The Importance of a Good Supervisor…

I have previously commented on the importance of having a supervisor who you can work with effectively. Not only that you need to be able to get on with him/her. Well I came across this article, via Twitter, from the Times Higher Education on the need for good supervisors.

What makes a good supervisor? Do you want a no-holds-barred answer? OK then, just between you and me, here’s my response: the good supervisor is passionate, unflinching, wary of purely instrumental value, mostly individual but partly institutional. The good supervisor is unable to be moved from the paramount human position he or she holds dear: knowledge matters, postgraduate students are committed to new knowledge, every manner of political, economic and social change will affect universities, but postgraduate study must continue, will continue, must flourish, and must be supported, above all else.

I agree with the sentiments espoused here and especially the fact that good supervisors need to be recognised for the work they put in. My MPhil supervisor, and one half of my PhD supervising team, Professor Gary Sheffield fits this mold in my opinion. Gary’s job was made all the more difficult as I was a distance student during my MPhil as I was living in Cornwall but studying at the University of Birmingham. However, we overcame this by the wonderful use of technology. Discussions were held at length over the phone, emails bounced back and forward when needed. Yes there were times when the email bit took some time but that is the price you pay sometimes. I was/am lucky enough to have one of the country’s leading military historians as my supervisor so I learnt to deal with any minor delays, which were I must add very rare. We even overcame the distance issue by having one of our meeting at The National Archives as we were both there. I think what I trying to say is that there are good supervisors out there but as much as you might want them to be flexible you must be too. It is a case of quid pro quo.

And yes I have become a Twit

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5 responses to “The Importance of a Good Supervisor…

  1. I think a good supervisor really helps with any research. With my undergraduate Dissertation I deliberately chose I subject where I knew I would get good supervision, as the trend for undergraduate supervision at the moment seems to be very much ‘hands-off’. I didn’t want or need nannying, but some positive engagement over what I was doing. That and my supervisor had a lot of experience of supervising postgraduate programmes, which definitely helped.

  2. James I agree. I am one of those people who just gets on with it. I think I had one meeting with my undergrad supervisor. Things are a bit more regular at PhD level as there is paperwork to do but the relationship is much more open than at undergrad level. Possibly because you are viewed as more of an equal and that you are more of individual i.e. Lecturers tend only to supervisor a few postgrads compared to undergrads so you are more of face.

  3. Pingback: Your Thesis…Its Alive! « Thoughts on Military History·

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