Revising Code of Practice for Supervisors and Research Students: An exercise in collaboration

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In this post, Susan Hunter, from Academic Services, describes the collaborative reviewing process behind the recently updated Code of Practice for Supervisors and Research Students…

It had been a while since the University thoroughly reviewed its guidance for supervisors and postgraduate research students. So, in late 2016 we began the process by consulting with key stakeholders. A mere eighteen months later (give or take), we have what we think is a much improved, more user-friendly publication.

As part of consultation on revising the Code of Practice, Academic Services held focus groups with research students and supervisors. They told us that although the existing Code had lots of useful information, it was difficult to find what they were looking for. They also told us what they’d most like to see in the Code was clarity on the roles and responsibilities for both students and supervisors. Other top content identified by the focus groups was to include information on the annual progression review process, thesis preparation and assessment, and how to resolve problems. We also had the opportunity to join a Postgraduate Research Supervisor Network meeting, hosted by the Institute for Academic Development, and this reinforced the message that clarity on roles and responsibilities in supervision would be key content for the revised Code.

Armed with this feedback, and with a design concept from Learning Teaching and Web Services, we presented an initial proposal to Senate Researcher Experience Committee (REC). REC gave us the go ahead and, by September 2017, we had an outline and had also identified content that we thought should be relocated under policy or regulations. As the Code of Practice is guidance and not part of the regulatory framework, REC agreed and this content was fed into the regulations review for 2018/19.

In preparing the final draft, we got valuable input from College Postgraduate Research colleagues as well as colleagues in student support services, including the Students’ Association, Careers and Edinburgh Global among others, on fine-tuning the content. College Postgraduate Committees were also invited to comment on the near-final draft and we received some positive feedback from them. REC agreed the final draft in June 2018 and the revised Code of Practice for Supervisors and Research Students is now live on the web.

The review has been a good way of engaging with parts of the University community that our department doesn’t often get to speak directly with, as well as strengthening our existing working relationships. We look forward to hearing colleagues reactions to the new-look Code and will be evaluating its effectiveness and reviewing the content (in a light-touch way) next academic year.

Susan Hunter

Susan Hunter is an Academic Policy Officer in Academic Services and has been at UoE for more than 10 years. Her role focuses on postgraduate research academic policy and regulations, and supporting the Senate Researcher Experience Committee.

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