Supervisor role information

Information about being a supervisor.


The supervisor(s) should be the primary source of advice for PhD students. Most supervisors are very experienced and can advise on strategies for dealing with the kinds of problems that arise in the course of research. With the general lack of structure of PhD studies, lack of discipline can be a problem, and sometimes a bit of pressure is helpful. The student-supervisor relationship requires a degree of patience on both sides. Sometimes the relationship begins to break down, and in such cases it can be helpful to seek outside advice or support. Sometimes students seek a change of supervisor, but there are situations in which no improvement is feasible, for instance due to lack of local specialist expertise.

Resolving problems

There are sources of help in case of difficulties with supervision or any other aspect of research studies. Start near the beginning of the following sequence and work your way down if required.

  1. The Principal Supervisor
  2. The Assistant Supervisor(s)
  3. The Institute Director
  4. Personal Tutor for Research Students (Myungjin Lee)
  5. Head of Graduate School (Nigel Topham)
  6. Deputy Head of Graduate School (Alex Lascarides)
  7. Head of School (Johanna Moore)
  8. Dean of Research

There can be special difficulties when, for instance, the Supervisor and Institute Director are the same person. In case of such difficulties, jump to the next level in the sequence.



The University has a formal complaints procedure but it is anticipated that most problems can be resolved through informal discussion. When this is unsuccessful, a formal complaint may be appropriate. Complaints should be submitted in the prescribed form to the Head of School who will generally ask the Head of Graduate School to investigate.

Student complaint procedure for postgraduate research students.

Other sources of advice or guidance

There are also various sources of help that are outside the usual academic "chain of command". These include: