Quality Manual

Appointment of Supervisor

1. Policy

Every postgraduate research student will be guided during his/her period of registered study by a team of supervisors with suitable academic qualifications, appropriate expertise in the agreed area of the student's research topic, and an acceptable level of supervision experience.

2. Ensuring adequacy of supervision 

Heads of Schools are responsible for arranging for research students in their School to receive appropriate and continuous supervision during the student's period of registered study.

A research student should only be admitted if the Head of School is satisfied that:

  • there is a member of staff in the School suitably academically qualified for the task and who has the academic expertise and supervisory experience to supervise the student;
  • the member of staff is willing to supervise the student and that the student is willing to accept him/her as supervisor;
  • the member of staff's other teaching and research commitments permit him/her to accept the additional supervisory role;
  • the member of staff is aware of the role and responsibilities of supervisors;
  • the member of staff has received appropriate advice/training in supervision skills.

3. Supervisory Team

Students will be allocated a supervisory team containing at least two supervisors. This should normally occur prior to the student commencing his/her studies, but failing that and in exceptional circumstances supervisors must be allocated within four weeks of the commencement of their studies.

At least one member of the supervisory team will be currently engaged in research in the relevant discipline(s), so as to ensure that the direction and monitoring of the student's progress is informed by up to date subject knowledge and research developments. The other member(s) need not necessarily have relevant discipline expertise, so long as the breadth of experience and knowledge across the supervisory team means that the student will always have access to someone with experience of supporting research student(s) through to successful completion of their programme.

Schools have the option to appoint joint or lead supervisors within the supervisory team. However, one of the supervisors in a joint supervisory arrangement must be designated as the prime point of contact between the University and the student. The respective roles and responsibilities of the lead and second supervisors should be agreed and the student advised. (see Responsibilities of the Supervisor)

Joint supervision is particularly suitable when, for example, two members of staff are engaged in collaborative work, when the student's topic of research extends beyond the boundaries of a single discipline, or when the student is spending all or part of his/her period of registration studying at an another institution or in an outside laboratory.

If a supervisor is not going to be available throughout the whole registration period of a research student's study, this unavailability should be limited to a maximum of six months during the student's time at Nottingham.  In such an instance regular supervisions will continue to take place with other member(s) of the supervisory team.  If the unavailability is going to exceed six months, an alternative supervisor should be appointed.

4. Subject expertise

Supervisors must have an appropriate level of joint expertise between them in the academic area of the student's area of research.

5. Student's agreement to supervision arrangements

Research opportunities may be identified separately by a supervisor, a student or a sponsor, or following discussions between a sponsor and the supervisor or a sponsor and the student. The key element linking student and supervisor must be interest in and appropriate knowledge of the proposed area of research. There should be mutual agreement on the specific research topic, following discussions between the two parties. The Head of School should involve both the student and the member(s) of staff in the preliminary discussions about supervision and should seek their agreement to initial supervision arrangements. A form is available for use by schools to notify changes to the supervision arrangements for a research student (see below), to be signed by the student, supervisor(s) and the Head of School.  Academic Services (or equivalent) should always be notified in writing of changes to supervision arrangements and this will act as confirmation that the student has agreed to the change in supervisory arrangements.

6. Eligibility to act as supervisor

Subject to the following sections, any member of staff currently undertaking research in the relevant discipline may be nominated to supervise a research student, provided that s/he intends to remain in post for the normal duration of the student's registered course of study. Staff who do not meet these criteria but who are Level 4 Research Officers (or equivalent) may normally act as supervisors in a joint supervisory arrangement.

Postdoctoral research staff are permitted to act as supervisors in a joint supervisory relationship provided that they have not indicated they will be leaving their post for the normal duration of the student's registered course of study. In such instances, the member of staff concerned must attend training in supervisory skills as offered by the Graduate School and a co-supervisor should be assigned who has relevant experience and can act as a mentor.

Senior Research Fellows (Level 5) who have experience of successful supervision may act as lead supervisor provided that they intend to remain in post for the normal duration of the student's registered course of study.

Honorary Professors, Honorary Lecturers, recently retired staff and Emeritus Professors are not permitted to act as main supervisors but may be involved in a joint supervision arrangement as a second supervisor.

7. Academic staff supervising for the first time

Staff who are appointed to act as supervisors for the first time are not normally permitted initially to act as the main supervisor, but should first be required to gain supervisory experience by acting in a joint supervision arrangement with an experienced member of staff.

Staff in their first academic appointment will attend the course for the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education offered by Professional Development (see below) which includes training in supervisory skills.

Staff in their first academic post should also be assigned a mentor from whom they may seek advice on any matter, including supervision matters.

Exceptionally, Heads of Schools may apply to the University for permission to allow a new member of academic staff to act as the main supervisor, if a good case can be made that the member of staff's experience makes it appropriate for him/her to act in this capacity.

8. Non-University staff

Staff of outside institutions who are not members of the academic staff of the University of Nottingham may, in appropriate circumstances, be appointed to act as second supervisors eg. industrial supervisors on a CASE award, supervisors for students registered under the regulations governing students registered in outside organisations (see below). Heads of Schools should consider the proposed supervisor's expertise in the student's research topic and their research-standing and ensure that he/she is made aware of and enabled to fulfil the University's expectations of supervisors and are offered opportunities to engage in developmental activities.

9. Staff without Doctorates

Academic staff at Lecturer grade who do not hold a doctorate themselves should not normally be permitted to act as the main supervisor of a doctoral student. However, a Head of School may apply to the University for permission to allow such a member of academic staff to act as the main supervisor if a good case can be made that the individual's research and professional background makes it appropriate for him/her to act in this capacity.

10. Maximum number of research students

The Head of School has responsibility for determining the number of students an individual member of staff may supervise. No maximum number is recommended but this should depend on the ability of the individual supervisor to deliver quality supervision as detailed in this Quality Manual under The Roles and Responsibilities of a Supervisor (see below).


Research Supervisors

MPhil/Doctoral Supervision Change Arrangements Form

Students studying in outside organisations



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