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Appointment of PG Research Supervisors

Types of Supervision Arrangement

Supervisors provide support, help and guidance during study for a research degree and report to the Graduate School regularly on progression and other matters. Supervisors are appointed by the Director of Graduate School and are responsible for various aspects of postgraduate research study.

Each student must have at least two supervisors.   There are two types of supervision arrangement; most often it is the first option:

1. Principle Supervisor plus Assistant Supervisor(s); or,
2. Co-Supervisors - one of whom is designated the lead supervisor.

The role of the supervisor is described in the degree regulations (Section 33) and the Code of Practice for Supervisors and Research Students (section 3.2). Postgraduate research students will receive a copy of the code of practice during their induction interview with Graduate School staff and a copy is available on-line. Additionally the appointment of supervisors is also subject to the business rules of the University and these are enforced by the Registry.

As with all the formal aspects of the registration of postgraduate research students, the authority to appoint supervisors rests with the College Postgraduate Studies Committee.  However, on a day to day basis, this authority rests with the Director of Graduate School.  As a result, all supervisor appointments are subject to approval by the Director of Graduate School.

Supervisors may be principal, assistant or co-supervisors, and students may have one or more of these types of supervisor. Postgraduate research students can have 3 types of supervisor:


Principal supervisors, sometimes know as first supervisors, have overall responsibility for the supervision of the student and are responsible to the Head of Graduate School for the student. They have institutional responsibility for the student e.g. contractual arrangements, arrangements for annual review etc.  The principal supervisor must be a member of staff of the school in which the student is registered for study.


Assistant supervisors, sometimes know as second supervisors, may be backup to the principal supervisor or may have day to day responsibility for the supervision of the student, and often supply complementary expertise. They contribute to the student’s annual reviews.  Assistant supervisors need not be based in the same school as the student.


Co-supervisors have equal roles and responsibilities towards the student with respect to supervision of the student’s work. One co-supervisor must be nominated to have institutional responsibility – this is called the Lead Co-Supervisor role. They lead co-supervisor should be a member of staff of the school in which the student is registered for study.

The supervisors for a particular postgraduate research student are collectively referred to as the Supervisory Team, and this team can be comprised of either

  • a Principal Supervisor with one or more assistant supervisors; or
  • two or more co-supervisors (and assistant supervisors, if any).

Supervisor Appointment Procedures

Two supervisors are appointed during the application process. 

Please note: anyone who has been a supervisor for a student cannot then be an examiner for the same student during the examination of their thesis.

Within the School of Informatics the appointments are normally made as follows:

  • The Principal Supervisor is appointed at admission and shown on the formal offer of admission issued by College
  • At least one Assistant Supervisor is appointed by the end of first year and shown on the First Year Report.
  • Co-Supervisors, if required, are appointed at admission and shown on the formal offer of admission issued by College.

Requesting changes to the Supervisory Team

The Principal Supervisor (or lead Co-Supervisor) may request changes to the Supervisory Team at any time by contacting the Graduate School Office with details of the proposed changes. A change of Principal Supervisor should first be discussed with the Director of Graduate School as it normally represents a dramatic change for the student.

Following approval, the Graduate School office will update both the School and University records and send an e-mail confirmation to all parties confirming the appointments.  Please note that changes to the supervisory team have not been officially recorded unless confirmed by the Graduate School office.