Historically, the model has been for candidates to have a single supervisor. But over the last three decades or so there has been a move to co- or team supervision to enhance the experience of doctoral candidates by reducing their reliance upon a single individual and giving them access to a broader range of expertise and support.
However, co-supervision can have a downside. The involvement of more supervisors in the process can create a potential for disagreement and divergence within the team and leave the candidate playing ‘piggy in the middle’ to the detriment of their experience.
Literature and Evidence
Usually, supervisory teams include a designated main supervisor and one or more secondary supervisors. As Guerin and Green (2015) have argued, It is important that there is clarity within the team about the respective roles the supervisors will play and that this is understood by the student.
Your evidence here might include consulting institutional and/or research council guidelines of primary and secondary supervisory roles and discussing them with co-supervisors and candidates.
This is particularly important where supervisors come from external organizations and may have a limited understanding of the degree as in the case of many professional doctorates (see for example Neumann 2005, Fillery-Travis et al 2017), practice-led doctorates (see for example Allpress et al 2012, Duxbury 2012) and industrial or commercial doctorates (Malfory 2011, Cuthbert and Molla 2014)
As well as clarity of roles, as Parker-Jenkins (2018) has pointed out, there is a need for co-supervisors to clarify their expectations of the research project itself, who supervises what (e.g. one the theoretical foundation, the other the empirical), and arrangements for feedback to the candidate.
Your evidence here might, for example, include informal discussion or formal review, for example using Grossman and Crowther’s (2015) comprehensive list as a basis for negotiating who does what, when, where and how.
Again, this is particularly important in the context of collaborative doctoral programmes.
As well as starting off on the right footing, as Taylor et al (2018) have argued, there is a need for regular reviews of the relationships of co-supervisors with each other and with the student. Such reviews, perhaps once or twice per year, might be undertaken with the candidate present and be used to identify problems stemming from co-supervision at a relatively early stage and before they delay, fatally or otherwise, the progress of the research.
Your evidence might again include informal review or using Kiley’s (2015a) questionnaire as a tool to check how things are going.
Expand the section below to view references the academic literature supporting this criterion:
Download the Research Supervisors Bibliography – PDF 1.15Mb
Example Application Content
Below is an example of how evidence could be provided for this criterion when applying to the Research Supervision Recognition Programme: