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Athabasca University

1. Supervisors and Committee Members

1.1 Eligibility Criteria

The academic unit 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 academic unit 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 academic unit to ensure adherence to minimum faculty criteria.

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1.2 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 academic unit graduate program designate shall formally apply to the FGS:

  • retired professors or professors emeriti;
  • professors from academic units not offering 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 academic unit graduate program designate 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 academic unit graduate program designate 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.

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

Graduate students who write a dissertation are required to have a supervisor or co-supervisor arrangement.

The Supervisor or AU Co-Supervisor should be identified as soon as feasible after admission to the program, subject to the graduate regulations of the academic unit. In some academic units, an interim supervisor is assigned when the student is accepted to the program. 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 academic unit in which the student is enrolled. In cases where the supervisor is from an academic unit at AU other than the student’s academic unit, the supervisor must agree to follow the policies and regulations of the student’s academic unit in all matters related to the supervisory responsibilities. If the faculty member agrees to become the supervisor, the student obtains the “Supervisor Approval – Doctoral Program” form from the FGS website, completes initial information, then submits it to their supervisor to confirm their agreement to supervise the student. The supervisor sends the form to the academic unit graduate program designate. Rationale outlining the suitability of the supervisor for the student’s research focus is attached to the form. Upon approval by the academic unit’s graduate program designate, the designate then submits the material to the FGS for approval.

*Supervisor may also refer to the AU co-supervisor depending upon the committee structure.

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 Academic Unit;
  • One of the committee members shall be from outside the student’s academic unit, but from an academic unit within Athabasca University;
  • If there is co-supervision, the supervisory committee would consist of an Internal AU Co-Supervisor or External co-supervisor the supervisor, and a minimum of one additional member.

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 supervisory committee is selected, the supervisor completes the “Supervisory Committee Approval – Doctoral Program” form, please link to seeking approval from the student’s academic unit graduate program designate, with rationale for the selection of the specific members. The academic unit graduate program designate 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.

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1.4 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 are variations in the co-supervision model. In some cases, both co-supervisors may be AU faculty members, with one having less experience than the other in the supervision of students. In this case, one of the co-supervisors is being mentored by the other more experienced individual.

In other cases, one of the co-supervisors may be from another university. There should normally be no more than one external co-supervisor. In such a case, the CV of the external co-supervisor and a memo indicating the reasons for, and the benefits of having such a colleague as co-supervisor must accompany the “Supervisor Approval – Doctoral program”.

When there are two co-supervisors, together they shall fulfill the role of the supervisor. The signatures of both are required on all documents where the supervisor’s signature is normally required. The one co-supervisor who is from the student’s academic unit may also fulfil the role of a committee member.

1.5 Guidelines, Roles and Responsibilities of Supervisors and Students

The parameters set out in this document, and the FGS guidelines for supervisors, interim supervisors, co-supervisors, committee members, and students, shall be followed:

More specific guidelines, pertinent to the specific discipline or program, may be developed by the academic unit, and should be posted in the academic unit’s regulations.

It is the responsibility of the supervisor or designate to keep committee members informed of the student’s progress. 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 form 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 academic unit graduate program designate, and the FGS, for approval.

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1.6 Changing a Supervisor or Supervisory Committee

The academic unit graduate program designate may recommend changes to a supervisor and/or revisions to the supervisory committee by formally seeking approval from the FGS “Change to Doctoral Supervisor or Supervisory Committee” form. In cases of sudden or unexpected interruption of supervision, such as resignation, illness, or death, the academic unit’s graduate program designate must, without delay, make arrangements to provide continuity of supervision, pending the appointment of a new supervisor or supervisory committee member.

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1.7 Supervisor or Committee Member on Leave or Retiring

It is the responsibility of supervisors to make adequate provision for supervision if they or a committee member goes on leave or retires. Supervisors or committee members who intend to take leave (exceeding two consecutive months) or retire during a period in which they have graduate students shall discuss alternative arrangements with their student(s). The supervisor shall submit a written statement to the student’s academic unit graduate program designate and FGS for approval, describing the arrangements which have been made to provide satisfactory coverage. Once approved, the finalized arrangement will be communicated in writing to the student(s) involved by the graduate program designate.

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Updated November 14 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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