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This section brings together all the information and advice available to you as a new supervisor (or to serve as a reference and update for the more experienced).

Essentials of Supervision

Contents of this section:





key documents

There are some key documents you need to be familiar with, as these outline your responsibilities as a supervisor from the University and divisional perspective, and also from a funder’s perspective if you have students funded by a research council.

The section on supervision in the University’s Policy on Research degrees

The MPLS Division's Code of Practice on the Supervision of Graduate Research Students (Word document); you can also view the Code of Practice on Supervision as a webpage.

The MPLS Division's Policy on DPhil Working Hours and Holidays.

The UKRI Statement of Expectations for PostgraduateTraining (external PDF)

Support and resources

The Centre for Teaching and Learning has developed an online course, DPhil Supervision in the Sciences. It is designed as a guide to DPhil supervision at Oxford and covers: 

  • Key information 
  • The DPhil life cycle
  • Key responsibilities of supervisors
  • Co-supervision
  • Establishing an effective working relationship
  • Supporting academic writing and feedback provision
  • Supporting research students with particular needs
  • Students' career development
  • Resources and support for supervisors

The course takes an estimated two to three hours to complete and it is recommended that participants take the course over more then one sitting. 

Some departments also organise briefing and discussion sessions for their supervisors, which are useful opportunities to update yourself on regulations and processes, and to share practice and discuss experiences. Please contact your Director of Graduate Studies to find out if your department is planning such a session. 

Vitae have a series of resources on Supervising and Managing Researchers. Vitae is a national organisation providing support for realising the potential of researchers and supporting their professional and career development.


One of the most important times for ensuring students’ expectations of their studies, and of you, are managed, is at induction. Your department will have organised induction activities for all incoming DPhil students at the beginning of the academic year and these will be in line with the University’s Policy in this area.

Make yourself familiar with what the department has on offer and encourage your students to engage with it. Different students will find different resources useful.

You should also arrange a more tailored induction for your student(s) to enable them to quickly become familiar with other detailed aspects of the University, division or department where there may still be ‘gaps’ from the overarching events. The fundamental part of this will be the introduction to your research group - the people, equipment and workspaces they will be engaging with. Ensure they are becoming familiar with the structure of the doctorate and underpinning processes (and know where to go to find out more).

The MPLS Division has created a number of useful documents to support you and your student in defining the scope of the DPhil project. It is not a formal requirement to use these documents, but many will find them useful in planning the skills development and the work to lead to a successful completion of the DPhil. 

1. The MPLS Project Initiation Plan will aid in the planning of the DPhil.

2. There is a Training Needs Analysis template to identify the skills your DPhil student needs to complete their studies successfully, with advice for supervisors on how to use it.

3. Information on training courses and other activities to support core skills development:

For information and ideas for induction, and for establishing routines and good practice for supervision, download the MPLS Code of Practice on the Supervision of Graduate Research Students (Word document) or you can view the MPLS Code of Practice on Supervision as a webpage.

Divisional requirements, expectations, documents and resources

DPhil supervision at oxford online course

All DPhil supervisors in MPLS departments who are new to DPhil supervision, or new to supervising DPhil students at Oxford, are required to take this online course when it is available. It provides both an introduction to the specific roles and responsibilities of supervisors at Oxford, and an outline of more general aspects of DPhil supervision.

You are strongly encouraged to complete the course over multiple sessions, rather than in one sitting. You will need to complete all sections of the course before you can download a certificate of completion. 

Requirements of the Divisional Code of Practice on Supervision

The MPLS Division’s Code of Practice on the Supervision of Graduate Research Students (see link above) requires you to

  • Establish a timetable of regular meetings for detailed discussion of your student’s progress (these should take place at least once every two weeks averaged across the year)
  • Agree a research plan and programme of work, establishing clear academic expectations and milestones. There are a range of documents to support this including the following (links to all these are above under 'Induction'): the MPLS Project Initiation Plan which has been designed to support you and your student to define the scope of the DPhil project; the Training Needs Analysis (TNA) document which will help you understand  the core skills your DPhil student needs to complete their degree successfully and guidance on its use; a document on training courses and other activities to support core skills development to help you match training provision to your student's needs. It is not a formal requirement to use these but they will be useful in planning the work ahead, and for review as the work progresses.
  • Agree a timetable for submission of any written work; and return the student’s work within a reasonable time.
  • Advise your student of departmental and research group /laboratory health and safety regulations. Supervisors are responsible for all aspects of safety under your control, and particularly for the safe conduct of experiments carried out in the course of your student’s research.
  • Formally assess your student’s subject-specific and career and professional development training needs on a regular basis (as a minimum this should happen at least once each year) and advise on opportunities available to meet these needs. See below for information and resources for assessing training needs, and for finding training provision. 
  • Give your students clear feedback and check that their understanding of this marries with your own. You are required to write a report on your student’s progress at the end of each term on the Graduate Supervision Reporting (GSR) system. There is more information about GSR here. Ensure your students are clear about any issues or problems you have identified with their work and help them form a clear plan of how they are going to move ahead.
  • Support your student’s reflections on their own progress. They are required to submit a report in GSR each term too and if they are able to reflect appropriately on their progress this should help you identify further where they need support. There is a specific Preparing for the Transfer of Status form (Word document) for them to use in the term pre Transfer which will focus their reflections on preparing for this key milestone (or view the Preparing for Transfer of Status form as a webpage). A similar form is available for Confirmation of Status (Word document form) (or view the Confirmation of Status form as a webpage). 
  • Inform the departmental Director of Graduate Studies through termly reporting mechanisms of any concerns about your student’s progress, attendance or other needs.

assessing training needs and finding training provision

The Training Needs Analysis (TNA) form focuses on the core skills that DPhil students need to complete their degree. We provide guidance on how to use the TNA. Links for both are above under 'Induction'. Supervisors should expect students to complete the TNA form and then review it with them to determine how accurate their self assessment is. Supervisors may also use different types of formative assessment to evaluate their new student and inform them of which skills need to be developed. 

The Researcher Development Framework (RDF) provides a framework for planning and supporting the broader personal, professional and career development of graduate research students. You and your student can use the RDF to identify and assess the skills, attributes and experience that the student needs to carry out their research, complete their DPhil and develop their career. It will then help you identify the gaps and prioritise training needs. 

The MPLS Division offers a range of generic graduate training, together with information and provision for Enterprise and Public Engagement with Research (PER).

There are also a number of other training providers in the University who offer courses for research students. 

examples of good practice and supervisory team structures