5.3 Change of supervisor

5.3.1 Responsibility of the Head of School

The Head of School (or nominee) is responsible for ensuring that research students have continuous supervision during their period of registered study. If a supervisor is absent for an extended period, leaves the University, or if there is an irreconcilable breakdown in the supervisory relationship, the Head of School (or nominee) must ensure that adequate supervisory support is maintained, including putting alternative arrangements in place where appropriate. 

Where a change of supervisor is required, the Head of School (or nominee) must keep the student informed throughout the process. Replacement supervisors must meet the criteria for appointment in Section 5.2

The Head of School (or nominee) must take into account the requirements of any sponsors. Where a student is funded on a studentship attached to a particular supervisor or is on a specific research grant, it may not be possible to change supervisor. There may also be other circumstances where it is not feasible to change a supervisor. 

In some circumstances, it may not be possible to identify a new supervisor for a student from within the University. If this is the case, the Head of School (or nominee) will explore options with the student.

5.3.2 Temporary unexpected absence of a supervisor

Where a supervisor is temporarily absent for an unexpected reason (for example, through illness), the Head of School (or nominee) must ensure that the research student continues to receive adequate supervision, which could include a new temporary arrangement for the duration of the absence. Students must be informed of their new first point of contact if it is their main supervisor who is unavailable. 

Where the period of unexpected absence of a main supervisor is anticipated to exceed six months, the Head of School (or nominee) will normally appoint a permanent replacement or explore other options with the student.

5.3.3 Temporary planned absence of a supervisor

Where a supervisor has a planned temporary absence that prevents them from being reasonably accessible, the Head of School (or nominee) must ensure that the research student continues to receive adequate supervision. This could include a new temporary arrangement. Students must be informed of their new first point of contact if it is their main supervisor who is unavailable.

5.3.4 Breakdown in the supervisory relationship

If the relationship between a research student and their supervisor/s starts to break down, the Head of School (or nominee) will make available an alternative and independent source of advice to the student. In cases where the relationship suffers an irreconcilable breakdown, new supervisory arrangements or further options may be considered.

5.3.5 Requests to change supervisory arrangements

Supervisory responsibilities may be changed at the request of a research student or a supervisor to the Head of School (or nominee), who must take into account the requirements of any sponsors. Normally, any change of supervisor will be by mutual agreement between the student and the University.

5.3.6 Supervisors who move to other institutions

When a supervisor moves to another institution, the Head of School (or nominee) will explore the options available to the research student. This will take into account any sponsor requirements. It may be possible for co-supervision to continue at a distance, but the main supervisor must always meet the requirements set out in Section 5.2.2. Allocating a replacement supervisor from within the University may be the most appropriate action in these cases. 

It is the responsibility of the Head of School (or nominee) to take all reasonable measures to appoint replacement supervisors or to facilitate supervision at a distance. In some circumstances however it may be more appropriate for the student to transfer to the supervisor’s new institution.

5.3.7 Supervisors who leave

When a supervisor leaves the University but does not move to another institution (for example, through retirement), the Head of School (or nominee) will explore the options available to the research student, including whether there is an appropriate replacement supervisor. 

It is possible however for retired members of staff to act as a co-supervisor for continuing students, as per Section 5.2.3.