Reporter 445, 24 January 2000
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Amendments to the Code are noted in bold type.
Code of Practice for Research Degree Candidatures
Within this Code, Heads of Resource Centres may delegate their responsibilities to Heads of Departments and / or Postgraduate Research Tutors.
This code of practice sets out minimum standards of procedure in connection with the supervision of the research degrees at the University of Leeds. This code may be supplemented by resource centre codes covering the practices of individual resource centres. Resource Centres must ensure that any internal code is made available to research students and supervisors.
It is essential that each Resource Centre should have in place an adequate management structure for handling postgraduate matters. The resource centre may allocate responsibilities to departments. There should be a Postgraduate Research Tutor who (subject to the overall responsibility of the Head of the Resource Centre) has general responsibility for co-ordinating admission, pastoral care and recording progress of research students and for liaison with the Research Degrees Office. In most cases the Postgraduate Research Tutor is likely to report to a Postgraduate Research Committee, but a Resource Centre may, where it believes it to be appropriate, use some other mechanism so long as there is a clear and effective method for report and discussion of individual matters and matters of policy.
Applications for admission to postgraduate research should be considered by the Postgraduate Research Committee or by the Postgraduate Research Tutor and potential supervisor. An acknowledgement should be sent on receipt of an application and the Postgraduate Research Tutor should ensure that the application is considered expeditiously. Where practicable an interview should take place. Careful consideration should be given to the suitability and qualifications of applicants and appropriate expertise for supervision and adequate resources must be available (e.g. equipment, library collections and computing facilities and software) for the proper conduct of the research. Applicants should be accepted only where appropriate expertise for supervision and adequate resources are available.
Where the applicant’s first language is not English, steps should be taken to ensure (for example from the results of tests taken by the applicant) that he or she has a sufficient grasp of the language to embark on the research, bearing in mind the demands of the discipline and the University’s Regulations. Where further English language training is required, it should be ensured that appropriate arrangements are made. Formal offers of admission can be made only by the University Research Degrees Office acting on behalf of the Graduate Board. Postgraduate Research Tutors should make clear recommendations on matters such as the need for preliminary or additional courses and the charging of bench fees so that these can be specified in the offer and brought to the attention of the student and sponsors where relevant.
It is the responsibility of the Head of the Resource Centre5 to recommend a suitable supervisor or supervisors to the Graduate Board. Where co-supervisors are appointed, one is to be identified as the
principal supervisor. The Graduate Board normally requires members of staff to attend a course on research degree supervision organised by the Staff and Departmental Development Unit before being recommended for appointment as a supervisor. Supervision should normally be arranged contemporaneously with the offer of a place. Adequate steps should be taken to ensure that the student is introduced to the facilities of the resource centre and the University relevant to the research and that he or she is fully aware of relevant health and safety regulations6.
A sole supervisor must normally be a full-time member of the academic staff7 holding a permanent appointment (with any relevant probationary period having been confirmed) and who has had previous experience of research supervision. Recommendations for staff on ‘rolling’ or fixed term contracts to act as sole supervisors are considered by the Graduate Board on an ad personam basis and those considered for appointment must have a reasonable expectation of continuing in post for the duration of the research degree candidature. Probationary staff may be appointed as joint supervisors with more experienced, permanent members. It is the responsibility of the Head of the Resource Centre8 to ensure that no supervisor is overloaded with supervisory responsibilities and the position of individual members of staff should be reviewed annually. The numbers of research students allocated to staff should be reported annually to the relevant resource centre body overseeing postgraduate matters9.
The responsibilities of a supervisor may be summarised as follows;
Assisting the student in defining the problem which is to be tackled in the course of the research. It is vital that this should give sufficient scope for investigation appropriate to the degree but not be so large a topic that it cannot be mastered within the normal period of the candidature. Where the research is sponsored by an outside body, the terms of such sponsorship must be carefully considered.
Assisting the student to clarify the hypotheses upon which the proposed research is based and to establish details of the research programme, such as resources required and experimental design.
Ensuring in consultation with the Head of Resource Centre that the student has access to the necessary facilities for the research;
Approving a timetable of work and endeavouring to see that it is followed. Supervisors should emphasise to students that the University attaches great importance to the timely completion of research and that unless a reasoned case for suspension of study or extension has been approved by the Graduate Board a ‘late’ thesis will not be admitted for examination.
Assisting the students in identifying training needs and in reflecting on their personal development, for instance by reference to the Statement on Learning Outcomes;
Seeking to ensure that the student receives available research training (e.g. by attendance at courses) which may be necessary or appropriate in the individual case.
Agreeing a supervisory programme with the student and arranging regular meetings with the student (see 4.6 below);
Preparing regular reports on the student’s progress (see 6.1 below);
commenting within a reasonable time on written work submitted by the student;
otherwise advising generally on the research and preparation of the thesis;
reading and commenting on the whole of the draft thesis prior to submission.
If, despite the provisions set out in 4.2 and 4.3 above the supervisor leaves the University, the Head of the Resource Centre must satisfy himself / herself that alternative and acceptable supervision arrangements are in place and must report the matter to the Graduate Board’s Programmes of Study and Audit Group.
Where the supervisor is likely to be absent from the University for an extended period, the Postgraduate Research Tutor should ensure that some appropriate arrangements are made for advising the student and that the progress of a research student is not detrimentally affected by the absence of the supervisor. Where the absence exceeds three months an alternative supervisor or co-supervisor must be appointed.
Students have responsibilities as follows;
to present written work regularly in a neat and legible form and to an agreed timescale;
to prepare issues they wish to discuss at supervision meetings and to seek out the supervisor as problems arise;
to agree to a supervisory programme and to attend for formal supervision meetings;
to submit regular written summaries of overall progress to their supervisors or, where appropriate, Research Support Group / Postgraduate Research Tutor / Head of Resource Centre (every six months in year 1 and annually thereafter).
to take measures to attend appropriate training courses, personal development programmes and research seminars in consultation with their supervisor.
The expectation is that a full-time research student has a right to a minimum of 12 supervision meetings10 a year. The relevant number for part-time students is 6 a year. However, the pattern and timing of meetings will vary according to the precise stage of the candidature and between subject areas. Heads of Resource Centres11 are encouraged to specify the minimum number of meetings required in their area subject to meeting the minimum requirements specified by the University in this Code. Notes should be kept of all formal supervision meetings.
The University is assessing alternative methods of providing support for research students. These will be reviewed in 2000, in the light of experience, with a view to establishing best practice. Suggestions on models for supervisory support are included in Appendix 1.
Formal assessment monitoring.
There should be regular reports by the supervisor on the student’s progress. As a minimum there should be a report at the mid-point of the first year of the candidature12, at the transfer stage and at least annually thereafter. Reports should be considered by the Postgraduate Research Committee or other channel adopted by the Resource Centre. It is essential that the student should be given clear information in writing on the assessment of progress. Where progress is deemed to be unsatisfactory, the student should be interviewed by the Postgraduate Research Tutor and the supervisor and specific instructions and objectives given. The student should be advised that failure to meet those requirements may lead to a recommendation for the termination of the candidature.
Most research candidatures are subject to a process whereby the student is formally assessed and, if successful in the assessment, is ‘transferred’ to a specific degree category after an initial, provisional stage. All assessment Panels must include at least one independent individual who has not been involved in the supervisory support arrangements for the student. The decision on transfer should be based on a report which should include a synopsis of the work carried out, a planned schedule of work, a summary of the periodic reports by the supervisor and at least one piece of written work. The student must be interviewed by the assessment Panel and this should take the form of a viva voce examination. It is important that the prescribed time-limits for ‘transfer’ decisions are adhered to.
The decision on transfer must be recorded in writing, signed by the members of the assessment Panel and may contain a brief assessment of the student’s progress. In cases where students are not transferred to a degree category they must receive a copy of the decision made by the assessment Panel.
The Head of the Resource Centre should keep a comprehensive record of the student’s candidature, including notes of supervision meetings, reports and information (for example, medical certificates) having a bearing on the student’s progress.
Heads of Resource Centres13 are strongly encouraged to make provision for research students to present their work at least once a year at seminars involving staff and other research students.
Student Representation and Channels of Communication and Complaints
Heads of Resource Centres13 should ensure that postgraduate research students are represented on the postgraduate or other relevant departmental staff-student committee and that adequate opportunity is given to discuss issues affecting them.
Students should make use of the University Complaints Procedure (an outline of which is set out in the Research Student Handbook) if they are dissatisfied with any aspect of their supervision or with facilities available for their research. They should be encouraged to consult the supervisor or the Postgraduate Research Tutor.
All Resource Centres should have in place a procedure to provide a student with a means of appeal against an adverse decision affecting the student’s progress (for example refusal to transfer from the provisional category or a recommendation for discontinuance of study).
Requirements for the examination of research degree candidatures (including the appointment of examiners) are prescribed by the Graduate Board. It should be noted that no member of staff who has been substantially involved in the research may serve as an Internal Examiner. By accepting appointment, examiners agree on a maximum time-scale of three months for completion of the examination, including the oral examination and submission of the examiners’ report. Departments are reminded that an oral examination is required in all cases on the first occasion on which a research degree thesis is examined.
Minimum standards of facilities provision for full-time students
As a general principle the Graduate Board has specified that access to facilities such as printing, photocopying and common room facilities for research students should be commensurate with the requirements for the research. A clear statement on these matters should be included in Departmental/Resource Centre Codes of Practice.
Issues related to the appropriate resources for the proper conduct of the research (e.g. equipment, library collections and computing facilities and software) must be considered prior to the acceptance of the student (see 3 above).
The Graduate Board wishes to move to a position where the University through its Resource Centres is able to provide the following for all full-time research students who request or require them:
Sufficient flexible work space (including a writing surface and shelf space)
opportunities for interaction with fellow researchers and academic staff;
access to basic word processing facilities;
access to a printer for work prescribed by the Resource Centre;
access to a photocopier for work prescribed by the Resource Centre;
access to a telephone for work prescribed by the Resource Centre;
lockable storage for books and papers.
Access to the institution’s computing network is provided by the University for all research students. Some Resource Centres are responsible for ensuring that additional computing and technical support is provided for specific research projects.
Responsibilities of Heads of Resource Centres.
The responsibilities of Heads of Resource Centres may be summarised as follows:
to ensure that an adequate management structure and procedures are in place for handling postgraduate matters;
the delegation, where relevant, of responsibilities for postgraduate matters to appropriate individuals (for example Heads of Department or Postgraduate Research Tutors);
to recommend supervisors to the Graduate Board;
to make alternative and acceptable supervision arrangements when a supervisor leaves the University;
to ensure that no supervisor is overloaded with supervisory responsibilities and to review the position annually;
to specify the minimum number of supervisory meetings within their area (subject to meeting the minimum requirements specified by the University in this Code);
to ensure that a comprehensive record of the research degree candidature of all students is maintained;
to ensure that postgraduate research students are represented on relevant resource centre or departmental committees;
to ensure that minimum standards of facilities are available to research students.
Recommended Supervisory Support Models.
One of the following models1 for providing supervision are recommended for establishment within Resource Centres:
All the supervisory support models indicated below should include within their procedures an interview with the student on a regular basis and at least annually, in the absence of the supervisor(s), to enable the student to comment upon the nature of the supervision received and to draw attention to any matters of concern.
Model 1: A Supervisor together with a Research Support Group of between 2-3 (which may include individuals from outside the Department or external to the University); the Research Support Group is advised to meet with the student every 6 months (and is required to meet at least annually) to review reports submitted by the student.
Model 2: One main supervisor with a second supervisor (who may be external to the University). Formal meetings with the student to be held at least annually with the supervisors and the Postgraduate Research Tutor or Head of Department to review reports submitted by students. A nominee should be appointed where the Postgraduate Research Tutor/head of Department is the supervisor.
Model 3: One supervisor together with a nominated individual from whom advice might be sought and to whom problems might be referred. Formal meetings to be held at least annually to review reports with the student.
Regular reports should be made by the supervisor and by the appropriate supervisory support team on the student’s progress as required in the Code of Practice.
When candidates are considered for transfer to a specific degree category after an initial, provisional stage, the supervisory support teams, outlined above, should not be responsible for the formal assessment of the work and all assessment Panels should include at least one independent individual who has not been involved in the supervisory support arrangements for the student. These arrangements do not, however, preclude a member of the support team from serving as a member of an assessment Panel.