UWE Bristol requirements for the appointment of supervisors and their responsibilities align to principle 3 of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education (Research Degrees).


E8 Supervision

  1. A supervisory team of at least two supervisors will be appointed for each candidate.
  2. The supervisory team is responsible for meeting with the Postgraduate Research (PGR) candidate regularly, discussing progress made and agreeing any actions and objectives. The full role is set out in the responsibilities of the Supervisory Team below.
  3. The supervisory team will include the following:
    • A Director of Studies (DoS) who will normally be a permanent member of the University’s staff, unless an external is approved by the Examining Board. The DoS will be responsible for the conduct of the candidate’s project.
    • At least one person who has completed the University’s supervisor training.
    • At least one person who has previous experience of supervising a candidate successfully through all stages of research degree study either at the University or another registered doctoral provider.
    • Where the completion experience is with another doctoral provider, this person will provide supporting evidence to the designated college committee prior to the formal appointment of the supervisory team, and will complete the appropriate professional development provided by the University at the earliest opportunity. This member of the supervisory team will advise the DoS should they not have the required completion experience.
  4. The composition of the supervisory team is subject to approval by the designated college committee.
  5. Internal supervisors, including DoS and staff who are new to the University even if they have supervisory experience from another higher education institution (HEI), are expected to engage in professional development opportunities, provided or supported by the University. Professional development should take place within an appropriate timescale to ensure supervisors are equipped to select and supervise research candidates effectively from initial meetings to completion.
  6. External supervisors based in other HEIs are expected to engage in professional development opportunities, provided or supported by UWE Bristol or their home institution.
  7. External supervisors based in non-higher education environments are expected to engage in professional development opportunities provided or supported by the University.
  8. The designated college committee will oversee the progress of candidates.

Procedures about the supervision of postgraduate research

The composition of the Supervisory Team

This procedure links to regulation E8.i-iv.

  1. The normal maximum number of supervisors on a team is three, including the DoS. This should be sufficient to provide the required balance of supervisory experience, subject knowledge, and expertise to support the candidate appropriately.
  2. Where the DoS wishes additional supervisors to be appointed to the team from the outset over and above this maximum, a case must be made to the College Research Degrees Committee (CRDC) (or equivalent committee) for consideration. This should normally be to add necessary subject expertise, rather than additional supervisory experience.
  3. Additional supervisors requested by the DoS to provide expert input in a specific subject area need not be appointed for the full duration of the project – for example where this expertise is needed for a discrete stage of the project only. They may be added part of the way through the project if necessary or leave the team once their input is no longer required, but the substantive supervisory team (as at i. above) must continue to provide the continuity and balance of support to the PGR candidate required at regulation E8. Any such change must be approved by the CRDC (or equivalent). Note: supervision for part of a project will not count towards the completions criteria for supervisory teams at regulation E8.iii).
  4. Where additional expertise from within the University or externally, for example industrial or clinical, is beneficial, the DoS should consider whether this can be met in an advisory capacity rather than via an additional supervisor.
  5. Where the CRDC (or equivalent) considers that additional supervisors over and above the required minimum (regulation E8.i) would not be in the best interest of the PGR candidate, they may require the amendment of the proposed supervision team composition or consider whether adding individuals as advisors would be an appropriate alternative.

Responsibilities of the Director of Studies

This procedure links to regulation E8.iii.

  1. The DoS is normally the designated ‘UWE Bristol project manager’ for the PGR candidate’s research project as defined in the University's Code of Good Research Conduct (role definitions).
  2. DoS must ensure that they maintain their knowledge of the University’s current regulations, procedures and policies for supervised postgraduate research and attend supervisor training and update sessions as required.
  3. It is the responsibility of the DoS to:
    • Manage the supervision process:
      • Ensure the supervisory team is fully aware of their roles and responsibilities, including their individual obligations to the PGR candidate, at each progression milestone.
      • Meet with the PGR on a regular basis and to note and maintain a record of these meetings.* The minimum expectation is ten meetings during the academic year for full-time PGRs and pro-rata for part-time PGRs.
      • Inform the PGR when supervisors will be away for a period of time, including when they are on annual leave, when they will be back, and who to consult for advice while they are away. Where a period of absence is likely to be protracted, such as sabbatical leave, they should make more formal arrangement for alternative supervision and are responsible for keeping the CRDC or School equivalent informed.
      • Ensure that the composition of the supervisory team remains adequate and relevant both in terms of subject expertise and capacity to supervise the project and, in discussion with the PGR, to take steps to propose changes to the team should the nature, scope or direction of the project change significantly or require different input.
      • Ensure that any proposals to change the supervisory team (see RD5 – Change to supervisory arrangements (DOC)), or significantly change the project itself (see RD7 – Change to programme of research (DOC)) are appropriately submitted by the PGR to the CRDC for consideration.
    • *Specific requirements for recording engagement for international PGRs who are subject to student visa (formerly Tier 4) requirements can be found in forms:

    • Support in the early stages:
      • Undertake appropriate induction to the School and College including health and safety policy training with the PGR in their first two weeks.
      • Provide guidance on the design and possible methodological frameworks for the project, on the development of a realistic plan of work that is regularly reviewed and to support the PGR’s understanding of their responsibilities for their own individual contribution to research.
      • Ensure that the PGR is aware of their progression milestones including the initial RD1 project confirmation process, what is expected of them at each milestone, and when they will take place.
    • Be responsible for good research governance within the project, and provide guidance including ethics, intellectual property, and third-party copyright:
      • Ensure the PGR is familiar with research ethics requirements for their project and completes a timely application for ethical approval before research begins if necessary.
      • Ensure that the project complies with any ongoing research governance and research data management requirements of the University including establishment of a project data management plan.
      • Ensure the PGR is familiar with the requirements concerning Intellectual Property (IP) and third-party copyright.
    • See also the section about Research governance in the Doctoral Academy handbook.

    • Foster research culture and community:
      • Encourage the PGR to network, facilitate their attendance at seminars and conferences within their School and/or Research Centre, within UWE Bristol and externally, and to encourage them to present their work to others from an early stage.
    • Provide ongoing support and guidance:
      • Ensure the PGR is aware of the requirement to re-register for their research degree each year, and understands that they may be withdrawn from their research degree if they fail to do so.
      • Advise and support the PGR with any necessary changes to their registration or their active study status including suspensions, extensions or change to mode of study.
      • Encourage the PGR in early and continued writing, provide guidance and feedback on the development of an academic writing style and the use of appropriate referencing systems expected for the discipline.
      • Provide guidance on the structure of the thesis and to read and provide timely feedback at agreed points during its preparation (for example, on individual chapters) as well as comments on the draft thesis prior to submission.
      • Raise any issues of concern about the PGR or their progress and engagement with the Doctoral Academy, the CRDC or equivalent School committee, or other UWE Bristol specialist services, for example Health and Wellbeing Service.
      • Signpost the PGR to these support services where appropriate.
    • Arrange progression and assessment:
      • Ensure the maintenance of academic integrity and confidentiality in the conduct of progression examination and progress review events.
      • Carry out the correct and timely administrative processes and practical arrangements for the progression exam, the appointment of independent reviewers and subsequent progress review points (see also regulation E12, regulation E13 and regulation E14 in the Doctoral Academy Handbook).
      • With the independent reviewer, to undertake progress review meetings with the PGR at the end of stages 2 and 3.
      • Make timely arrangements for the nomination and appointment of examiners and for all processes relating to the final assessment, liaising with the Doctoral Academy as required.
    • Additional information and guidance about research governance, ethics and good research conduct may be found on the University’s Research governance.

      Guidance about the assignment of intellectual property is available from the IPTeam@uwe.ac.uk.

Responsibilities of the Supervisory Team

This procedure links to regulation E8.ii.

  1. The supervisory team must have an appropriate knowledge of the PGR candidate’s research area within their collective expertise.
  2. Supervisors must ensure that they maintain their knowledge of current University regulations, procedures and policies for supervised postgraduate research and attend supervisor training and update sessions as required.
  3. In addition, the supervisory team should:
    • meet with the PGR candidate on a regular basis to provide guidance and feedback, and on a minimum of three occasions as a full team during the course of the academic year (pro-rata for part-time candidates)
    • provide reports and feedback on the PGRs academic progress at progression milestones as appropriate
    • raise any issues or concerns about the PGR’s progress or performance or about the ongoing viability of the project itself and escalate these to the designated CRDC where these concerns are serious.

Responsibilities of the PGR candidate

This procedure links to regulation E8.ii.

  1. It is the responsibility of the PGR candidate to:
    • attend meetings with the DoS and supervisory team
    • note and maintain their own record of supervisory meetings, including any actions for completion before the next meeting
    • have reasonable and realistic expectations about the supervisory team’s capacity to provide feedback on work submitted for comment
    • raise any concerns regarding the supervisory process with the DoS in the first instance if this is appropriate, and otherwise with the PGR Director at School or College level or with the Doctoral Academy.

Responsibilities of the CRDC or other designated committee

This procedure links to regulations E8.iv and E8.viii.

  1. It is the responsibility of the CRDC to:
    • Consider, approve, monitor, and review the supervisory team arrangements. The CRDC will not normally appoint a supervisor who is undertaking a research degree at UWE Bristol themselves, however, this is permitted exceptionally at the discretion of the Committee where it is satisfied that the progress of the proposed supervisor on their own research degree will not be compromised.
    • Provide advice to the supervisory team where concerns have been raised about the PGR’s suitability or performance within their research degree.
    • Consider and approve any proposed change to a member(s) of the supervisory team.
    • Consider any significant changes proposed to the nature, scope or direction of the project and whether the supervisory arrangements remain appropriate.
    • Recommend alternative supervisory arrangements where a PGR’s or supervisor’s performance is unsatisfactory, or in other circumstances listed below.
    • Ensure that members of the supervisory team are not overloaded in terms of the number of supervisor appointments they individually hold.

Designated School Committees may, by delegation, undertake some of these responsibilities subject to local agreement.

Changes to the supervisory team

This procedure links to regulation E8.iv.

  1. Any proposed changes to the supervisory team must be approved by the CRDC. It is appropriate to make a change to the supervisory team in the following circumstances:
    • The DoS or supervisor leaves the University.
    • The research project changes to the extent that the existing supervisory team no longer has the expertise to support the PGR effectively.
    • The DoS is absent from the University for a period of more than six weeks outside normal holiday expectations.
    • The supervisory team consistently fails to provide appropriate and timely advice to the PGR.
    • A member of the supervisory team frequently misses meetings with the PGR and fails to improve their attendance.
    • The relationship between the supervisor(s) and PGR is not working, and informal steps to improve the relationship have not been successful, for example, the PGR/supervisory relationship has irrevocably broken down.

    Designated School Committees may, by delegation undertake some of these responsibilities subject to local agreement.

  2. Any other factors requiring a change to the supervisory team may be considered at the discretion of CRDC and the Associate Dean (Research) or equivalent for the College.

The format of supervisory meetings

This procedure links to regulation E8.ii.

  1. Meetings should be arranged by the DoS, supervisors, and the PGR at a convenient time and place for everyone. This can include meetings by video conference, for example, MS Teams, Skype, or other mutually agreed electronic means. The meetings can include discussion via email or telephone where no other form of contact is possible, however this format should not be relied upon exclusively throughout the course of the year.
  2. The space used for supervision meetings, whether physical or virtual, should be appropriate to allow for the discussion of confidential or sensitive matters – for example an open, busy lab or office where others are present or a corridor are not appropriate spaces.
  3. During supervisory meetings, discussion should normally include, but is not limited to:
    • progress the PGR has made since the last meeting
    • review of the project plan, recording completed tasks and agreeing new actions
    • preparation for any upcoming progress milestone or outcome of the same
    • a review of any publications or plans to publish
    • any changes to ethics, research data management or other governance requirements
    • a review of the PGR’s professional development needs and training opportunities, including opportunities to present at research forums, conferences or to other audiences
    • any health, wellbeing or other issues that the PGR wishes to raise.
  4. PGR candidates and supervisors can seek independent advice at any point during the PGR’s registration from the PGR Director at School level, the College PGR Director, the Doctoral Academy, or other University specialist services such as the Wellbeing Service or the Disability Service.

Further information for PGRs about supervision

Changing your supervisor(s)

  • Your full supervisory team is confirmed by the CRDC (or equivalent) soon after you first register on your award as part of the project confirmation process. Collectively the supervisory team provides an appropriate balance of subject knowledge and expertise and supervisory experience. If you feel that you are not getting appropriate support from your supervisory team, you can request a change to the make-up of the team. You should discuss this with your DoS in the first instance. Any proposed new or additional supervisor must have relevant supervisory experience and/or subject knowledge in your research area to ensure that the team as whole continues to meet the criteria specified at regulation E8.
  • If you feel unable to consult your DoS you can also seek independent, confidential advice from the Director of PGR at School or College level or the Doctoral Academy.
  • You should bear in mind that the normal maximum for a supervisory team is three supervisors including the DoS.
  • In some cases, it may be appropriate to have an additional or third supervisor who is not a member of UWE Bristol staff. This may include someone with relevant industrial, clinical or other professional or academic expertise. You should discuss this with your DoS initially. Alternatively, external experts can be added to the team in an advisory capacity.
  • Changes to the supervisory team must be submitted to the CRDC for approval. Changes will not normally be approved without the support of the DoS, unless the CRDC considers it is in your best interests to do so.

If you have not seen a supervisor for a long time

  • You should raise this with your DoS in the first instance. If the supervisor in question fails to improve their attendance at meetings, the DoS can take steps to withdraw them from the supervisory team, as outlined earlier in this chapter. If it is not appropriate to raise this with your DoS you can seek independent, confidential advice from the Doctoral Academy, the School PGR Director or College Director of PGR/CRDC Chair.

If two (or more) supervisors are giving different advice

  • If members of your supervisory team give conflicting advice such that your progress is being impacted, you should speak to your DoS who should take steps to address the issue and facilitate mutual agreement within the team.
  • You can also seek independent advice from the Doctoral Academy.
  • Where matters cannot be resolved through initial discussions, the CRDC can provide guidance to the supervisory team on how to proceed.

Further information for supervisors about supervision

If you are concerned that your PGR is struggling

  • In the first instance you should always make your PGR aware of your concerns and discuss how these might be addressed. This discussion should aim to be supportive, with a view to agreeing objectives or an action plan that will get the PGR’s work back on track. It should be held confidentially, not in an open office.
  • You should also discuss your concerns with the other members of the supervisory team, to share and discuss options to help improve the PGR’s performance. Any DoS or supervisor who has concerns that the PGR they supervise is not making satisfactory progress in the research or may be at risk of missing or failing a progression milestone, can also contact the Doctoral Academy for confidential advice.
  • Supervisors should consider that the PGR might be going through personal difficulties or significantly disruptive matters outside of their control which have affected their ability to make progress with their research. It may be appropriate in such cases for the PGR to request an extension for their next progress milestone deadline or suspend their studies if their circumstances mean that they are unable to work at all. Read the Personal circumstances section in the Doctoral Academy Handbook for more guidance and information about what to do in these circumstances.
  • If having considered the above, the situation does not improve, please raise your concerns with the School PGR Director or equivalent or College Director of PGR/CRDC Chair.

If your PGR is consistently failing to turn up to supervision meetings

  • We recommend speaking to the PGR about why this is happening, as there may be other factors involved. The Doctoral Academy can also assist by meeting with the PGR to talk through any issues or concerns.
  • Supervisors can seek independent advice from the School PGR Director or equivalent, or College Director of PGR/CRDC Chair.
  • Further guidance on personal circumstances and wellbeing matters can be found in the Personal circumstances section of the Doctoral Academy Handbook.
  • Ultimately if the PGR does not engage with supervision or their research studies without good reason the PGR withdrawal policy (PDF) may be invoked. 

If you are no longer able to supervise your PGR

  • If you are leaving the University, it is your responsibility to investigate alternative supervisory arrangements for your PGR at the earliest point to minimise disruption to their studies and ensure continuity of support. Do not assume your School or Research Centre will do this for you. See also procedures above about changes to the supervisory team.
  • If the nature of the PGR’s project has changed significantly in terms of scope, direction or topic such that either the supervisory arrangements or the project itself may no longer be viable you should discuss this with the PGR, the team and the School PGR Director or equivalent as soon as possible. It is not appropriate to leave the PGR without adequate supervision for any length of time.

Questions about the workload bundle allocation for a PGR you supervise

  • Each PGR has an annual workload bundle (WLB) allocation attached. Currently this is 30 WLB for full-time and 20 WLB for part-time PGRs. It is up to the supervisory team to agree how these bundles will be allocated, but this should follow College/School practice. Normally the DoS will receive the majority, with the remainder being divided between the remaining supervisors, according to the level of their involvement (for example, 20:10 for a DoS and one supervisor, or 20:5:5 where there are three on the team). These bundles should be available from the PGR's initial registration.
  • Contact the Doctoral Academy in the first instance and note that the practice differs across Colleges. You may also need to liaise with Planning Partners if the allocation ratio needs changing.

Doctoral Academy Handbook sections