Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Doctoral College


Mediation Process
Mediation Process

The partnership between student and supervisor is an important one and one that we take seriously. The foundations of the relationship are built on mutual trust and respect and the ability to communicate effectively. Most of the student/supervisor partnerships work very well but occasionally some difficulties occur that may benefit from the services of those with experience in resolving conflict and diffusing tension. Of course, ideally it’s best to raise any issues as and when they occur to avoid things escalating. A well timed face to face conversation is usually the most effective way of resolving potential problems and therefore we always encourage you to speak to your supervisor as soon as possible about any issue that concern you.

However, when things aren’t going well, it’s not unusual to feel unable to tackle them yourself or to be reluctant to raise the issue for fear of making things worse. The University recognises this and acknowledges that conflict may have an adverse effect on your wellbeing. The mediation service was set up in 2006 for all our staff and students with the aim to seek sensible and workable solutions and to minimise the stress that situations like this can cause.

The mediation service offers accredited mediators who understand the university and student life who have experience in helping to resolve potentially stressful conflict and dysfunctional relationships. This is a confidential service wherein all conversations are protected and are not shared with a third party without the express permission of those involved in the mediation.

Without committing yourself or others to mediation you may, if you prefer, contact the Mediation Services Manager, an accredited advanced mediator, for an initial chat to talk through the situation. Please contact

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process led by a mediator, trained and experienced in managing conflict and difficult conversations, who will work with both parties to try to seek an amicable resolution based on an understanding of the needs of those involved.

The success of mediation lies partly in the fact that it’s voluntary and the parties enter the process as willing participants with a common goal of wanting to sort out their differences. Mediators will ask questions that help uncover underlying problems, assist the parties to understand the issues and help them to clarify the options for resolving their differences or dispute. The overriding aim of mediation is to restore and maintain the relationship wherever possible. 

See for much more information about the service.

How do you request a mediation?

We would always recommend trying to resolve any tension, conflict or problems locally if at all possible before looking at mediation. This is always best done face to face rather than via email. If you feel able to request a meeting with your supervisor and explain how you feel as clearly as you can and be prepared to listen to what they have to say and work through a solution together. If after this things do not improve or if you don’t feel able to raise the matter yourself please don’t leave things to deteriorate. Please contact the mediation service or alternatively you maybe consider talking things through with a Senior Tutor, the SUSU Advice centre.

If you are considering mediation or think that mediation might help you, contact us and we can meet for a confidential chat (without any commitment) and talk through the issues at hand, explore options and you’ll find out more about the process. If after that you decide you’d like to try mediation we will move things forward. You do not need to tell your supervisor at this point as we will contact them on your behalf.  

Please contact:  Kate Grant, Mediation Services Manager: or or Telephone 02380 597098.

Who are the mediators?

The university accredited mediators all have the industry standard National Certificate in Workplace Mediation. They are either current or past employees, from all levels and areas of work, and are not affiliated to any academic department nor will they be assigned a mediation from within their own area of work.

For members of staff seeking to help resolve a problem between a student and their supervisor where you feel mediation might be an appropriate route?

First of all explore whether the parties involved are aware of the problem. It’s not usual for a student to be unhappy about a problem with their supervisor but this hasn’t been communicated to the supervisor and they remain unaware of a problem. If appropriate encourage a face to face conversation between the student and supervisor. Preparing the student by helping them articulate the nature of the problem to you first and by encouraging them to think through what they need going forwards as well as considering the perspective of the supervisor will help their meeting to be more productive.

If the student feels unable to explain how they feel to their supervisor or it doesn’t feel appropriate to do so, or this has been tried to no avail you may feel that mediation could be their best route forwards. They may be unaware that the service is available. In your conversation with the student we recommend including the following points:

  • The mediation service offers trained mediators specifically to help in this type of situation.
  • You are not asking the student to commit to mediation there and then. You are asking them to consider exploring the possibility of mediation, finding out more by having an informal chat with a mediator, in order that they may make an informed choice. Only after they have given their consent will a mediator move things forward and contact the supervisor.
  • Nothing will happen without their express consent. Agreeing to meet with someone from the mediation service for an initial chat does not commit them to mediation.
  • Any conversation they have with the mediator is held in the strictest of confidence and will not be relayed to the other party.
  • Nothing about this would be put on their student record or held against them in any way.
  • The mediator’s job is to understand the perspective of all the parties involved and then help them to have a meaningful, constructive conversation whilst working towards some sort of resolution that works for them both.
  • Mediation isn’t an investigation nor will a mediator impose a course of action on them.
  • Mediation is not a route to revisit a disputed matter of academic judgement.

Examples of types of cases where mediation has been successful

  • Student felt that unhappy with the quality of supervision but didn’t feel able to raise it himself.
  • Student felt bullied by his supervisor and they stopped communicating
  • Student was unhappy following a replacement of his main supervisor after he retired.
  • Student expressed unhappiness with her supervisor, following a period of sickness absence due to some mental health problems.
  • Student didn’t feel able to talk to her supervisor about a number of issues she wasn’t happy about.
  • Student unhappy with quality of supervision.
  • Student completed PhD but it wasn’t a good working relationship and then went on to become member of staff where things deteriorated further.

Frequently asked questions?

For this and much more please click on the link to the mediation website:

Privacy Settings