Supervisor

Important documents and information:

Who is qualified to supervise doctoral students?

Each doctoral student shall have a minimum of two supervisors, at least one of whom shall be a employee or an adjunct employee of Uppsala University. At least one supervisor shall be qualified for appointment as a docent. The principal supervisor shall have completed the three-week course Supervising Doctoral Students or an equivalent course at another higher education institution plus the one-day supplementary course on doctoral supervision at the Faculty of Science and Technology. It is recommended that all assistant supervisors take the three-week course no later than during their first year as a supervisor. The question of conflict of interest shall be considered when appointing a supervisor.

The most suitable appointment as principal supervisor is the supervisor who is planned to have main day-to-day responsibility for supervising the doctoral dissertation. Each supervisor’s tasks and areas of responsibility shall be stated in the individual study plan.

In order to ensure the best possible collaboration during doctoral studies, the supervisors and doctoral student should agree on the demands and expectations they have of one another at an early stage, preferably in writing.

It is the responsibility of the department to ensure that supervisors are able to perform their supervisory duties within the scope of their departmental duties. The department is also responsible for enabling continuing professional development for supervisors.

Monitoring doctoral students

One crucial element of supervision is to plan and follow up the progress of studies together with the doctoral student. The individual study plan shall be revised (at least) once a year. The doctoral student’s activities and funding shall be reported in Ladok each semester to reconcile the number of study months used.

The maximum actual period of study (net study time) is 48 months for a Degree of Doctor and 24 months for a Degree of Licentiate. The maximum actual period of study limits the period of employment as a doctoral student. It is therefore important that the doctoral student and supervisors keep track of net study time and discount time spent on departmental duties, parental leave, leave of absence, etc.

Change of supervisor

Pursuant to the Higher Education Ordinance, a doctoral student who so requests shall be allowed to change supervisor. It is the responsibility of the head of department to identify a solution that, as far as possible, satisfies both parties; for example, if the degree project is almost completed, that the original supervisor retains scientific responsibility for the project. If the doctoral student is at the beginning of their studies, consideration should be given to changing the degree project as well as the supervisor.

A supervisor shall be replaced if:

  • the supervisor is no longer an employee or an adjunct employee of the University, or is on a long-term, full-time leave of absence;
  • the supervisor is given new duties within the University or suffers from ill health to the extent that it becomes difficult for them to discharge their duties as supervisor; or
  • a conflict of interest arises.

The individual study plan shall be revised when a supervisor is replaced and the change registered in Ladok.

Responsibility of the supervisor

It is the joint responsibility of the head of department and supervisor to ensure that the doctoral student receives an adequate introduction to procedures at the department/division, including safety regulations (that must be complied with even in the sometimes exceptional situations that arise when conducting research). In addition, the supervisor is responsible for providing the doctoral student with an adequate introduction to doctoral studies. To support this, regular courses are arranged at faculty level. The supervisor is also responsible for introducing the doctoral student to the field and methodology of research. It is recommended that this be documented in the individual study plan under “Progression”.

The task of supervisor includes the accountable authority’s overall responsibility for ensuring that research is conducted in accordance with good research practice (SFS 2019:504). Furthermore, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that, through supervision and other parts of their education relating to research ethics, the doctoral student develops their ability to autonomously follow good research practice in their research.

A supervisor shall be reasonably, but not necessarily constantly, available to their doctoral student through, for example, scheduled group meetings and discussion sessions, but also through spontaneous contact in the workplace. In situations where the supervisor and doctoral student do not share a workplace for a period longer than a month or so, there should be mutual agreement regarding how contact between the two is to be maintained.

The nature of the supervisor-doctoral student relationship may mean that the supervisor will be required to deal with questions and problems that are not strictly related to studies.

The supervisor-doctoral student relationship

The supervisor-doctoral student relationship shall rest on a professional foundation. Many doctoral students work closely with their supervisors at the Faculty and it is only natural that over a period of four or five years conflicts or other problems may arise; however, when the doctoral student and supervisor have reasonable expectations of one another from the beginning, and these are specified in the individual study plan and addressed during regular structured discussions, they need not be overly divisive. The scope, forms and distribution of supervision over time should therefore be continuously updated in the individual study plan in consultation between the supervisor and doctoral student.

When disagreements arise, the parties should initially attempt to resolve them between themselves. If this fails, the primary responsibility for mediating or identifying a solution rests with the head of department. Should the conflict be deemed to be rooted in serious, purely personal differences, consideration should be given to appointing a new supervisor. If the conflict is rooted in scientific discord or disagreement about priorities, the first recourse should be mediation by an impartial third party. Given that the doctoral student may well feel at a formal disadvantage, particular care should be taken to ensure the impartiality of the mediator.

A doctoral student who feels that they have been ill-treated by their department/division may address their concerns to the Doctoral Board at the Faculty (TNDR), the chairperson of the Faculty’s Board of Doctoral Education, the University’s Student and Doctoral Student Ombudsperson, or a trade union representative. It is for the individual doctoral student to determine which instance is appropriate in their case. In some cases, it may be appropriate to contact the occupational health service. The decision on whether to take the matter further rests with the doctoral student. As far as possible, their personal data will remain confidential.

A situation may also arise in which a close personal relationship develops between a supervisor and doctoral student during the period of study. As the supervisor is required to make certain formal decisions regarding the doctoral student’s and her or his colleagues’ education, this creates a conflict of interest and a replacement supervisor shall be appointed for the doctoral student in question without delay.

Unsuccessful defence of a dissertation

If the defence of a doctoral dissertation is unsuccessful, it is the responsibility of the supervisor to immediately inform the Digital Publishing Unit at avhandling@ub.uu.se so that information on the dissertation can be deleted from the electronic document register and the national library catalogue, LIBRIS, which will automatically update local library catalogues.

Last modified: 2022-07-01