Teaching & Learning


Initiatives and resources supporting the objectives of UCL's Education Strategy 2016-21


Research supervision at UCL

The UCL Doctoral School and UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education can support you in your supervision of research students through professional development and resources.

The relationship between an academic supervisor and a research student is a unique one, which evolves over several years to achieve a number of objectives:

  • To provide the student with a thorough grounding in all aspects of research within the context of an academic discipline;
  • To prepare the student for a range of careers;
  • To create a learning experience that is intellectually challenging and personally fulfilling within a stimulating and supportive environment;
  • To ensure that students are able to complete their PhD in a timely manner.

The nature of the relationship means that academic supervisors deal with a range of situations requiring a sensitive and informed approach. 

Research supervision courses and training

Research student supervision is a core academic responsibility, requiring expertise in both teaching and research.

UCL aims to provide research supervision of very high quality and, to enable this, provide a programme of support for academics who are responsible for research supervision.

This programme is divided into three stages:

1. Introduction to research supervision

This online course is mandatory for all members of academic staff wishing to be appointed as research supervisors at UCL, including new members of academic staff with experience of research supervision at other institutions. 

The course will take approximately two hours to complete. 

On completion of the course, you will be able to download a certificate of completion, and be eligible to join the face-to-face session, 'Developing as a UCL Supervisor'.

Experienced UCL supervisors are also encouraged to work through the course as a refresher and central resource containing information, guidance and links to relevant policies and materials.

How to join the online course: Introduction to research supervision

If you have any trouble accessing the course, email arenacentre@ucl.ac.uk.

2. Developing as a UCL research supervisor

Having completed the online training, those with no prior PhD supervisory experience must attend the follow-up workshop: 'Developing as a UCL research supervisor'.

Issues will be covered in depth such as:

  • supervisory responsibilities
  • developing an effective supervisory relationship
  • factors for successful supervision. 

The session aims to welcome new staff to the role of supervisor at UCL, while experienced supervisors are invited to join to refresh their knowledge of the supervisor’s roles and responsibilities who supervise PhD students.

Search for research supervision events in the UCL Arena events calendar for the latest bookable dates (tick the 'research supervision' option in the Subject filter).

3. Enhancing your supervisory practice 

Having completed the online training, new and existing supervisors can attend this workshop.

Issues will be covered in depth such as:

  • different supervisory contexts 
  • your experiences with peers, and;
  • reflection on your practice and consider ways to enhance it 

You will gain a deeper insight into your supervisory role and relationship. There will be lots of opportunity for you to discuss and work in groups to look at common challenges and ways to increase effectiveness as a research supervisor. 

Search for research supervision events in the UCL Arena events calendar for available training events (tick the 'research supervision' option in the Subject filter).

4. Ongoing professional development for supervisors

Arena Centre events include regular workshops and sessions for supervisors, covering topics such as:

  • recruitment
  • examining doctorates
  • positive working relationships
  • the Postgraduate Research student (PGR) experience.

We also arrange one-off events with external speakers. 

Search for research supervision events in the UCL Arena events calendar for available training events (tick the 'research supervision' option in the Subject filter).

Resources for research supervision

The UCL Good Supervision Guide

Developed by PhD students who interviewed Faculty Graduate Tutors across UCL, this guide is aimed at both new and experienced supervisors. 

Personal, real accounts of research supervision: the PhD diaries

Professor John Wakeford's PhD Diaries are real accounts of the experiences of students, supervisors and examiners involved in the PhD process.

These diaries act as a useful resource to help PhD supervisors discuss and find solutions to various scenarios presented in the diaries.

Most diaries come with a list of questions to help guide them through the problem-solving process. Supervisors may also wish to share these diaries with students who are facing similar problems.

View events available to book in the UCL Arena events calendar.

To enable more direct focus on issues which are specific to a discipline and to the departmental context, CALT liaises with Professor John Wakeford in order to run workshops for UCL staff. If you are interested in this option, please contact our Evaluation and Schools Officer Peter Phillips (peter.phillips@ucl.ac.uk).

John is an external consultant with more than 20 years’ experience of running workshops for research student Supervisors at universities across the UK.