8.5 Appointment of the Supervisor
Every student in a program leading to a graduate degree is required to have a supervisor. The department which recommends an applicant for admission to a graduate program is responsible for providing supervision in an area in which it has competent supervisors, and in which the applicant has expressed an interest in studying. Implicit in the recommendation for admission is the following: on the applicant's part, that there has been an indication of at least a general area of interest and, preferably, provision of some form of proposal, particularly if the program is at the doctoral level; on the department's part, that the application has been completely reviewed, the area of interest examined, academic expectations and potential performance considered, and that the department agrees to meet its obligation to provide appropriate supervision for the applicant in the specified area.
It is expected that every effort will be made to arrive at a mutually agreeable arrangement for supervision between the student and department. Students are normally involved in the process of the selection of their supervisor although this process varies depending upon the department. When the department is making arrangements for the formal approval of supervisors, supervisory committees, and examining committees by the FGSR, or for the scheduling of meetings and examinations, the student shall be consulted and kept closely informed, although the student shall not be asked to conduct such activities. The final authority for the approval of supervision rests with the Dean, FGSR.
It is recommended that department chairs monitor and review the performance of supervisors. With demonstration of continuing effective supervision, consideration should be given for reduced classroom teaching.
(FGSR Council 1989/09/15)
In some cases, departments may recommend co-supervision. Co-supervisors must also meet the criteria outlined in the "Eligibility Criteria for Supervisors and Committee Members". There should normally be no more than one co-supervisor.
A co-supervisor from another university can be considered provided that a request (with the proposed co-supervisor’s CV) is put forward to the Vice-Dean, FGSR who may approve the appointment as a special case. (FGSR Executive, 1995/09/22). There should be an indication of the means by which meaningful interaction can be maintained.
Time Line for Appointment
Ideally, the supervisor should be appointed as soon as the student arrives to begin the program. If this is not possible, an interim supervisor or advisor may be appointed. The permanent supervisor must be appointed within the first 12 months of the student's program.
Departments shall recommend and submit the names of supervisors to the FGSR on either the Approval of Supervisor--Master's form or the Approval of Supervisor and Supervisory Committee--Doctoral form. The forms are available on the FGSR website at www.gradstudies.ualberta.ca (Degree Requirements & Supervision).
Preparation of Departmental Guidelines
Departments are responsible for preparing a set of guidelines for supervisors and students. Guidelines should deal with the selection and functioning of supervisors and should outline the joint responsibilities of faculty members and graduate students. Avenues of appeal open to students who feel they are receiving unsatisfactory supervision should also be specified.
Guidelines for the Supervisor
Research Ethics and Supervision of Students
Supervisors are reminded that required approvals under the University Standards for the Protection of Human Research Participants (see University Calendar, section 20.6) apply to students. Individuals who do not maintain their registration are not considered to be students and their Research Ethics Board approval to conduct their research ceases at the time of failure to register.
Resolving Conflicts in Supervisor-Student Relationships
The relationship between students and supervisors is normally close and long-lasting. At times, conflicts may arise between a student and the supervisor. In such cases, the first step must be to try to resolve the conflict or misunderstanding informally. This is more likely to be successful if attended to as early as possible.
The supervisor and student should discuss the problem together. The supervisor should document the discussions and keep a record of any agreements made.
In the event of a conflict the graduate coordinator should be notified as early as possible.
It is the responsibility of the graduate coordinator to arrange for consultation and mediation. The graduate coordinator or the parties involved may request advice and/or mediation assistance from FGSR and/or other appropriate services, eg, Student Ombudservice or the Office of Safe Disclosure and Human Rights.
The student and supervisor shall not be required to participate in informal resolution against their wishes if either party’s behaviour towards the other warrants a formal complaint under the Code of Student Behaviour, Discrimination & Harassment Policy, or other University policy.
If informal resolution is unsuccessful or inappropriate, and the graduate coordinator determines that the supervisor-student relationship is beyond repair, the department will attempt in good faith to work with the student to find alternative supervision within the department, and will keep the FGSR apprised of these efforts.
Where the supervisor has been providing funding to the student, the funding should continue for a period of at least 30 days from the date on which the graduate coordinator determines that the supervisor-student relationship is beyond repair.
If the best arrangements of the department and the FGSR fail to meet the expectations of the student, the student may choose to withdraw without prejudice.
If the student refuses to accept the supervision provided, then the student is not fulfilling the academic requirement of having a supervisor and shall, on academic grounds, be required to withdraw.
See Section 7: Termination of a Student’s Program.
Changing a Supervisor or a Supervisory Committee
The department recommends changes of supervisor and/or revisions to the supervisory committee by completing and submitting to the FGSR either the Approval of Supervisor--Master's form or the Approval of Supervisor and Supervisory Committee--Doctoral form.
Supervisor on Leave
It is the responsibility of supervisors to make adequate provision for supervision of their graduate students during their leave. Therefore, staff members who intend to take leave during a period (exceeding two months) in which they have graduate students under their supervision shall submit to their department and to the graduate student(s) involved a written statement describing the arrangements which have been made to provide satisfactory supervision during the period of leave. The supervisor shall nominate a member of the department who should be a member of the supervisory committee to be empowered to act on behalf of the supervisor in matters pertaining to the graduate student(s). Please note that the FGSR has no funds available for supervisors on leave to attend the final examination.
Agreements with the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary and the University of Alberta have agreements on graduate student supervision for the following:
- an academic staff member from one university may serve as a co-supervisor for a graduate student at the other university
- an academic staff member from one university may serve as a member of the supervisory committee of a graduate student from the other university
The FGSR has interpreted this agreement to include members of examining committees.
The terms of the agreements include the following:
- The appointee shall be counted as a regular member of the supervisory committee internal to the student's home department unless it is agreed at the outset that the member will be treated as coming from another department.
- The appointment should not be made unless a satisfactory level of interaction can be maintained between the appointee and the graduate student, and between the appointee and the other supervisory committee members. It is the responsibility of the chair of the student's home department to define a satisfactory level of interaction and to ascertain that this can be maintained throughout the student's program.
- If additional expenses will be incurred because of the appointment it is the responsibility of the chair of the student's home department, in consultation with the appointee, to make satisfactory arrangements for meeting these additional expenses. Otherwise, the appointment should not be made.
- Co-supervisors and supervisory committee members will be bound by the procedures and policies of the student's home institution, which shall be made known to the committee member in writing prior to approval.
(FGSR Council, 1990/02/16, 1990/10/19)