(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 Lead Supervisor with primary responsibility to the Department for guiding your progress. You might also 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;

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

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

(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 Graduate Studies Office at the end of each term), taking into account the project management forms submitted at regular intervals to the Department by you;

(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) offering informal guidance on careers.

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 and to your College Tutor for Graduates and your College Advisor.

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 Departmental Advisor who is familiar with the field of your research and to whom you can turn for independent advice. Remember that your Departmental Advisor should be someone other than any of your supervisors: during the first few weeks in the Department you need to agree with your supervisor(s) who should be your Advisor and who should be your Deputy Supervisor. Of course, your Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and members of the Graduate Studies Panel 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.

Once you have agreed, in consultation with your supervisor(s), on your Departmental Advisor and Deputy Supervisor, you must inform the Graduate Studies Secretary. You can do this by entering the names on the 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 to Marion Beckett by the end of Week 1.

If you become concerned that your working relationship with your lead 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 ‘Brief Guide to the Roles (and responsibilities) of Research Students & Supervisors’ together with the ‘Divisional Code of Practice on the Supervision of Research Students’ can be found via the ‘brief guide’ link within the webpage and in Appendix VIII of the present Materials Graduate Course Handbook.

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

(i)         The Oxford Learning Institute (OLI) Guide to Research Supervision ( )

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

(iii) The Materials JCCG (our 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’s 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 IX of the present Handbook.

(v) The Quality Assurance Agency’s Precepts on Postgraduate Research Programmes (

(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 annual course on ‘Foundations of a Successful DPhil’.

Supervisors: OLI run an annual ‘Introduction to Academic Practice at Oxford’ course, which includes a half-day session on Research Supervision; a series of seminars, including ‘Supervising DPhil Students’ and ‘Examining DPhil Students’; and an on-line course on the Admission of Research Students.