Information for current postgraduates


Information about your supervision within the School of History, Classics and Archaeology.

Postgraduate research students normally have two supervisors, with whom they work closely throughout their degree. All new postgraduate research students are allocated two supervisors when they are accepted for admission. At least one supervisor will be from their main subject area. However in some cases it may be appropriate to arrange joint supervision with someone from another subject area whose expertise is especially relevant to the research topic. In some cases, a third supervisor may be appointed. Decisions on supervision are made in consultation with the supervisor and PhD Programme Director.

Working with supervisors is central to the postgraduate research student's career. The supervisors’ role is to provide guidance on the structure and content of the thesis.  This will usually include:

  • agreeing a suitable programme of study and appropriate training with the postgraduate research student;
  • giving comments and suggestions on written work;
  • ensuring that the end of first year review, and subsequent annual reviews, are held and reported properly;
  • supporting the postgraduate research student to plan and manage their research effectively, with the aim of submitting their thesis within the expected period;
  • being the first point of contact if there are any problems - whether intellectual, practical or emotional - which the postgraduate researcher wants to discuss;
  • applying for any suspensions or extensions of study that may be deemed necessary;
  • giving guidance on academic publishing and careers, and providing references for job applications after completion of the degree.

The postgraduate research student and supervisors are jointly responsible for staying in touch throughout the period of study.  They should arrange to meet regularly, and exchange frequent correspondence if the research student is away in libraries or archives or on fieldwork. At a minimum, research students and supervsiors should be interacting at least twice in every three month period. It is important that supervisors know how to reach the student at all times. It is also important that the supervisors keep the postgraduate research student informed of any periods when they will be away from the University.

All research students and supervisors should make themselves familiar with the University's Code of Practice for Supervisors and Research Students.

Supervision Styles

Individual supervisors differ in their styles of supervision. Some prefer very frequent meetings and more structured tasks; others prefer more informal ways of working. Some are more directive, while others see their role more as encouraging and enabling. Second supervisors may assume very different roles. They may have a specific area of expertise relevant to the research or a more general commenting and supporting role. Sometimes both supervisors choose to meet the postgraduate research student together for supervision; and sometimes the role entails a more limited input to the student’s work.

Whatever the pattern of supervision that develops, it is vital that it suits the specific needs of the particular postgraduate research student, and that both parties discuss and negotiate how best to work. What works well for one postgraduate student may not be appropriate for another. Moreover, what students need from their supervisors may well vary over different stages of the degree. The supervisory relationship is an evolving one. It is therefore crucial to a successful relationship that postgraduate research students learn to say what they need from their supervisors, and that supervisors be flexible and open enough to respond constructively.

Whatever your working relationship you should always:

  • Keep and circulate minutes of meeting with your supervisors;
  • Keep a record of work you have completed throughout the year;
  • Produce written work on a regular basis for your supervisors to comment on;
  • Produce an agreed timetable for your degree and notify your supervisors of any change from it;
  • Know when your supervisors are available at all times – and make sure they know the same about you.