Improving Doctoral Supervison

Improving doctoral supervision here at the University has been a longstanding goal of postgraduate sabbatical officers at Cambridge SU, and its predecessor institution, the Cambridge Graduate Union.

Improving doctoral supervision here at the University has been a longstanding goal of postgraduate sabbatical officers at Cambridge SU, and its predecessor institution, the Cambridge Graduate Union. Although the majority of doctoral students have excellent relationships with their supervisors at the University, for the small minority of students who do experience difficulties, there are very few avenues for seeking help, and no safety nets put in place to ensure that the affected student can continue undisrupted with their research. 

 

The postgraduate sabbatical officers of 2020/21, Aastha Dahal (Postgraduate President) and Siyang Wei (Postgraduate Access, Education and Participation Officer) undertook an extensive research project on this topic, which sought to aggregate and consolidate the anecdotal evidence the SU frequently receives concerning doctoral supervision. 

 

This research is now available to view as a report in PDF form here. The final report includes 20 recommendations categorised under the headings:

  • Supporting supervisors to manage the relationship

  • Professionalising the supervisory relationship

  • Supporting students to negotiate the relationship

  • Funding policies that suit the reality of funding

 

As your postgraduate sabbatical officers for this academic, Amelia (Postgraduate Access, Education and Participation Officer) and I have chosen three key aims that we would like to campaign on this year. These are:

  • New Supervisors should have the option of co-supervising with an experienced Supervisor for at least their first student, and be encouraged to take up that option.

  • Each Department should have at least one member of staff with responsibility for supporting Supervisors with any issues and championing good practice.

  • The University should ensure there is a clear and standardised process across Departments for students to change Supervisors.

 

These reforms will make a huge difference to doctoral supervision here at Cambridge, in terms of both offering supervisors more support and providing students with a better experience. Amelia and I are always receptive to feedback, comments, or questions so if you do have any thoughts on this that you’d like to discuss please get in touch via email. We will continue to update the student community on our progress with this report in the postgraduate email bulletin and on all of our social media channels. 

 

Wishing you all a brilliant end to Michaelmas Term, and best wishes,

 

Anjum

Cambridge SU President (PG)

 

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