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Supervisor training: rewards, awards, recognition and accreditation

This section of pages is 'For Management' which is a shorthand for anyone who has responsibility or oversight for the supervision of postgraduate research students (also known as graduate research students). Typically such individuals are likely to be senior academics or training personnel.

The suggestions and recommendations here represent my personal views in the light of my experience in the hope that these may be of some use to others.

For ease of reading, the single term 'training' is used on these pages, but do use whatever term is most acceptable in your institution. For a discussion on alternative terminology, see the Basics page.

Why rewards for participating in supervisor training?

In theory, research degree supervisors1 should need no rewards for participating in training, other than the sense of satisfaction at being able to do a better job. However, the excessive and increasing calls on their time tend to result either in participation being put off or, if it is made compulsory, in a predisposition to bored irritation.

It is certainly true that participation in quality training is valuable for supervisors, in that they find that their time can be used more effectively and efficiently; that their interactions with their students are more enjoyable; and that their students' experiences are more worthwhile. However, to be realistic, these are not enough.

What sort of awards?

One way of encouraging participation in training is through some sort of formal recognition or qualification for so doing. This could be included in supervisors' cvs and count towards career advancement. To be of any value, it must involve written work of an appropriate level which necessarily focuses minds.

Whatever form the award takes, it should go further than mere attendance. It requires written work, and I describe a form that I believe to be particularly appropriate in the portfolio section for supervisors. In view of the burgeoning calls on supervisors' time, registration must be optional. This is not to say that it cannot be an optional part of another course or programme that is compulsory.

Which bodies have awarding powers?

In the first instance, institutions with their own awarding powers will probably choose to run a single module within a larger programme. (In the UK and the EU this would carry CATS / ECTS credits.) Following experience with a pilot, the award may be developed into a fuller qualification in its own right. There is ample material!

Where institutions do not have their own awarding powers, other options are available for short courses, eg through the Higher Education Academy2 and the Staff and Educational Development Association3. Both accredit or recognise training programmes and offer formal recognition to individuals.

© Pat Cryer

1 'Supervisor' is a shorthand for 'research degree supervisor', 'advisor' or 'tutor', and applies to varying extents for all research degrees: PhD, DPhil. MPhil, Prof Doc and even undergraduate and masters' projects. In some countries, notably the USA, a 'supervisor' is known as an 'advisor'.

The following links were current at the time of preparing this page, but may not be now. If not a search engine should find the latest versions.

2 For HEA's accreditation services, see www.heacademy.ac.uk/accreditation

3 See www.seda.ac.uk