2. Supervisors and Committee Members

2.1 Eligibility Criteria

The graduate program director or program designate shall ensure that the members of a supervisory committee are sufficiently competent and experienced to serve at the required level. In forming a supervisory committee, the graduate program director or program designate should consider the rank and experience of the supervisor and prospective members, their publications and other demonstrations of competence in the field of specialization, and the prospective members’ experience in graduate supervision.

As minimum criteria, supervisors and supervisory, candidacy, and examination committee members must normally:

  • be full-time, continuing Athabasca University (AU) faculty,
  • be active in the general area of the student’s research,
  • have a tenured (or tenure track) faculty appointment,
  • hold a degree equivalent to or higher than that for which the student is a candidate, and,
  • demonstrate continuing scholarly or creative activity of an original nature as defined in item 3.7.3.b. of the AUFA Collective Agreement.

Because of diverse interpretations of the term “scholarly or creative activity,” the FGS will always find it necessary to rely on sound and informed judgment of the graduate program director or program designate to ensure adherence to minimum faculty criteria.

2.2 Other Categories

Individuals who do not meet the eligibility criteria above, may be recommended to serve as co-supervisors and as members of the supervisory, candidacy, and examining committees. For approval of the following categories, the graduate program designate shall formally apply to the FGS.

  • retired professors or professors’ emeriti,
  • professors not associated with a graduate program,
  • Adjunct professors (an adjunct professor is an honorary appointment at AU see AU Policy 025 003),
  • faculty members who do not hold a degree equivalent to or higher than that for which the student is a candidate, but are exceptional in their scholarly work and well-recognized as experts in their field,
  • faculty in non-continuing positions teaching in an AU program; and
  • other experts (e.g., First Nations’ Elders, or a well-known expert in industry).

The request from the supervisor and graduate program director to the FGS for committee membership approval of someone from the ‘Other Category’ should include the individual’s CV, the reasons for, and the benefits of, having such a colleague as co-supervisor or on the proposed supervisory, candidacy, or examination committee. If approved, the colleague will remain eligible for appointment to other supervisory committees for a three-year period after the initial decanal approval. Additional approvals will be dependent on a favourable recommendation from supervisors working with the colleague. Appointments will only be made of those individuals expected to be able to remain on the committee until completion of the student’s degree program. The FGS may waive the approval mechanism where circumstances warrant.

Requests for continuing supervision by supervisors who have taken retirement will be dealt with by the FGS on a case-by-case basis. The guiding principle will be that faculty who take retirement can continue to supervise their graduate student(s) upon recommendation by the graduate program to the FGS.

In all cases, colleagues from the above groups should demonstrate continuing scholarly or creative activity as demonstrated by satisfying the criteria set out in item 3.7.3.b of the AUFA Collective Agreement.

2.3 Selection, Composition, and Approval of the Supervisor and Supervisory Committee

Graduate students who write a dissertation are required to have a supervisor. In the doctoral program, the supervisor should be identified as soon as feasible after admission to the program, subject to the graduate regulations of the program. In some programs, an interim supervisor is assigned when the student is accepted. In this case, the interim supervisor will provide advisement to the student until the supervisor is selected and approved.

Students normally identify their supervisor, who is usually a faculty member from the program in which the student is enrolled. In cases where the supervisor is associated with another program at AU other than the student’s, the supervisor must agree to follow the policies and regulations of the student’s program in all matters related to the supervisory responsibilities. If the faculty member agrees to become the supervisor, the student obtains the Supervisor Approval form from the FGS forms webpage, completes initial information, then submits it. Their supervisor then confirms their agreement to supervise the student and the form is directed to the graduate program director and FGS for approval.

2.4 Doctoral Degree Supervisory Committee

The supervisor works with the student on selecting the supervisory committee. The supervisory committee consists of a supervisor and a minimum of two other members:

  • The Chair of the committee shall be the supervisor, normally from the student’s program or an academic in the faculty that specializes in the chosen area of research,
  • One of the committee members shall be from outside the student’s program, but from within Athabasca University,
  • If there is co-supervision, the supervisory committee would consist of the supervisor, co-supervisor, and a minimum of two additional members.

The committee must meet the eligibility criteria requirements, and must not be in a position of conflict of interest (AU Policy 150 002). Once the committee is selected, the supervisor completes the Supervisory Committee Approval - Doctoral Program form, seeking approval from the student’s graduate program director. The graduate program director shall recommend and submit the names to the FGS. The final authority for the approval of the supervisor and supervisory committee rests with the FGS.

2.5 Co-supervision

In some cases, co-supervision of a student may be recommended to the FGS. Co-supervisors must meet the eligibility criteria outlined for members of supervisory committees, which includes the criteria under “Other Categories.” There should normally be no more than one co-supervisor. When a supervisor and co-supervisor are assigned, together they shall fulfill the role of the supervisor (that is, neither shall fulfill any other supervisory or examining role on that committee). The signatures of both the supervisor and the co-supervisor are required on all documents where the supervisor’s signature is required.

2.6 Regulations, Roles and Responsibilities of Supervisors and Students

The parameters set out in the Roles and Responsibilities of Faculty and Students, and the FGS regulations, shall be followed. This website includes the roles and responsibilities of supervisors and graduate students. More specific guidelines, pertinent to the specific discipline or program may be developed and should be posted in the program’s regulations.

It is the responsibility of the supervisor or designate to keep committee members informed of the student’s progress and coordinate committee meetings. The supervisor and the supervisory committee (if formed at that time) shall meet with the student at least once per year. At this time, the Annual Progress Report (found on the FGS form webpage) is completed, in which the student discusses the achievement of goals during the past year, expresses goals for the subsequent year, and provides dates for significant milestones in the program, such as dissertation proposal completion date or commencement of data collection. If the supervisory committee has been formulated, then signatures from each of the committee members and the student are required on the form. The form is submitted to the graduate program director, and the FGS, for approval.

2.7 Changing a Supervisor or Supervisory Committee

The graduate program director may recommend changes of a supervisor and/or revisions to the supervisory committee by formally seeking approval from the FGS. In cases of sudden or unexpected interruption of supervision, such as resignation, illness, or death, the graduate program director must, without delay, make arrangements to provide continuity of supervision, pending the appointment of a new supervisor or supervisory committee member. Procedures for changing the supervisory committee can be found here.

2.8 Supervisor on Leave

It is the responsibility of supervisors to make adequate provision for supervision of their graduate students during a leave. Supervisors who intend to take leave (exceeding two consecutive months) during a period in which they have graduate students under their supervision shall discuss alternative arrangements with their student(s). The supervisor shall submit a written statement to the student’s graduate program director for approval, describing the arrangements which have been made to provide satisfactory supervision during the period of leave. Once approved, the finalized arrangement will be communicated in writing to the student(s) involved. FGS should also be informed of any changes.