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Postgraduate Research Handbook



Your research will be supervised by at least two members of staff at the University.  Your supervisor will most likely be a member of the School, but, if your research requires it, the School may arrange for supervision by someone outside the School or the Faculty.  While you should always feel free to consult any member of staff who may help you with your research, your most important academic contact will naturally be your supervisor.

Research students may well have come to Manchester to work with a particular supervisor whose reputation has influenced them. The relationship with the supervisor is obviously critical to the success of postgraduate research, and if that relationship is not developed and maintained, it will be difficult or impossible for student and supervisor to ensure that a satisfactory thesis is completed within the required time.

It is important that from the beginning, the student and supervisor establish clear and explicit expectations of each other and plan a programme of work. To assist in this process your supervisor will discuss the Student Expectations form, available in eProg, with you shortly after you start.  This discussion will help make you aware of what you can expect from your supervisor, and what, in turn, they expect from you.

Meeting your supervisor

You should meet regularly with your main supervisor (normally once a fortnight if you are full-time, or once a month if you are part-time). At each meeting, targets should be set for the next meeting, which then provide the basis for discussion. While the supervisor and the School are there to support the successful completion of the thesis, the ultimate responsibility for completion is yours.

It is important that from the beginning, you and supervisors establish clear and explicit expectations of each other and plan a programme of work.

Supervisory Meeting Records

Every student and supervisor are required to keep a record of supervision meetings in eProg using the additional meeting form which is accessible at the top of your ‘My Progression’ page. It is primarily the student’s responsibility to maintain the supervision record, although supervisors can also create a record, and comment on those created by the student. The agreed form is submitted by one of the supervisors. You are advised to agree between you at the very earliest opportunity how this will be achieved and how often you will record supervisory meetings.

This will help you to organise and manage your research programme and will provide a structured framework in which your progress and targets can be discussed, planned and recorded at regular supervision meetings between you and your supervisor.

A complete record will assist you in the preparation of a CV and provide your supervisors and the school with an overview of your achievements.

Supervisory Roles

Main Supervisor

The supervisor’s main role is to give guidance about the nature of research and the standard expected, the planning of the research degree programme, literature and sources, attendance at taught courses where appropriate and about requisite techniques.

Co Supervisor

The co-supervisor may offer specialist advice or provide continuity of supervision when the main supervisor is absent from the University, in addition to providing you with a second opinion on research matters. Essentially, the co-supervisor should be knowledgeable in the area of research study but does not have to have the specific expertise of the main supervisor.  The balance of responsibility for your day-to-day supervision should be negotiated between you and your supervisors as the research progresses.


You are required to take responsibility for your own personal and professional development throughout the degree. Your main supervisor is your primary point of contact for consultation on all matters -academic, professional and personal- but you should also be aware of the opportunity to consult other members of their supervisory team.

You will be expected to:

  • Maintain regular contact with supervisors, according to the pattern of meetings agreed between the supervisor and student. The frequency of meetings will be determined by the nature of the research that is undertaken and the stage of development of your research, but a normal expectation would be for such meetings to take place every fortnight.
  • Prepare adequately for meetings with supervisors.
  • Keep to timetables and deadlines for the planning and submission of work, and generally maintain satisfactory progress with the programme of research. Develop, in consultation with the supervisor, an agreed schedule for progressing and submitting the thesis in a timely manner.
  • Make supervisors aware of any specific needs and of any circumstances likely to affect your work and take the initiative in raising issues or difficulties as soon as they arise, particularly in relation to targets relating to progress and achievement.
  • Attend and fully participate in any training and development opportunities, research-related and others that have been identified when agreeing your development needs with your supervisors.
  • Accept ultimate responsibility for your own research activity.

Changes in Supervisory Arrangements

The School cannot guarantee that students will be able to work with a particular supervisor or that they will have the same supervisor for the duration of their research degree, but will endeavour to ensure continuity wherever possible and make arrangements as necessary.

If the initial allocation of supervisor is inappropriate, a change of supervisor may be requested by the student or supervisor.  Although it should be borne in mind that there may be difficulties in finding a replacement supervisor with experience of the thesis research area. Funding bodies should also be notified when the main supervisor is changed.

If a supervisor is no longer in a position to continue with their supervision duties, (e.g. through moving to a new post at another institution) then the Divisional Coordinator should discuss the options with the student and assess the most beneficial outcome for the student. The Divisional Coordinator may be able to identify and allocate a new permanent supervisor with the appropriate academic background and supervisory experience.

Where the student / supervisor relationship breaks down, the Divisional Coordinator should be consulted initially and every attempt should be made to resolve the issues involved at School level. The Coordinator should be able to advise the student and consult with the PGR Director, and should be aware of the University’s complaints and appeals policies should a solution not be found at School or Faculty level.

Absence of Supervisors

A situation can arise in which a supervisor retires, transfers to another institution or is absent from the University for an extended period of time due to illness, research leave or other reasons. Where the period of absence is less than three months the co-supervisor should normally assume responsibility for the student until the main supervisor returns. Where the period of absence exceeds three months, it is essential in these circumstances that alternative arrangements are made in advance by the supervisory team, in liaison with the Divisional Coordinator, to ensure continuity of supervision and that the student’s interests are protected.

In all cases of research leave the Divisional Coordinator should ensure that either the person on leave continues with their supervision duties or that appropriate arrangements are made for a replacement.

If the main supervisor retires or becomes an honorary member of staff during the period of a student’s PhD degree, they can continue to undertake a supervisory role as co-supervisor within the supervisory team, but a new main supervisor must be appointed.