The following information and guidelines are intended as advice and, with the exception of explicit references to Graduate General Regulations and University Policies, do not have official status. 

The information on this page is primarily geared towards students who are in research-based programs – whose degrees will fall within the parameters of Graduate General Regulations 1.7.2a, 1.7.2b, or 1.7.3.

Your academic unit will also provide program-specific supervisory information.

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If you are not yet an admitted student, please visit the supervisory information page for prospective students.

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Regulations Related to Supervision

Graduate General Regulations related to Supervision can primarily be found under GGR 1.6.

The following areas may also be helpful when reviewing reasonable expectations with a supervisor over the course of a student’s program:

  • Program Requirements (GGR 1.7)
  • Progress and Withdrawal (GGR 1.8)
  • Enrollment and leave (GGR 1.4)
  • Time Limit for Program Completion (GGR1.12)

We also recommend that both supervisors and students review our full Student Responsibilities page, as well as the Graduate Student Handbook

Being familiar with this information will help to frame your studies, and your supervisory agreement (see below).

Supervisor and Committee Selection

Selection of a Supervisor is extremely important and should be a well-informed decision. Your supervisor should normally be selected prior to your second term of study, as per GGR 1.6.3.

In many cases, your supervisor is assigned at the time of your offer of admission. If a supervisor is not assigned prior to commencement of study, an interim supervisor should be assigned to you. In the absence of this, the departmental Graduate Program Chair supervises and counsels you prior to the assignment of a supervisor.

Selection of a Senior Supervisor and other members of the Supervisory Committee should occur as early as possible in your program. (Note that a Professor Emeritus/Emerita may serve as a supervisor - see item 49.31 in the Collective Agreement, here.

You and your supervisor should identify and recruit other members of the supervisory committee. Once the committee is identified and approved, a meeting should occur, including details of when meetings will take place going forward, and preferred communication channels (email, phone, in person) for all parties.

Supervisory Agreement

Expectations that are set early and are clear, explicit and mutually agreed upon are the basis of a good supervisory relationship. These expectations should include a supervisory agreement.

Your progress toward degree completion should be monitored closely through the establishment of a realistic timetable of milestones and communication with your supervisor/faculty advisor, graduate program assistant, and/or supervisory committee.

We recommend that this take the form of a Supervisory Agreement. Completing a Supervisory Agreement and using this checklist will reduce misunderstandings/communication issues, and expedite your degree completion. The Supervisory Agreement Template addresses common expectations and potential areas of misunderstanding. Evaluation criteria and benchmarks for satisfactory progress should be clear. It can be modified to suit any details specific to your academic unit of study, as needed.

Template Supervisory Agreement 

This template is meant to be modified to accommodate the specific needs of you/your academic unit and your research. 

Supervisory Agreement Template

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Well-Being Through the SFU Supervisory Process

Review the student guide for optimizing your supervisory experience with faculty members and learn how to advocate for your needs and find resources to support your success.

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Program Progress

Your supervisor is responsible for filing your annual progress evaluation (GGR 1.8.1) within your department; having regular communication checkpoints will inform that evaluation.

Checklist: each term, with your supervisor

  • Establish your goals for the term: courses, research, writing, teaching, TA/TM positions.
  • Establish a regular meeting schedule. Discuss progress, as well as where you need help or advice.
  • Discuss your plans for professional development: conferences, workshops, learning new techniques, etc.
  • Discuss requirements for financial support
  • Initiate approvals as needed for ethics or safety requirements, and factor the time required for this into your timeline

Checklist: at least once a year

  • Meet and discuss your annual progress (going back one year) and plans (going forward one year) with your entire supervisory committee.
    • This will normally entail a formal meetings of the Supervisory Committee and the student.
    • The resultant report on the student's progress may be either written by the Supervisor or drafted by the student and endorsed — possibly in modified form — by the Supervisor.
    • The Supervisor is responsible for transmitting the report to the chair of the Graduate Program Committee, with a copy to the student.
  • Discuss plans for major absences, either yours or those of your committee members
  • Review your long-term plan for completion of your degree. Ensure that the current year's plan is consistent with the long-term plan.
  • Discuss your plan for publishing research results and/or co-authorship of papers.
  • Consult with your supervisory committee about your career goals following graduation. They are a valuable part of your professional network and can help you establish realistic post-graduation goals.

Comprehensive Exams, Candidacy Exams, and Thesis Proposal Exams

The full supervisory committee should be involved in these examinations, both to ensure broad supervisory involvement in key milestones, but also full committee awareness of progress.

  • The Supervisor and the student share the responsibility of ensuring that required examinations are arranged in a timely way.

Faculty members who feel they cannot or can no longer, evaluate a student's work in an unbiased way should arrange to have another qualified person evaluate the work. Students who feel their work is not being evaluated fairly should notify the Graduate Program Chair in their department and seek resolution. If satisfactory resolution cannot be reached at this level, the Graduate Appeal Procedures may be applicable.

Changes of Committee or Supervisor

Change in membership of the Supervisory Committee may be initiated by the student, any member of the Supervisory Committee or any member of the academic unit’s Graduate Program Committee, as described in GGR 1.6.6.

A graduate student may wish to change his or her Supervisor and/or committee member(s) for any number of valid reasons. These reasons include, but are not limited to, change in direction of research, change of interests and irreconcilable academic or personal conflicts.

If you feel you wish to initiate a change of supervisor for your graduate studies, contact your Graduate Program Chair. Each academic unit will have internal steps and mechanisms for mediation, should the issue be differences between yourself and your supervisor.