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Centre for Doctoral Education



Information for IOE supervisors

Supervisors at the IOE follow the guidance and procedures laid out in the UCL Academic Manual, and the UCL Doctoral School. This page contains additional information for IOE supervisors and, in addition to the Code of Practice for Research Students a new Code of Practice for Research Staff has been launched to assist individuals in developing their roles as researchers and research leaders and to help prepare them for future career paths, whether within academia or elsewhere.


Becoming a supervisor

IOE staff who are eligible to supervise students need to complete the IOE Supervisor Approval Form and have this signed off by their Departmental Graduate Tutor. Staff are required to be a member of UCL staff; be research active; to have completed the mandatory training; and not to be on probation. To be a principal supervisor, staff must in addition have previously supervised a student through to successful completion.

Only staff based at UCL can be PhD/EdD supervisors. If a Principal Supervisor leaves UCL, they can become the Subsidiary Supervisor if they have Honorary status or a tertiary supervisor if not. In such cases, the existing Subsidiary Supervisor can take over as Principal Supervisor, if eligible, or another member of staff can be appointed to that role.

Staff who are not eligible to be appointed as a supervisor may still join supervisory teams, but as a ‘tertiary’ supervisor. (This may be appropriate, for example, for staff who wish to gain experience of supervision, for academics based at other institutions or for retired staff who maintain some involvement with completing students.) The tertiary supervisor can be identified in the Research Student Log, but has no formal responsibilities, and is additional to the normal supervisory team.

Good Supervision

The UCL Doctoral School and UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education can support you in your supervision of research students through professional development and resources

How does UCL evaluate what equates to good supervision of your students? Read the Good Supervision Guide for further information and guidance.

First Term Form

From Autumn 2021 all new students and their supervisors should complete a first term form within a month of the start of their studies. Copies should be uploaded to the Research Log and sent to the departmental research administrator to store. We hope this will help to address many of the questions that are raised each year by both supervisors and students and help to raise awareness of their mutual responsibilities. Please also make sure they are aware of the current Research Culture List which we will update regularly. If you discover any new ones which need adding please tell us!

Feedback Expectations

According to UCL regulations for feedback (see link) the guidance states that formative feedback should be ‘received by students in good time’ (8.3.2). We suggest that good practice is for the supervisor and student to negotiate a reasonable deadline together, including whether feedback is expected to be written and returned before the next supervision, and ‘within one month’ is usually a reasonable expectation. General expectations for writing and feedback should also be discussed at the outset via the ‘First Meeting Form’.

How many students can I supervise?

UCL limits the number of students that anyone can supervise to the equivalent of six full-time students. However, the mechanisms used to calculate this (see section 3.4) are slightly complicated, because the weighting is reduced for part-time students and for subsidiary supervision, providing some flexibility (up to a maximum of nine individual students). Supervisors are advised to discuss the matter with their Departmental Graduate Tutor if they are in any doubt about their current load. Supervisors should be aware that this figure applies pro rata for supervisors on fractional appointments, and that the calculation of load includes students who are on Completing Research Status, and those who have interrupted their studies.

Note that the IOE’s Workload Management System (WMS) is still referred to when calculating the time allocated to doctoral supervision. The use of this varies in practice across departments, and people are advised to discuss their WMS allocation with their line manager/Head of Department. Briefly, the WMS guidance is as follows:

8 days per full-time student; 5 days per part-time student (MPhil/PhD each year in the HEFCE time frame; EdD student once IFS has started; 1 day before then)

This allocation is made per student, and would normally be shared amongst the supervisory team; additional time for supervision might be justified if, for example, they are new to supervision and attend extra supervisions for professional development, in which case these might be counted as part of the 0.05FTE allocation for service and development.


All IOE doctoral students are required to have a principal and subsidiary supervisor. We have put together some examples of models of how co-supervision can be shared, which may be helpful as points of reference when deciding how to share supervisory responsibilities.

Exceptionally, students may also have a tertiary supervisor; for all administrative purposes, these are treated as being additional subsidiary supervisors.

Co-supervision outside of the IOE

Students can be co-supervised with academics from across UCL. The student should normally be registered with the department of the principal supervisor, and will follow the practices established in that department for supervision, upgrade, monitoring and progression. There should be explicit discussion with the subsidiary supervisor about how to share responsibilities, to avoid any confusion or ambiguity. Financially, the students’ fees will be redistributed annually, through the ‘student load’ exercise. The default split in fees for such arrangements is that the host department receives 20% of the fee for administration and core support, and a further 35% for the principal supervision, with the department of the subsidiary supervisor receiving the final 35% of the fees.

Co-supervision with staff external to UCL is possible, but requires the individual to be appointed as an honorary member of staff which requires an application to be made by the Head of Department.

IOE staff can, at times, also co-supervise students based at other institutions. When doing so, the member of staff must meet any requirements for supervisors set by the host institution. Please note that it is at the Head of Department’s discretion whether it is necessary to invoice the host institution for a proportion of the student’s fees. If a case can be made for the developmental benefit of the supervisory arrangement for either the IOE supervisor or their department, they may choose to waive the fees; however, it is conventional under these circumstances for the time required for supervision to be counted against personal research time under the IOE’s workload management system.

If a member of staff leaves UCL, they should discuss with each student and the DGT what the best options are for the remainder of the student’s study. If the supervisor moves to an academic post at another institution, it may be possible for the student to transfer with them – but this will depend on the regulations at the new institution, and there should be careful consideration of any implications for the student’s funding. If the student remains registered at UCL, there are three options: the DGT can arrange for the supervisor to be replaced; the supervisor can be replaced, but remain involved by being made a tertiary supervisor (an informal association, which gives access to the Research Student Log); or at the Head of Department’s discretion, if there a sufficient amount of ongoing work with the department, be awarded an honorary appointment and continue to serve formally as a supervisor.

What should I do if I have concerns about a student?

Where a student appears to be struggling and in need of specialist help, UCL provides a suite of services that may be of help. Making sure that students are aware of these is an important first step in providing help.

If a supervisor has concerns but the student does not appear able or willing to seek support, the supervisor should complete a ‘student of concern‘ form so that Student and Registry Services can take appropriate action. Advice about dealing with concerns about students’ academic progress is below.

Organising an interruption for your students

If a student needs to interrupt their studies they should download the new interruption of studies form from the UCL website, please note there is a separate form for research students that can be found in the Interruptions for postgraduate research students’ section of this page. Interruptions should normally be for no more than 12 months.

Note that students who interrupt due to health and wellbeing issues may be required to meet with the Student Support and Wellbeing team as a condition of their return.

The Annual Progress Review (APR)

Doctoral students (MPhil/PhD and EdD) are expected to review their progress with their supervisors on an annual basis.  This exercise is undertaken during the Summer Term. The Annual Progress Review helps students, supervisors, the Advisory Panels, and the Departmental Graduate Tutors to monitor the work being undertaken by students.  The aim is to ensure that each student’s training, supervision and support needs are being met, and to identify difficulties the student might be experiencing, and ways to address these.  The APR process involves a discussion between supervisor(s) and students, and completing a form which will be reviewed by a departmental panel. Supervisors will receive notification via departmental administators  of the guidance, forms and deadlines, and should use the process to ensure the student is making satisfactory progress, or alert the Department Graduate Tutor to a cause for concern.


The IOE follows UCL’s guidelines for upgrading, with some minor variations. These have been implemented so that it resembles more closely the final viva process. This allows the upgrade to provide an early opportunity to practice and prepare for the final examination.

Details of the UCL upgrade procedures and the IOE variations are provided on a dedicated page of this site.

Writing for publication

Many students seek to publish their doctoral work, either during or after their studies. Guidance on this has been provided on a separate page of this site.

Special progress review and academic insufficiency

UCL provides guidance on procedures for addressing poor performance in research students. The advised process for this is:

  • Informal resolution with the supervisory team, which must involve letting the student know about areas of concern, giving them a chance to explain, agreeing work to be completed and confirming this in writing.
  • Where informal resolution fails, referral to the Departmental Graduate Tutor, for a formal review of progress. This step is known within the IOE as a “special progress review”. As part of this step, the student will be given a second chance to improve their performance, and it is expected that a formal learning agreement will be drawn up to manage this. A learning agreement template is available for this. It is expected that the adequacy or otherwise of a student’s progress will be reviewed with a second meeting at the end of this process, and a decision will be taken by the DGT at this point, after giving the student and supervisors the opportunity to explain their view of the situation.
  • The final step involves referral to the Faculty Graduate Tutor, for a third and final review of progress. This will follow a similar pattern to the special progress review, but is known at UCL as the  Academic Insufficiency Process (see 4.2 and 4.3 – last updated 2021-22). If a student is unsuccessful at demonstrating successful progress at this third attempt, this can result in termination of their studies.


All students following the MPhil/PhD programme are initially registered for the MPhil.

The IOE follows UCL’s guidelines for upgrading, with some minor variations. These have been implemented so that it resembles more closely the final viva process. This allows the upgrade to provide an early opportunity to practice and prepare for the final examination.

Details of these variations are provided on a dedicated page of this blog.

Completing Research Status (CRS)

If your student is eligible they may register as a completing research status (CRS) student while they write up their thesis CRS guidelines. 

Since UCL relaxed the rules on CRS during the pandemic, recommending supervision continue as normal, IOE has included CRS in supervisory workload allocation. We still, however, need to ensure students are at writing up stage since we don’t want CRS to go beyond the permitted time, nor supervisors engaging for a protracted time with non fee-paying students. Do make sure you engage in a discussion about readiness for CRS before submitting this form for approval CRS Application.

The student may apply for an extension under certain circumstances. As a response to the Pandemic, any student who was registered as of 1 March 2020 will be automatically be given 18 (FT) or 36 months (PT) of CRS (writing up) status at the time they take this up –  Extensions

CRS guidelines

Examination entry

All students sitting for the PhD, or MPhil, examination should enter for the examination four months before they plan to submit their thesis. This is done online via the Portico tool. You can find out information here about the examination entry process.

All students will be on UCL regulations for the examination, except for those who first registered at the Institute of Education before September 2015. Students who first registered before September 2015 will be offered a choice of sitting the examination under UCL or IOE Regulations.

If successful, all students will be awarded a UCL degree, whether they take the examination under UCL or IOE Regulations. Students who first registered prior to April 2008 may be eligible for a University of London award.

Choosing examiners for vivas

UCL provides guidance in the academic manual (section 5.3) on the nomination of examiners for research degrees, which also provides more detailed advice about common issues that could prevent a panel from being approved. Anything that might compromise the independence of the process should be declared on the nomination form, for consideration during the approval process. Things that need to be declared would include joint publications (especially ongoing writing, but also any joint work that took place during the course of the student’s registration); joint research projects or funding; line management relationships; and examiners for whom the student has worked as a PGTA.

Honorary appointments at UCL can be nominated as internal examiners. The use of emeritus members of UCL staff as internal examiners is possible within the first three years after retirement, so long as the nominee remains research active. (After this, individuals can still be appointed, but only as external examiners.) It is not possible for both the internal and external examiner to hold emeritus appointments.

Note that, for the EdD, staff who have marked earlier stages of work (including the Institution Focused Study) remain eligible to act as internal examiners for the final thesis, but members of the thesis proposal panel are not.

Supervisors must complete UCL’s appointment of examiners form, which can be found along with guidance notes and other information here. Please note that UCL advises this form should be submitted four months before any planned viva date.

This form includes a ‘description of thesis’ section, which consists of the thesis title and an abstract of up to 300 words. This information is used by the board who approve the examiners. (This information was previously sent by the student on a separate form alongside the examination entry paperwork; this has now been incorporated into a single form.)

Once the form has been completed by the supervisor, it should be emailed to ioe.cde@ucl.ac.uk. The CDE will process the form, which involves getting sign off from the relevant Departmental Graduate Tutor, appointing an independent chair for the viva, and sending the form on to the UCL registry for central approval. Once the nominated examiners have been approved, the UCL research degrees team will enter the examiners’ information on the student’s record, and then email a confirmation of the appointment to the supervisor and examiners. This email will include links to the various forms required to complete the examination.

Once this email has been received – and not before – the supervisor should schedule the date of the viva. The appointed independent chair must be involved in the scheduling process, as the viva may not proceed without them.

Remote Vivas

For information about thesis submission and remote Vivas taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic, please see information on the Response plan to coronavirus for UCL’s Postgraduate Research students.

Normally UCL requires Vivas to take place on campus, and this may again become the norm as restrictions ease. If circumstances arise that require one or more parties to take part in a viva remotely, provision for this must be made through a request to the chair of UCL’s Research Degrees Committee for a suspension of regulations. Supervisors need to complete this Suspension of Regulations online form

Serving as independent chairs

The IOE appoints independent chairs for all its doctoral vivas. Further information about this role is provided as a separate page on this site.

All principal supervisors are expected to chair one viva during the year, as part of the workload allocation made for their doctoral supervision. The list of eligible supervisors is drawn annually from UCL’s EROS system, to ensure it is accurate. Administrators from the CDE will approach supervisors to ask if they can chair a Viva when the proposed examiners are appointed, so that the chair can be involved in the process of scheduling the viva.

Support for students resubmitting a thesis

Following thesis submission, students are moved to ‘submitted’ status, which allows them to remain registered for the duration of their exam. This period can extend to 18 months, to cover those who have to resubmit. During this period, a student will continue to have access to UCL’s facilities until any required amendments. There is guidance in the regulations on their entitlements during this period (see point 4.6). This situation is analogous to CRS, and the expectations of staff and student should be guided by this. Student will be entitled to their supervisor’s comments on their final draft, but not to regular tutorials.

In a situation where a student has been asked to resubmit, it may be possible (ideally by mutual agreement, but at the discretion of the department) for the student to re-register. Doing so would allow them to have regular tutorials, and to receive repeated feedback on their work, if needed.

Tier 4 Monitoring

If you have a student on a Tier 4 Visa, you will be required to fill in a short online form (sent to you by the CDE Departmental administrator) once a month to witness their engagement. In normal circumstances this must be face to face (except in July and August), but currently online supervisions are accepted as evidence.