Post-graduate Thesis Supervision

For many research students, their relationship with their supervisor will be their most significant in College.

What is an inclusive supervisor?

An inclusive supervisor is aware of, and responsive to, differences arising from social and cultural backgrounds. Social / cultural differences may impact:

  • Ethical considerations
  • Research methodologies
  • Background assumptions

The inclusive supervisor is aware of the student as a holistic individual and is prepared to investigate alternative means of conducting research where the norm creates a barrier.

Guidelines for inclusive Supervision

Understanding your student:

  • Gain an understanding of the student's background at the beginning of the supervisory relationship. Pay particular attention to any potential barriers to the research experience. Consider:
    • cultural, social and professional background
    • expectations and aspirations
    • competency at written and oral English
    • learning preferences
    • personal and financial situation
  • Appreciate the challenges facing the new student:
    • New students may experience culture shock (particularly, but not solely, international students). Be alert and responsive to this
    • Be respectful both verbally and non-verbally. Do not ‘talk down' to students
    • Be aware of student support services on campus, and ensure your students are aware of them also


Establish clear expectations early.

  • Explain academic expectations regarding written work. Ensure plagiarism is well understood
  • Note what referencing style to use
  • Assess the student's research skills. Discuss actions for improvement if necessary
  • Establish a timetable of meetings and agree a work tempo
  • Clarify the role of the supervisor
  • Clarify what is expected of research students in College (e.g. in some cultural backgrounds it is seen as disrespectful to openly disagree with a supervisor) Be aware that your students' cultural understandings of the nature of knowledge and learning may differ from yours. Discuss any differences

Establish appropriate modes of address:

    • Discuss with your student what form of address they prefer. Be aware of cultural differences (e.g. some students may feel very uncomfortable using informal modes of address)

Attitude and Environment:

Be aware of the academic environment you create for your research students:

    • Be respectful of the student
    • Be aware that misunderstandings can arise due to differing background assumptions and experiences. Be open and honest about any miscommunications
    • Encourage peer support amongst research students
    • Respect your students' reason for engaging in research. Students will engage in research for different reasons (to embark on a research career, from interest etc.)

Be positive of diversity:

    • Be aware of any tendencies to stereotype students from different backgrounds either positively or negatively
    • View diverse perspectives and experiences as a resource. Utilise them. Be open to what those from other backgrounds can teach you
    • Be aware of different learning preferences, and open to amendment when your preferred supervisory style does not suit your student

Challenges for non-native English speakers:

Recognise that some students may find the English language, especially academic English, a particular challenge. This can lead to extra stress and a need for extra effort by the student:

    • Be aware of resources to help such students
    • Be aware and responsive to students' frustrations at not being able to express themselves clearly
    • Be aware that students may be reluctant to engage in verbal debate


Take time to complete a brief self-evaluation of your: