Supervision and progression

Your supervisor is responsible for helping you to manage your research, as well as being your primary link to your department and the University.

Your Thesis Advisory Panel (TAP) consists of your supervisor and at least one other member of academic staff (either from your own of another academic department). The TAP will periodically review your research progress and evaluate your personal development plan.

Supervision meetings

A supervision meeting is any meeting between a postgraduate researcher and their supervisor where the supervisor undertakes their supervisory responsibilities towards the student, as set out in the University’s Statement on Research Expectations:

"[supervisors] should act as the project sponsor of the student's research project, providing the necessary advice and support to ensure the project is completed on time and to a high standard. In addition, they should provide guidance, support and encouragement for the student to develop their personal and professional skills in order to enhance their career prospects"

Supervision meetings will, therefore, often cover a range of topics and may sometimes include little or no discussion of the specifics of the research project.

A formal supervision meeting may (particularly in some disciplines and departments) be very similar to any other (i.e. informal) supervision meeting, but in order for it to count as a formal supervision meeting, it should:

  • be an individual meeting between the student and their supervisor(s) i.e. not a research/laboratory or other group meeting
  • be recorded as a formal supervision meeting on SkillsForge (see below)
  • normally be in person (or by video conferencing for students on distance learning programmes and those away from York on approved academic business e.g. field work)
  • normally include substantial discussion of, and feedback on, research progress and plans but may additionally, or alternatively, focus on development and training needs.

There is no minimum duration for a formal supervision meeting but it is unlikely that such a meeting could ever be less than 30 minutes and will normally be substantially longer.

Frequency of supervisory meetings

The University requires that formal supervision meetings are held at least every 6-7 weeks throughout the calendar year for both full-time and part-time students (including visiting students) during the normal enrolment period and more frequently if a department prescribes. This equates to a minimum of eight formal supervision meetings per calendar year.

There is no University requirement for the frequency of informal supervision meetings, although this may be prescribed by a department. In practice, the frequency of informal supervision meetings will depend on a range of factors including disciplinary and departmental norms, the relationship between the student and supervisor, and the needs of the student.

At these meetings you should:

  • discuss your research progress in depth;
  • discuss development and training needs;
  • identify any non-academic issues that might impede progress (such as health, welfare or financial concerns);
  • make plans for your next steps;
  • keep a record of the meeting - drawn up by you and approved by your supervisor(s) in SkillsForge.

Supervision meetings (whether formal or informal) will normally include a pastoral element, with the supervisor checking that a student feels supported and encouraging the student to develop resilience to deal with the inevitable challenges associated with undertaking a research degree. In addition, the supervisor and the student should identify any non-academic issues (e.g. physical or mental ill-health, financial or welfare concerns) that could have a negative impact on the student’s progress through the research degree and consider how these issues might be addressed (e.g. through access to a support service or a leave of absence).

Where non-academic issues prove difficult to address and/or pastoral support dominates supervision meetings (to the exclusion of the research project and/or personal and professional development), the supervisor and student should seek further advice. Supervisors should contact the Chair of their Graduate School Board (or equivalent), and students the Chair of their Graduate School Board and/or the Graduate Students’ Association.

A key role of the supervisor is to support each student in their personal and professional development, working with the student to enable them to consider, prioritise and access opportunities for:

Supervisors and students may find it beneficial to adopt a mentoring/coaching approach, where there is a greater focus on the supervisor guiding the student, rather than directing them. Advice on mentoring and coaching is on the Vitae website.

Recording your progress

You should record each formal supervision meeting using the ‘Create a Formal Supervision Record’ function in SkillsForge. You will normally draw up the record, which is then approved by the supervisor(s) present.

SkillsForge: Getting started (PDF , 249kb)

The record will remain accessible in SkillsForge for both you and your supervisor(s) to view after submission. The record should include the date of the meeting, a summary of the content, and future actions to be performed, including agreed training. The record will also note if you were present in person.

The purpose of the SkillsForge record is to serve as a useful reminder for you and your supervisor(s) of what was agreed, but it also provides a reference point should disagreement arise in future.


Principles of supervision

Within three months of the start of your registration, you and your supervisor(s) are expected to sign in Skillsforge that you have read 'Principles of supervision', summarising what is most essential to a successful supervisory relationship.

Principles of supervision

Thesis Advisory Panel (TAP) meetings

Full-time postgraduate researchers meet with their TAP twice a year (once every six months), and part-time students once a year. The members of the TAP, along with your supervisor(s), will provide you with advice and guidance in relation to your research.

You and your TAP will document your meeting in SkillsForge. You and your supervisor are required to complete a TAP Preparation Form in advance of the meeting, and then the TAP will complete a formal record of the meeting itself, highlighting your progress and any goals that you should be working towards for the next meeting. 

SkillsForge: TAP Preparation Form (PDF , 143kb)

Please refer to your departmental handbook for specific details about timings, deadlines, and what work you may need to provide in advance of your TAP meeting.

Review of supervision

At your TAP meeting, you should complete a Review of Supervision form with another member of your TAP. This is to be done in the absence of your supervisor. Your Review of Supervision form will not be made available to your supervisor without your direct consent. The other TAP member will take the Review of Supervision form to be stored by your department. The form is confidential and should not be uploaded to e:Vision.

Review of Supervision form (MS Word , 14kb)