Principles for the Guidance of Supervisors and Readers

The Department has formulated certain principles for the guidance of supervisors and readers. Here is a summary.

  • The supervisor should be both expert in and interested in the proposed area of research, and the particular topic selected by the candidate. (In some cases, a supervisor may lack antecedent expertise, but may wish to acquire it and may find the necessary stimulus in supervision). A prospective supervisor should therefore unhesitatingly refuse a request to supervise, where this condition is not satisfied. That the prospective candidate very much wants to pursue a particular topic, and that no other person is available as a supervisor, are not overriding considerations. A student does not have the right to write on a topic which does not correspond to available expertise and interest among members of the Department.
  • It is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure that the topic is well-defined, and can be effectively researched and developed into a completed thesis within the equivalent of two years full-time work after completion of the area examination. The desire of a candidate to write on a more ambitious topic is not a sufficient reason for approving such a topic. A thesis need not be, and usually is not, a magnum opus.
  • No faculty member should feel any obligation to accept more than three students as supervisees at any one time. A faculty member who accepts more than three students should warn each not to expect the same closeness of supervision as would otherwise be available.
  • Since supervisors go on leave, provision for this should be made when supervision is first undertaken: either the supervisor should signify willingness to continue supervision, or an acting supervisor should be selected. A supervisor taking leave has an obligation to provide continuing supervision or arrange alternative supervision. This obligation diminishes if the supervisee does not complete work within two or three years after the area examination.
  • The role of a reader is to provide an additional opinion throughout the period of thesis-writing. Thus a reader may be expected to read the candidate’s work but not to offer the same detailed direction and commentary as the supervisor. Unless heavily committed to supervisory duties, one of the readers should be willing to serve as acting supervisor while the supervisor is on leave. A reader who is on leave, however, has no obligation to the candidate.