5 Types of Postgrad Supervisor We All Know

supervisors Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License    by Christophe Verdier 

Like a cross between a Jedi, Mr Miyagi and Big Bird on Sesame Street, a good postgrad supervisor is an educational wizard, a wise oak of learning that you will spent your entire consultation sessions trying to impress, and it is this desperate need for their approval that will get you to the top grades. On the other side, we’ve all heard nightmare stories about supervisors who manage at the same time to be invisible, incompetent and totally unengaged. Find out which type yours is below in our guide to 5 Postgrad Supervisors We All Know.

The World-Renowned Expert You jumped for joy when you found out they were your supervisor. They wrote the book on your subject, sometimes literally as their bookshelf reminds you. However, with this great renown comes conference engagements all over the world, pieces in major journals and TV interviews, meaning they have zero time for your thesis problems. You end up seeing them more on The One Show than in their office, yet still hold out for that fateful meeting when they will make everything crystal clear, and possibly even sign your textbooks.

The Invisible Man Whereas ‘The World-Renowned Expert’ has an excuse for being unavailable, The Invisible Man cannot say the same. You see them everyday drinking endless coffee in their little office, and yet when you ask for an appointment they complain about how completely busy they are (if they reply to your email at all, that is). You begin to give up hope, wondering whether you’re suffering from the same thing as the kid in the Sixth Sense, until you finally get an elusive appointment a month later than everyone else. You walk into their office, and find it’s been empty for years… The Flirt You’ve seen ‘Notes on a Scandal’, you’ve seen ‘An Education’, you know how it goes down. They’re witty, they’re charming, they share your passion for medieval Spanish poetry, but is it just you or are they a little too interested in your topic? They hold eye contact a little too long, and laugh a little too hard at your terrible puns about metre. Either you really are a genius in your field, or you are being heavily groomed. Tread very carefully - harmless flirting creates a fun atmosphere that makes your supervisor want to work with you, but remember how ‘An Education’ and ‘Notes on a Scandal’ ended.

The Silent Assassin They’ve been lovely to you all year, offered you constructive feedback and even sharing a drink or two with you at the department Christmas party. You really thought that come results day they were going to come through for you and give you the grade you needed. You check online and - BANG they’ve given you a 2:2. Was it something you said? Or are they just bitterly building up your dreams so they can knock them right back down again? Either way, be very wary indeed.

The Perfect Supervisor The rarest of all types, The Perfect Supervisor is like a ninja; you’re sure they must exist somewhere, but you’ve never seen one. They schedule regular meetings, give you fantastic feedback, even offer you tea when you go into their office. Then when it comes to results day you’ve got exactly what you wanted. A friend of a friend may have The Perfect Supervisor, but it’s never you. Console yourself in the fact that at least yours isn’t one of the other four listed here.

Useful Links

Keeping you and your supervisor happy
Emailing academics: where should a postgrad start?
5 people at university that all students should know
5 tips for efficient postgrad research

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