Postgraduate Supervision Guidelines (2016 PhD Statute)


Masters by research candidates, doctoral candidates and supervisors at the University


This document provides guidelines on what is expected of supervisors and candidates in the student/supervisor relationship. It does not deal with matters pertaining to funding


Candidates 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 candidate and supervisor helps to ensure a rewarding and productive research programme


  • Supervisory roles
    • Main supervisor
    • Joint supervisors
    • Co-supervisor
    • Adviser/s (doctoral candidates only)
  • Expectations
    • Before enrolment
    • Beginning of study
    • During study
  • Responsibilities
    • Supervisors
    • Candidates
  • Supervisory load


Supervisory roles

Main supervisor:

  • must be a University staff member, has primary responsibility for the provision of academic advice and support and for associated administrative requirements


Joint supervisors:

  • have joint responsibility for the provision of academic advice and support
  • one of the supervisors, who must be a University staff member, must have primary responsibility 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/s (doctoral candidates only):

  • provide advice and support when requested
  • may be members of University of Auckland staff or another institution
  • meet with the candidate at least once a year to review progress and provide guidance on progress and content of research



Before enrolment

  • Before enrolment, the candidate 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/s and candidate in order to avoid possible misunderstandings


Beginning of study

  • At the beginning of study, the candidate 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 candidate 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 candidate’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 candidate 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 candidate 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 and/or publications and, if appropriate, discuss agreement on co-authorship
  • During the programme:
    • be accessible to the candidate at other appropriate times when he or she 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 candidate’s attention to any courses or workshops that are offered which will help the candidate overcome problems identified in written expression or other aspects of the candidate’s work
    • draw the candidate'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 candidate to other experts in the discipline, if appropriate, and advise on relevant conferences and organisations
    • arrange as appropriate for the candidate 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 candidate’s progress
    • ensure that the candidate 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 candidate
    • 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
  • Preparing for oral examination:
    • help the candidate understand the examiners’ comments and how their requirements might be met


  • 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/s 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/s, co­-supervisor and adviser/s should it differ
  • take responsibility for their learning and show initiative and self­-motivation in their research as part of developing their intellectual independence
  • maintain the progress of the work in accordance with the stages agreed with the supervisor/s, 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/s to any issues arising that might impact on their ability to progress with the research
  • decide when he or she wishes 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 (i.e. all doctoral theses), portfolios, dissertations and projects will be apportioned appropriately between the supervisors, co­-supervisors and advisers 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

Doctoral candidates are students enrolled in a doctoral degree at the University

Masters by research candidates 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

Document management and control

Owner: Dean of Graduate Studies

Content manager: School of Graduate Studies

Date approved: November 2015

Review date: November 2018