Supervision | Law



It is essential that all candidates and supervisors are familiar with

The policy and guideline documents above provide information on:

  • Appointment of supervisors, joint supervisors and co-supervisors
  • Roles and responsibilities of supervisors
  • Guidelines for good practice supervision
  • Seeting research project milestones
  • Changing supervisors

All postgraduate research candidates will have appointed at a supervisor and either a co-supervisor or joint supervisor.  The role of the supervisor is to be the University’s agent in advising and assisting the candidate to complete an original and feasible research program.  The supervisor carries the principal responsibility in overseeing the candidate’s progress, coordinating meetings and putting in place mechanisms to allow regular contact and communication between the supervisor(s) and the candidate.

Supervisors are members of the academic or senior research staff appointed to take primary responsibility for the research progress of the candidature.  The supervisor, along with the co-supervisor (or joint supervisor), has a high level of expertise in the proposed field of study, provides advice and assistance, guides the direction of the research and is responsible for reporting on the progress of the candidature to the Head of School and the Higher Degree Committee. 

Joint supervision

Joint supervisors take equal responsibility for the candidature.  Two joint supervisors may be appointed for cross-Faculty enrolments, or cross-school enrolments, when there is a formal equal collaboration between the two joint supervisors and sharing of resources to support the candidature.  It is important that you negotiate a clear set of expectations between yourself and your supervisors and to recognise that the supervisory working relationship will evolve during the course of your candidature.


The co-supervisor may have specific expertise that is useful to the candidate’s research program and should be available as an independent person from whom the candidate may seek advice during the course of the candidature, particularly if the supervisor is absent from the University.  In most cases the co-supervisor will, in conjunction with the supervisor, play an active role in providing direction and advice to the candidate.  The role of the co-supervisor is dependent on the nature of the appointment, their professional status and location.  In general the co-supervisor will meet at least once a semester with the supervisor and candidate, but communicate via email or other means on a more frequent basis.

Meetings between candidates and supervisors

There are no hard and fast rules about the frequency of meetings and the best method of communicating between candidates and their supervisors.  These issues must be discussed at the start of the candidature and a plan for the first six months established.

It is important that candidates negotiate a clear set of expectations between themselves and their supervisors, and that all parties recognise that the supervisory working relationship will evolve during the course of the candidature.  Supervisors and candidates are responsible for ensuring that regular contact and communication are maintained.  The mechanism for communication should be documented (e.g. regular meeting schedule, monthly reports) and review annually by the candidate and supervisors.


Candidates enrol in research degrees with the goal of successfully completing a piece of original research and a thesis that will satisfy the conditions for the award of the degree at examination.  The specific responsibilities of the candidate include:

  • Being informed at all times regarding all relevant UNSW policy and procedures and adopting safe, effective, ethical and collegial work practices in accordance with the UNSW Research Code of Conduct
  • Adherence to the University’s regulations governing the award of the research degree
  • Attending the University Induction session and the Faculty’s Research Methods Program
  • Completing an Annual Progress Review each year, as well as the Confirmation of Candidature process within the first year of enrolment for PhD candidates
  • Ensuring they re-enrol each semester, and advise the GRS of any changes to their candidature by the census dates each semester
  • Ensuring that the GRS is notified within seven days of the following changes to candidature: residency, name change, departure overseas for fieldwork or personal leave
  • Adhering to the conditions specified for any scholarship that is held
  • Taking initiative in devising, implementing and completing the research
  • Developing the ability to independently analyse and evaluate the results of the research and the research of others in the discipline
  • Proceeding with research as agreed with the supervisor, co-supervisor and as determined by at the Annual Progress Review
  • Gaining the necessary knowledge to carry out the research and, if required, undertaking additional study as prescribed by the supervisor
  • Gaining the necessary skills in oral and written communication to communicate the processes and outcomes of the research
  • Maintaining regular contact with the supervisor and co-supervisor and presenting written material as prescribed by the supervisor
  • Taking initiative in raising problems with the supervisor and sharing responsibility for finding solutions
  • Accepting responsibility for the intellectual content of the thesis and its preparation and ensuring that it meets the standards of presentation as required by the University.