Supervisor responsibilities

Supervisor responsibilities

HDR supervision requires a great deal of dedication in helping your candidate overcome their intellectual, practical and personal challenges. It cannot be simply slotted in between other commitments, and it is therefore important to be realistic about whether you can take on an HDR candidate.

However, as a supervisor, it is not your responsibility alone to drive a research project. You must ensure you do not do work that is the responsibility of your candidate, and that you fairly delegate work to other members of the supervisory panel.

Managing expectations

It is not uncommon for candidates to have different ideas about what a supervisor should do, or how the relationship should function. If left unchecked, however, this can prove disastrous down the line, so it is important that these issues are negotiated from the get go. Remember that what is most convenient for you might not be the same for the candidate, and it is important to find a middle-ground.

Depending on your discipline, these issues may include:

  • How often should we meet?
  • Who will determine the research topic?
  • Where is funding coming from?
  • Will our publications be co-authored?
  • Who will monitor progress?


There is generally no right or wrong answer to how frequently you should meet with your candidate, nor the mode of meeting. However, it is important you meet with your candidate regularly, be it face-to-face, online or over the phone.

To keep track of progress, it is a good idea to take notes at each meeting. Discuss what has been achieved, and what needs to happen before the next meeting.

Ethics, health and safety

As a supervisor, you are expected to interact in a responsible manner with your candidates.

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of ResearchMacquarie University's Code of Conduct and the Deans and Directors of Graduate Schools (DDOGS) guidelines provide guidelines and regulations surrounding ethical interactions.

Aspects of ethical conduct include:

  • Conflicts of interest
  • Standards of professional behaviour
  • Equity and social inclusion
  • Confidentiality
  • Responsibilities to disseminate research findings
  • Ensuring the validity of research

It is important that you are aware of your responsibilities regarding the health and safety of your candidate. Macquarie has a general duty of care to all candidates, and breaches of Occupational Health and Safety can attract serious penalties, including criminal conviction.

You and your students must make assessments of the risk involved in their research during planning, some of which will require formal university approval. Macquarie’s Health and Safety Unit is the key contact for all information regarding health and safety processes.

If you feel your student may be suffering from emotional or financial stress, you should make them aware of the services offered by Student Wellbeing.

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