The Research Supervision Recognition Programme is a professional development toolkit which includes the sector approved Good Supervisory Practice Framework and offers a route to recognition, specifically for research supervision, from the UK Council for Graduate Education.
Recognising Research Supervision— Shining a light on an undervalued area of academic practice
Supervisors play a critical role in influencing candidates’ chances of completing on time, in determining the quality of their final outputs and, most crucially of all, in shaping their experiences as early career researchers. The importance of good research supervision is, therefore, hard to overstate.
At the same time research supervision is an increasingly complex activity, in which supervisors are having to respond to the growth, diversification, and welfare of the PGR candidate population.
However, training and development opportunities to support research supervision are limited at many UK universities, sometimes to only half a day (see Taylor 2018). This can leave many supervisors feeling undervalued and overwhelmed by the scale of their task and reduces the scope of those responsible for academic development.
“I think research supervision is a fundamental part of my academic practice both as a researcher and as an educator… However, I think that research supervision is generally undervalued as both a research and a teaching activity, perhaps because it falls somewhere between the two. To do it well, it is time-intensive, and that is rarely accurately reflected in workload allocations or promotion criteria.”Anonymous Community Consultation Respondent
In order to highlight the importance of research supervision at a national level, the UK Council for Graduate Education has embarked on three major initiatives in the past three years:
- In 2016, the UKCGE initiated a national award for Outstanding Research Supervisor of the Year, the first of its kind in the world. The award recognises one supervisor for their outstanding practice throughout their careers.
- In 2017, the UKCGE created the Research Supervisors Network, which provides supervisors with means of communicating with each other and supplies a range of resources to support them to enhance their practice.
- In 2019, the UKCGE launched the Research Supervision Recognition Programme.
Good Supervisory Practice Framework— Setting out the complexity of effective Research Supervision
The Research Supervision Recognition Programme is underpinned by a Good Practice Framework which sets out – for the first time at a national level – the wide-ranging, highly complex and demanding set of roles that modern research supervisors must undertake to perform the role effectively.
The framework is designed to set expectations for all research supervisors, to support supervisor training and development programmes, and to inform institutional policies so that the demanding nature of modern research supervision is properly recognised.
The framework, authored by Professor Stan Taylor of Durham University, is informed by the substantial body of academic research into doctoral education and has been validated during a pilot study involving research supervisors across the UK.
Structured Self-Reflection— A gateway to targeted professional development
A principle of the programme is that reflecting on one’s own practice as a research supervisor is essential to doctoral pedagogy, just as it is at all other levels of educational practice.
“Research supervision doesn’t ‘just happen’; neither is anyone ‘naturally adept’. Effective supervision does not just appear – it evolves over time and it incorporates successes and difficult experiences. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to reflect on these issues.”Anonymous participant from the Research Supervision Recognition Pilot
The Research Supervision Recognition Programme includes the resources required to reflect on all aspects of research supervision. This can be undertaken on a piecemeal basis, perhaps in response to particular challenges or difficult experiences, or it can be undertaken as a comprehensive review.
For those who undertake a structured and comprehensive reflection on their practice as research supervisors, there is the option, should they wish, to apply for recognition of their practice by submitting their reflective account for review by their peers.
The process for gaining recognition requires applicants to provide evidence that their personal practice aligns to the Good Supervisory Practice Framework. Every applicant receives comprehensive, constructive feedback on their accounts from UKCGE reviewers. Those who are successful will become UKCGE Recognised Research Supervisors.