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Code of Practice on Postgraduate Research (PGR) Supervision at XJTLU

1. Background

a) This document is underpinned by and should be referenced alongside the University of Liverpool’s Ordinance for the PhD and MPhil programmes and Postgraduate Research Code of Practice, ‘Policy on Research Student Supervision’ which can be found in UoL Postgraduate Research Code of Practice.

b) The supervisory arrangements for postgraduate research (PGR) students studying at XJTLU are detailed in the Accreditation Agreement between the University of Liverpool (UoL) and XJTLU (hereafter referred to as ‘the Accreditation Agreement’. These documents apply only to students at XJTLU registered on a UoL research programme leading to the award of Doctor in Philosophy (PhD) or Master in Philosophy (MPhil).

c) This Code of Practice sets out how the UoL ‘Policy on Research Student Supervision’ applies to the specific context of XJTLU and how it should be operated by XJTLU. Where there may be ambiguity or unclarity in the application of the terms of the relevant documents, the UoL Ordinance for PhD and MPhil will take precedence, followed by the Accreditation Agreement, followed by this Code of Practice.

2. Supervision Arrangement

a) The eligibility criteria for Postgraduate Research supervisors are set out in Appendix1 Eligibility for Research Degree Supervision at XJTLU. All eligible XJTLU supervisors must also be approved by UoL as ‘recognised supervisors’, in accordance with the UoL Policy on Research Student Supervision and the Accreditation Agreement.

b) All postgraduate research students must be supervised by at least two suitably qualified members of academic staff appointed by the relevant School/Institute. Normally XJTLU PhD students should be jointly supervised by members of staff from UoL and XJTLU. In circumstances where this is not possible (e.g. Where the project falls out of scope for UoL capacity or specific expertise, etc.), then UoL would approve both supervisors being members of staff of XJTLU. In this case UoL would identify a PGR Director contact in the relevant UoL School who would be responsible for quality assurance of the supervision process.

c) The Principal Supervisor should be based at XJTLU and will be the student’s principal point of contact, even where they may not be providing the larger proportion of supervision. The assignment of the entire supervisory team will be undertaken and approved as part of the approval process for the project proposal. Consideration of assignment of XJTLU staff as supervisor will also be undertaken by the relevant Head of Department, taking into account the total number of students being supervised by the individual and other workload commitments.

d) When appointing supervisors to students registered on PhD programmes, it is required to give an indication of the level of each supervisor’s respective input into the student’s supervision, by expressing this as a percentage in application process. No supervisor should have an input of less than ten percent. The Principal Supervisor would normally have the largest percentage of supervisory input but in any case this should not normally be less than forty percent.

e) Mentors are required for Principal Supervisors who have not had a PhD completion and the aggregate allocation for all nominated mentors should normally be at least forty percent. In such cases, the principal supervisor may not be proposed as providing the larger proportion of supervision of a PGR student within the supervisory team. Where the project requires it, a second XJTLU mentor supervisor may belong to a different academic department at XJTLU than that of the student and the Principal Supervisor.

f) Within the terms of other partnership agreements between the University of Liverpool and XJTLU, it may be possible for a supervisor from another institution to co-supervise the student, as long as there remains at least one supervisor from XJTLU and from UoL and that the external supervisor is approved by both XJTLU and UoL as a ‘recognised supervisor’. Under such arrangements, the student would still be registered for a UoL research programme leading to a single UoL award. No other arrangement for supervision is permitted.

g) Where an XJTLU supervisor leaves the University, appropriate steps should be taken to ensure the continuity of supervision and minimize the impact for the student, and the consultation should take place with UoL on approving a new member of the supervisory team.

3. Responsibilities of All Supervisors

This section outlines responsibilities that apply to all members of the supervisory team. Additional obligations (as well as some technical workflow roles) which are the specific responsibility of the Principal Supervisors are set out in section 4.

a) It is the responsibility of the Principal Supervisor at XJTLU to attend the Supervisors’ Induction session before recruiting a PGR student. This session, which is organized by XJTLU Graduate School takes at least three times per year and attendance is recorded.

b) It is the responsibility of all supervisors to establish a professional and supportive relationship with their student(s), in order to facilitate their development as a researcher, within a vibrant and stimulating research environment. Supervisors should provide access to the wider national and international research community including opportunities to attend relevant conferences and workshops or through dissemination via journal publications, where appropriate.

c) Supervisors should ensure that students are aware of the current developments in both specific and wider areas of research.

d) Supervisors should encourage students to question critically the existing literature around the specific subject area, the assumptions of the research project and the results they obtain.

e) Supervisors must keep up to date with changes and updates to the relevant University policies and procedures and the academic regulations governing the relevant research degree programme. The XJTLU supervisor must consult with the UoL co-supervisor on UoL’s academic regulations and relevant policies and procedures in order to provide advice and guidance to students. The XJTLU supervisor, however, will be required to provide advice and guidance to students on relevant XJTLU policies and procedures, particularly in relation to registration, any fees payments, terms of studentships and skills training. Where necessary, supervisors should seek advice from specialist professional services in the relevant institution.

f) In their professional supervisory relationship with students, supervisors should endeavour to encourage students’ engagement with their research project but should remain critical and realistic about students’ progress. They are required to record any concerns they have, particularly during any formal process for evaluating a student’s academic progress.

g) Supervisors should advise students on issues relating to academic integrity, provide advice and guidance on the University’s policies on such matters, and take steps to assist students to avoid plagiarism, collusion and dishonest use of data.

h) Supervisors should make it clear to students that their research project is the students’ own responsibility and that it is the Examiners, who are entirely independent of the supervisors, who will ultimately determine the final outcome of the award. Supervisors are expected to read the student’s thesis and provide feedback prior to submission but must not engage in any activity which could compromise the independence of the viva voce (hereafter referred to as viva) examination, which includes consulting with the appointed Examiners regarding the scheduled examination (other than about logistical arrangements) or taking part in any formal examination of the thesis or research project, including attending, in any capacity, the examination.

i) It is strongly advised that, as a matter of good practice, the opportunity is taken to document in writing (e.g. an email summary) all substantive interactions between supervisors and students, however informal, to ensure that supervisors and students are clear about the frequency, content and outcomes of such supervisory meetings.

j) It is the responsibility of supervisors to ensure that students are made aware of the consequences of not making satisfactory progress with their research project.

k) It is the responsibility of all supervisors to advise students on the processes for requesting a change in registration, particularly in relation to a suspension of studies if the students’ personal, financial or health circumstances prevent them from continuing on their programme temporarily. Supervisors are required to process such requests in a timely fashion and should explain the implications and the consequences of suspending studies, taking advice as appropriate from the specialist professional services.

4. Additional Responsibilities of the Principal Supervisor

It is the responsibility of the Principal Supervisor:

a) Once the Principal Supervisor has agreed to undertake this role, and where appropriate, to evaluate the suitability of the proposed project and suitability of the applicant to undertake the project prior to formal registration of the student onto the research programme, and, where appropriate, to conduct an interview with prospective students. It should be noted that the final decision regarding acceptance of a student for registration onto a research programme is not the responsibility of the Principal Supervisor but of the Dean of School/Institute in UoL in accordance with UoL’s Postgraduate Research Degrees Admissions Policy and Procedures. It is recognised as good practice to involve members of staff outside the proposed supervisory team in assessing the student’s application.

b) To ensure that full-time PGR students are aware that they cannot work full-time elsewhere during their PhD studies at XJTLU. Candidates with full-time jobs can only be recruited as part-time PGR students.

a) To take a lead within any supervisory team in advising students on the academic regulations governing the research degree programme, relevant University policies and procedures and all student-related processes such as registration, payment of fees (including the consequences of non-payment of fees), submission of thesis and viva examination processes.

b) To provide clear guidelines to students on the required timescales for completion of the relevant research degree programme, including the maximum periods of registration for the relevant research degree programme.

c) To provide guidance about the planning of the research project, set appropriate and clear objectives, targets and deadlines within the overall project plan and critically monitor the student’s progress against this plan.

d) To ensure that each student is provided with an appropriate induction to the research group, academic Department, School and wider University, in partnership with other relevant contributors.

e) To undertake a Development Needs Analysis (DNA) with the student at the start of their programme to identify an appropriate skills training programme and any exemptions for which the student qualifies. The Principal Supervisor should monitor a student’s progress against this skills training programme and identify to the student any issues in their performance against the plan.

f) To meet regularly with students, either in person or remotely, in accordance with the relevant programme. It would be expected that XJTLU-based supervisors would normally meet with their XJTLU-based students face to face. Principal Supervisors are required to meet with their full-time students at least once per month and with their part- time students at least once every two months and to ensure that a formal record of such supervisory meetings is made in the University’s PGR Toolbox or its approved alternative system. These formal supervisory meetings should have an agenda agreed in advance and a record of agreements of outcomes and targets reached during the meeting.

Principal Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that their students record such supervisory meetings, as failing to provide a full record is likely to affect the evaluation of their Annual Progress Monitoring (APM).

g) To ensure that their students are enabled to complete their Annual Progress Report (APR) within the required timescales and to ensure that they themselves complete the supervisor’s evaluation with supportive but critical and realistic feedback in a timely fashion.

h) To be accessible to students as appropriate at times other than formal supervisory meetings. The expectation is that a Principal Supervisor will meet at an appropriate frequency with students outside this formal process.

i) To read the full thesis prior to submission, with appropriate feedback given within agreed timescales.

j) To convene a meeting at least once per semester, to discuss with the student on-going progress issues with the research project, held in person or remotely with other members of the supervisory team.

k) To arrange for students to present their work to staff and other students and to provide the opportunity to have practice in viva examinations.

l) To ensure that any requests by a student for a change to their registration e.g. change of mode of study, request to suspend studies, transfer to submission pending, are processed in a timely way in order that the student is not disadvantaged in any way and that their registration record is accurate and up to date.

m) To take the lead in nominating Examiners for viva examinations. The nominations must be endorsed by the relevant Head of Department at XJTLU for approval by the Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at XJTLU before being submitted for final approval to the relevant Faculty Director of PGR at UoL.

n) To inform the student of the names of the Examiners and to ensure that the student is prepared and supported to undertake the viva examination.

If the student informs them of any exceptional or medical circumstances that might affect their performance in the viva examination, to ensure that the Examiners are informed of these circumstances prior to the viva by alerting their School Director of PGR Students, provided that the student has given consent to share this information. Normally the School Director of PGR Students is expected to contact the Internal Examiner in such cases.

5. Responsibilities of the Co-supervisors

It is the responsibility of the Co-upervisor and other Supervisors (collectively referred to below as ‘Second Supervisors’):

a) To consult with the Principal Supervisor on the feasibility of the proposed project and the suitability of the applicant prior to formal offer, and, where appropriate, to participate in the interview of prospective students.

b) To assist the student and the Principal Supervisor in completing a DNA at the beginning of the student’s registration.

c) To meet with students and other members of the supervisory team at least once per semester, or more frequently, depending on the specific research degree programme, to discuss progress with the project and the direction that the research is taking. Co- supervisors are advised to keep a copy of the record of these supervisory meetings.

d) To be available to students at times other than formal supervisory meetings and provide general support as required to the student and the Principal Supervisor. Depending on the proportion of supervision provided to the student by the Second Supervisor, they may make more or less academic input into the research. It is expected that, the more academic input made (i.e. the greater the percentage supervision provided), the greater the frequency of supervisory meetings between the student and the Second Supervisor. Second and other supervisors are also responsible for ensuring that the thesis is read prior to submission, with appropriate feedback given within agreed timescales.

e) In instances where the Principal Supervisor does not have previous supervisory experience, the Co-supervisor will act as a Mentor Supervisor, providing appropriate mentoring and support. This will include:

  1. Ensuring the student is correctly informed on academic regulations and policies governing the research degree programme.
  2. Meeting regularly with the student and Principal Supervisor i.e. once per month for the first six months following registration and regularly thereafter.
  3. Ensuring compliance with the APM process, in accordance with UoL’s Policy and Procedures on the Academic Progress of Postgraduate Research Students.
  4. Providing guidance on the thesis submission process, in accordance with UoL’s Policy on Submission of a Research Degree Thesis for Examination (Appendix 7 of the PGR CoP).

6. Problems with supervision

a) If a student feels that they wish to raise concerns about their supervision, in the first instance, they should raise the issue with their supervisor(s) either at XJTLU or UoL and the School Director of Postgraduate Research Students, or if this not appropriate, with the Dean of Research and Graduate Studies. If the matter is not resolved, the student should refer the matter to the Vice-President, Academic Affairs, under the XJTLU Student Complaints Procedure.

b) Students should raise any concerns they have about supervision during their monthly meetings with their supervisor. They may also raise concerns during the formal Annual Progress Review and ensure their concerns are recorded.

c) Supervisors should aim to address concerns raised and should seek appropriate advice if they are unsure how to handle any such concerns.

d) Where a PGR student has had their complaint dealt with under the XJTLU Student Complaints Procedure and they have exhausted all stages of this procedure, and they remain dissatisfied with the final decision, they are entitled to submit a complaint to UoL under the final stage of the UoL Student Complaints Procedure, in accordance with the Accreditation Agreement.

Appendix1 Eligibility for Research Degree Supervision at XJTLU

(Last review date: 09-Dec-2020)

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