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Postgraduate Study


Supervisors provide students with subject-specific advice relating to their specific research as well as general academic guidance. 

Your supervisor

As a postgraduate student at Cambridge, you will receive close individual support from a knowledgeable academic in your field. Your faculty or department will assign you a personal supervisor whose role is to guide your programme of study or research. The availability of a suitable supervisor is one of the factors a faculty or department takes into account when considering your application.

How often a postgraduate student would see their supervisor during an academic year is dependent on a number of factors including the nature of their course and dissertation, and how much prior knowledge and research experience they have.

Most students studying for a research degree also have a second supervisor or adviser who may be from a different faculty or department (if required). The adviser is not necessarily directly involved in the student's research project but instead can provide independent monitoring of progress, provide general advice, and serve as a first port of call if any issues arise. You may also be allocated a mentor. This supporting team monitors your progress and may be involved in your assessment during the first year. Some departments and all Colleges also have a Postgraduate Tutor available for personal or professional problem-solving and for feedback.

Your supervisor completes a report on your progress at the end of each term. They will also help you to clarify your ideas; ensure that you recognise and aim to meet the required standard; and point you in the direction of information and resources that should enable you to produce first-rate work.

Supervising others

Research students may have the opportunity to gain supervising and demonstrating experience by undertaking teaching on behalf of Colleges and departments.

Supervisions involve the teaching of undergraduates in small groups of between one and four students at regular intervals throughout the term. Demonstrating involves helping academic staff in running laboratory classes and various teaching exercises such as drawing or computer-aided process engineering. Such experience can be immensely valuable in developing a wide range of transferrable skills that can be important for future career success, whether in academia or in other fields.

In order to ensure that this teaching does not affect your studies, such work is limited to a few hours a week (generally up to a maximum of between six and ten hours). This work is paid, however as it is part-time it should not be relied upon as a part of your tuition or maintenance costs.

My supervisor has always been extremely helpful. They are always available to respond to any question I might have and meeting them on a weekly basis allows me to obtain feedback in a prompt manner.

Luis, PhD in Engineering