Graduate Supervision


The student-supervisor relationship is a foundation of graduate education, particularly in doctoral-stream programs. The success of a good supervisory relationship is a shared responsibility. It depends on both the student and supervisor communicating well, being tolerant and understanding, and each holding the other to high standards. The department also plays a role, providing clarity and consistency of expectations, upholding academic standards, administering the program fairly and effectively, and intervening where necessary to help resolve problems.

Supervision Guidelines and Checklist

At the start of a student’s program and regularly throughout, the department recommends that students meet with their supervisor and set out clear, shared expectations, discuss intellectual property issues and publication expectations and other matters. The department recommends that students and supervisors review the SGS Graduate Supervision Guidelines, and each complete a graduate supervision checklist (contained in the guidelines).

  • As a grad student, you can expect your supervisor to be there to guide and support you throughout your academic journey. Even if they take a leave, Grad Studies expects them to still provide supervision to their students. This means they should be available to comment on your thesis drafts and schedule your defense, even if they're not physically present.
  • If your supervisor won't be able to provide this level of support during their leave, it's their responsibility to find a co-supervisor who can step in and help you.
  • The graduate office should be advised of any leave-related changes to supervisory arrangements as soon as possible via

Student-Supervisor Conflict Resolution

Should a problem arise in the supervisory relationship, students and faculty are advised to try resolving the difficulty amicably through informal discussion first. If that does not resolve the problem, students and faculty should discuss the issue with the Associate Chair, Graduate.

Supervisory Committee

The Supervisory Committee consists of the supervisor or co-supervisors, at least one additional graduate faculty member from the department and an additional graduate faculty member from any graduate unit. Additional members can be added if necessary. The Supervisory Committee meets with the student to review progress at least once a year, administers program exams, and regularly provides advice on future work.

The supervisory committee provides support to the student and supervisor by broadening and deepening the range of expertise and experience available and by offering advice about, and assessment of, the student’s work.

Doctoral students are expected to form a supervisory committee in consultation with their supervisor by April of year 1. Many students start connecting with committee members earlier, in January of year 1. It is recommended that students meet or take a course with faculty they might want to be on their committee early on to get a sense if a good match of interests exists. PhD students are required to meet with their supervisory committee at least once a year (normally April to June).

Masters students should discuss forming a committee with their supervisor when they are developing their research proposal (March/April). The supervisor may recommend that establishing a committee early or they may recommend doing this at the writing stage when the student has started to draft a thesis/major research paper.

The supervisory committee must include:

  1. The supervisor or co-supervisors;
  2. An additional faculty member from Geography and Planning; 
  3. At least one additional graduate faculty member. This can be from Geography and Planning or another graduate unity at the University.

Additional Members may be added if necessary.