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Supervison, Mentoring and Progress

Supervision

As a research student, your closest contact will be with your supervisor, or co-supervisors, who will meet with you regularly, at least once every 4-6 weeks (for full-timers), depending on the particular stage you are at – to discuss your work, and agree a programme of reading, research and writing with you. In addition, recent UK Border Agency directives have led the University to agree that all overseas PGRs must have some form of contact with their supervisors once a month and should give notice of any period of time they expect to spend outside of the UK. In order to ensure all PGRs receive equal treatment the department applies this stipulation to Home/EU PGRs as well. We use Tabula to note key points form the meetings, and also document material submitted, should the student choose to do so.

The supervisory relationship is at the heart of your research. The University lays down guidelines on the respective responsibilities of supervisors and research students in the Guidelines on the Supervision and Monitoring of Research Students. You should familiarise yourself with these guidelines and discuss any questions you may have with your supervisor at the start of your period of study.

Supervisory absences due to unexpected circumstances

Every effort will be made to ensure that the supervisory arrangements put in place for your doctoral work continue to work as well as possible throughout your period of study. However, the Department is aware that difficulties do sometimes arise between doctoral students and their supervisors, often through no fault on either side. If you should have any concerns relating to your supervision, please feel free to raise the matter directly with your supervisor, or, if you prefer, to discuss the matter in confidence with the Director of Graduate Studies. You may also wish to speak with your mentor, who can offer impartial advice.

Any difficulties raised by the student relating to supervision will not prejudice that student in any way. However, it is important to note that it is the responsibility of the student to bring the difficulties to the attention of their mentor, the Director of Graduate Studies or, in the last resort, to the University Graduate School Office, in good time. The University cannot remedy difficulties or failings of which it was not made properly aware.

If, for any reason, your supervisor should become absent or unavailable to direct your work for a period of 4 weeks or longer, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Course Director, will meet with you at the earliest available opportunity to discuss the support you need. The DGS or Course Director may assign a replacement supervisor, on either a temporary or a permanent basis. Alternatively, if return of your supervisor is expected within a short period and you find that you have adequate support (e.g. for second supervisors, tutors or other members of the research group), the DGS will agree a support plan with you. Be sure to advise your DGS or Course Director fully of your requirements, it may be difficult to recoup time lost if your research falls behind schedule.

Guidance on Extenuating/Mitigating Circumstances

It is important that if circumstances arise that are sufficiently serious that they may affect your progress, submission and examination of your research you not only discuss these with your suprvisor, but also formally note them on a mitigating circumstances form, so that these can be taken into account before examination. Information on how to define and declare mitigating circumstances, is available at https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/aro/dar/quality/categories/examinations/policies/u_mitigatingcircumstances/ (although the information on this page is primarily for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught Students, the ‘definitions of Mitigating Circumstances are also intended to be helpful for Postgraduate Research Students, and also lodge such issues with the Graduate School.)

Extenuating or mitigating circumstances are those events which have had a detrimental effect on your study, to the point that it is in your interest to draw the department’s attention to them and ask for them to be considered in mitigation of poor performance. Such circumstances include (but are not limited to) illness, both bodily and emotional; the severe illness or death of a close family member; a shocking or traumatic personal experience. In addition, sudden, unexpected changes in family circumstances might affect your ability to make academic progress as a consequence of their demonstrable emotional impact upon you, and may also be considered as mitigation.

The University is aware that in some cultures it is considered shameful or embarrassing to disclose the details of these kinds of circumstances to those outside one’s family. This is not the case in the prevailing UK culture and you should be aware that the department and the University are fully supportive of students in difficult circumstances and want to assist if at all possible. If you feel inhibited from talking to a supervisor, mentor or DGS in the first instance, you may also consider talking to a member of your SSLC, the Students’ Union, the University Senior Tutor or a member of staff in Student Support for initial, informal advice.

Clearly, though, in order for your circumstances to be considered as mitigating by the department, they must be conveyed formally to someone in the department . The University expects that you will discuss your circumstances before submission or examination, so that they may be taken into account in good time. You should be aware that, in the event that you feel you need to appeal the outcome of an examination, offering extenuating or mitigating circumstances at that point will need to be accompanied by a good reason why you withheld the information earlier. Without wanting to invade your privacy, the University does expect that you bring such circumstances to the department’s attention in a timely manner, despite the discomfort you might feel in so doing. Failure to disclose such circumstances at a time when you could have done so may subsequently be problematic. The department will do all it can to support you in difficult situations.

Mentoring

Alongside your supervisor(s) you will also be allocated a mentor in the Department. The mentor is effectively a personal tutor to whom you may address matters relating to your ability to study efficiently, as opposed to those concerned with the actual academic content and progress of your research. It is entirely up to you whether you choose to consult or seek the support of your mentor. He or she is not, however, intended to take on the role of an additional or ‘substitute’ supervisor.

Upgrade and Graduate Progress Committee (GPC) Procedure

Upgrade

MPhil/PhD candidates are required to submit to an upgrade procedure at a point between 9 and 12 months (or the equivalent time for part-timers of 18-24 months) after initial registration. An upgrade committee, consisting of two academic staff from the School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies (but not the supervisor(s) concerned), meets with the candidate to assess both progress and the scope of the research in question with a view to upgrading initial MPhil registrations to a doctoral scheme of study. Generally there will be one Theatre and Performance Studies and one Cultural Policy Studies academic involved, but in some circumstances – for example, where there is a co-supervision with another department of the University – it may be appropriate to involve someone from that department instead. Supervisors provide a short summary progress report beforehand and may, exceptionally, attend the meeting, but they are not formally part of the decision-making process and should not be present for that discussion. In cases where it has been deemed appropriate to have the supervisor present, the candidate should also be offered the opportunity to converse independently with members of the committee.

Two weeks in advance of the upgrade meeting, the student should present

* a brief written summary of progress, including a narrative report of at least 300 words reflecting on your academic, personal and professional development across the Warwick Skills forge framework’s themes, to the members of the committee,

* a projected work schedule relating to the period of time remaining.

* a substantial piece of recent writing, usually amounting to a chapter (or equivalent for practice-as-research candidates), see content details below.

The supervisor/s also submit a report of the student's progress to the designated committee at this time.

Subsequent to the meeting, a short report is filed with the School’s postgraduate administrator and the Graduate School Office, giving a summary of progress and indicating the upgrade committee’s decision. The administrator ensures a formal memo is sent to Student Records requesting the change of status (as applicable). Where the committee is not convinced an upgrade to PhD is merited, it may ask the candidate to prepare a revised submission, provided this is feasible within the available 12 month time frame.

Graduate Progress Committee

Beyond the upgrade stage a Graduate Progress Committee is formed once a year for each full-time MPhil or PhD student (and equivalent period of time for part-timers). It meets in order to monitor and review the progress of the candidate’s research project and is attended by the student and two members of the School. The supervisor may attend, but not contribute to the meeting.

The submission for the GPC takes the same form as for the upgrade committee and should also be submitted two weeks in advance of the meeting.

A summary of progress is held on file by the School subsequent to the GPC meeting. Where progress is unsatisfactory, a student’s supervisor should discuss the situation initially with the student and explain why this is deemed to be the case. If there is an explanation such as ill health or personal difficulties, the supervisor should discuss the possibility of requesting a emporary suspension of study (temporary withdrawal, see below for details). It may also be appropriate to refer the student to support services within the University or the Students’ Union.

If there are no mitigating circumstances, the supervisor should attempt to identify the academic reasons for poor progress and agree with the student measures to improve progress and a plan of work to be done. A written record should be kept of any such discussion. The Director of Graduate Studies should be informed of a supervisor’s concerns at this point if s/he has not already been involved.

Upgrade/ GPC submissions

The precise make-up of the submission for both upgrade and GPC is something students should discuss with their supervisor. As far as the written sample is concerned, the emphasis in the upgrade is on evaluating the use of scholarly conventions (coherent argument, clarity of structure, convincing methodological approach etc), whereas the GPC will be more specialised and content-specific in its focus. The candidate’s progress report is likely to be no more than 2-3 pages in length and should include the following information: 

  • Summary of objectives – what is the research about?
  • Comment on any significant changes in objectives or changes to the proposal
  • Summary of work undertaken (since enrolment or the upgrade/previous GPC) – list written work completed including word count, highlight any significant research findings and progress to date
  • Schedule of work to be undertaken over the coming year and beyond, including reading targets, writing assignments and primary research, as well as deadlines
  • Highlight any problems (access to resources, methodological problems, etc.)Highlight any concerns on the direction/content of the research
  • Any other factors which have affected progress over the past year or are likely to do so in the future.
  • 300 word reflection on academic, personal and professional development across the PGR Professional Development Framework’s themes, and how the courses you have done have helped you develop professionally.
  • Bibliography of sources read to date

The student is expected to present his or her research at the upgrade/GPC meeting (presentation no longer than 15 minutes) and will then be questioned on it.

The report of the upgrade/GPC meeting will include the following:

  • Date of meeting
  • Student details
  • Membership of GPC
  • Background
  • General Comments on Progress
  • Quality of Work
  • Original Contribution
  • Schedule
  • FieldworkConferences and Publications
  • Absences
  • Recommendation (for upgrades)

(See University of Warwick Graduate School Guidelines on the Supervision and Monitoring of Research Degree Students)

Annual Report Form and Review

PhD students complete an annual online report form commenting on research progress and supervision in the Department. The supervisor also completes part of this form, but comments on research supervision are kept confidential from the supervisor. http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/academicoffice/gsp/current/studentprogress/annualreport 

Late Submission and Extension Requests

For pre-2011 enrolments, extensions beyond the initial three year period of full-time registration (5 years part-time) are subject to the written support of the Department’s DGS and approval by the Chair of the Graduate School. Normally one may expect up to a maximum of 12 months in total for extensions, regardless of f-t/p-t status. If the thesis is not ready to be submitted within the formal period, candidates are permitted three months grace automatically but further extensions will have to be applied for in writing, giving reasons for the extension and setting out a schedule for completion. Your supervisor and the DGS are also required to indicate their support for an extension in the submission you make to the Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies. If you fail to submit your thesis within the fee-paying period of registration or during an authorised period of extension, the University may require you to withdraw and may ultimately refuse to examine your thesis. It is therefore essential that you monitor and maintain progress towards your specified completion date.

From 1 August 2011, all full-time PhD and equivalent level students are enrolled on a four year registration period. Part-time students are registered for a period of seven years. This change was brought in, in part, to enhance the student experience regarding visa applications and to formally acknowledge the ‘writing-up’ year after three years active registration. Extensions to the four-year period will only be granted on an exceptional basis. (The University regulations on late submissions and extensions have been outlined in the first paragraph in the section entitled RESEARCH DEGREES OFFERED BY THE DEPARTMENT (p.3).)

Suspension of Studies (Temporary withdrawal)

Given the University regulations on late submission and extensions, you should apply for a suspension of studies if any problem arises during your period of study which might interfere with your ability to undertake your research. Suspensions of studies are granted on compassionate grounds or for health reasons. In the latter case a doctor’s note may be required. The suspension of studies covers a specified period of absence from your work. This time is then added on to your period of registration. The suspension of studies must be requested in writing by the student, together with a supporting statement from the supervisor. Please note that suspensions of studies are unlikely to be granted retrospectively, or immediately before submission. Students holding external awards will also need to receive clearance from the funding bodies concerned.It is worth noting policy on how long and in what circumstances this may be appluied for, also how it may affect canddiates holding Tier4 visas. For Guidance on the process, see http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/academicoffice/gsp/guidingyouthrough/guidelines/studentprogress/suspendingyourstudies/temporarywithdrawal. For the form, see http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/academicoffice/gsp/formslibrary/twdform.pdf

Appeals and Complaints

The University also operates a three stage Student Complaints Resolution Pathway. The Student Complaints Resolution Procedure, together with further information, advice and guidance for staff and students, is available online from http://warwick.ac.uk/studentfeedbackandcomplaints/