Supervisor relationships

RMIT provides academic supervision for all Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidates to make sure you’re fully supported with your research project. You will have at least two supervisors who are experts in your field.

Working with your supervisors

It’s important to establish and maintain a good working relationship with your supervisory team.

Clarify early the responsibilities, expectations and working arrangements, such as when and how often the team should meet to help maintain open communications. You can use the Expectation and Boundry Setting Tool (PDF) to assist these conversations. There is also a Research Publication and Authorship Plan (PDF) to guide you in discussing your future research outputs.

Success depends on everyone meeting their responsibilities, including you, as the driver of your research project. This means developing good habits, such as producing work you’ve agreed to within a specified timeframe, giving your supervisory team adequate time to review your work before your meetings and having a clear idea of what you need to achieve at each meeting.

Don't go “offline” if you are struggling with workload or grappling with research questions. This is part of the process and your supervisors are best placed to give you guidance on how to resolve these kinds of issues.

Your Senior Supervisor(s) will advise and assist you in:

  • reading and providing feedback on your work
  • providing guidance on developing your research skills
  • meeting the requirements for successfully completing your milestone reviews
  • the timely submission of your research for examination
  • sign off on compliance and administrative matters, including changes to candidature and applications for leave of absence.

The HDR Progress Management and Support Procedure and Supervision Code of Practice specifies responsibilities in the supervisory arrangement.

Roles within your supervisory team

The different types of supervisors are:

  • Senior/Joint Senior Supervisor - The role of Senior Supervisor must be held by an RMIT staff member.
  • Associate Supervisors - Candidates may also have one or more Associate Supervisors.

If your area of research requires a supervisor external to RMIT, they can take the role either of Associate Supervisor or share the Senior Supervisor role as a Joint Senior Supervisor.

A percentage-based weighting system is used to identify the respective contributions of each supervisor. Percentage allocations can be changed if the needs of the candidate or supervisors change.

The most common weightings for two supervisors is 70% Senior Supervisor and 30% Associate Supervisor. Other weightings are possible, as long the Senior Supervisor(s) has the higher percentage and Associate Supervisors have at least 10% each.

Ensuring quality supervision 

RMIT has a registration system for HDR supervisors to make sure you get the best possible support and ensure compliance with the national Higher Education Standards Framework

The Supervision Code of Practice outlines the key principles for best practice.

To be eligible for registration, Senior and Joint Senior Supervisors must be research active and have a PhD (or equivalent) and Associate Supervisors must have a Higher Degree by Research. This doesn’t apply to external supervisors because they’re typically appointed for their industry expertise. 

The eligibility of all supervisors is reviewed every two years. 

Changing your Supervision Arrangements

To make a change to your supervision team, discuss this with your current and proposed supervisory team and your HDR Delegated Authority (HDR DA) and then submit a Change of Supervisor form to Research Training Services via the RMIT Connect portal.

It is good practice to keep a record of the meetings you have with your supervisory team, as this will help you to manage your tasks and deadlines in a structured manner. We recommend that the following information is documented for each of your supervisor meetings: 

  • date 
  • name(s) of supervisor(s) present 
  • your next milestone review (confirmation of candidature; second milestone review; third milestone review)
  • feedback provided by the supervisor on the work presented and directions moving forward 
  • list of tasks that you will undertake in preparation for the next meeting 
  • list of tasks that your supervisor will undertake in preparation for the next meeting 
  • any factors with the potential to impact on the timely and effective achievement of the next milestone or submitting for examination 
  • any other matters to be documented  
  • a proposed date for the next meeting .

Once documented, please share this record with your supervisor team via email.

Need help? 

Submit an enquiry to the School of Graduate Research

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.