Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Doctoral CollegePostgraduate Research Handbook

Research Supervision


You will be allocated to a supervisory team by the Faculty Graduate School directorate on the recommendation of the Faculty Director of the Graduate School. Your supervisory team will consist of at least two supervisors from the University of Southampton.  The main supervisor has responsibility for the supervision of the design and progress of your research project and for providing academic advice. The main supervisor should be available to provide guidance and direction on a regular basis.  A member of your supervisory team is also responsible for ensuring that the administrative processes are completed in a timely manner throughout your candidature. This role is normally performed by the main supervisor but in certain cases it is the responsibility of a separate co-ordinating supervisor.

Your supervisory team will be chosen to provide suitable academic expertise. Where your project requires further expertise, an additional supervisor (who may be external to the University) can be appointed to provide the required specialist advice. As well as providing academic support and advice, the supervisory team reports to the Faculty on your work and progress according to the milestones in the School-specific section of this handbook.  

The Code of Practice for Research Degree Candidature and Supervision gives more details on how the Regulations are implemented and details the expected duties and responsibilities of students and staff in paragraphs 40 to 48.



As well as providing academic support during your studies, your supervisory team is also responsible for providing pastoral support and/or advice. This may involve referring you to other sources of support, checking with you about the effectiveness of any support you are receiving from the University services, and responding to any on-going or acute difficulties.

Your supervisor may also refer you to the Faculty Senior Tutor.


The Supervisory Relationship

It is essential that a good working relationship is established between you and your supervisory team, and that responsibilities on both sides are clearly defined and understood. Clear and regular communication between you and your supervisors is a key ingredient to the completion of a successful and productive PhD.

Responsibilities of the Research Student

The responsibility for your thesis lies with you and it is therefore essentially that you participate fully in planning your research project, taking advice and information from your supervisor team when appropriate. Your particular responsibilities are set out in the University Higher Degree Regulations and Code of Practice for Research Candidature and Supervision (Section V of the University Calendar).

Responsibilities of the Supervisor

The supervisor responsibilities can be found in paragraph 41 in the Code of Practice for Research Degree Candidature and Supervision.

Your First Supervisory Session

Your first supervision session is an essential part of establishing yourself as a PGR student and ensuring you are fully equipped to carry out your research.

With the help of your supervisor/s, the first session should be spent:

  • Clarifying the remit of the research and initial research questions
  • Assessing skills needs
  • Setting a timetable of supervision meetings, including meetings with individual supervisory team members and joint sessions
  • Carrying out a Risk Assessment of your work and completing the relevant forms

Once the first session has taken place, you should reflect on what’s been discussed and complete the Academic Needs Analysis forms and One Month Plan.


Supervisory Sessions

You are responsible for contacting your supervisors for appointments. If you are encountering particular, immediate difficulties then it is likely that you will contact your supervisor(s) as soon as these arise, acknowledging that they are not “on call” 24 hours per day nor every day of the week. However, your main interaction with your supervisor(s) will be through scheduled supervisory sessions; these session may vary in time, but you should make sure they are regular. Do not worry if the session overruns, but also be aware that your supervisor has a range of commitments and will be happy to arrange for a follow-on or a follow-up meeting if you or s/he feels that a particular issue has not been resolved in the time immediately available.

When part-time research students study at a distance from the University, Schools must ensure that satisfactory arrangements for regular and effective supervisory contact are in place, at least equivalent to the level of contact available to locally-based students. These must include a specified minimum number of face-to-face meetings, which may be supplemented by email, Skype, video-conferencing and other distance means. The minimum amount of contact you can expect each calendar year is 12, one-hour meetings if you are a full-time student and 6 one-hour meetings if you are studying part-time. These arrangements must be approved by the Academic Unit, monitored and reported on as part of the annual quality assurance process.


Changes to Supervisory Team

A change to supervision can be initiated by either the student or a member of the supervisory team. Changes to the main supervisor and/or the supervisory team must be approved by your Director of the Faculty Graduate School. Suitable handover arrangements should be implemented and the new supervisory relationship monitored by the your Graduate School. The regulations around a change in supervision can be found in paragraph 48 the Code of Practice.

Paragraphs 106-107 of the Code of Practice addresses the issue of conflict arising within a supervisory team and the appropriate course of action towards resolution. Please see the University's Regulations Governing Student Complaints which details the procedure of making a complaint. Students can also receive free, independent and confidential advice from the SUSU - Advice Centre

Important Note: If a supervisor is on study leave, they must continue supervisory meetings in whatever format is appropriate and ensure that administration tasks are carried out as necessary.

If a supervisor is on sick/maternity leave or retiring, they should contact your Faculty Graduate School Office and DPD for their discipline as soon as possible in order for a replacement supervisor to be appointed. 



I need help with...

Privacy Settings