SUPER-visory relationships

The relationship between a PGR and their supervisor is unlike any other relationship that you might encounter in professional or personal life (although it has been compared to that between a physician and patient).


A successful relationship can benefit both parties, and nurture a PGR towards a brilliant thesis and blossoming into a highly effective researcher with all the skills and behaviours (both research and transferable) that entails.  What can you do, as a PGR, to increase the chances of building a super relationship with your supervisor? 

  • Read the Code of Practice on the Supervision and Monitoring Progress of Postgraduate Researchers 2017-18.  It might seem like quite a dry document, but it clearly sets out responsibilities and expectations of UoB supervisors and PGRs, so will help you understand what your should expect from your supervisor and what your responsibilities are.
  • Take responsibility for your own research, progress and development, with support from your supervisor.  This is your research degree, not your supervisor’s.  Your supervisor is not your line manager.
  • Use a document such as Expectations in supervision to have a structured conversation with your supervisor or supervisory team about your understanding of the supervisory relationship.  With this example (which is also provided to supervisors when attending UoB supervisor training), you and your supervisor would each complete a copy and then discuss areas where your answers disagree.
  • Complete the Monthly Supervision Record Form (GRS2) as fully as possible.  This will ensure that you and your supervisor(s) have a full and shared understanding of your progress and intentions each month.
  • Outside your monthly supervisions, maintain open communication with your supervisor, especially if something is likely to impact on your ability to complete work to a previously discussed timetable.  Recognise, however, that your supervisor has competing priorities, and won’t necessarily be able to respond immediately to your messages.  Here are some tips, if effective communication isn’t coming naturally for you and your supervisory team.
  • Familiarise yourself with support services around the University (including PGR Careers, Library Services Research Support, International Students Advisory Service, and Counselling and Wellbeing) to get the best advice without having to ask your supervisor every time.  The University Graduate School can direct you to relevant support services if you’re not sure where to go.
  • If you are having any difficulties in your supervisory relationship, please don’t suffer in silence.  The sooner those difficulties are resolved, the better for both your research and your wellbeing.  Your first port of call is your mentor/welfare tutor in your School.  If that hasn’t helped, or for whatever reason you’re not comfortable talking to them, please talk to Guild Advice.

To consider this topic further, come along to a workshop on Working effectively with your supervisor or complete the Canvas course.

Do you have a successful relationship with your supervisor?  What do you think are the secrets to that success?  Are there areas where you feel you could improve your relationship with your supervisor?

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