From 2019/20 all Graduate Supervisors and Students will be ask to sign a declaration to state that they have read and understood the content of the Code of Practice for Research Students.

The Primary Supervisor has responsibilities in several areas. You are expected to:


  • Provide any necessary induction/welcome to a new graduate student;
  • Ensure that a new graduate student has a desk, a computer, an email address, and has met key staff or colleagues to enable their research to progress.


  • Meet with the graduate student at least weekly in term time during the first year, reducing to fortnightly in term time in the second year if the student is functioning in a more independent way, and reducing to monthly in the final (3rd) year as the student is involved in writing up their thesis. Supervision meetings typically last for one hour so that adequate depth of conversation can be achieved and it helps if the student brings along a written agenda for each meeting and keeps notes from each meeting.
  • Establish an effective means of communication with the student; for example making clear the frequency and timings of meetings, and making sure that the student knows how to make contact at other times. Supervisors should be aware that some students will not expect to make the first approach to set up a meeting, but will expect the supervisor to take the initiative. Supervisors are advised to make firm appointments for students, and to be alert to the possibility of misunderstanding if the student does not make contact regularly.
  • Respond promptly and appropriately to requests from students to meet and to comment on work at various stage of development; if a Supervisor is to be away from Cambridge for an extended period, he or she should ensure that students and the Director of Graduate Education are aware of this and should inform them of back-up supervisory arrangements.

Ethical issues

  • Ensure the graduate student has obtained ethical approval within the first term of their first year, so that data collection is not delayed.

Research Passport

  • Advise the student if a Research Passport is required for their work. Education Administrator can then assist to obtain this.

Training and Advisors

  • Identify the student’s training needs and refer them to the relevant technical experts or training courses for them to acquire the necessary skills to undertake the research.
  • Assist the student in acquiring an adviser(s) and if appropriate, a second supervisor. All students should have at least one advisor who should be appointed within the first 4 weeks of the student starting.

Planning and scheduling

  • Help the student to draw up a Gantt chart or other form of timeline for project milestones and deliverables, to ensure timely completion of the first year report and of the final thesis.
  • Monitor progress against the agreed timetable and plan for the work and take appropriate action as laid down in the Course Handbook if the student does not keep in contact, or progress is poor.


  • Advise the student on publication opportunities from their own data or literature reviews as well as from collaborations.
  • Discuss ownership of intellectual property rights and of data as well as authorship order at the outset and are honoured during the course and the examination of the thesis. A good rule of thumb is that first authorship is offered to the graduate student of work arising from their graduate thesis, with the Primary Supervisor being last author (reflecting PI status of the lab supporting the research).


  • Ensure there is adequate funding available for the student’s project, or re-design the project to fit within the available funding.


  • Report termly on the student’s progress through CAMSIS
  • Report on CAMSIS as soon as possible if a student is in danger of failing an assessment or examination, or is not likely to make the standard for progression to the next stage (as required by regulation 8 of the General Regulations for Admission as a Graduate Student). The supervisor should also inform the Director of Graduate Education of this risk.
  • Supervision reports will be considered by the Degree Committee and Board of Graduate Studies in evaluating any applications for examination allowances or in cases of dispute.

Student welfare and pastoral support

  • Inform the Education Administrator and /or college tutor regarding any concerns they may have regarding the student’s health or wellbeing.


  • Read and comment on draft chapters; most supervisors will specify that they wish to see draft chapters at an early stage, as they are written, so that the student has the opportunity to incorporate any feedback into subsequent writing.

Career Support

  • Offer advice on further study or careers in the specific research area;
  • Respond promptly to reasonable requests for references for his or her students.
  • Read and comment on draft chapters; most supervisors will specify that they wish to see draft chapters at an early stage, as they are written, so that the student has the opportunity to incorporate any feedback into subsequent writing.