Academic Manual

Supervisory Arrangements


5.14 Supervisory Arrangements


Supervisors: General

1. Each UCL student registered for the MPhil, PhD, EngD, MD(Res) or MRes degree shall have appointed one Principal and one Subsidiary Supervisor, who shall be members of staff of UCL or members of staff of an institution with an approved agreement with UCL. All supervisors must be approved by their Faculty Graduate Tutor before they undertake supervision of research students.
  Further guidance
1. Principal and Subsidiary Supervisors shall be appointed by the appropriate departmental/divisional Postgraduate Committee, or its equivalent body.
2. Honorary members of staff may be appointed as either Principal or Subsidiary Supervisors. However, approval must be obtained from the appropriate Faculty Graduate Tutor on behalf of the Research Degrees Committee. The appointment of an honorary member of staff as a Principal or Subsidiary Supervisor will be subject to consideration of adequate research activity, including publications and grant income. Honorary members of staff appointed as Principal or Subsidiary Supervisors are also governed by eligibility requirements set out in section 5.14.2 below.
3. Retired members of staff shall not normally be appointed as supervisors except by the specific agreement of the Research Degrees Committee. In instances where a member of staff serving as Principal Supervisor retires, continued supervision by the staff member is only permissible if explicitly agreed by all parties (the student, the supervisor and department), and this decision is recorded by the department. In addition, the following arrangements must also be put in place and reviewed annually by all parties to confirm they are working effectively:
  i) The existing Subsidiary Supervisor shall be appointed as joint Principal Supervisor with the retired member of staff;
  ii) A third supervisor shall be appointed to the supervisory team as Subsidiary Supervisor.
4. Supervisors can be appointed from institutions with an approved agreement with UCL, e.g. Cancer Research UK (CRUK). Such supervisors must have the status of honorary members of UCL staff. In all circumstances UCL has an expectation that these supervisors will undertake their role in accordance with the Doctoral School’s Code of Practice for Graduate Research Degrees and within the framework of UCL’s regulations for Research Degrees in the UCL Academic Manual.
5. For more information on the role of the supervisor see the Code of Practice for Graduate Research Degrees.


Supervisors: Eligibility

1. The list of UCL staff categories eligible to act as Principal and/or Subsidiary Supervisors can be found on the Human Resources website.
2. UCL determines the eligibility of staff in these categories to supervise research degree students using the following criteria:
3 A Principal Supervisor should normally:
  i) have satisfactorily completed any probationary period attached to his/her appointment;
  ii) have expertise in the area of the proposed research;
  iii) have had previous experience of at least one successful PhD, EngD, MD(Res) or MRes supervision, as appropriate, within a supervisory team (defined as having taken a student all the way through to a research degree award)
4. A Subsidiary Supervisor should normally:
  i) have expertise relevant to the area of proposed research;
  iii) be familiar with the standards required for MPhil/PhD/EngD/MD(Res)/MRes research.
5. In the case of EngD programmes, the Industrial Supervisor must also satisfy the requirements laid down above for the Subsidiary Supervisor.
6. A probationary member of academic staff may be appointed as Principal Supervisor if supervision is undertaken within the context of an experienced supervisory team comprising at least one demonstrably active researcher with experience of at least two successful supervisions.
7. A Research Associate may be invited to act as a Subsidiary Supervisor but must, in addition to the requirements specified for Subsidiary Supervisors:
  i) have a research contract lasting at least three years from the time the supervised student commences his/her programme of study;
  ii) be able to provide evidence of good quality publications for which they have had a substantial degree of responsibility.
  Further guidance
1. Principal Supervisors who are probationary members of staff must also have participated in an appropriate UCL supervisor’s workshop.
2. Supervisors who have completed a probationary period but have not previously supervised a research student should also meet the requirements outlined above. New senior members of academic staff with experience of MPhil/PhD/EngD/MD(Res)/MRes supervision at other institutions are expected to attend an appropriate UCL supervisor’s workshop.


Number of Students per Supervisor

1. A supervisor, whether Principal or Subsidiary, may supervise up to the equivalent of six full-time research students at any one time.
  Further guidance
1. The maximum number of students [head count], whether full- or part-time, that may be supervised by an individual as either Principal or Subsidiary Supervisor will be nine, using the following formula:
    For Principal Supervisors  
    1 Part-Time student 0.5
    For Subsidiary Supervisors  
    1 Full-Time student 0.5
    1 Part-Time student 0.25
2. Where a supervisor exceeds the maximum number of students under his/her supervision, the supervisor’s department must be able to demonstrate that there are mechanisms in place to ensure adequate contact with the student and appropriate support for the supervisor, such as a large supervisory team and/or a reduction in other workloads.
3. For example, an individual may act as Principal Supervisor to four full-time students and one part-time student while acting as Subsidiary Supervisor for two part-time students. This is the equivalent of five full-time students and is within the head count of nine students. Consideration should be given to the other duties of the member of staff concerned. Departments/divisions may wish to recommend an upper limit on the number of students supervised by a single member of staff that is lower than that set out above.
4. Part-time staff appointed as supervisors should supervise no more than six full-time research students on a pro-rata basis.


Declaration of Personal Interest

1. All members of staff are required to declare any personal relationships with any student they are asked to supervise, or are already supervising.
  Further guidance
1.  A supervisor who declares such a personal relationship prior to appointment as supervisor for the student in question shall not be permitted to undertake supervision of that student, whether as Principal or Subsidiary Supervisor.
2.  A supervisor who declares such a relationship after having been appointed as Principal Supervisor for the student in question (unless the declaration is made within six months of appointment, in which case the supervisor shall not be permitted to continue in any supervisory capacity) shall no longer continue as Principal Supervisor but may continue to advise the student in an informal capacity. 
3. The role of Principal Supervisor (including responsibility for all decisions affecting the student’s progress and assessment) shall in such instances pass to the Subsidiary Supervisor or the other supervisor nominated by the department. A supervisor who declares such a relationship after having been appointed as Subsidiary Supervisor for the student in question, subject to the permission of the Departmental Graduate Teaching Committee, may continue as Subsidiary Supervisor, but shall not be responsible for, or be involved in, any decisions affecting the student’s progress and/or assessment. 


Transfer of Supervisor to Another Institution

1. Where a Principal Supervisor transfers to another institution, students assigned to that supervisor shall be assigned to another Principal Supervisor – if they choose to remain registered at UCL – normally by the Departmental/Divisional Graduate Tutor. Should a student wish to continue to work under the supervisor who has transferred, he or she may consider applying to transfer registration to the supervisor’s new institution, providing he or she is not in the final year of the programme.