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General Roles of Postgraduates and Supervisors

The Learning Agreement will list agreed roles and responsibilities between a student and their supervisor. It is important that a programme of work, which includes details of how often and in what form liaison will take place between a student and their supervisor/cosupervisor, is created from the outset which is realistic and is regularly monitored by the student. Equally, the nature of study for a PhD programme goes further than merely writing up a thesis, and it is therefore advisable to develop a plan of the generic skills training a student may consider useful for the successful completion of their programme, to plan intended participation in Research Institute conferences/workshops/ and conferences in their specialist area. It is advisable for the student to reach an agreement with their supervisor on how their personal tutor/mentor will be allocated and the role they will play in the course of their study.

The candidate should let their supervisor know at this point if they have any special/individual needs which should be taken into account. It is important to document these in the Learning Agreement so that a student’s supervisor can take into account any necessary arrangements for the candidate to complete their research. (N.B. it is the duty of the supervisor to encourage the student to inform the Equalities Office of their needs in order for appropriate support to be organised.)

Local advisor (split-site candidates and on-line Doctoral programme only)

Students should identify the role that their local advisor will play during periods at their home institution, and indicate the likely level of support and frequency of meetings. (Note: the advisor is not required to sign the Learning Agreement, but should be sent a copy as a record of their agreed role.)

Research Support

In certain research projects (only if applicable) students may need to consider the equipments and facilities (including the financing and purchasing of such equipments and facilities) they need, along with the health and safety concerns associated with the project which must be addressed before starting their research. Another element of research applicable to some projects maybe field work. When planning field work it maybe worthwhile to consider the associated costs, who will meet these costs, if extended periods of field work are an expected part of the project then it may be necessary agree with a student’s supervisor how supervision will take place during this time.

Consultation and Review

Students should agree a set number of minimum meetings every year. For such formal meetings it may be worthwhile to prepare in advance the topics concerning the meeting. Keeping a record of what happened in these meetings might be helpful. The meetings should ensure if you are on track with your initially agreed programme of work. It is the student’s responsibility to review and develop the initially agreed programme of work and to update their supervisor on attained progress or difficulties. It is important for the  student to ascertain what the expectations are for progression points such as annual progress report, self evaluation report, interim assessment and internal evaluation.

Approach to Collaborating with an Organisation

When establishing a collaborative partnership with an organisation it is worthwhile to document the listed areas of mutual benefit for all parties. The student should set their objectives in terms of what they intend to gain from the partnership and how the organisation will benefit from being a part of the student’s research project. The practicalities of working at an organisation must also be planned and discussed with the organisation such as liaison with the company/supervisor, protocol for contact with the collaborating company.

Learning Agreement Questions

The questions listed at on the University's postgraduate research website should be your starting point when you discuss your Learning Agreement with your supervisor. The list is not exhaustive and it is likely you will have to consider further questions when you think about your specific situation. Additional headings can be added as required.