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Clarifying expectations with the co-supervisor(s)

In this text we provide guidance on how to make the alliance between multiple supervisors work
Supervisory team
© University of Groningen

Clarifying mutual expectations is a crucial factor in the effectiveness of cooperation within the supervisory team and with the candidate throughout the PhD project. The tricky thing is that there is no established way to define expectations. What is expected from each of the parties varies very much depending on yours and your co-supervisor’s preference and style, on the student’s inclination and needs, on the specificity of the project, and on the phase and moment of the trajectory.

You might know your co-supervisors very well. They might be close colleagues, and possibly you are already collaborating with them on other projects. Or maybe you do not know each other at all, and sharing the supervision of this PhD is the first occasion you have to collaborate on a project. In any event, it is very important that you have a dedicated meeting to discuss your individual and shared involvement in the PhD trajectory.

In the previous step we have listed some questions you might want to address with the co-supervisor. It is important to bring these topics to the table with your co-supervisor early in the process. If you haven’t done so already, it is never too late! Schedule a meeting with your colleague right now. It will save you from disappointments and prevent misunderstandings later on.

In addition to the general questions we raised in the previous step, we have prepared a handy list of topics that will help you focus the discussion with the other supervisor(s) on the areas that are important for the project and the trajectory. This will clear the way forward for everybody.

Exercise instructions:

  1. Schedule a meeting with your co-supervisor or the supervisory team
  2. Download this document and mail it to your co-supervisor(s) with the request to read, add their notes, and answer the questions from their own perspective. Ask them to bring the commented document to the meeting.
  3. During the meeting have an open discussion on the observations that each brings to the table. Where are the differences? How will you divide the tasks and responsibilities? How can you work together to support the student in their trajectory?
© University of Groningen
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Successful PhD Supervision: A Shared Journey

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