Roles and Responsibilities of Faculty and Students

The supervision of graduate students is part of the mandate of AU. The purpose of the documents below is to clarify expectations and responsibilities of the supervisor and the student. The work performed by graduate students forms a vital part of a university’s research agenda. When students enter a graduate program, they commit time and energy to a thesis or dissertation that will make a substantial and original contribution to knowledge. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to advise and mentor the student in the development of his or her research and intellectual growth. Likewise, it is the responsibility of the student to conform to university policies and program requirements, and to fulfill certain responsibilities when engaging in a supervisor-student relationship.

While many models of supervision exist across disciplines and graduate programs, the guidelines, roles, and responsibilities of the supervisor and student are provided to clarify expectations in order to reduce conflict and facilitate the thesis/dissertation process. It is the role of the Faculty of Graduate Studies to provide policies and guidelines that help to ensure a minimum standard of excellence in graduate education and promote a fair set of expectations across all programs.

Guidelines for Graduate Student Supervision

Successful program completion and/or withdrawal rates have been linked to the quality and quantity of advisement provided to graduate students. The supervisor assumes a number of roles in the supervisor-student relationship. The role may range from a very structured “master to apprentice” scenario to a very unstructured “subtle guide of an independent scholar.” Within the supervisory responsibility, the supervisor is a mentor, advocate, expert, leader, and facilitator for the student.

The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies has developed a number of guiding principles as a resource for supervisors and students. Greater detail is available on the AU FGS website.

  • A supervisor should be identified in a timely fashion.
  • Supervisory committees or equivalents should be established early.
  • Expectations, roles, and responsibilities of graduate students and supervisors should be made clear.
  • Supervisors should be readily accessible to their students and regular monitoring and feedback should be ensured.
  • Student-supervisor relationships should be professional.
  • Intellectual debate and challenge should be encouraged and supported.
  • Supervisors should be mentors.
  • Issues of intellectual property and authorship should be made clear.
  • Conflicts should be resolved at the lowest level possible.
  • Continuity is important in graduate supervision.
  • Alternative supervision should be available.
  • Students have substantial responsibilities for managing their own graduate education.

Responsibilities of the Supervisor

The supervisor is a mentor, advocate, expert, leader, and facilitator in the formation of a partnership between the student, the committee, and graduate studies.

The responsibilities of the supervisor are to ensure equitable and quality service to the student. Responsibilities include:

  • Be familiar with the policies and regulations within the supervisor’s academic unit and the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS)
  • Provide an environment for the student that is conducive to research and in which the student can grow intellectually
  • Construct an academic plan (program of study) for the period of time for the degree:
  • Assist and advise the student with his or her application to the AU Research Ethics Board (if conducting research with human subjects) or applications to other ethics or access boards as required
  • Inform the student of awards/scholarships/research funding in his or her area of research and assist the student in submitting a strong application
  • Inform the student of conferences and assist the student in preparing an abstract for the conference
  • Clarify with the student any questions regarding intellectual property rights, primary authorship on research activities, and the specific role of the student, the supervisor and other collaborators in the research program
  • Determine when the student is ready to proceed to his or her candidacies and proposal, when the thesis is ready for distribution to externals, and the student is ready for the final oral defence
  • Ensure that the student is adequately supervised by providing an acting supervisor (who should be a member of the supervisory committee) when on leave or an extended period of absence

Responsibilities of the Interim Supervisor

The interim supervisor is identified by the Academic Unit, graduate program designate, or may be selected by a student upon admission to the doctoral program based on common research interests or other factors. The position of interim supervisor/advisor should exist no longer than the first two years after the student has begun the program. The interim supervisor/advisor may or may not become the student’s thesis/dissertation supervisor/advisor or a member of the student’s supervisory committee.

The overall purpose of the interim supervisor’s role is to assist the student in his or her adjustment to the graduate program and its expectations, act as a mentor, and provide advisement regarding program requirements and progress in the program until the supervisor/advisor is selected. More specifically, the interim supervisor would:

  • Confirm a time frame with the student for completion of the degree requirements
  • Advise and guide the student on his or her program of study
  • Approve changes to the student’s course of study with a recommendation that would be forwarded to the graduate program designate and the FGS, such as requests for leaves
  • Act as a resource person or advisor to the student until such time as the student acquires a supervisor/advisor (pertaining to awards, scholarships, conferences, research ideas, ideas for committee members)
  • In conjunction with the graduate program designate and the fgs, ensure the student meets faculty requirements and university regulations, or petitions in a timely manner for their waiver
  • Meet with the student on a regular basis to monitor progress (complete the annual progress report with the student) until this responsibility is assumed by the supervisor/advisor
  • Assist in identifying research and funding opportunities and assist the student in the application process

Responsibilities of the Co-Supervisor

In the case where a doctoral student will have two co-supervisors, the co-supervisor who will be assuming the primary responsibility for the fulfillment of AU policies must be a full-time, continuing tenured (or tenure track) faculty member at Athabasca University. In all instances, the co-supervisors must work together cooperatively to provide an environment for the student that is conducive to research and in which the student can grow intellectually. Below are the role descriptions for the co-supervisory model, should this model of supervision be adopted:

The AU Co-Supervisor will:

  • Serve as the external co-supervisor's liaison to AU and the Faculty/Centre program office.
  • Be familiar with the policies and regulations within the AU Faculty/Centre and the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS).
  • Work jointly with the external co-supervisor to construct an academic plan (program of study), establish a timeline and goals with the student at the beginning of the relationship, and assist and advise the student with his or her application to the AU Research Ethics Board, if appropriate.
  • Determine jointly with the external supervisor when the student is ready to proceed to the candidacy exam, when the dissertation is ready for distribution to all committee members, and when the student is ready for the final oral defence.

The External Co-Supervisor will:

  • Provide support to the student in the form of enhancement of ideas, research methodology and assistance in the completion of the proposal and of the dissertation.
  • Work jointly with the AU co-supervisor to construct an academic plan (program of study), establish a timeline and goals with the student at the beginning of the relationship, and assist and advise the student with his or her application to the au research ethics board, if appropriate.
  • Review draft copies of the dissertation proposal prior to the candidacy exam and of the dissertation prior to the dissertation defence and advise the AU cosupervisor and the program director as to whether or not the student is ready to defend his/her proposal and final dissertation.
  • Be available to student(s) on a regular basis, responding to specific academic questions and issues from the student(s) via email, fax, telephone and databases as appropriate.

Responsibilities of the Supervisory Committee Members

The Supervisory Committee Member will:

  • Read and provide prompt and constructive feedback on the dissertationproposal.
  • Participate in the candidacy exam (in person or electronically).
  • Provide advice and expertise to the student with their dissertation research.
  • Provide timely and constructive feedback on the dissertation.
  • Attend supervisory committee meetings at least once/year for completion of the Annual Progress Report (in person or electronically).
  • Participate in the dissertation oral examination (in person or electronically).

Responsibilities of the Graduate Student

Students should regard graduate research as a partnership with their supervisor. When a student enters a graduate program, he or she commits time and energy necessary for research leading to a thesis/dissertation that makes a contribution to the knowledge in the student’s area. Although it is the duty of the supervisor to be reasonably available for consultation, ultimately the student is responsible for conducting the proposed research work and the program of study. The responsibilities of the student include:

  • Become familiar with the policies, procedures, and regulations of his or her Academic Unit and the Faculty of Graduate Studies
  • Assess his or her financial needs during the tenure of the graduate program
  • Adhere to all deadlines and policies regarding registration, withdrawal, thesis submission, and deadlines established with the supervisor and by the committee
  • Develop, with the guidance of the supervisor, a written research proposal, which must be approved by the supervisory committee
  • Self-evaluate progress and productivity throughout the program
  • Become familiar with the policies regarding research ethics
  • Meet with the supervisor when requested and report regularly on progress and results
  • Organize and be efficient in processing the data and in the planning of futur research
  • Keep abreast of current literature in the field
  • Allow adequate time for the supervisor or committee to provide comments o written material
  • Keep the supervisor informed on how he or she can be contacted and infor your supervisor of any significant changes that may affect the progress of th research
  • Keep a systematic record of research work and results, and be prepared t answer to the supervisory committee with respect to progress

Note: For information specific to the Doctoral in Business Administration program, go here.