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MSc Project Guide 2022/23 — Supervisor-specific guide

Proposing projects

Teaching and research staff who wish to propose MSc projects must do so by a date given in the timetable, via the DPMT system. All teaching staff with a standard teaching load must submit project proposals that can be taken up by at least 5 students.

If HoS has agreed you should have a lower load, make sure that your data in Theon are up-to-date because we rely on it for determining teaching load:


At least 40% of the capacity (rounded up) must be suitable for essentially any MSc student, with a very simple baseline version of the project being possible.

Students interested in these projects should only be designated as unsuitable in exceptional circumstances, or if they fail to attend meetings or otherwise fail to take steps to understand what the project entails.

For staff on partial load, the numbers above are adjusted accordingly, rounded to the closest integer (in case of a tie, up). E.g., a staff member at 50% has a load of 50% * 5 = 2.5 –> 3 projects.

Staff must ensure that their proposed projects allow them to supervise their full capacity of students on distinct projects, and provide some diversity of projects for students to choose between. This normally involves proposing at least 3 distinct projects with at least one easy project, or a cluster project that is appropriate for (essentially) any MSc student’s background.

Research staff are encouraged to submit project proposals. Some projects may be proposed by staff from other Schools or people from industry, but they will usually then jointly supervise the project with a supervisor from Informatics.

Proposed projects can be seen at the DPMT system. One can search for projects in particular areas via project tags.

Prerequisites and assessing suitability

Please make sure to state the student prerequisites for your projects clearly. This can be in the form of pre-requisite courses and/or a statement of knowledge and expertise.

You do not need to meet all candidates individually to assess them. Where feasible, staff are encouraged to assess suitability using pre-tests/web forms, e.g., via qualtrics, MS, or other GDPR-compliant platforms, and only meet students who are suitable and are deciding how to rank projects.

All students will be encouraged one or more “Easy” project or a cluster. Students should only be marked as unsuitable for these in exceptional circumstances.

Cluster projects

Cluster projects involve several (2-25) similar MSc projects under one or more supervisors.

Each student produces his/her own MSc thesis

The supervisors of a cluster project are 1-3 staff members (+TA support), plus an optional collaboration with an external partner (who may be a co-supervisor, or not; see below).


Sharon Goldwater has created a useful document for supervisors considering project clusters.

Cluster projects with multiple staff

  1. The team of supervisors for a cluster picks a staff member as leader/representative.
  2. External collaborators may act as co-supervisors, if they want to.
  1. The leader of a cluster project files one project proposal for the entire cluster (with a chosen number of instances) in the DPMT system: https://dpmt.inf.ed.ac.uk/ For student allocation purposes in DPMT, the supervisor capacity of the leader is increased to the size of the cluster. Other members of the team have their out-of-cluster capacity reduced accordingly (possibly to zero, if the cluster is large). Depending on their remaining capacity, they may propose other MSc projects, or not.
  2. The leader for the cluster informs the MSc project manager (msc-project-mgr (at) inf.ed.ac.uk) about the size of the cluster project and about the members of the supervisor team, so that the capacities can be suitably adjusted in DPMT. (This is necessary to allocate the right number of students and to balance the workload of the supervisors.)

Single-supervisor clusters

An individual member of staff may propose a cluster project covering their full capacity (e.g., 5 students for a typical member of staff in 2022/2023), provided the cluster satisfies the desiderata above, including being suitable for almost any student who registers interest. Staff who supervise large clusters (>5 students) may be eligible for TA assistance.

Multi-year projects/returning students

If you supervise a multi-year or interrupted MSc student who is returning in the current year

Instead, the supervisor provides the following details: Student name, Student number, Project title, Supervisor name. The MSc Proj. Mgr. then creates an extra placeholder project of that title. Please contact the project manager by 10 February in these cases.

Design informatics

If your project is suitable for students from the Design Informatics MSc programme, please use the DI tag when proposing a project. If you are Design Informatics faculty, please watch out for briefings from Maria Wolters.

Progress reports

Students are expected to submit progress reports in July, via Learn. Both supervisors and second markers should read progress reports, with second markers communicating any concerns only to the supervisor; if all is fine, they can just say so. Supervisors should provide concise feedback to the student based on both markers’ observations.

If a student hasn’t provided a progress report, it’s just a bad sign that you might want to follow up on when you meet with the student.


The following are some basic guidelines for markers of MSc projects, primarily to help new staff get oriented. See also the assessment section in the main course guide.


Professional duties

Q. Which staff members have MSc supervision/marking duties? A. See the official record of current staff duties in Theon.

Q. How many MSc supervision/marking duties do University Teachers have? A. Unless explicitly specified otherwise on their Theon record, a University Teacher at 100% FTE has the same number of MSc supervision/marking duties as a full-time lecturer. At 50% FTE correspondingly less, rounded to the nearest integer (in case of a tie, up.)

Q. What are my duties if I volunteer to supervise MSc projects? A. For all staff members who volunteer to supervise MSc projects, these projects thereby become their professional duty (regardless of whether they previously had MSc supervision duties or not). Their responsibilities for these projects are exactly the same as for all other staff who supervise MSc projects. In particular, this includes all rules and procedures for student supervision, marking, deadlines, etc.

Project proposals and supervision

Q. How do I co-supervise an MSc project with an external supervisor? A. See this helpful page. In particular, the internal co-superviser (i.e., you) needs to register as supervisor for the project. (Green button “Register Interest” at the bottom of the page.)

Q. What happens if students register interest in my project in DPMT, but never contact me? What happens if students register interest at the last minute? A. Their bid will remain unresolved until the end of the selection process. You can/should then mark them as “unsuitable”.

Q. How are MSc projects allocated? A. For details see here.

Co-Supervision and giving kudos to collaborators (externals, PhD students, TAs, etc.)

Q. Under what circumstances does a project have a recorded co-supervisor in DPMT? A. Wrt. DPMT, the only purpose of co-superviors is to ensure that for each project there is a qualified 1st marker on record (who takes responsibility that the 1st mark is filed according to deadlines and procedures). A typical situation is where a UoE staff member co-supervises with an external partner. (Of course, both co-supervisors can discuss the mark.)

Q. I want to give kudos to my collaborators/helpers, e.g., additional external contacts, PhD students, TAs, etc. Should these be added as co-supervisors in DPMT? A. No. DPMT is only a local system for project proposals, project allocation and marker allocation. The data are deleted every year. To give kudos to your extra contacts, PhD students, TAs, etc., write them a letter of reference (that they can mention in their CV).

Project marking procedure

Q. How are MSc dissertations marked? A. See the section on assessment in the course guide for details on marking procedure, moderation, webmark forms, links to theses, etc.

Q. Where can I find the electronic copies of MSc dissertations? A. See here (also linked to from the course guide). (Access problems? Contact Computing support to give you access.)

Q. Which MSc projects do I mark? A. You mark, as 1st marker, all the projects that you supervise (if you are an external supervisor, then consult with your internal co-superviser). Moreover, you are the 2nd marker for certain projects. See this DPMT page (section Marking) for the projects that you mark. In the first part you see the list of projects that you will 2nd mark. In the second part, you see the list of your projects (that you will 1st mark) and the staff member who will 2nd mark it (column Marker).

Q. Problems to access the Webmark system? A. If you are UoE staff without an Informatics co-supervisor: Contact Computing support to give you access to Webmark. If you are an external (and thus have an Informatics co-supervisor): Consult with your co-supervisor. It is his/her responsibility to file the marking form.

Project marking allocation

Q. How are second-marking loads assigned? A. Second marking allocation follows the official policy decided by the Head of School and the Director of Teaching. The default load is to mark a total of 12 projects (combined as 1st or 2nd marker) for full-time staff. Staff who supervise fewer projects than their load are assigned 2 extra marking duties for every one lacking project supervision. Staff who supervise more projects than their load are assigned 1 less marking duty per extra supervised project. Staff with N moderation assignments mark N fewer MSc projects.

Q. Do I have to mark MSc projects if I go on sabbatical in September (of the current year)? A. Yes. You are fully responsible for all your teaching duties of this academic year, and this includes project marking. I.e., if you had MSc supervision duties in 2021/22 then you also have marking duties. However, you will not be asked to mark any projects when you are about to come back from a 1-year sabbatical in Sep. 2022 (i.e., if your sabbatical ends on 31. Aug. 2022), except for projects that you voluntarily supervised during your sabbatical.

Q. Do I have to mark projects if I don’t like the topic? Do I have to mark projects if the topic is not in my core area of expertise? A. Yes. Stated marking preferences are taken into account as far as possible, but there are hard constraints: All projects need to be marked, and the loads must follow the School policy on teaching load balancing (see above). You are qualified to assess every Informatics project at the MSc level. It is very common that the 2nd marker of an MSc project is not an expert on the topic.

Q. How do I perform my marking/supervising/teaching duties when I go on conferences (or other travel/absence)? A. Travelling does not grant relief from teaching/admin duties. In such cases, it is your responsibility to make arrangements. Either by working remotely (email, Skype, etc.) or by arranging work-swapping with a colleague. (In cases where relief from teaching duties has been officially granted by the School, this has to be recorded in the official record in Theon.) Note that all theses, marking forms, moderator forms, etc., are available electronically and thus remotely (see link above).

Q. Does the project supervisor (or student) have any influence on who is the 2nd marker? A. No. The 2nd maker has to be independent and is assigned centrally.