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The appointment of supervisors and their role for providing advice, support and communication.


Appointment of supervisors

A team of at least two appropriately qualified supervisors will be established and maintained for each student on the recommendation of the Head of School and PVC or Institute Director. Supervision teams must include either a principal or an executive supervisor, and will normally have one of the following compositions:

  • Principal supervisor plus at least one Deakin associate and possibly external supervisors
  • Two co-supervisors, one of whom will be the executive supervisor, plus possibly one or more associate and/or external supervisor/s
  • Executive supervisor and a research adviser, possibly with one or more associate and/or external supervisor/s.

Definitions of each type of supervisor can be found in the Higher Degrees by Research Supervision Procedure.

The principal supervisor must be a member of the staff of the University (i.e. a paid employee) who holds the degree for which the student is enrolled, or who has other qualifications and publications which the University accepts as equivalent in standing to that degree. Principal supervisors must have experience of supervision at the level of the degree for which the student is enrolled. They need to have supervised at least one previous student to completion at that level as either a principal or an associate supervisor, or they need to have completed Deakin's Supervision Fast-Track Program.

The role of the principal supervisor is to provide instruction, assistance, a sounding board for ideas and plans, and review and criticism of written material. Team supervision provides students with formal access to a wider range of supervisors.

Your relationship and advice

The relationship between you and your supervisor will change during candidature. At the outset you can expect help in clarifying the research project and preparing a realistic research plan and timetable. If you need to develop new skills and techniques, the supervisor can help with advice and, possibly, instruction. Your Individual Learning Plan is the mechanism for planning and recording all of your skill and knowledge acquisition. As the project proceeds, your supervisor's role becomes more one of assistance in monitoring your progress. You should try out ideas and discuss experimental results with your supervisor and write up sections of the work for your supervisor to review. The final outcome will depend on what is written and how it is written, and the supervisor can help in the development of style.

Towards the end of the project you will become the authority on the topic and your supervisor will become more of a senior colleague. This is when you will make the greatest use of the supervisor's experience and knowledge of standards, but when he or she is least able to provide technical help because you have become the expert.

The Head of School or Institute Director has particular responsibility for each research degree student in his or her School or Institute and takes direct responsibility for supervision until new arrangements are made if the principal supervisor is no longer able to act. In some Schools or Institutes the Head may nominate another staff member to take these responsibilities and you should consult your School or Institute about the arrangements which apply in your case. You can turn to your principal supervisor or the Head for guidance and advice at any time.

Support and communication

Candidature for a research degree is a time of dedication and hard work, and your determination to succeed is of vital importance. However even the strongest determination can be disrupted by a personal crisis, and your ability to succeed may depend on how well you use the assistance which is available. You should keep your supervisor informed so that they take these circumstances into consideration when providing advice on the most appropriate course of action regarding your studies. Your supervisor can also direct you to support services provided by the University for research degree students.

Obviously, the things which should happen during the supervision process will do so only if there are regular and frequent meetings and discussions between you and your supervisor. You must help to bring them about. Your best aid may be a regular timetable agreed with your supervisor at an early stage. You must understand that supervisors have many demands on their time and may need gentle reminders of meetings. Do not be content to wait until approached by your supervisor for a discussion if it has been some time since the last one. How often you need to meet will depend on the nature of your project and your requirements at that particular stage of the project.

Getting the most from your student/supervisor relationship

The quality of your relationship with your supervisors will be one of the most important factors in your success.

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