Find out about supervision, why it is important, how to do it well, and how to resolve problems.

Supervision is the distinctive teaching and learning process used for graduate research education at the University of Auckland and most universities worldwide.

You can find our policies and guidelines for postgraduate and doctoral supervision here: Supervision Policies and Guidelines.


  • University of Auckland research shows that supervision can be challenging for both supervisors and students.
  • It is useful to review practice and try new techniques. Reflecting on what happens may help to bring to the surface differences between supervisor and student understandings and expectations, or to clarify thinking at critical moments in the process.
  • Research literature indicates that good communication is fundamental to supervision. It plays an important role in building trust and goodwill, and helps to prevent misunderstandings between supervisor and student.
  • Good communication benefits the effectiveness and enjoyment of supervision as well as the progress of the student’s research.
  • Communication skills are an aspect of our interpersonal functioning that can always be improved to meet the demands of different situations. In the early stages of supervision especially, regular meetings will help to establish effective communication.

Deciding to get into supervision

In doctoral supervision, in particular, a supervisory working relationship will go on for a long time. These two checklists will help you to think through the decision to supervise or be supervised:


Getting started

Students and supervisors will likely have different expectations of supervision, so it is important to discuss these early on and make agreements for how you will work together.

They may also have quite different understandings of how the research process works and the time it takes to achieve certain phases of the work.

Raising these for discussion will be helpful for both of you, but especially for the student as a novice researcher.

These agreements can be renegotiated at any time in response to changing circumstances.

Resolving supervision problems

Problems can arise in supervision for all sorts of reasons. The tools below will help you with informal and formal processes for resolving problems.