Supervision Resources

Resources for Supervisors

  1. Building an effective graduate student-supervisor relationship
    • Fundamental elements of successful graduate supervision
    • Questions to consider when accepting new students
    • Template letter as a tool to support communication with grad students

  2. Supervising graduate students
    • “To be an effective graduate supervisor, you must first recognize the responsibilities that come with this role, and ensure that these are met to the best of your abilities with each graduate student.”
    • Success depend on mutually open, committed, and respectful relationships between supervisors and graduate students
    • Use the Graduate Student / Supervisor Expectations document as needed to fit specific supervisory contexts

  3. Constructively ending the relationship
    • Reasons why a change of supervisors may be the best option (supervisor leaves the university, incompatibility between supervisor and student, funding, student changes area of interest)

Resources for Students

  1. Managing your program
    • Establishing your program
    • Policies relevant to your program
    • A guide to planning your program: The Graduate Game Plan

  2. Frequently asked questions
    • What should I discuss at my first meeting with my supervisor?
      You and your supervisor should talk about what you expect from each other. Useful resources are provided by UBC Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (G+PS) ( G+PS also offers sample student-supervisor agreements (
    • How often should I meet with my supervisor?
      Discuss this with your supervisor at one of your first meetings and negotiate a schedule that works for both of you. The schedule of meetings is likely to vary in different phases of the program. Some key points of the program when meetings are beneficial are as follows: making course selections; deciding on the topic of the graduating/major paper (MEd) or thesis (MA/PhD); deciding on comprehensive exam questions (PhD); discussing the research proposal; applying for human ethical review in the case of studies with human participants; creating a timeline and plan for publication and participation in conferences; drafting and revising the thesis; creating an employment strategy and application package; and preparing for defense (PhD/MA).
    • Am I expected to update my progress with my supervisor regularly?
      Some supervisors appreciate an update every month. Sometimes it can be just a short note: “Everything is fine.” Regular updates are generally necessary at the key points of the program outlined in the preceding question.
    • Where can I find more information regarding LLED 590: Graduating Project
      Please see the Graduating Project page for general information and Statement of Focus worksheet.
    • How can I apply for TA and RA positions?
      The TA positions are announced via email and posted on the department website. Talk to your supervisor about which courses you might apply to teach. Students with relevant teaching experiences can apply. A responsible faculty member will be overseeing your teaching. If you wish to work as an RA you should ask your supervisor about opportunities. Some faculty members also call for applications for RA positions through email.
    • Will there be opportunities for me to co-author papers with my supervisor?
      It is common for faculty members to write research papers or present at conferences with students who have worked on their research projects. Some students also invite their supervisors to co-author papers based on their thesis research. Based on the amount of contribution, either the faculty member or the student could be the first author. Please see the UBC Graduate Pathways to Success website for more information about authorship ( Also see guidelines on scholarly integrity:
    • Am I expected to apply for grants?
      Domestic PhD students are either required (for those awarded with four-year funding) or encouraged to apply for SSHRC. Students, including international students, should discuss with their supervisors other national, faculty and department awards for which they can apply.
    • Am I expected to publish?
      Many LLED students publish their work before they graduate. A sustained track record of publication is absolutely essential in the contemporary academic job market.
    • How long should I expect to wait for feedback on my writing?
      This is dependent on the length of your writing and the timing of submission within the academic year. The UBC Faculty of Graduate and Post-doctoral Studies suggests the “turnaround time for comments on written work should not normally exceed three weeks” ( Make sure your draft is carefully self-edited before you send it. It would also help if you can plan a calendar for your major paper or thesis so that your supervisor knows what is coming. It may take more time, however, for a supervisor or committee to respond to longer documents, such as a full draft of a PhD thesis. In LLED we suggest that, assuming your supervisor is not on holiday or sabbatical, you may expect 2-4 weeks turnaround time for every 50 pages of manuscript. Be sure to discuss with your supervisor expectations around submission deadlines and timing of feedback with a view to arriving at an agreement that works for you and all members of your supervisory committee.
    • Will my supervisor still be available when they are on sabbatical or after they retire?
      Your supervisor is expected to make arrangements for ongoing supervision and communication before going on sabbatical or retiring. Most supervisors, when on sabbatical, will keep contact with you through email and Skype, or meet with you in person when they are in town. It is rare for faculty members to admit new graduate students after they retire or close to their retirement. If your supervisor retires before you graduate, the department will, in consultation with you and your supervisor, assign a co-supervisor to work with you. Some faculty members might want to identify a colleague to take over their role as supervisor and/or committee member when they retire.

  3. Guidelines for addressing concerns and issues
    • Address any concerns as soon as possible
    • Address concerns “locally” if possible. First talk to your supervisor or the department graduate advisor.
    • Addressing highly sensitive or complex issues – resources available at the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and other units (Equity Office, Ombuds Office, GSS)