Supervision Benchmarks for AHRC-funded students

1. The AHRC DTP Scotland consortium is guided by the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, Chapter B11

2. PhD research projects will be embedded within an environment demonstrably capable of providing support for doing & learning about research and where excellent research, recognised by the relevant subject community, is delivered.

3. The points outlined below – considered minimum thresholds of practice - are drawn from across the consortium’s existing practices and should not therefore conflict with local Codes of Practice.

The Supervision Team

4. All PhD students must have a supervisory team comprised of at least two supervisors. These may be Principal/Primary plus Co-Supervisor or Principal/Primary plus Assistant or Secondary Supervisor.

5. Irrespective of the weighting of supervision, each doctoral student must have a clear point of contact, identified as the Principal Supervisor (PS). The PS must be located in the HEI at which the student is registered (the ‘home-HEI’), & from which the student will graduate.

6. The PS will normally be a full-time member of academic staff and be on a Research & Teaching contract.

7. At least one member of the supervisory team should have experience of successfully supporting doctoral student(s) to completion.

8. Supervisors must have completed supervisory training before acting as a supervisor.

9. Experienced supervisors should attend some form of supervisory training at least once every five years.

10. At least one member of the supervisory team will be currently engaged in research in the relevant discipline(s), although to provide best supervisory experience as possible, the entire supervisory team should ideally be so engaged.

11. Supervisors will not normally supervise more than six FTE doctoral candidates concurrently.

The Supervision Process

12. Formal supervision meetings are expected to be scheduled at least ten times per year (or six if part-time). Secondary supervisors should have contact with students at least every three months and be copied into all formal email communication.

13. The Principal Supervisor is responsible for establishing contact with the student at the outset of the programme of study, facilitating their induction into the Department/School and encouraging them to participate in the activities offered by their Research Organisation & the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities.

14. The Principal Supervisor will be responsible for ensuring that the student has access to and is cognisant of the relevant Codes of Practice governing research degrees and research activities, including their responsibilities as a doctoral researcher, the standard expected of a PhD and professional research conduct. They will also inform the student about relevant academic services, support and welfare provision, training requirements and opportunities.

15. Supervisors should assist their doctoral students in completing an annual Training Needs Analysis matched to an annual Skills Development Plan.

16. An agreed record of every formal meeting should be kept by the student and supervisors and shared with the full supervisory team.

17. Constructive feedback on work submitted should be provided usually within three weeks.

18. Written feedback should alert the student to any potential problems with their progress and the appropriate actions required to attend these.

19. Where a Principal/Primary Supervisor is absent for more than six weeks, an alternative Principal/Primary Supervisor will be appointed.

20. Principal/Primary Supervisors should remain in contact with the student during any approved suspension of study and plan for reintegration into the programme following any such suspension by implementing a ‘return to study’ plan.

21. Principal Supervisors should advise students of the channels available should they have concerns relating to supervision.

Progress Review Process

22. All doctoral researchers will be required to participate in an Annual Progress Review, administered and managed by the home HEI. (Part-time students should participate in the Annual Reviews too.)

23. The APR will comprise a Panel (with supervisors & student in attendance), and will employ a combination of student self-evaluation/reflection and supervisors' evaluation.

24. All Panels will also include at least one member of academic staff with no formal involvement in the student’s doctoral projects.

25. Panels will have a Convenor. The Convenor will produce an agreed final progress report.

26. Doctoral researchers will be required to submit written material, or equivalent, to the review panel, along with a project completion plan. The consortium expects students to submit their thesis in accordance with their own HEI’s regulations but should be aware that AHRC stipulate a maximum of four years (or six if part-time).

27. Doctoral researchers will be required to submit a training log to the review panel, recording attendance at skills development workshops and courses. The log will allow for the identification of training needs and provision for the year ahead. Doctoral researchers should complete at least two weeks of skills development training per year.

28. Students should be given the opportunity to raise any concerns they have with their PhD experience with the Panel Convenor.

Research Organisation Reporting

29. The SGSAH will be required to submit annual reports to the AHRC. For this reason it will be asking each AHRC DTP Scotland HEI to submit the following data annually relating to their AHRC-funded students:

  • approved suspensions
  • concerns with progress and actions implemented
  • withdrawal from PhD programme (with reasons identified)
  • submission rates
  • changes to supervision teams. Please note that where a supervisory team changes, it is the responsibility of the home HEI to confirm to SGSAH that the new arrangements meet the student’s needs.

Status of this document

30. This document was agreed by the SGSAH Executive Committee on 26th June 2014. It will be reviewed by the SGSAH Executive (Doctoral Training Partnership Sub-Committee.)