Appointment of PGR supervisors

Information on the types of supervision arrangement, supervisor appointment procedure and requesting changes to supervision

Types of supervision arrangement

Supervisors provide support, help and guidance during study for a research degree and report to the IGS regularly on progression and other matters. Supervisors are appointed by the Director of IGS and are responsible for various aspects of postgraduate research study.

Each student must have at least two supervisors, and there are two types of supervision arrangement.

  • Principle Supervisor plus Assistant Supervisor(s) (this is the most common arrangement), or
  • Co-supervisors - one of whom is designated the lead supervisor.

The role of the supervisor is described in the PG degree programme regulations (DPRS)(Section 35) and the Code of Practice for Supervisors and Research Students (all PGR supervisors and students should read the Code of Practice).  Additionally the appointment of supervisors is also subject to the business rules of the University and these are enforced by Student Administration.

As with all the formal aspects of the registration of PGR students, the authority to appoint supervisors rests with the College Postgraduate Studies Committee.  However, on a day to day basis, this authority rests with the Director of IGS.  As a result, all supervisor appointments are subject to approval by the Director of IGS.

Supervisors may be principal, assistant or co-supervisors, and students may have one or more of these types of supervisor.  


Principal supervisors, sometimes know as first supervisors, have overall responsibility for the supervision of the student and are responsible to the Head of Graduate School for the student. They have institutional responsibility for the student e.g. contractual arrangements, arrangements for annual review etc.  The principal supervisor must be a member of staff of the school in which the student is registered for study.


Assistant supervisors, sometimes know as second supervisors, may be backup to the principal supervisor or may have day to day responsibility for the supervision of the student, and often supply complementary expertise. They contribute to the student’s annual reviews.  Assistant supervisors need not be based in the same school as the student.


Co-supervisors have equal roles and responsibilities towards the student with respect to supervision of the student’s work. One co-supervisor must be nominated to have institutional responsibility – this is called the Lead Co-Supervisor role. They lead co-supervisor should be a member of staff of the school in which the student is registered for study. The supervisors for a particular postgraduate research student are collectively referred to as the Supervisory Team, and this team can be comprised of either

  • a Principal Supervisor with one or more assistant supervisors; or
  • two or more co-supervisors (and assistant supervisors, if any).

Supervisor appointment procedures

  • Two supervisors are appointed during the application process, the names of the Supervisors are shown on the formal offer of admission issued via EUCLID. 
  • Please note: anyone who has been a supervisor for a student cannot then be an examiner for the same student during the examination of their thesis.