Supervisor Roles and Responsibilities

Primary Supervisor

The primary supervisor is there to provide academic advice and practical support from the inception of the project to the submission of the thesis. He or she is the main point of contact for the student and the administration. The primary supervisor will take responsibility for meeting all the responsibilities listed below and will convene meetings with co-supervisors and advisers. The primary supervisor should also ensure that the Head of Department is informed where disagreements between supervisors and/or advisers may be compromising the progress of the project.


The supervisor should:

  1. assist in integrating the candidate into the academic and social life of the department
  2. provide a collaborative research environment and encourage open communication
  3. ensure that meetings with co-supervisors and/or departmental advisory committees operate in a constructive manner
  4. be sensitive to cultural, political or gender issues relating to the research topic or the candidate
  5. hold regular formal supervision meetings at least once a month in normal circumstances at which the candidate is guaranteed uninterrupted individual attention
  6. be available, within reason, at other times to provide assistance when particular difficulties arise
  7. encourage the candidate to adopt an independent approach to learning
  8. ensure that the candidate is involved in setting the timetable for the research and reviewing progress of the research and its timetable
  9. provide full, prompt, honest and informative feedback to the candidate on work in progress
  10. remain conversant with the issues and the literature relating to the candidate's research
  11. provide reliable and well-informed guidance in all matters of sound research practice
  12. accept that, in some aspects of the topic at least, the candidate's level of knowledge might eventually exceed that of the supervisor
  13. ensure that the candidate is properly forewarned if the supervisor is to be absent from the University for more than a brief period (for the purposes of academic leave, for example)
  14. arrange, through the Head of Department, for adequate alternative supervision during any period of absence, either by assigning another staff member to take over supervision or by setting up other means of communication (by e-mail, for example)
  15. be prepared to give advice on sources of financial support, such as bridging grants, or direct the candidate to those who can provide such advice
  16. encourage the candidate to become an active member of the professional community, national and international
  17. ensure that the candidate contributes to research seminars within the department
  18. encourage the candidate to attend relevant conferences within Malaysia and overseas and offer guidance in the preparation of conference presentations
  19. identify work by the candidate suitable for publication in refereed journals or other academic publications and assist in the preparation of articles for submission
  20. make clear from the outset how issues relating to joint publication of work arising from the candidate's thesis are to be handled
  21. not expect the candidate to work in the capacity of 'technician' or 'secretary' to the supervisor

Staff may not supervise candidates with whom they have a close family or personal relationship. If a close emotional or other relationship develops, the Head of Department must be informed so that appropriate alternative arrangements can be made to ensure that the professional nature of the supervision continues.

In general terms, it is essential that candidates and supervisors meet frequently, that each understands how the other views the progress of the research, and that there is a mutually co-operative personal and academic partnership based on honesty and trust.