UK (University of York) Industry experts to help transform doctoral supervision

The expertise of more than 100 supervisors from major industries including GSK, Unilever, the BBC, and the Royal Shakespeare Company, will support a £4.6 million project to transform guidance on Doctoral work.

The team will examine how to improve and enhance research supervision

The ‘Next Generation Research SuperVision Project (RSVP): Transforming the culture of doctoral supervision and education’, led by the University of York, will facilitate discussions about how to properly recognise, reward and professionalise doctoral research supervision.


The RSVP project will draw on the intelligence and expertise of supervisors from major industries to explore the role of ‘tertiary’ supervisors and inform the development of continuing professional development and mentoring support.

Over 20 universities, two overseas partners, plus over 400 doctoral students from a diversity of routes will also contribute to the project and over 20 Deans and Directors of Doctoral schools engaged in identifying what constitutes good and bad supervision practice.

Professional development

Dr Karen Clegg, Head of the University’s Building Research and Innovation Capacity (BRIC) Team and HR Excellence in Research Coordinator, who is leading the project, said: “As a sector, we place great importance on doctoral research but at present, we don’t properly support or recognise the role that research supervisors play in that”.

“We aim to test and evaluate how professional development and mentoring can help doctoral research supervisors to develop the confidence and capacity to support a more diverse demographic of researchers through a greater range of doctoral models, such as part-time and distance learning”.

Improve and enhance

The team will examine how to improve and enhance research supervision in the UK through; scholarship, practice interventions, culture and policy change and will contribute to the operationalisation of the forthcoming UKRI New Deal for Postgraduate Research and support the aims of the Research and Development people and culture strategy.

Dr Clegg, said: “What we’re hoping to do is enable a steady cultural revolution around supervision, breaking down barriers about who does it, how it’s done and how it’s recognised.  This isn’t just a ‘New Deal’ for researchers, it’s a BIG deal for supervisors”.

Develop benchmarks

Joining the University of York, the project consortium also includes Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Nottingham, King’s College London, Coventry University and the UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE).

Professor Doug Cleaver (Consortium co-lead and Chair of UKCGE) said: “We need to better understand research supervision as a sector, and this project offers us a fantastic opportunity to look at current provision and to develop benchmarks that will help both individuals and institutions across the UK.

Greater transparency

“This project will also promote greater transparency on the roles of ‘hidden’ supervisors, such as postdoctoral candidates, and help with the management of supervisory workloads.”

The four-year project is funded by Research England, with support from UKRI Research Councils and the Wellcome Trust.