Posted on Tue 27 Aug 2019 at 12:33 by Christopher Carter
A couple of months ago, we conducted a survey of postgraduate researchers about the relationship they had with their supervisors. We wanted to see how often people were meeting, whether clear expectations had been set out, and whether you knew where to report any issues you encountered. 232 of you filled out our survey, and we’re pleased to say we now have the results.
With an even spread across all three faculties, we were pleased to see that the majority of you met with your supervisor every month – which is the recommended amount from University guidelines. Those based in Science met more frequently, with nearly half of students meeting weekly or fortnightly – however, across all faculties, the vast majority of you felt you met with your supervisor the right amount. For Arts, this number was 86%; for Social Sciences it was 68%, and for Science, Engineering and Medicine, it was 69%. More promisingly, the vast majority of you also found your meetings with your supervisors useful – however, those who met with their supervisor less than they would like perhaps unsurprisingly tended to find meetings not as useful. For students in Arts and Social Sciences, expectations of the supervisor relationship are clear, and the majority of respondents were comfortable with them. However, for SEM, over a third of students said that they had no clear expectations.
Perhaps the biggest worry we found in our survey results is that only around half of respondents had a personal tutor. For those who did, you were accurately able to tell us their role, but unfortunately not enough people knew of this right as a PGR student. This was particularly worrying when we asked students if they knew where to report problems. Just under a third of students said they knew where to report something - and of those who did, only a third of students cited their personal tutor as someone they can report to.
There was also a lack of knowledge about how Warwick’s reporting structures work and the guidelines surrounding the supervisor relationship. For those who had read their departmental PGR handbook, the number of people familiar with regulations was 69%, but for those who had not read their handbook, this number was 66%. This suggests that the content of handbooks may be outdated and not as informative as it could be.
Overall, the overwhelming majority of students felt comfortable with the relationship they had with their supervisor. This was 93% in Arts, 90% in Social Sciences, and 88% in SEM. Students were comfortable with the forms of communication they used with their supervisor, and if they saw them in social situations outside of their department. This suggests that things are currently being managed fairly well, but there is a danger that if and when things go wrong there is a lack of clear reporting structures for people to follow.
This research has given us a clear direction of work for the next year, which will be picked up by my successor, Alice. We will be working on ensuring the personal tutor policy is properly implemented across the University. Similarly, we will be looking at PGR handbooks and what information is included to ensure students know where to go if they have issues. Making these changes will improve the experience of PGRs, and we thank you for taking the time out to support us in our research!