Very early in candidature, the supervisors must discuss what their respective roles will be and communicate that in writing to the student. From time to time, these roles may need to be reviewed, revised and re-communicated to the student.
There should be clear expectations about written work including which supervisor(s) will respond and in what timelines.
There should be a clear timetable for meetings. Skype or videoconferencing should be utilised as the optimal method for meeting with remote students, with a telephone hook-up being second best. There should be agreement on which supervisor attends which meetings, and which meetings are attended by all supervisors.
Costs and the budget for the research need to be addressed at the beginning of the candidature. This helps clarify expectations of what can be achieved. Supervisors in scientific areas should discuss the availability of resources and decide on a budget plan that identifies costs and who will pay. This is particularly relevant to joint award agreements. This budget plan must be shared with the student.
The written project plans should be reviewed regularly by supervisors and the student. For full-time students, every six months is ideal.
Email is a useful means of communicating with students; however this needs to be very carefully managed when providing students with criticisms or dealing with difficult situations or crises. In these circumstances, Skype or videoconferencing should be used, with the telephone as a second best option.
When giving feedback on a student's written work, it is good practice to flag comments on the written work and then follow up with discussion via Skype, videoconference or telephone.
Response times to emails from students are very important. If a query or written work is not able to be responded to immediately, then a reply indicating the timeline for a response is good practice.
Supervisors need to take greater responsibility for informing their students of their university's regulations, rules and procedures. In the case of jointly awarded degrees, it is important that the supervisor understand the guidelines and procedures that apply.
Supervisors need to give special attention to ensuring their student goes through an appropriate induction process. There may be a need for a personalised induction for the student, with particular focus on the various university network groups.
Supervisors should ensure that their students are able to present their work at appropriate forums.
Interactions with Other Supervisors
It is best practice for supervisors to have already collaborated before taking on a student.
Supervisors need to communicate with each other on advice given to the student. Agreement on the big goals of the project should be made early in the candidature. Supervisors need to spend time discussing the model they have in mind for the research project and who will be responsible for the various parts of the project.
In the case that the supervisors give conflicting advice or disagree, they must meet to work out their differences and agree on what advice they give the student.
All supervisors should copy each other when emailing the student.
It is good practice to have the student send an email to all supervisors summarising the outcomes of each supervisory meeting.
The Student's Role
There will be circumstances where the student will need to be proactive in arranging a Skype, videoconference or telephone hook-up to discuss concerns they have.
The student needs to establish clear timelines with their supervisor(s) as to when they will visit the institution, when they plan to attend conferences and when they plan to have holidays. These timelines need to be considered in the regular updates of the project plan.