11. Supervision

One of the most important aspects of graduate training is the timely, clear identification of a Supervisory Committee for each graduate student participating in a research program. Although there are wide variations in the pattern of finding a Supervisory Committee, it is this group who plays a key role in the direction of the graduate student's research. Although reasonable effort will be made to accommodate individual student research preferences, the graduate program cannot guarantee to provide a particular supervisor or particular committee members, nor can the program accommodate every topic of research proposed by a graduate student. As one illustration, some programs may only accept students to work on specific projects that are funded by a faculty member's research grant or contract-based funding.

A Supervisory Committee consists of at least one Supervisor and at least one Committee Member (who is not also one of the supervisors). This committee may:

  • assist in the development of the candidate's research plan and thesis proposal,
  • provide advice and constructive feedback on the planning and writing of the thesis,
  • evaluate progress

All members of the committee must hold the appropriate level of SGPS Membership as outlined below.

11.01A Supervisor

This designation indicates that the faculty member(s) have primary responsibility for overseeing the Master’s or Doctoral thesis research program. Up to two Supervisors can participate in a Supervisory Committee.

Membership Requirements:

  • Doctoral Student:  a Supervisor must have Doctoral Membership in the student’s program.
    • An additional Supervisor could have Doctoral, Master’s or Associate membership in any program.
  • Master’s Student:  a Supervisor must have Doctoral or Master’s Membership in the student’s program.
    • An additional Supervisor could have Doctoral, Master’s or Associate membership in any program.

11.01B Committee Member

All supervisory committees must contain at least one Committee Member (in addition to Supervisor(s)). This designation indicates that the Committee Member has a secondary responsibility for the Master’s or Doctoral thesis research program.  Up to three Committee Members can participate in a Supervisory Committee.

Membership Requirements to be a Committee Member:

  • must have any level of SGPS membership in any program (i.e. could have Teaching/Advisory Membership outside of student’s program)

This information pertains to SGPS section 11.1 in regard to the definition of all supervisory roles (ie. Supervisors, Co-Supervisors)

Expectations of supervisors

All supervisors are expected to:

  • adhere to standards of ethical behaviour, academic integrity, and professionalism
  • commit the time, energy, and focus reasonably necessary to enable students to achieve the progress expected in their program
  • demonstrate effective management and leadership skills
  • demonstrate effective interpersonal communication skills
  • respect diversity and demonstrate intercultural competency
  • endeavor to develop insights into their strengths and weaknesses as a supervisor and to pursue opportunities to build further strength, particularly in areas of weakness
  • recognize the supervisor—student power differential and demonstrate respect for the student’s
    rights and goals
  • respect and provide support for the student’s academic and career goals
  • respect the student’s personal circumstances (e.g., the student’s need to fulfill personal obligations such as childcare)
  • differentiate between their own and their students’ needs
  • explicitly discuss with the student expectations regarding authorship on publications and ownership of intellectual property
Requirements of supervisors

All supervisors are required to:

  • provide continuous supervision through the duration of the student’s studies. This includes ensuring that supervision continues through periods of supervisor absence from campus (e.g., maintaining full supervision during sabbatical; securing co- supervision if needed/appropriate)
  • adhere to the academic requirements of the program and SGPS regulations
  • contribute to the program’s evaluation of the student’s progress as required by the program and SGPS
  • ensure regular meetings of the student with the full Thesis Supervisory Committee as per the program's and/or SGPS's regulations
  • actively involve Thesis Supervisory Committee in the process of guiding the student.
  • meet with their graduate student no later than one month after assignment of supervision, or initial registration as a student at Western, with the purpose of discussing and clarifying expectations for the role of the supervisor and the role of the student in the supervisory relationship.
  • provide timely feedback on documents/reports/materials/scholarship applications – normally 2
    weeks is reasonable for a thesis chapter or equivalent
  • provide timely response (whether acknowledgment or a substantial reply) when contacted by students, for example responding to emails within 72 hours
  • in collaboration with the student, set and adhere to reasonable timelines for all aspects of the student’s academic work, consistent with the program’s milestones to completion
  • respect interpersonal boundaries and demonstrate professional behaviour with the student
  • respect appropriate times and means for communication with the student
  • as far as allowed by the logistics of the research setting, allow and respect the student’s right to set their own daily schedule
  • make good‐faith efforts to provide the resources needed for the student's work
  • allow and not undermine the student's engagement in professional development
  • adhere to all health and safety policies (http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/pdf/policies_procedures/section3/mapp31.pdf)
  • adhere to all policies related to research ethics (http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/pdf/policies_procedures/section7/mapp712.pdf and http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/pdf/policies_procedures/section7/mapp714.pdf)
  • adhere to Non‐Discrimination/Harassment policy (http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/pdf/policies_procedures/section1/mapp135.pdf)
  • adhere to the University policy on Academic Integrity in Research Activities (http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/pdf/policies_procedures/section7/mapp70.pdf)
  • adhere to the University policy on Accessibility (https://www.uwo.ca/univsec/pdf/policies_procedures/section1/mapp147.pdf)
  • adhere to SGPS Policy (http://grad.uwo.ca/postdoctoral_scholars/current/policies_procedures.html)
Expectations of students

All students are expected to:

  • adhere to the highest standards of ethical behaviour, academic integrity, and professionalism
  • commit the time, energy, and focus necessary to achieve the progress expected in their program
  • engage in self-directed learning
  • endeavor to develop insight into their strengths and weaknesses as a student and to pursue opportunities to build further strength, particularly in areas of weakness
  • demonstrate effective interpersonal communication skills
  • give supervisor, Thesis Supervisory Committee members, and other faculty members sufficient notice and time to provide constructive feedback or to write thoughtful letters of reference
  • seek and give serious consideration to constructive feedback and advice.
  • provide timely response (whether acknowledgment or a substantial reply) when contacted by supervisor or department, for example responding to emails within 72 hours
  • respect the work, environment, and equipment/materials of others, and show tolerance and respect for others sharing the same environment, equipment and materials
  • openly discuss with the supervisor expectations regarding authorship on publications and ownership of intellectual property
Requirements of students

All students are required to:

‘Supervisory committee members’ include at least one supervisor and at least one committee member (see 11.01) for more details.  In practice, across campus these committee members are sometimes referred to as ‘advisory committee members’.

Overview  
Monitoring and assessing student progress are key to maximizing graduate student engagement and success, timely completion of the degree, and graduate program quality.  Regular student progress assessment helps programs and students identify academic excellence.  It also helps to make visible and address problems or challenges students are experiencing that may interfere with thriving and with degree completion.  

To support student progress, programs are expected to clearly communicate their degree requirements and the expected timing of these requirements to students.  They are also required to monitor and assess student progress at least annually, and to communicate these results to their students.  

Meeting Program Expectations  
It is expected that degree requirements across the duration of the program are clearly communicated to students in progress meetings, via program web pages, program guides and through the online Pathfinder degree planning portfolio.  

Throughout their time in the program, students are expected to be aware of how degree expectations for maintaining good standing in the program align with their own progress.  

At a minimum, supervisory committee members and Graduate Chairs (or equivalent) will support their students’ timely progression by regularly (at least annually) assessing and documenting student progress and then by discussing these outcomes with students.   

To maintain good standing in their program, graduate students are expected to meet program expectations for the timely completion of the degree. 

Annual Progress Evaluations
Graduate Chairs (or equivalent) are responsible for overseeing student progress through the use of Pathfinder.  In this regard, they work with students’ supervisory committee members.  Graduate Chairs (or equivalent) and supervisory committee members are expected to regularly communicate with each other and with students.  

It is the Graduate Chair’s (or equivalent) responsibility to:

  1. ensure that students are notified of the timeline for submission of their annual (at a minimum) progress report;
  2. ensure that feedback on progress via Pathfinder is appropriate and effective and is communicated to students, including expectations going forward;
  3. offer support and advice to all students, including those who are struggling or failing to meet program expectations;
  4. offer support and advice to supervisors.

Annual Progress Evaluations and the Use of Pathfinder
The Pathfinder degree planning portfolio facilitates the monitoring evaluation and communication of student progress in multi-year research-based degree programs. 

At regular intervals, and at least yearly, graduate programs will request that their students submit a portfolio for review and evaluation via pathfinder. Submitting a portfolio is considered a degree requirement, and to maintain good standing in a program it must normally be completed by the assigned due date.

The progress review process facilitated by Pathfinder involves the following steps:

  1. Student is asked to complete the portfolio by [date], including comments and feedback.
  2. The student’s supervisory committee members comment on the student’s portfolio, including the progress made since the last review and respond to the student’s comments and feedback. It is best practice that a student would meet with the supervisor and supervisory committee to discuss their progress and their report.
  3. The Graduate Chair/equivalent (or alternate, if the Graduate Chair/equivalent is the student’s supervisor) reviews the student’s portfolio and the comments of the supervisory committee members and, based on these, provides their input.
  4. The portfolio is returned to the student for review, comment, and acknowledgement.

 At any point during this process, a participant may return the portfolio back to the previous reviewer to discuss.  

 It is expected that the entire review process will take no longer than 30 days.  At the end of the Pathfinder portfolio review process, the content of the portfolio, including comments and a progress assessment, are archived in Pathfinder for future review.

Guidelines when a Student is not Meeting Degree Expectations
When a progress review finds that a student is not meeting degree expectations, the following steps need to be taken:

  1. The Graduate Chair (or equivalent) connects with the Supervisor and the Student (and if appropriate, the Supervisory Committee members) to request a meeting (it is not necessary that it be one meeting with everyone).
  2. A purpose of the meeting is to remove any possible barriers to student progress and to consider other ways to support student progress. A second purpose is to clarify how and why the student has not met program expectations, and to articulate what is required to meet degree requirements.
  3. The results of the meeting are documented. A plan of study for the upcoming year/immediate future (or alternate timeframe) with goals and dates, is created and agreed upon by the Student and Supervisor, with support of the Graduate Chair (or equivalent). It is important that the student understand that failure to meet program expectations is grounds for withdrawal.  It is important that the student understand where to go to for additional advice and guidance (for example, the Ombudsperson (see 11.03),
  4. This progress plan is uploaded to Pathfinder as part of the Graduate Chair (or equivalent) evaluation. It is important that the student understand where to go to for additional advice and guidance (for example, the Ombudsperson (see 11.03)).

For students who are not meeting degree expectations, regular follow-up is recommended.   

It is strongly advised that students communicate with their supervisory committee and Graduate Chair (or equivalent) if they are unable to meet the progress plan timeline so that barriers and challenges can be examined and discussed.  If warranted, additional supports should be put in place.  Graduate Chairs (or equivalent), supervisory committee members and students can request meetings as needed.  

Consistently failing to meet degree expectations, despite ongoing support to succeed, are grounds for withdrawal.  Communication in this regard is documented and shared with the student.

Sustained Lack of Progress: Guidelines for Withdrawal for Failure to Meet Program Expectations
When a student consistently fails to meet degree expectations, supervisory committee members and/or the Graduate Chair (or equivalent) convene to discuss the merits of withdrawing the student from the program.  If there is agreement that withdrawal is warranted, a meeting is arranged with the student.  In this meeting, the program communicates the reasons for their preliminary decision to withdraw the student and offers the student the opportunity to respond both in the meeting and, in writing, afterward.   

After considering the circumstances surrounding the failure to meet degree expectations, including the student’s feedback, the Graduate Chair, or equivalent, (in consultation with the supervisor) makes a final decision about whether to withdraw the student.  

The student is notified in writing of the withdrawal decision. This notification includes relevant information about the appeal process and where the student can seek consultation and advice, such as the Ombudsperson.

Pathfinder and Confidentiality
Information collected within the Pathfinder degree planning portfolio is protected by the Official Student Record Information Privacy Policy (https://www.uwo.ca/univsec/pdf/academic_policies/general/privacy.pdf)

A supervisor is required for all research-degree students.  At admission, students are given an offer letter that outlines the contractual obligations between the student and the program.   Each program will ensure that students receive appropriate supervision.

When the supervisor is determined (either at admission or some later point) the supervisor commits to assuming the roles and responsibilities specified by the School for Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and the program. http://grad.uwo.ca/faculty_staff/viceprovost/supervision.html

The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies is committed to resolving any conflicts between students and supervisors as early as possible.   When the process breaks down, the following apply:

  • Students have the right to request a change of supervisor.  If the student requests a change, he/she should contact their Graduate Chair.
  • Supervisors cannot unilaterally terminate the thesis supervisory relationship.  If a supervisor initiates this change, then the appropriate processes must be followed.  Questions about the process should be directed to the Graduate Chair or the Associate Dean (Graduate) of the Faculty.
  • Student and faculty member requests for changing supervisors will be reviewed by the Graduate program.  If the supervisor and student agree that a change to the supervisory relationship is needed, normally the Graduate Chair will work with the student and supervisor to find a solution as early as possible.

The new supervisor, normally from the student’s program, will assume the roles and responsibilities specified by SGPS and the program.  Normally, the normal duration of the degree program for the student will not be increased.