Dealing with supervisor-student problems

Scenario

Your Faculty has been successful in increasing HDR enrolments but supervisory capacity is now stretched. Within the first two weeks of starting in the REC role, you receive a number of complaints from students about their supervisors. Two students say that they can’t get sign off on their progress reports because their principal supervisor, a senior academic, has not met with them for more than six months. Another says that she has received no helpful feedback on her work, and that the supervisor hasn’t helped her with a candidature confirmation paper due next week. A fourth student has complained about a ‘personality clash’ with his third supervisor in two years. The student’s progress has not been satisfactory and he is now saying that he has been bullied.

Most of the complaining students want to change supervisors and have nominated people that you know are very good supervisors but who are already overcommitted.

  1. Whose role is it to deal with problems with supervision?
  2. Where would you start in addressing these complaints? How would you deal with them?
  3. What changes could be made to reduce the frequency of supervisor-student problems in the Faculty? What would it take to implement these changes?

Solutions identified by colleagues can be found here.

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