(As per Section 3 of the Department of Materials Graduate Course Handbook)


An effective relationship and good communication between you and your supervisor(s) is key to the smooth progress of your DPhil.  You will be supervised by a single Supervisor or two or more Co‑supervisors (for the case where projects involve expertise in more than one area).  One of these supervisors will be designated as your ‘Responsible Supervisor’ with primary responsibility to the Department for guiding your academic progress and providing pastoral care.  You may also have an Associate Supervisor (typically a researcher with less than 3 years’ experience at post-doctoral level).  You could have an External Supervisor, for example if your project involves collaboration with another university or an industrial company or laboratory.  Your supervisor(s) will be your main source of information and advice throughout the course of your research.  Their responsibilities include:

            (i)         planning the framework of your research programme (in the light of the programme structure discussed in section 4);

            (ii)        advising you about lecture courses, both specialist and broadening (see section 6.1);

            (iii)       advising you about transferable ‘career skills’ and more generally about skills-training courses, including those on research techniques (see section 6.2);

            (iv)       advising you about safety;

            (v)        advising you about literature sources;

            (vi)       regularly meeting with you to discuss your work;

            (vii)      keeping you informed of your progress (both informally and through the formal report submitted to the University (GSR) at the end of each term, taking into account the project management forms submitted at regular intervals to the Department by you (see section 5);

            (viii)     advising you about the content of written submissions such as your first year progress report, literature review, 2nd year talk, 3rd year poster and your thesis;

            (ix)       advising you about the progression examinations (transfer of status and confirmation of status);

            (x)        offering informal guidance on careers;

            (xi)       providing pastoral care.

Continuation on the course depends on your satisfactory progress, so you should take very seriously any warnings expressed by your supervisor(s) that you are not working as well as you ought.  You should also bring to their attention, in good time, any problems that are significantly affecting your progress whether academic or personal, before the situation becomes too serious.  The University, Department and College carefully monitor the progress you make with your project, and copies of your supervisor(s) reports will be sent to the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and to your College Tutor for Graduates and your College Advisor. If you have significant concerns, of any kind, do not just tick a box on the GSR report, in addition please arrange to meet the DGS (Dr Adrian Taylor) by making an appointment with his PA, Marion Beckett. Remember too that you can meet with Adrian at any time during your DPhil / MSc(Res), not just at the time of the quarterly GSR reports.

It occasionally happens during the course of a research degree that relations between the student and the supervisor(s) can become strained, perhaps due to differences in opinion as to the direction in which the research should proceed.  You will, therefore, be assigned a Department Advisor who is reasonably familiar with the field of your research and to whom you can turn for independent advice.  Remember that your Department Advisor should be someone other than any of your supervisors:  during your first two weeks in the Department you need to agree with your supervisor(s) who should be your Advisor and who should be your Deputy Supervisor (see Section 2); if you have a sole supervisor then your Department Advisor also takes the role of Deputy Supervisor.  Of course, your Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and members of the Graduate Studies Panel (see section 15) are also always available for a confidential chat.  In addition, you might like to seek advice from your College Advisor (who will be assigned by College) or your College Tutor for Graduates.  Please note that your College Advisor must not be one of your supervisors.  The Department and Colleges all work together to ensure that your time here in Oxford is as trouble free as possible.  It is a good idea to meet your advisors during your first term as a probationary research student.  Informal advice is available from your JCCG representatives. Finally, as explained at Induction, the Department has a zero tolerance policy towards harassment and several members of staff are designated, trained, Harrassment Advisors who will treat any issues you raise with them in strict confidence.

As described in subsequent sections of this Handbook, during your research programme there are two formal progress assessments, the Transfer of Status exam (DPhil and MSc) and the Confirmation of Status Exam (DPhil only).  Your supervisor must name four members of the Faculty of Materials who could act as your Lead Assessor for these exams – the DGS will select one of these to take on the role.

Once you have agreed, in consultation with your supervisor(s), on your Department Advisor, Deputy Supervisor and candidates for the role of your Lead Assessor, you must inform the Materials Graduate Studies Office.  You do this by entering the names on the ‘New Graduate Student’ Questionnaire, a copy of which is included as an appendix to this handbook.  Make sure you complete all the items on this form and return it by the end of Week 2 (23rd October 2020) for review by the Materials Graduate Studies Office.

If you become concerned that your working relationship with your Responsible Supervisor has shortcomings and matters do not improve in the course of a few weeks you are encouraged to discuss your concerns with the DGS, Adrian Taylor, without delay. This discussion may be in strict confidence if you wish.

Information on the expectations and responsibilities of research supervision, and guidance on fulfilling these, is available as follows:

1. The Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Divisional Code of Practice on the Supervision of Research Students can be found via the link within the webpage and in Appendix VIII of the present Handbook.

2. Very helpful guidance to both students and supervisors can be found at:

(i)         The Oxford Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL, formerly OLI) on-line course and guidance on Research Supervision (

(ii)        The Vitae guides on ‘Supervising a Doctorate’ at and ‘Doing a Doctorate’ (supervision and key relationships) at

(iii)       The Materials JCCG (the staff - graduate student liaison committee) run an annual course in Michaelmas Term, ‘Owning a Successful DPhil’, which includes guidance on the supervisory relationship. All probationer research students in Materials are strongly recommended to attend this course.

(iv)       The University of Oxford Education Committee’s (EdC) ‘Policy on Research Degrees’ (  Within this document please see in particular the ‘Responsibilities of the Student’ section, which you can read at the end of Appendix VIII of the present Handbook.

(v)        The Quality Assurance Agency’s Assuring and Enhancing Academic Quality

(, see Quality Code, Chapter B11:  Research Degrees.

(vi)       The EPSRC Statement of Expectations for Research Council funded students (

(vii)      The following training courses are run at least annually:

Students: In addition to the Materials JCCG course on ‘Owning a Successful DPhil’, the MPLS Division run an induction course ‘Your Successful DPhil’.

Supervisors: CTL (formerly OLI) will  probably continue to run the OLI annual ‘Introduction to Academic Practice at Oxford’ course (tbc), which includes a half-day session on Research Supervision; a series of seminars (tbc), including ‘Supervising DPhil Students’ and ‘Examining DPhil Students’; and on-line courses on (i) the Admission of Research Students and (ii) the Supervision of Research Students.