The Open University Research Degrees Committee, which includes representatives from the Universityís academic units and full-time and part-time research students, is responsible for the formulation of the Universityís research degree policy. The Committee takes decisions about the admission, registration and progress of individual students on the basis of recommendations from supervisors and heads of discipline, who have a general responsibility for the progress of research students in their areas.
The Research School is responsible for the implementation of research degree policy and for the administration of the research degree programme. It welcomes enquiries from students and supervisors who want advice about aspects of research degree policy or information about the services and support available. Please ask:
The Open University
Phone 01908 653808
The Open University Research Degrees Committee welcomes comments on the code of practice from students, supervisors and sponsoring establishments. They should be sent to the Research School.
The publications that contain information about supervision arrangements for research students are:
Research Degrees in Sponsoring Establishments Student Handbook, which includes the Universityís student regulations and the research degree award regulations, and is sent to all registered students and to supervisors.
Research Degrees in Sponsoring Establishments Guidelines for Supervisors, which should be sent by the sponsoring establishment to all supervisors when they are offered appointment, gives information about supervisorsí duties and about monitoring studentsí progress.
Annual Progress Report Exercise Guidelines, sent to sponsoring establishments each January, to explain the annual progress report procedures.
This code of practice sets out guidelines for the conduct of the relationship between research students and supervisors. It defines the responsibilities of students and supervisors, suggesting what each can reasonably expect of the other, and gives examples of good supervisory practice. If the code of practice is to be effective, there must be a continual process of negotiation between students and their supervisors. The code is intended to provide a framework for research in an atmosphere of scholarship and collegiality.
The code is designed to enable students to complete their degrees successfully within the time limits. Full-time PhD students should aim to complete their degrees within three years, which is the period of most studentship awards, and certainly within four. The maximum period of registration for part-time students is 6 years.
These maximum periods should not be regarded as the norm. Students should work towards completion times within these periods.
Supervisors are responsible for the academic progress and pastoral or personal support of their students, and for dealing with administrative matters. They should provide the guidance and support necessary for successful completion of the research project.
Supervisors are responsible for:
Students can also reasonably expect their supervisors to:
Students are expected to:
Supervisors can also reasonably expect students to:
The following points are recommended to students, supervisors and sponsoring establishments as good supervisory arrangements and practice.
At their initial meeting the supervisors and the student should draw up a written agreement on the role of each supervisor and arrangements for supervisory support.
Students and supervisors should have regular meetings at which academic advice is given and through which progress is monitored. This is particularly important at the beginning of the research, so that the project makes a good start.
It cannot be too strongly stressed that the success of research projects depends largely on the help and guidance offered by supervisors, especially in the early stages of the work. Close contact at that time is essential if later difficulties are to be avoided.
Frequency of meetings
This will depend on the studentís circumstances (full-time or part-time) and the nature and stage of the research project. Meetings should be more frequent for full-time students and in the early stages of the research.
In the first term full-time students should normally meet their supervisors at least once a week. After that, monthly meetings could suffice. Part-time students should ideally meet their director of studies at least six times a year. At important stages in the project, particularly in the first year, meetings may be more frequent and should be supplemented by regular Phone calls, email or written correspondence. The student should meet all the supervisors together at least once a year.
Arrangements for supervisory support, including the frequency of meetings, must be agreed at the first meeting, and the schedule must be adhered to by students and supervisors.
The first meeting
The first meeting between student and supervisors is particularly important in establishing a provisional framework for future support and getting the studentís academic work off to a good start. The following areas should be covered in the first meeting:
Role of each supervisor
Frequency of future meetings
Timetable for early meetings
Arrangements for seeing and commenting on written work
Monitoring arrangements and timetable
Research facilities available
Sponsoring establishment training programmes and attendance requirements
General framework for the whole research project
Detailed plan for the early stages of the research project
Regular meetings, in accordance with the agreed schedule, are essential to monitor progress and agree timetables for the future. The research timetable should be committed to paper so that supervisors can see whether deadlines have been met. Examples of supervisory schedules are given below.
The length of meetings will vary. For full-time students meetings of an hour or so are usual. For part-time students, whose meetings are less frequent, they will be longer.
Supervisors use different methods to monitor their studentsí progress, and they should agree with the student at the initial meeting how it is to be done. Supervisors are required by the Open University Research Degrees Committee to submit an annual report to the sponsoring establishment contact on the progress of their students, and this should be taken into account when working out a monitoring schedule. Examples are given below.
The Open University Research Degrees Committee requires a substantial review of progress for full-time students shortly before the end of the first year, for part-time students before the end of the two-year probationary period. The timetables agreed at supervision meetings should be used to see whether deadlines are being met and progress is being made.
Students should prepare progress reports for their supervisors at regular agreed intervals. The timing should be linked to the annual report supervisors are required to make.
Contacts in sponsoring establishments also have responsibilities for monitoring students. They are required to ensure that students in their sponsoring establishments make adequate academic progress each year, and to take any action required to enable students to meet their submission dates. They are also responsible for making sure that students receive copies of their progress reports when they have been endorsed.
Examples of supervision and monitoring schedules
For a full-time student
|Supervision schedule||Monitoring schedule|
|First term||Weekly meetings with supervisors||Report on progress at end of first term.|
|Second term||Monthly meetings with supervisors||Supervisors report to sponsoring establishment. Report on progress at end of second term.|
|Third term||Monthly meetings with supervisors||End of first-year report prepared. This might include an oral presentation or assessment by a member of academic staff other than the supervisors. Agreement to proceed or withdraw.|
|Years 2 and 3||Monthly meetings with supervisors||Reports of progress in December, April and June. Supervisors report to sponsoring establishment annually.|
For a part-time student
|Supervision schedule||Monitoring schedule|
|Year 1||Early meeting with supervisors.||At least six meetings with supervisors, and regular Phone calls, email or correspondence. End of year meeting with supervisors. Supervisors report on progress to sponsoring establishment.|
|Year 2||At least six meetings with supervisors, and regular Phone calls, email or correspondence.||End of year meeting with supervisors. Probationary period report prepared and submitted to contact in sponsoring establishment, with recommendation of degree for which student should be registered.|
|Year 3 onwards||At least six meetings with supervisors, and regular Phone calls, email or correspondence.||Supervisors report on progress to sponsoring establishment annually.|
Changes in supervision
Students have the right to discuss and criticise the supervision they are receiving. Initially, any concerns should be raised with supervisors at the regular supervision meetings. If they cannot be resolved, the student should discuss the difficulties with the contact in the sponsoring establishment or the Assistant Registrar (Research Degrees).
If the problem cannot be resolved a new supervisor may be appointed, but there may be difficulties in finding a replacement supervisor who has experience of the thesis subject area.
Students have the right to appeal against decisions of the Open University Research Degrees Committee, such as an examination result or a decision not to continue registration. Appeals have to be lodged within one month of the decision, or two months for appeals against an examination result.