Graduate Supervision

The supervisor-student relationship is central to the graduate student experience.

A great supervisor oversees your academic work, is passionate about your subject area and invested in your success. This mentor may work with you to identify research and teaching roles, members of a supervisory committee and career opportunities that will carry you beyond your degree. Ideally, this relationship is the foundation that moves you closer to your goals (UVic Graduate Studies website).

The graduate checklist is a tool you can use to assist in the beginning stages in navigating your supervisory relationship and your program.

Graduate Students’ Supervision Resources

  • The Faculty of Graduate Studies has a Graduate Supervision Policy on responsibilities in the supervisory relationship. If you haven’t already done so, review this policy to better understand the roles and expectations of all those involved in your research, supervision and management of your program.
  • Your department graduate advisor and secretary can answer questions about the supervisory relationship, the role of student, the role of supervisor, the role and involvement of the committee, frequency of meetings or feedback, etc. They can help you problem-solve.
  • See also your program’s graduate handbook or graduate regulations that can be found on your department website to better understand expectations specific to your graduate program.
  • As a graduate student, you are entitled to receive consultation and confidential advice. As a graduate student, it is your responsibility to consult and seek advice.  In accordance with section 9.1 of the Graduate Supervision Policy: 

Students may meet in confidence (together with an advocate of their choice, if desired) with their supervisor, members of the supervisory committee, the Graduate Advisor, Head of the academic unit, Associate Dean and Dean of Graduate Studies without fear of reprisal.

  • The Canadian Graduate Students Association has great resources.
  • The ombudsperson is also another resource to help you confidentially to resolve a supervisory issue or dispute.

Tips for building a healthy relationship with your supervisor

  • Talk to a potential supervisor and to their students before starting to work together.
  • Get to know the person’s work in the field and their working style.
  • Know what your own preferences or needs are in terms of research area, supervision and feedback, and make sure it is going to be a “good fit.”
  • Meet in person to establish expectations about the subject matter, progress, feedback, and deadlines; clarify what is flexible and what isn’t.
  • Discuss how you will communicate and how you will resolve any conflicts.
  • Don’t rely only on email. Use phone and in-person meetings too.
  • Follow in-person meetings with an email or written note to confirm or clarify expectations, deadlines or agreements.
  • Keep your emails and keep notes about your meetings.
  • Make sure you keep in contact and inform your supervisor of circumstances that may affect your performance, such as illness or family emergency.

See the ombudsperson’s graduate guide to find more about

  • other common issues for which graduate students consult the ombudsperson
  • what to do if you face an illness, family or personal difficulty or affliction
  • other important regulations and resources for graduate students at UVic