Supervision is a relationship requiring trust and respect. Students have the right to expect regular, high quality advice, support and direction in their quest for academic excellence. In return supervisors have the right to expect a high level of commitment from their students who should respond positively to advice and guidance and develop an increasing level of independence in the conduct of their research. At the University of Exeter Postgraduate Research students should be appointed at least two supervisors of which at least one member of the supervisory team normally including the lead supervisor, should possess subject expertise in the student's field of research.

Lead supervisor

Supervisor: Denotes subject experts who provide supervision in the student’s specialist field. Lead Supervisor: The supervisor designated as a student’s primary point of contact, with primary responsibility for the student’s progress and records of progress.


All students will have a co-supervisor, also known as second supervisors. This role can vary a great deal, from someone intimately involved in the project and sharing much of the supervision with the first supervisor (in which case the supervisory split may be up to 50-50), to someone who has a minor role (for example a split of 80-20). The second supervisor is there as an additional person to talk to, and can be very useful for planning future research directions, or if the first supervisor is away for a moderate period. 

Further supervisors

Some students may have further supervisors: typically this happens if their project or funding is linked to an industrial, commercial or government organisation, and the supervisor will be an employee of that body. Again their role can vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and collaboration.

PGR Pastoral Tutor

Further information of the roles of PGR Pastoral Tutors can be found in the Supervision of Postgraduate Research Students: Code of Good Practice.

Ethical issues manifest in a wide variety of research activities and arise especially when the conduct of research involves the interests and rights of others.

The adoption of an ethical position in respect of such research requires that the researcher observes and protects the rights of would-be participants and systematically acts to permit the participants to exercise those rights in full accordance with UK law.

Ethical practice in such cases requires that participants and/or legal guardians, at a minimum, be fully informed, free to volunteer, free to opt out at any time without redress, and be fully protected in regard to safety according to the limits of best practice.

If research (at any level) involves one of the following, it will normally require ethical approval:

  • Research involving human participants or the use of material derived from human participants (this includes questionnaires and interviews).
  • Research involving the use of any personal data.
  • Research involving animals (this applies to all animals, including invertebrates, fish and other non-protected species, and includes behavioural and observation studies).
  • Research that has the potential to raise social issues or have any environmental impact.

Each College has its own ethical review process; please refer to your College intranet or contact your project supervisor, College Ethics Officer or Gail Seymour, the Secretary to University Ethics Committee.

The Research Ethics framework  provides a clear and consistent standard of governance for ethical review procedures across the University of Exeter.

It represents the benchmark for considering existing, or implementing revised, review procedures

Additional information on ethics and good practice can be found at Research Toolkit.