Supervisors are the most significant resource the University provides to support Research Higher Degree (RHD) students. Your relationship with your supervisor is unique and can be negotiated and developed in different ways to suit each of your styles of research, and may change over time.
Negotiating your relationship with a supervisor, along with any other relationship, can sometimes be difficult. Due to the intense nature of this relationship, if any issues arise, you may feel that they are impossible or difficult to resolve. Ideally you are surrounded by supportive colleagues and University staff who can help you address any concerns, but sometimes this is not the case.
It is important to familiarise yourself with not only your roles and responsibilities as a student, but the roles and responsibilities of your supervisor and the department. These are outlined in a range of documents at the University depending on whether you are a coursework or RHD student. We’ve included links to the key documents below.
Trying to resolve issues earlier rather than later ensures minimal disruption to your work and getting advice even if you are unsure if you need help may give you the confidence to solve the issue yourself.
Some tips for resolving issues early
- Set up clear timelines and meeting times with your supervisor to ensure you are both on the same page with expectations and deadlines – students and supervisors have a mutual obligation to ensure they confer on a regular basis.
- Document these meetings and any issues that may have arisen from them – this should be task focused and include any agreements made.
- If you start experiencing issues with your supervisor, attempt to discuss these with them sooner rather than later. The issues may or may not be resolved through this forum, but it is important to attempt to resolve this directly before escalating matters to a grievance process.
- Contact members of your advisory committee – it is the responsibility of the advisory committee to ensure that your project is developed and supported within the specified timelines.
- Talk to your colleagues – finding out how your peers are handling issues can often assist in your situation and this network can provide another level of support beyond that of your supervisor.
- If you are unable to resolve the issues through any of the above channels, contact the Advocacy Service as early as possible for independent, confidential advice and assistance.
Advice and Support
We can assist you to identify practical steps to resolve issues you may be having with your supervisor. Contact us for advice.