Managing supervisor – student interactions

Potential sources of conflict between PhD candidates and supervisors

Why is it important to do reflections on research supervision?

• Supervisors can make or break a PhD student
• Communication between supervisor and student is key to project and thesis success
• ‘Concept’ of research supervision and own experience as doctoral student are key influences on supervisors’ approaches to supervision
• Not all students need the same supervision style

Predominant problems of PhD students with supervision

• Learning experience very little organized
• Confusion in the messages transmitted by the supervisor
• Expactations often not explicitly verbalized
• Limited feedback from supervisor
• Difficult relation with supervisor, not enough interaction to discuss progress and competences to be developed
• Feelings of isolation and stress

Get help and help yourself to resolve conflicts

First of all, here is a small presentation and summary of a workshop of the UNIL Graduate Campus which is aiming to help PIs to understand their supervision style and to mediate between expectations of the supervisor and the student.
Research supervision: Supervisor – Student Relationships, Supervision Styles and a Little Impulse Towards Self-Reflection

In this presentation, you will find references to some questionnaires that can be useful to
a) set the stage in the beginning of the PhD thesis in terms of expectations on research supervision from both sides, i.e. PI and PhD student
b) fill a so-called Memorandum of Understanding between Students and Supervisors (MOU) in the beginning of a thesis and update it on a regular basis
c) help students “plot” their progression through the supervisory experience and discuss this evalution with their supervisor at regular intervals

Please do not hesitate to suggest these aids to your supervisor.

Along the same vein, please see the article Of monsters and mentors: PhD disasters, and how to avoid them (Times Higher Education)

More sources for conflict solution help

The UNIL Graduate Campus offers:
annual thesis surveys
thesis supervision workshops

The UNIGE Graduate Campus is currently developing similar offers.

Contact points for psychological support and/or HR issues

For UNIL PhD candidates

For UNIGE PhD candidates