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Department of Social Anthropology


Library with student studying from above

Supervisor and faculty advisor

At the beginning of the Michaelmas term, new PhD students will be assigned a supervisor and a faculty advisor.

Your supervisor will oversee and guide your research, and is the official point of contact between you and the University authorities. Supervisors also report regularly to the Board of Graduate Studies on each student’s progress.

The supervisor’s role is to advise you on the planning and execution of your research, to provide feedback on progress, and to help you complete your work within the required time. S/he will also write references in support of your research. You should make sure that you establish early on how frequently you and your supervisor will meet, and how you should make contact with him or her when necessary.

Studying for a research degree differs from undergraduate study. You will necessarily be more autonomous, and will have to be more self-directed. Your supervisor will advise you but, as time goes on, the advice will relate increasingly to a programme of research of which you are the author and for which you are ultimately responsible.

In the early stages you are likely to need a good deal of advice on the formulation of your project, to ensure that it is genuinely original and challenging, yet at the same time coherent, practical, and feasible. If your project is at all original (which it should be) then you will very quickly become the most knowledgeable person about it; and the most productive relationships between student and supervisor develop where the student takes the initiative and presents ideas, questions, problems and writing for the supervisor to respond to and comment upon.

Students returning from Fieldwork will be invited to a Return From Fieldwork interview with their Supervisor and Faculty Advisor. The interview will give students the opportunity to reflect on their fieldwork experience, identify their  learning needs and discuss their timetable for completion. The meeting will also plan supervision and other practical arrangements during the writing up period.

The faculty advisor will be someone from the Department with an interest in some aspect of your research, and will be a less official point of contact and source of help and advice. If you experience problems in your relationship with your supervisor you should, in the first instance, consult your faculty advisor. Failing this, you may approach the Chair of the PhD Committee and/or the Head of Department. In addition, in parallel to your supervisor, you may refer to the Graduate Tutor (or your own Tutor, as the case may be) in your College.