Calling all PHD students! 


The SU is running a research project focused on understanding the relationships between PhD students and their supervisors within the University of Cambridge. The research, unlike others before, involves speaking to both PhD students and supervisors about what contributes to problems in these relationships, and what strengthens them.


The research team consists of: 


Aastha Daal (SU Postgraduate President)

Grace Anderson (SU Welfare and Insight Manager)

Siyang Wei (SU Postgraduate Access, Participation and Education Officer)

Lucie Daniel-Watanabe (Research Assistant)

Mireia Cabanes-Calabuig (Research Assistant)


To contact the research team, please email: 


How do I get involved?

We’re looking for Cambridge PhD students in all years and Schools to take part in a focus group with 3 other PhD students, which will last approximately 1.5 hours. Conversations will be focused on experiences of doctoral supervision both during and prior to the pandemic. 

We are giving £10 Amazon Vouchers to all focus group participants. 


To get involved:


  1. Read a Participant Information form [linked] 

  2. Consider whether you can give time for one 1.5 hour focus group

  3. Email: 


All participants have one week to withdraw from the study after their focus group has taken place. 


Why are we running this research? 

We have found from past feedback, surveys, Student Advice Service caseload and Sabbatical Officer activity that supervisory relationships are one of the biggest priorities for postgraduate students. These relationships can have a profound impact on doctoral research, and we want to make sure that there is better understanding and support for these relationships. 

We will use the results of this research to campaign for better support for both PhD students and supervisors in this relationship. 


How is it being conducted? 

This exploratory research will be the first of its kind in the Cambridge context. We will be conducting interviews with PHD Supervisors alongside running focus groups, and will be examining the issues from both sides of the relationship. We will be conducting 6 focus groups and 20 interviews. Following this, the researchers will collate the data into a report with evidenced recommendations for changes to supervisory relationships at the University of Cambridge. 


Who is it supported by?

This study has received some funding from the University’s Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Project Board.

This study has been ethically approved by the University’s Cambridge Higher Education Studies Ethics Review Committee (CHESREC). You can contact CHESREC at: