The MGA can help you to negotiate your way to better supervision. Contact an MGA advocate for some confidential, independent and free advice.

The student/supervisor relationship is absolutely critical to an optimal research experience. It can make or break a PhD. Good supervisors provide mentoring, inspiration and intellectual challenge. A student-supervisor relationship, which is poor and unproductive, is extremely stressful. The MGA casework statistics show that poor supervision is the number one complaint reported by graduate research students.

Choosing a supervisor

A good supervisor is someone who:

  • Understands and takes an interest in your topic
  • Meets regularly with you
  • Provides constructive criticism and clear feedback
  • Recommends papers for you to read
  • Encourages you to present at conferences
  • Encourages and challenges you academically
  • Has a strong work ethic and expects the same of you
  • Is open to your opinions and ideas and honest with you
  • Is generous in acknowledging your authorship rights
  • Does not engage in departmental gossip
  • Encourages you to speak with other academics and develop networks
  • Is friendly but professional

Managing your supervisor

Early on in your candidature, you should aim to sit down with your supervisor and discuss their expectations of you, and your expectations of them. Decide upon:

  • The frequency, duration and timing of meetings
  • The amount of work and rate of progress expected of you
  • The feedback you can expect to receive from your supervisor
  • Compare your expectations of how the supervision arrangement will work and your supervisor’s expectations
  • Let your supervisor know if you have any personal problem that might affect your progress

The student-supervisor relation is a two way street. You need to do your part too. If you find you are struggling or unsure, or are experiencing illness or other impactful event in your life, let your supervisor know. Open communication with your supervisor will help.

What if things aren’t going well?

Many students come to MGA with problems concerning their courses, departments or supervisors. You are not alone. MGA advocacy staff can provide you with an objective opinion, useful advice and strategies, and guaranteed confidentiality. At your request a staff member can attend meetings either as an impartial observer or to speak on your behalf. Advice can be given by phone to graduate students who do not wish to identify themselves. Give us a call or drop us an email!

Code of Practice for Supervision
Code of Practice for Supervision of doctoral and research master’s candidates

Supervisor accreditation policy and maximum supervision load
5.1 Appointment of supervisors

Supervising by distance
Guidelines for remote supervision

Book an appointment with an MGA advocate

To get in contact with one of our advocates, please book an appointment via email. Alternatively, you can call the Clayton (9905 3197) or Caulfield (9903 1880) office to speak to one of our advocates.

Clayton office:

James Breheny

Caulfield office:

Sarah Murphy

Ying Xu