Every PhD student is apportioned one principal supervisor. The Head of the PhD programme appoints the principal supervisor and any supplementary supervisors. The PhD student may propose potential supervisors, but the Head of the PhD programme makes the final decision. The principal supervisor is appointed in connection with the enrolment of the PhD student.
It is possible to be allocated a co-supervisor if the PhD student can argue that there are substantial grounds for it and the Head of PhD programme agrees, but it is not a rule that a PhD student should have two supervisors. A potential co-supervisor should be based outside the department but must be a senior lecturer/associate professor, a professor, or in possession of equivalent qualifications. The co-supervisor assists the principal supervisor. His/her tasks are agreed on by appointment and will normally include academic sparring in connection with selected areas of the research project. The total amount of supervision will remain the same when having a second supervisor. Hence, the main supervisor will in case of co-supervision correspondingly supervise less.
Supervision is a crucial element of the PhD programme. Therefore, it is very important that both the supervisor and the student are clear and communicative about their goals, demands, expectations and opinions throughout the process. In their first meeting, supervisors and students are advised to have a detailed conversation about the elements of supervision and their mutual expectations from one another. Regarding all aspects of the PhD program, from teaching to planning your future career, the supervisor is the first point of contact for the PhD student, followed by the Head of the PhD programme.
Every research project is unique; and so are the nature, amount and extent of supervision associated with it. Generally, supervisors have contact with their students once a month. It is the students’ responsibility to consult with their supervisors regularly and to make sure there is progress on their dissertation as agreed with their supervisors. For PhD students, one of the best ways to ensure that progress is taking place in line with mutual expectations and demands is to be as detailed and concrete as possible in the half-year assessment reports that both parties sign.
Although the principal duties of the supervisor are associated with the dissertation, supervisors also have a broader function in that they are expected to provide guidance and information on all aspects of the PhD program. The supervisor is responsible mainly for:
- Reading and commenting on the PhD project
- Discussing not only theoretical and methodological aspects, but also the practical planning of the research project with the student
- Staying in regular contact with the student and playing an active role in his/her research activities
- Holding regular conversations with the student about the broader plans regarding the PhD programme and ensuring that progress is taking place accordingly
- Discussing relevant courses, conferences and publication options with the PhD student and actively introducing him/her to relevant national and international research networks
- Advising the student about work requirements such as teaching and other knowledge dissemination activities
- Advising the student about future career prospects
- Taking part in the assessment work and the defence of the PhD thesis
In the course of supervision, the PhD students are expected to:
- Stay in regular and close dialogue with their supervisor
- Contact the supervisor well in advance in connection with planning their research activities
- Establish clear goals, demands and expectations about the supervisory function – preferably from their first meeting with their supervisor – and ensure, through half-yearly assessment reports, that these are met according to the satisfaction of both parties
- Keep the supervisor informed about activities they are engaged with relating to the PhD work and matters affecting the work, such as progress of their project, PhD courses, study opportunities abroad or field study plans, teaching and other knowledge dissemination activities, administrative tasks etc.
- Set aside dates for supervisory meetings, agree on agendas and deadlines and forward texts as agreed by both parties in order to get feedback
- Consult with their supervisors with regard to their future career plans in academia or elsewhere If for any reason the supervisor is not living up to the requirements or expectations regarding the PhD programme, students are advised to consult directly with the Head of the PhD programme.
The PhD student may apply for a change of supervisor. The first step in this process is to set up a meeting with the Head of the PhD programme. Following consultation with the Head of Department, the Head of the PhD programme makes the decision on any change of supervisor. The supervisor concerned must be heard in connection with the change. In extraordinary cases, the Head of the PhD program may replace the principal supervisor without the PhD student’s request.