To be supervisor

Important documents and information:

Who can be a supervisor?

Each doctoral student shall have at least two supervisors. At least one of the supervisors must be an employee or adjunct employee of Uppsala University. At least one supervisor shall have docent status. The principal supervisor must have undertaken the long supervisor training (3 weeks) alternatively equivalent training in combination with the faculty’s supervisor training (2 days). The requirement of long supervisor training applies for new principal supervisor appointed from 2018-01-01. Assistant supervisors are recommended to undertake the long supervisor training (3 weeks) during their first year as a supervisor. When supervisors are appointed, attention must be given to the issue of conflict of interest.

It is preferable that the principal supervisor should be the person with the most continuous observation of the dissertation work. The individual study plan must specify each supervisor’s duties and areas of responsibility. 

To achieve the best possible collaboration at doctoral level, the supervisors and doctoral student should clarify at an early stage the demands and expectations they have of one another – preferably in writing as an appendix to the individual study plan.


Planning and follow-up of the doctoral students are important parts of the supervisor's duties. The individual study plan shall be revised at least once a year. The student's activity and financing shall be reported to the student registry Ladok each semester, for documentation of the actual number of months spent on the studies.

For a degree of doctor, the effective period of study is to be a maximum of 48 months and for a degree of licentiat a maximum of 24 months. The effective period of study sets the limits of employment as a doctoral student. It is important that the doctoral student and the supervisor keep a track record on the effective period of study (gross period for study excl. time for teaching or administrative work, parental leave, sickness leave, leave of absence, etc).

Download template for calculation of the effective period for study for doctoral students (86 kB) (only in Swedish)

Change of supervisor

According to the Higher Education Ordinance, a doctoral student may change supervisor if so desired by the student. It is the duty of the head of department to find a solution, which as far as possible satisfies the interests of both parties, e.g. where the student is nearing completion of the research, the original supervisor should retain scientific responsibility for the project. In cases where the student has only recently begun the research, then a change of project should be considered in addition to change of supervisor.

Change of supervisor should take place if:

  • the supervisor is no longer employed by or adjuncted to the university, or takes full-time leave of absence over a longer period.
  • if duties within the university, or illness, make it difficult to fulfil the obligations of supervisor. 
  • if there is a conflict of interest. 

In the case of a change of supervisor, the individual study plan must be revised and its changed conditions must be reported to Ladok.

The responsibilities of the supervisor

The head of the department together with the supervisors are responsible for ensuring that the postgraduate student receives an adequate introduction to the department’s routines for safety regulations (which must be followed even in the rather odd circumstances of research work at postgraduate level). Furthermore, it is the supervisors’ responsibility to provide the postgraduate student with an adequate introduction to studies at postgraduate level. Regular courses at faculty level are held to assist with this. It is also the responsibility of the supervisor to introduce the student to the research assignment and its methodology. It is recommended that these instructions be recorded in the individual study plan as goals. 

A supervisor must be available to his or her doctoral students, to a reasonable degree but not necessarily always, for planned group meetings and discussions, and equally for spontaneous contact at the work place. In situations where the supervisor and postgraduate student work at different locations over a longer period than a few months, they should have a mutual agreement for maintaining contact.

Relationship supervisor – DOCTORAL student

The relationship between supervisor and doctoral student should exist on a professional basis. In the Faculty of Science and Technology, many doctoral students work closely with their supervisor, and it is only natural that over a period of four to five years, conflicts or other problems should arise. If the doctoral student and supervisor have reasonable expectations of one another from the start, substantiated by the individual study plan and regular structured discussion sessions, such problems should not be too overwhelming. 

When dissension arises, the parties must first try to solve the conflict themselves. Should this fail, the head of the department in his/her role as works manager bears primary responsibility. If the conflict is judged to have a basis in serious personal incompatibility, a choice of alternative supervisor should be considered. If the dissension is based on scientific disagreement or priority claims, then mediation with an impartial outsider should be sought first. Since the doctoral student can feel him-/herself to be at a formal disadvantage, it is important to check the impartiality of this moderator very carefully. 

If a doctoral student considers that he/she is not receiving correct treatment from his/her department, the doctoral student council of the faculty and/or the chairperson of the faculty doctoral education board should be consulted. It is the individual student’s choice which of these authorities is most suitable. In some cases it can be more suitable to contact the occupational health services. Any decision to proceed with the matter rests with the doctoral student, whose personal details are kept confidential as far as possible. 

Sometimes too close a personal relationship develops between a supervisor and a doctoral student during the postgraduate period. Since the supervisor has to make formal decisions concerning the student’s education and that of his/her colleagues, a conflict of interest arises, and the doctoral student must therefore be appointed a new supervisor without delay.

Failed dissertation

If a dissertation fails to be approved, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to immediately notify the university’s digital publishing section, so that all information about the dissertation can be erased from both the electronic dissertation register and the national library catalogue LIBRIS, which will automatically alter local library catalogues.

Last modified: 2021-10-19