Code of Practice on Supervision

The Social Sciences Division Code of Practice on Supervision sets out the supervisory structure in some details. You are strongly encouraged to read this in full, but in summary:

The role of the supervisor is to:

  • Establish a timetable of regular meetings for detailed discussion of your progress. These meetings should normally take place face-to-face at least twice per term, however, they may also be virtual by e-mail/skype/telephone if the student or supervisor is undertaking work away from Oxford and this is more practical for both parties
  • Agree a research plan and programme of work, and to establish clear academic expectations and milestones
  • Agree with you a timetable for the submission of written work and to return your work within a reasonable time
  • Assess formally your subject-specific and personal and professional skills training needs on a regular basis and ensure that these needs are met
  • Co-operate with you to produce a detailed joint report on your progress at the end of each term
  • Ensure you are aware of the formal requirements in relation to transfer and confirmation of status and final submission, and help you to incorporate these into your plan of work

The role of the student is to:

  • Maintain regular contact with your supervisor, and respond to him/her in good time
  • Meet with your supervisor regularly, keep a written record of your discussions, and give due weight to any guidance or corrective action proposed
  • Draw up a research plan and timetable of work in consultation with your supervisor, and to keep relevant records of all aspects of your work
  • Co-operate with your supervisor to make a detailed joint report on your progress at the end of each term
  • Take responsibility for your research programme, including the development of subject-specific, research, and personal and professional skills
  • Take responsibility for (i) the preparation and content of your thesis, giving due regard to any advice from your supervisor, and (ii) its timely submission in accordance with the timetable set
  • Be aware of the University’s guidance on plagiarism and of any ethical or legal issues, health and safety requirements, or intellectual property issues arising from your research
  • Pursue opportunities to engage with the wider academic community at University, national and international level.

Graduate Supervision System (GSS)

At the end of each term, your supervisor(s) will submit a report on your academic progress. To facilitate this reporting, the University operates an online Graduate Supervision System (GSS). Within this system, you have the opportunity to contribute to your termly supervision reports by reviewing and commenting on your own progress.

You are strongly encouraged to take the opportunity to review and comment on your academic progress.

Your supervisor(s) will review and comment on your academic progress and performance during the current term and assess skills and training needs to be addressed during the next term. Your supervisor should discuss the report with you, as it will form the basis for feedback on your progress, for identifying areas where further work is required, for reviewing your progress against an agreed timetable, and for agreeing plans for the term ahead.

When reporting on academic progress, students should review progress during the current term, and should reflect on the progress made with their research project during the current term, including written work (e.g. drafts of chapters) and you should assess this against the plan of research that has been agreed with your supervisor(s).

All students should briefly describe which subject-specific research skills and more general personal/professional skills they have acquired or developed during the current term. You should include attendance at relevant classes that form part of your programme of study and also include courses, seminars or workshops offered or arranged by your department or the Division. Students should also reflect on the skills required to undertake the work they intend to carry out. You should mention any skills you do not already have or you may wish to strengthen through undertaking training.

If you have any complaints about the supervision you are receiving, you should raise this with the Director for Graduate Studies.

Students are asked to report in weeks 6 and 7 of term. Once you have completed your sections of the online form, it will be released to your supervisor(s) for completion and will also be visible to the Director of Graduate Studies and to your College Advisor. When the supervisor’s sections are completed, you will be able to view this as well. The Faculty is responsible for ensuring that appropriate supervision takes place, and this is one of the mechanisms they use to obtain information about supervision. College advisors are a source of support and advice to students, and it is therefore important that they are informed of your progress, including concerns (expressed by you and/or your supervisor).

You will be able to log on to the GSS site using your single sign-on details. Full details of how to use the site are provided at the on-line help facility.

Supervisor Away

If your supervisor is away for a term or more you will almost certainly need to be assigned to a new supervisor, usually only until the other returns. There is generally plenty of time to discuss the change, and where there is time your supervisor should talk the matter over with you. It is often possible to make informal arrangements which suit everyone, but it is essential that such arrangements be formalized through the Graduate Studies Officer using the GSO.25 change of supervisor or appointment of joint supervisor form at The Law Faculty cannot discharge its responsibilities through informal arrangements of which it knows nothing. The Faculty must at all times know who is supervising you and, except for very short periods, there must be no time during which you have no supervisor in Oxford.


The traditional distinction between term and vacation means very little for those engaged in research. You may need to make some allowance for the fact that after term supervisors are themselves desperate to get on with their research, which sometimes also means they’re going off to use libraries and other facilities in other places. Once again, the best solution is to talk things over with your supervisor. A prolonged absence, even during vacation, triggers the steps discussed in the previous section. Though the rhythm may change, supervision does not stop during the vacation.

Research Supervision Website

The Research Supervision Web Site is a useful source of information for research students and research supervisors alike, providing information regarding:

  • Being a supervisor
  • Stages of the doctorate
  • Examination
  • Research environment
  • National and international context

As part of these sections, explanations are provided of Oxford’s policies and practice with links to University policy documents, downloadable tools and ideas for both supervisors and students, links to further national and international content, examples of good practice, listings and links to some of the research literature on doctoral study, including links to journal articles which the University has on subscription.