is
then to get participants to think about how to guide
their students within these systems in terms of
developing and implementing a formal or informal
professional/personal development plan, including
the use of tools such as Training Needs Analysis.
The following areas and topics are suggested for this
Clarication of roles, responsibilities and
expectations of Research Students and
Supervisors. Whereas this will have been explored
in earlier workshops, the continuing relationship
between the supervisor and student warrants
attention. Table 4 (overleaf) sets out, in broad
terms, the roles and responsibilities of student,
supervisor and institution. Instead of simply
presenting such information however, more value
can be gained from brainstorming on this topic in
the workshop.
A presentation on How to be an Effective
Supervisor could provide useful guidance and
tools to help supervisors facilitate the project
planning and reporting process for supervision
and help highlight the most common pitfalls for
supervisors in the administration of this part
of the process. The particular considerations
which may arise where a student is working on an
externally-funded research project (e.g., in terms
of requirements of funding agencies for reports,
or pre-set deliverables and milestones which
are expected of the work) should be considered
Coupled to the two previous points, an
appropriate topic for this workshop concerns
the establishment of ground-rules for the
relationship between students and supervisors,
particularly in the case of inexper ienced
supervisors. While clearly no two student-
supervisor relationships are the same, the key
principles of establishing a working relationship
which is acceptable to all parties and productive
must be stressed; group discussions of how
this might work and scenarios which might
emerge could be helpful. The use of exercises
to demonstrate how there are different basic
personality types, and how different types
of students and supervisors might as a result
work more or less effectively together, can be a
useful and light component of such discussions,
to nonetheless raise important issues for all
supervisors. Various frameworks of supervision
type could be discussed and participants
encouraged to map their own style to such
models (see Anne Lee video for suggested
Table 3: Proposed Content of Information Pack for
Topics area Documents
Ethics, Good Research
Practice Policy
Intellectual Property
Management Policy
Health and Safety (Research)
Postgraduate Research
Student Policy/Regulations
Research Councils UK’s joint skills
statement. Irish Universities
Association’s PhD skills statement.
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
Table 4: Clarication of the roles, responsibilities
and expectations of the student and the supervisor
Instructions: Read each pair of statements below
and then estimate your position on each. For
example with statement 1 if you believe very
strongly that it is the supervisor’s responsibility to
select a good topic you should put a ring round “1”.
If you think that both the supervisor and student
“3” and if you think it’s denitely the student’s
responsibility to select a topic, put a ring round “5”
Student-Supervisor roles, responsibilities and expectations
It is the supervisor’s responsibility to
select a research topic 1 2 3 4 5 The student is responsible for selecting
his/her own topic
The supervisor decides which theoretical
framework or methodology is most
1 2 3 4 5
The student should decide which
methodology or theoretical framework
they wish to use
The supervisor should develop an
appropriate programme and timetable of
research and study for the student
1 2 3 4 5
The supervisor should leave the
development of the programme of study
to the student
The supervisor is responsible for ensuring
that the student is introduced to the
appropriate services and facilities in the
department and the University/HEI
1 2 3 4 5
It is the student’s responsibility to ensure
that he/she has located and accessed
all relevant services and facilities for
Supervisors should only accept students
when they have specic knowledge of the
student’s chosen topic
1 2 3 4 5
Supervisors should feel free to accept
students, even if they do not have specic
knowledge of the student’s topic
A warm, supportive relationship between
supervisor and student is important for
successful candidature 1 2 3 4 5
A personal, supportive relationship is
inadvisable because it may obstruct
objectivity for both student and
supervisor during the candidature
The supervisor should insist on regular
meetings with the student 1 2 3 4 5 The student should decide when he/she
wants to meet with the supervisor
The supervisor should check regularly
that the student is working consistently
and on task
1 2 3 4 5
The student should work independently
and not have to account for how and
where time is spent
*Original from Ingrid Moses, 1985, Higher Education Research
and Development Society of Australasia. Adapted by Margaret
Kiley and Kate Cadman, 1997, Centre for Learning & Teaching,
University of Technology, Sydney.
Cont’d »
mapping tool). A nal useful discussion point in
this regard concerns the extent to which a staff
member’s approach to supervision is inuenced
by the manner in which they themselves were
supervised when completing their doctorate.
Case studies or examples (anonymized) could
be provided by experienced supervisors in the
institution or alternatively from the NAIRTL set of
case study resources. Case studies by supervisors
who use particular project management tools
(e.g., GANNT charts) with their students, and
who can show examples of these, could be very
useful, as this approach is not widespread, but
may be of interest for use by staf f who had not
previously thought of their use with research
student projects.
Ethics, Safety and Intellectual Property. While
the institutional policies and procedures on
ethics, safety and intellectual property may be
summarised in an overview presentation, specic
sessions on these aspects of supervision may be
of benet, given their specialised nature. These
sessions can be provided by the relevant ofcer/
manager in the institute. Introducing supervisors
to key staff and local procedures in the area of
technology transfer and intellectual property
is increasingly important as industry-funded
or -linked PhD projects (or the Industrial PhD
model) become increasingly common.
Where relevant to a specic institution, a specic
presentation could be made on Supervising a
Professional Doctorate or Performance-Based
The supervisor is responsible for
providing emotional support and
encouragement to the student
1 2 3 4 5
Personal counselling and support are
not the responsibility of the supervisor -
students should look elsewhere
The supervisor should insist on seeing all
drafts of work to ensure that the student
is on the right track
1 2 3 4 5
Students should submit drafts of work
only when they want constructive
criticism from the supervisor
The supervisor should assist in the
writing of the thesis if necessar y 1 2 3 4 5 The writing of the thesis should only ever
be the student’s own work
The supervisor is responsible for
decisions regarding the standard of the
1 2 3 4 5
The student is responsible for decisions
concerning the standard of the thesis
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
Anne Lee video from NAIRTL conference 2009.
Available to view on
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
should equally be involved you put a ring round
Providing Good Feedback
Hugh Kearns, Flinders University, Australia
Whenever someone asks me to provide feedback on their work, my rst question is “What
kind of feedback do you want?” Do you want me to tick and ick? Do you want me to comment
on the overall structure or argument? Do you want me to check the spelling? It’s a bit more
complicated than just “Here’s my chapter. Give me feedback”.
The following are some aspects of the nature of feedback to get supervisors thinking of how to
manage this key aspect of the relationship with their students.
1. What type of feedback does the student want?
Here’s just a sample of the types of feedback a supervisor could provide:
Spell checking and proof-reading
Checking facts and references for accuracy
Commenting on argument and logic
Level of critical thinking
Structure and ow
What’s missing
When a supervisor gives feedback, are they doing all of the above at once? Or do they separate
them out? How?
2. Feedback can be positive
Academics and researchers are trained to be critical, to look for the aws in arguments; to nd
inconsistencies. However, this leads to a tendency to assume that feedback must be negative.
The reality of course is that people can learn just as much from positive feedback, for example,
telling a student “The way you expressed that idea is really good” or “I like the way you’ve
structured your argument here”. The good news is that as well as being effective, people like
getting good feedback! How much positive feedback do participant supervisors give?
3. Feedback for the Stages
Supervisors often treat PhD students as though they were fully formed right from the start,
but doing a PhD is a learning process. So the type of feedback a supervisor gives at the start
needs to be different from the feedback they’ll give to the nal thesis. How do participants
think their feedback will vary over the stages?
4. The Person v The Thesis
When a supervisor writes “This isn’t good enough”, they may think they are commenting on
the thesis. What do they think the student sees when they look at that feedback? “I am not
good enough”. Supervisors must always remember there is a person behind the words (to help
empathise, participants should remember the last rejection letter they got from a journal!).
How do they react to negative feedback?
5. Timeliness
Feedback that comes three months after a student has written something is too late. In most
cases, their head has moved on. To be most effective, feedback needs to be close to when the
work is done. What is a reasonable turnaround time?
6. Can you be more specic?
Comments like
“This needs work” or
“Not at the standard” or
A bit unclear”
don’t help students very much. In fact, they probably lead to confusion. So, what type of work
is needed, where is the standard, which piece is unclear and why.
How do supervisors avoid spoon-feeding while still being specic?
The next time a student asks their super visor for feedback, a key point is to remember to ask
them what type of feedback they want.
3. Framework
2. Key themes & issues
1. Introduction
5. Suggested reading
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
Some suggested exercises would be as follows:
Distribute a questionnaire among groups of
participants in the workshop and ask them
to identify whether roles and responsibilities
for specic tasks lie with the student or the
Through group activity, identify the key
expectations of supervisors of their research
students and then highlight the common
expectation of research students. The interesting
likely outcome of this activity is that, overall,
many of the expectations do not match.
Create a discussion around the key issue of
feedback and how supervisors can best achieve
a contructive dialogue with students about
their work. An example exercise in this regard
(developed by Hugh Kearns, Flinders University,
Australia) is presented opposite.
Who should deliver the workshop?
Experience has shown that this content is of ten
best structured as a facilitated peer-to-peer support
workshop, where supervisors at dif ferent stages
are able to share their experiences and knowledge.
This sharing and exploration of issues has proven
to be extremely benecial to those attending such
workshops. The workshop could be facilitated by
a colleague from the ofce of Graduate Studies or
Registrar’s Ofce, as appropriate.
Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this part of the training,
supervisors should:
1. Describe the nature and proposed duration of
this part of the super visory life cycle and be
able to put it into the context of the overall
student life-cycle.
Know the institutional policies and
procedures governing this stage, including
reporting requirements and processes
3. Identify their own role as supervisor, the role
of co-supervisors and ofces and committees
of the institution relevant to this stage
4. Recognise relevant policies on health and
safety, research ethics and intellectual
property management as they pertain to
5. Be equipped with planning and project
management approaches to facilitate their
supervision of students
6. Be capable of carrying out a training needs
analysis (formally or informally) with their
7. Appreciate the challenges, problems and
pitfalls that can accompany this stage and
have developed potential approaches to
manage them.
3.4 Supervision lifecycle 3:
progress to completion
Workshop overview
The rationale for this workshop is to suppor t
supervisors during the “progress to completion”
part of the supervision life cycle and to provide them
with relevant information and resources. This phase
is multifaceted for supervisors, ranging from formal,
institutional aspects, such as the appointment of
external examiners, to “sof ter” support of students
as they write up, to advising students on matters
of academic quality, coherence and outputs of their
work. A key area to be considered here concerns
problems which students can encounter during their
research (including nancial, personal and project-
related problems) and how supervisors can deal with
these, including formal institutional procedures for
advising students and conict or dispute resolution
in the worst-case scenarios. This workshop should
take 3 - 4 hours.
Suggested Content and Tasks/ Exercises
This workshop covers a range of issues, from the
very practical considerations of institutional
requirements around thesis preparation and external
examiner appointments, to career and personal
support of students, and nally to exploring the
role of the supervisor as a “guardian of standards”
in the write-up phase. As such, the content for this
stage could broadly be divided into three aspects:
procedural, academic and student support, with
Table 5: Information required to support students as they ‘progress to completion’
Aspect Description Proposed Delivery
Procedural Imparting information on the formal
institutional policies and procedures
governing this stage is important. Failure
to comply with them can result in delays
to the student’s progress.
An information session on these
procedures, given by the relevant
ofce (Graduate Studies, Registrar) is
Academic Advising students on scholarly aspects,
norms for the discipline and coherence
of the research is a core requirement of
this stage. Assessing and advising on
the readiness of the student’s work for
write-up is the obvious outward sign of
this aspect.
Peer-to-peer workshops on research
quality and dissemination, as well as an
information session on plagiarism could
be considered
Generic and broader student support in
this stage includes: time and workload
management, dealing with stress,
conict resolution, career progressing
Presentations from student welfare
ofcer, careers ofce and research
ofce are appropriate; workshops with
experienced supervisors, employing a
case study approach are benecial for
exploring problem areas.
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
different training approaches being appropriate
to each. A proposed framework is shown in Table 5
The workshop could initially provide an overview
of the relevant information on the institution’s
procedural aspects in preparing for thesis
submission. This is particularly useful and
important information for new supervisors, as
timing of these tasks relates to the academic
regulations in force in the institution. This
presentation should therefore cover:
- Notice period and process for submission of the
- The appointment and roles of examiners (both
internal and external)
- Thesis requirements (length, structure etc.)
An important part of this phase of supervision
is preparing the student for the world beyond
the viva. For students choosing to develop
their research career further, the supervisor
can provide much practical support for career
development, including sign-posting to
appropriate research funding and guiding the
student on successfully disseminating their
work through publications and conferences.
This workshop can bring in expertise from the
Research ofce (or equivalent) to advise on
funding matters and draw on colleagues with a
strong track record in publication to share their
Supervisors see it as a key part of their role
to give advice on the readiness of a thesis for
submission and to act therefore as a gatekeeper
for quality and rigour within their own discipline.
This is an area for discussion in this workshop,
and it has both practical and more philosophical
aspects. Practical advice for supervisors on
supporting students with academic wr iting as
they prepare their thesis, including advice for
non-English-speaking students, is helpful. Advice
on the use of regular review meetings between
the supervisor and student at this stage, for
drafting and redrafting can be discussed in the
workshop. Practical tools to help students plan
and manage their workload can be presented
This phase of the PhD is usually the most
stressful for students and there is real benet in
exploring the institutional supports and policies
in relation to students who are experiencing
difculties coping. It is appropriate, in covering
this topic, to request that the institute’s student
counsellor presents an overview to supervisors in
such situations. Other challenges can arise, for
example, conict with a student or plagiarism.
Some suggested exercises would be as follows:
The use of case studies, which might include
examples from the student or supervisor
perspective with respect to thesis write-up
and the relationship at this stage between the
supervisor and the student regarding meetings,
correction review etc.
Presentations or open question and answer
sessions, particularly if an institutional
representative responsible for assessment is
A group activity in relation to management of
research groups as well as individual students,
which can also incorporate the development of a
framework which can be used by the supervisor to
guide the student in project management tools
(e.g., GANNT charts) which may be helpful in their
research and thesis preparation.
Who should deliver this workshop?
Participants can be drawn from academic staff
members, new and experienced super visors, and
relevant representatives from the Graduate Studies
ofce and Research ofce.
Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this part of the training,
supervisors should be able to:
1. Provide guidance and direction to students
on academic writing, as well as more
fundamental writing skills
2. Help students disseminate their research
through publication and conference
presentations as appropriate, and identify
suitable routes for such dissemination
3. Advise and assist students on structuring
and managing the work associated with the
later phases of a research project, including
completing data collection/experimentation
and commencing write-up
4. Be knowledgeable on formal policies and
procedures governing this stage
5. Have an awareness of challenges that can
accompany this stage and have developed
potential approaches to manage them
6. Support students with relevant information
on research careers, including funding
sources and signposting to relevant resources
3.5 Supervision lifecycle 4:
the Viva and beyond
Workshop overview
The demystication of the doctoral examination
is not just important for students, but also
for supervisors. While supervisor behaviour
and conceptions of the role vary widely across
disciplines, by cultivating scholarly exchange there
is much that staff can learn from the experiences
of supervisors in other disciplines, as in all the
workshops described.
In the nal stages of a PhD project, supervision
requires the supervisor to reect on their role in
the relationship, not only as provider of support
in preparation for the viva, but also in providing
opportunities or advice, following the viva, for
student acculturation into the academic community
or, increasingly, preparation for non-academic
careers. The rationale for this nal workshop is
to provide a forum where supervisors from across
disciplines meet to discuss how to best support
students through and beyond the viva.
The workshop could take place over a full day, or
be divided into two half-day sessions. It could
be discipline specic or multi-disciplinary. As
the suggested format is a discussion forum, the
emphasis should be on facilitated discussion,
supported by the literature where necessary.
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
Suggested Content and Tasks/ Exercises
As in previous workshops, a short overview
presentation of the policies and procedures
relating to this stage could be provided where
institutional practice is explained; a resource
pack might also be supplied which would contain
relevant documentation pertaining to institutional
procedures for submission and examination of
research degrees, and of institutional procedures
for awarding the PhD and appealing it. Some
brief presentations or case studies from the
representatives of participant groups might frame
activities or discussion of policy.
Above all, participants should be encouraged to
reect on and share their experiences of supervision
with the group.
Some suggested activities for this part of the
workshop could include:
‘Top tip’ discussion: This could be a simple
round-table discussion where everyone writes
down one piece of advice they would give a
student going into a viva. This might be a good
way to open a workshop to spark discussion.
Other ‘tips’ from the literature and website
resources can be presented for discussion if
needed. For example, the website PhD Viva
stories and advice5 presents some tips from
examiners on how to prepare for a viva, while
the University of Nottingham also has a series of
YouTube videos6 which addresses various topics
which could also be used to spark discussion. A
recent publication from NUI Galway “The PhD
Viva Guide - A Springboard for your PhD Viva
Preparation”7 may also be a useful resource.
5 y/viva-preperation
Demystifying the viva: A common theme in
the literature is the unpredictability of the viva
examination. There are so many factors that
contribute to the viva experience (the discipline,
institutional policy, personalities, dynamics
between examiners, the discipline and eld of the
thesis, institutional policies and practices etc.)
that it is impossible to present a blueprint for a
successful viva experience. However, preparation
is still important, especially if it emphasises what
is to be expected in the viva but also prepares the
student for its unpredictability. Depending on
previous workshops and participant experience,
workshop organisers might want to concentrate
here on the process of setting up a viva (such as
choosing external/internal examiners) rather
than on the viva itself.
Setting up practice sessions: Supervisors need
to support candidates in short-term preparation
for the viva. Murray (2003) strongly advocates
practice as being an integral part of viva
preparation, and gives lots of examples, such as
getting students to write possible questions as
well as verbally answering them; this is a good
resource to show examples from during training.
Murray also has a detailed section on organising
and running a ‘practice session’. This could lead
into the merits or challenges of a ‘mock viva’.
Tinkler and Jackson (2004) provide a balanced
approach to this, so this is worth considering
Preparing the student for questions: Related to
‘setting up practice sessions’ is how supervisors
can prepare their students for the type of
questions they might be asked, or help them
to respond to questions that are deemed to
be more challenging. One way to conduct this
part of the workshop is to brainstorm questions
under various sections (e.g., general, context,
methods, analysis, discussion, implications)
and to direct to or provide participants with a
list of such possible questions to use with their
students. There are plenty of examples out there;
for example University of Leicester, has a section
on ‘within the viva’ on their webpage entitled
‘Preparing for your viva’8.
‘Knowing’ the thesis: This part of the workshop
can be used to explain the importance of
students being ready for the viva in terms of
‘knowing their thesis’. Tinkler and Jackson (2004)
have an excellent section on this (chapter 10).
Participants should discuss what is meant by the
phrase ‘knowing your thesis’, and be given some
practical examples of how to help the student
prepare from this chapter (e.g., Getting them
to draft a book proposal, make headlines, time
travelling etc.). Also, participants should discuss
the importance of their students understanding
the limits of ‘knowing your thesis’.
Aftermath of viva:
Part 1: Immediate aftermath. The role of the
supervisor in analysing post viva tasks and
the examiners’ report with the student and
discussing changes needed must be discussed.
Consider all possibilities: what if the candidate
is required to have a second viva? What if the
candidate is unhappy with the examination
process? What about appeals?
Part 2: The role of the supervisors in creating
opportunities for acculturation into the academia
where appropriate and to help legitimise, in
the student’s mind, their contribution to its
knowledge production could be discussed.
Examples of what services are available in
the institution to facilitate socialisation into
the academic community of practice can be
provided: these might include, for example,
disseminating research, publications, presenting
research/ networking/ public engagement/
entrepreneurship. In addition, this section
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
Preparing for the Viva – a video
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
should include discussion of the increasing
range of opportunities for graduates of research
degrees outside academia, and how students
should be encouraged to reect on how their
acquired skill set can match as wide as possible a
range of careers.
The facilitator might leave some time towards the
end of the session to pull together some of the key
themes and challenges raised. A set of action points
could be drawn up by participants that would point
to future development, and support required.
Who should deliver this workshop?
Participants can be drawn from academic staff
members, new and experienced super visors, and
relevant representatives from Graduate Studies
ofce and Careers ofce.
Learning outcomes
Upon successful completion of this part of the
training, supervisors should be able to:
1. Demystify the viva process both for
themselves and for their students
2. Facilitate short term preparation for their
students’ viva
3. Set up and conduct ‘practice oppor tunities’
for students’ vivas, either through a mock
viva or other strategies
4. Help students to ‘know’ their thesis, e.g.,
knowledge of and preparation for the who,
why, when, where, what and how questions
surrounding the thesis
5. Prepare students for content and conduct
interactions in the viva
6. Identify ways to help induce students into
the academic or professional community
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
This guide draws together the experience of a
number of Irish and international Higher Education
Institutions in the design and implementation of
Research Supervisor Support and Development
Experience gained in the project has shown that
instituting a major programme of training and
support for supervisors of research students is a
signicant commitment by any higher education
institute. Nonetheless, there are a number of
signicant advantages of implementing a high
quality supervisor development programme,
including the following:
Encouraging campus-wide engagement in best-
practice in research and graduate training, using
supervisor development as a catalyst to bring
supervisors from different disciplines together to
share their experiences.
Direct support and acknowledgement of
challenges and practices in research supervision;
Producing the best educated and skilled research
students, making the institution more attractive
to prospective students and thereby improving
the capacity of the institution to attract the
highest achieving scholars;
Developing a more efcient research ecosystem
which is better placed to compete for external
funding. Postgraduate students who are poorly
trained can indirectly draw resources from a
research group;
Enhancement of throughput, quality and
completion rates
As well as benets for the academic staff experience,
it is recognised that the professionalization of
supervision should signicantly improve the
postgraduate student experience, by providing more
structured and uniform supervision practices, and
hopefully increasing completion rates while reducing
completion times.
Final recommendations and conclusions for use of
the experience descr ibed herein are as follows:
The core framework described may be adopted
with a exible approach to reect institutional
requirements and specic challenges/ needs.
Varied delivery and engagement methods are
key to successful implementation, as is inclusion
of experienced supervisors and stage- relevant
Programme providers must understand the
research prole and ethos of the institution.
The engagement and endorsement of senior
management for any professional development
programme for research supervisors is a key
success factor.
Any support sessions should provide participants
with institutional contact points for follow
up engagement on the topic (i.e., so that
supervisors know where/ who to go to when
issues arise).
In conclusion, a number of the institutions
participating in the Irish project have now moved
towards formal recognition of good supervisor y
practice through the development of a Supervisor
Awards initiative as a parallel development that
dovetails with the ethos of the programme.
4. Conclusions, future actions
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
Barker, K. (2002) At the Helm - A laboratory
navigator, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
Beasley, N. and Taylor, S. (2005) A Handbook for
Doctoral Supervisors, London: Routledge.
Boud, D. and Lee, A. (2009) Changing Practices of
Doctoral Education. Abingdon: Routledge.
Cryer, P. (2006) The Research Student’s Guide to
Success, 3rd ed., Maidenhead, McGraw Hill.
Delamont, S., Atkinson, P. and Parry, O. (2000) The
Doctoral Experience. Success and Failure in Graduate
School, London; Falmer Press.
Delamont, S., Atkinson, P. and Parry, O. (2004)
Supervising the Doctorate: A guide to success.
Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education.
Eley, A. and Jennings, R. (2005) Effective
Postgraduate Supervision, Maidenhead. OU Press
McGraw-Hill Education.
Etzkowitz, H. (2008) The Triple Helix: University-
Industry-Government Innovation. London:
Evans, M. (2004) Killing Thinking: the death of the
universities. London: Continuum.
Fry, H., Ketteridge, S. and Marshall, S. (2009) A
Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher
Education:London : Routledge.
Gibbons, M. et al (1994) The New Production of
Knowledge. London: Sage.
Kamler, B. and Thomson, P. (2006) Helping Doctoral
Students Write: Pedagogies for Supervision. London:
Lee, A. (2008) Supervision Teams: making them
work, London. SRHE.
Leonard, D. (2001) A Woman’s Guide to Doctoral
Studies, Buckingham: Open University Press.
Lynch, K. (2006) Neo-liberalism and Education. In
Healy, S., Reynolds, B. and Collins, M. (Eds) Social
Policy in Ireland: Principles, Practices and Problems.
Dublin: The Liffey Press.
Markey, A. (2008) In At The Deep End - Starting To
Teach In Higher Education, Higgs, B. and Potter, J,
Murray, R. (2009) How to Survive your Viva, Open
University Press.
Pearce, L. (2005) How to Examine a Thesis.
Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Phillips, E. and Pugh, D.S. (2005), How to Get a PhD:
A handbook for Students and their Supervisors, 4th
ed, Open University Press
Potter, S. (Ed) (2002) Doing Postgraduate Research,
London: Sage.
Powell, S. and Green, H. (Eds) (2007) The Doctorate
Worldwide. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Readings, B. (1996) The University in Ruins.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Reimer, M. (Ed) (2004) Inside Corporate U: Women
in the Academy Speak Out. Toronto: Sumach Press.
Rugg, G. and Petre, M. (2004) The Unwritten Rules of
PhD Research,Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Slaughter, S. and Leslie, L. (1997) Academic
Capitalism: Politics, Policies and the Entrepreneurial
University. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University
5. Suggested Reading
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
Thomson, P. and Walker, M. (Eds) (2010) The
Routledge Doctoral Student’s Companion: getting
to grips with research in Education and the Social
Sciences. London: Routledge.
Tinkler, P. and Jackson, C. (2009) The Doctoral
Examination Process - A handbook for students,
examiners and supervisors, Open University Press.
Torres, A. (2012) The PhD Viva Guide - A Springboard
for your PhD Viva Preparation. Available online at
phd_viva_guide.pdf. Last accessed June 7th 2012.
Tuchman, Gaye (2009) Wannabe U: Inside the
Corporate University. Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press.
Wellington, J, Bathmaker, A.M., Hunt, C., McCulloch,
G. and Sikes, P. (2009) Succeeding with your
Doctorate, London; Sage.
Wisker, G. (2005) The Good Supervisor: Supervising
Postgraduate and Undergraduate Research for
Doctoral Theses and Dissertations, Hampshire:
Palgrave MacMillan.
Wisker, G. (2005) The Postgraduate Research
Handbook (Succeed with your MA, MPhil, EdD and
PhD), Palgrave study guides.
6. Resources on VLE
4: Conclusions, future actions
3. Framework
1. Introduction
2. Key themes & issues
5. Suggested reading
National Academy for Integration of
Research, Teaching and Learning
Acadamh Náisiúnta um Chomhtháthú
Taighde, Teagaisc agus Foghlama
This booklet describes the outcomes of a unique inter-
institutional project undertaken in Ireland between 2008
and 2012 to develop a common framework for the support of
supervisors of postgraduate research students. The experiences
of the seven institutions who ultimately participated in the
project are summarized in the form of a ser ies of commentaries
on approaches to such training, and a description of the primary
elements of the nal framework itself. It is intended that this
information may be of use to any institutions interested in
developing their own supports for research supervisors, and
ultimately will be of benet to the supervisors themselves and,
of course, their students.
About this publication
9781906 642518
ISBN 978-1-906642-51-8
The Chapter offers a quick but detailed introduction to the relationship between research, students and teaching in modern German Higher Education since the 19th Century. While "undergraduate research" is still a novel concept in Germany, there is a rich tradition in "Forschendes Lernen" (research-based learning) from the 1970s onwards. The chapter focuses in particular on the many RBL projects and activities that developed in the context of the Quality Pact for Teaching between 2011-2020.
Full-text available
This chapter aims to present a point of view about undergraduate research based on some of experience of Portugal, in south of Europe. The main goal is to contribute to reflect on this theme in a more global discussion. It presents a very specific argument which is to question if undergraduate students are cognitively and emotionally mature enough to conduct research, with scientific integrity, when compared to masters and PhD students. We argue that yes, it is possible, but it should be provided a good solid formation on ethical principles in science, before demanding them research responsibilities. This argument is developed more deeply through this chapter.
Full-text available
Innovation is increasingly based upon a “Triple Helix” of university-industry-government interactions. The increased importance of knowledge and the role of the university in incubation of technology-based firms has given it a more prominent place in the institutional firmament. The entrepreneurial university takes a proactive stance in putting knowledge to use and in broadening the input into the creation of academic knowledge. Thus it operates according to an interactive rather than a linear model of innovation. As firms raise their technological level, they move closer to an academic model, engaging in higher levels of training and in sharing of knowledge. Government acts as a public entrepreneur and venture capitalist in addition to its traditional regulatory role in setting the rules of the game. Moving beyond product development, innovation then becomes an endogenous process of “taking the role of the other”, encouraging hybridization among the institutional spheres.
Helping Doctoral Students Write offers a new approach to doctoral writing. By treating research as writing and writing as research, the authors offer pedagogical strategies for doctoral supervisors that will assist the production of well-argued and lively dissertations." "It is clear that many doctoral candidates find research writing complicated and difficult, but the advice they receive often glosses over the complexities of writing and/or locates the problem in the writer. Rejecting the DIY websites and manuals that promote a privatized, skills-based approach to writing research, Kamler and Thomson provide a new framework for scholarly work that is located in personal institutional and cultural contexts. Their discussion of the complexities of forming a scholarly identity is illustrated by stories and writings of actual doctoral students. The pedagogical approach developed in the book is based on the notion of writing as a social practice. This approach allows supervisors to think of doctoral writers as novices who need to learn new ways with words as they enter the discursive practices of scholarly communities. This involves learning sophisticated writing practices with specific sets of conventions and textual characteristics. The authors offer supervisors practical advice on helping with commonly encountered writing tasks such as the proposal, the journal abstract, the literature review and constructing the dissertation argument." "In conclusion, they present a persuasive argument that universities must move away from simply auditing supervision to supporting the development of scholarly research communities. Any doctoral supervisor keen to help their students develop as academics will find the new ideas presented in this book fascinating and insightful reading.<br /
This guide is designed to help women undertake and enjoy working for a doctorate as they recognize the rules of the academic game. The situation in the United Kingdom is compared with that of North America and Australia, and the pros and cons of acquiring a Ph.D. and the new professional doctorates are discussed. The chapters are: (1) "Understanding the Rules of the Game"; (2) "Deciding To Do a Doctorate"; (3) "Where To Study: Finding the Right Supervisor and the Right University"; (4) "Finding the Time, Money and Space"; (5) "Getting off to a Good Start"; (6) "How To Access Work on Gender When Your Supervisor Doesn't Know What He (or She) Doesn't Know"; (7) "Keeping Going and Staying the Course"; and (8) "Completion, the Viva and Life after the Doctorate." (Contains 341 references.) (SLD)
This handbook is a practical and realistic explanation of the processes of doing research for a PhD in the British educational system. Students and supervisors will find useful advice, including suggestions on how to manage the student-supervisor relationship. The chapters are: (1) "Becoming a Postgraduate"; (2) "Getting into the System"; (3) "The Nature of the PhD Qualification"; (4) "How Not To Get a PhD"; (5) "How To Do Research"; (6) "The Form of the PhD Thesis"; (7) "The PhD Process"; (8) "How To Manage Your Supervisor"; (9) "How To Survive in a Predominantly British, White, Male, Full-Time Academic Environment"; (10) "The Formal Procedures"; (11) "How To Supervise and Examine"; and (12) "Institutional Responsibilities." (Contains 47 references.) (SLD)
This practical guide offers a British perspective to beginning, pursuing, and completing a research degree and is designed to aid graduate students in addressing a wide range of new and unfamiliar roles, expectations, and needs. Some issues addressed are specific to foreign students. An introductory section describes the guide's rationale and structure. Subsequent chapters address these topics: registering for the research degree; preparing for the graduate student's way of life; settling in as a new research student; recognizing good research; interacting with supervisor(s); keeping records; planning ahead; managing self and time; taking responsibility for making progress; cooperating with others for mutual help and support; producing reports; giving presentations; landmarks, hurdles, and transferring from MPhil degree to the PhD; coming to terms with originality in research; developing skills for creative thinking; dealing with self-doubt; producing the thesis; preparing for conducting oneself in the examination; and what comes after the degree. A list of further readings, selected bibliography, references, and useful addresses are included. A subject index is included. (Contains 39 references.) (MSE)