Masters by Research Supervision Guidelines


Masters by research students and supervisors at the University.


This document provides guidelines on what is expected of supervisors and students in the student/supervisor relationship.


Students are reminded that compliance with the degree regulations and the quality of their work is ultimately their responsibility. The role of the supervisor is to assist them to achieve the best research results of which they are capable. A co-operative relationship between students and supervisor helps to ensure a rewarding and productive research programme.


  • Supervisory roles
    • Main supervisor
    • Co-supervisor
    • Adviser/advisory panel
  • Expectations
    • Before enrolment
    • Beginning of study
    • During study
  • Responsibilities
    • Supervisors
    • Students
  • Supervisory load


Supervisory roles

Main supervisor:

  • has primary responsibility for the provision of academic advice and support and for associated administrative requirements


  • is proactive in providing academic advice and support
  • is normally a University of Auckland staff member (in which case, they may substitute for the main supervisor in their absence)

Adviser/advisory committee:

  • provides advice and support when requested
  • may be members of University of Auckland staff or another institution
  • in the case of an advisory committee, will usually comprise no more than 4 advisers


Before enrolment

  • Before enrolment, the student and supervisor/s are expected to discuss:
    • the proposed thesis research project
    • the resources required to carry out the research and their availability
    • the support that will need to be available to bring the research to a successful completion
    • any IP issues that may arise from the research
    • the respective obligations of supervisor and student in order to avoid possible misunderstandings

Beginning of study

  • At the beginning of study, the student and supervisor/s are expected to discuss:
    • any IP issues that may result from the research, copyright, and authorship of any publications that may be written based on the thesis research

During study

  • During study, the student and supervisor/s are expected to:
    • meet at least once a month, but in some research areas and/or at some stages of thesis research, they may need to meet more frequently



  • At start of supervision:
    • draw the student’s attention to all relevant University policies including, but not limited to, those on the conduct of research, ethical requirements, safe working practices, intellectual property, copyright requirements and authorship
    • give guidance about the nature of research and the standard expected, about the planning of the research programme, about literature and sources, resources and their availability, and about requisite techniques (including arranging for instruction where necessary)
    • discuss with the student the level of contact needed, for example through meetings, tutorials or seminars and ensure as far as possible that this contact is maintained
    • direct the student to appropriate sources of information on ‘administrative’ matters, e.g. the length of the thesis, the recommended style and layout, the number of copies required, regulations regarding extensions, possible sources of research funding
    • establish early on the style and layout to be used in written work (e.g. Modern Languages Association (MLA) Handbook or a source from the Selected Bibliography in: Guide to Theses and Dissertations)
    • discuss the appropriate format for the thesis; if a thesis with publications and/or creative practice is to be presented, discuss and plan accordingly
      give advice on the timetable for preparation of the thesis
  • During the programme:
    • be accessible to the student at other appropriate times when they may need advice
    • give advice on the necessary completion dates of successive stages of the work so that the whole may be submitted within the scheduled time
    • request written work as appropriate, and return that work with constructive feedback and in reasonable time
    • draw the student’s attention to any courses or workshops that are offered which will help the student overcome problems identified in written expression or other aspects of the student’s work
    • draw the student’s attention to any important new results or concepts that may have come to the attention of the supervisor through the supervisor's contacts with other professionals and researchers
    • provide guidance in fieldwork in the case of field based research
    • direct the student to other experts in the discipline, if appropriate, and advise on relevant conferences and organisations
    • arrange as appropriate for the student to talk about his or her work to individual staff or in seminars and to have practice in oral presentation of the research subject
    • monitor, evaluate and report on the student’s progress
    • ensure that the student is made aware in writing of any inadequacy of progress or of standards of work which fall below that generally expected
    • keep written records in relation to the supervision, and in particular of any concerns that have been communicated to the student
    • ensure in the final stages of thesis preparation that they are available to read drafts and provide prompt and appropriate written comments on those drafts


  • take responsibility for their learning and show initiative and self-motivation in their research as part of developing their intellectual independence
  • adhere to all University regulations, policies and guidelines, particularly with respect to the conduct of research (including academic integrity, requirements for ethics approval and copyright) and health and safety in the workplace (including research undertaken outside the University e.g. fieldwork)
  • maintain clear, open communication with supervisors
  • take the initiative in raising problems or difficulties, including difficulties with accessing sources or resources
  • discuss with the supervisor the type of guidance and comments that are most helpful, and agree on a schedule of meetings
  • take the initiative in organising supervisory meetings according to the agreed schedule, and take and circulate notes from meetings
  • maintain contact as agreed with supervisor(s) and attend all arranged meetings with the supervisor(s) fully prepared
  • give serious attention to the guidance and feedback given by the supervisor(s) and negotiate between feedback from the supervisor, co-supervisor and advisers should it differ
  • maintain the progress of the work in accordance with the stages agreed with the supervisor, including, in particular, completing and presenting written material as required in sufficient time to allow for comments and discussion before proceeding to the next stage
  • alert the supervisor to any issues arising that might impact on their ability to progress with the research
  • decide when they wish to submit the thesis, taking due account of the supervisor’s opinion, and ensuring that University deadlines are complied with

Supervisory load

  • Staff members will not normally have supervision responsibilities for more than six full-time equivalent (FTE) research students at any one time
  • All students (doctoral, masters and honours) undertaking a research thesis, portfolio, dissertation or project of 30 points or more would be included in determining supervision load
  • Sole supervision of a 120 point masters thesis or a 30 point dissertation/project would constitute 1 or 0.25 FTE research student supervision load respectively
  • The FTE research student supervision load for jointly supervised theses, portfolios, dissertations and projects will be apportioned appropriately between the supervisors, co-supervisors and advisors appointed to the supervisory team
  • A staff member’s supervision load is negotiated with their academic head in the light of their overall workload. Consideration should be given to the following:
  • A lower supervision load would normally be expected for less experienced staff; for example, staff at the lecturer level should normally have a supervision load of fewer than 3 FTE research students
  • Research supervision should not normally exceed a maximum of 40% of a staff member’s teaching load; a higher supervision load may be appropriate for staff on research only or research intensive appointments
  • A higher supervision load may be appropriate for senior staff, particularly if supervision is managed through effective research groups such as laboratory, methodology or writing groups or through team supervision with key supervisors supported by active co-supervisors and post-docs
  • Supervision of masters and honours theses, portfolios, dissertations and projects may be more demanding than supervision of doctoral theses given their shorter timeframe and the sole nature of many such supervisions
  • The level of supervisory input required may vary during a research programme; for example, during practical or field-based experiments or periods of intense writing greater supervisory commitment may be required


The following definitions apply to this document:

Academic head is the head of the relevant school, department, institute or faculty.

Masters by research students are students enrolled in a masters degree which includes a research component of at least 90 points.

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.

Key relevant documents

Document management and control

Owner: Pro Vice-Chancellor Education
Content manager: School of Graduate Studies
Date approved: September 2018
Review date: September 2023