This page has information about what you should expect from your graduate supervisor. Those interested in supervising undergraduates themselves should refer to the Teaching and Outreach page.
The Role of the Principal Supervisor
Each graduate student is assigned a Supervisor who has expertise in the student’s research area and who will offer advice on all aspects of research and preparation of the dissertation.
It is important to understand the limits of the Supervisor's role. The Supervisor is concerned with helping you to clarify your own ideas, not imposing ideas or interests on you. You should not expect to be ‘spoon fed’ by your Supervisor; the Supervisor is not an all-purpose teacher but someone who guides the student’s own independent efforts. Graduate students in Cambridge are expected to have the capacity and enthusiasm for organising their own research and to work largely on their own initiative.
In relation to doctoral students, the Cambridge University Graduate Union states: ‘It is crucial to understand that you are expected to work without instruction, in fields that you choose yourself. Many students expect to be guided by their Supervisors, and cannot seem to adjust to the fact that they are the ones doing the research, the organisation and the motivation.’
Your Supervisor should make clear to you that his or her comments are of an advisory nature and that responsibility for the form and content of the final submission lies with you.
On occasion, it may be necessary to appoint a Secondary Supervisor in addition to the Principal Supervisor. Often this happens when the Principal Supervisor is of retirement age.
The frequency of meetings with your supervisor will vary, but every one to two weeks with your supervisor, and two meetings per academic year with your advisors, is generally expected.
If you feel dissatisfied with your supervision arrangements at any time during your graduate study, please seek out any or all of the available sources of Advice and Support.
Cambridge Graduate Supervision Reporting System (CGSRS)
The University of Cambridge operates the Cambridge Graduate Supervision Reporting System or CGSRS, which allows graduate students to see their reports directly through their self-service web pages in CamSIS (the University of Cambridge Student Information System).
Principal Supervisors should write a termly report, enter it on CGSRS and discuss the report and your progress with you. You can help your supervisor by inquiring about the report and asking to discuss it.