Research and Enterprise

Becoming and being a Research Awards Supervisor

In this post Dr Beccy Watson, Reader in the Carnegie School of Sport and Academic Lead for the Graduate School, shares her thoughts on the importance and impact of Research Student-Supervisor relationships.

The word Learn spelt out using scrabble tiles

Just before Christmas I hosted the second of 2020’s ‘Becoming a Research Awards Supervisor’ staff development workshops, alongside a ‘Experienced Supervisors’ workshop. Delivery of this staff development has moved to online, like most of our academic professional activities, since the end of March 2020.

A change in circumstances can prompt reflection in new ways. I have been contributing to and/or leading our staff development sessions on Research Awards Supervision at LBU for over ten years; just going by modest estimations I have provided development for over 500 staff during that time. I see that as both a privilege and an achievement. 

Clipart image of 4 people in a circle learning from the trainer in the middle of the circle along with the words Supervisory Skills

At Leeds Beckett we offer a standardised, nationally recognised approach to preparing and supporting our staff for Research Supervision that prioritises, amongst other things, relevant expertise in our fields of research and being available and appropriately responsive to our Research Student needs. A further aspect, and one that is close to my heart, is recognising that Research Supervision is about effective relationships. I always stress this at my workshops with staff. I also impress its importance to our incoming cohorts of Research Students; in addition to the development work I engage in with staff I contribute directly to the Induction days for all our incoming Research Students. As with the staff sessions, I have been directly involved in induction for over 10 years and therefore on a similar multiplier effect, I have welcomed and talked about supervisory relationships with over a thousand Research Students. A further privilege to have such a key role in.

When I stop to think about it, this all adds to the successful completion of our students through supporting our staff to support our Research Students effectively. Our Research Students are the next generation of research experts, inside and outside of universities. We draw government support and gain international recognition and increase our ranking as a result. Of course, a great many people across the university work hard to make that happen and it is a collective basis from which we have grown and nurture our Research Student capacity and culture. I for one am supported in my staff development endeavours not only at School level (Carnegie School of Sport) but significantly by colleagues in the Graduate School and Research and Enterprise who help recruit and then manage all aspects of our Research Student periods of registration. And of course, there is their crucial support in the staff development programme. Being a part of that team is another privilege to me. This year we have successfully extended our HR Excellence in Research award status and I am proud to have worked with colleagues in gaining that recognition.

Board game pieces connected together by lines demonstrating a vast network joined together

I have also seen a further three of my own Research Students submit for their awards this year and I am reminded again of the significance of supervisory relationships; I learn a great deal from the many different students and staff I work with, no matter how many times I stand up in a classroom or lecture theatre – or these days click on Teams – to stress the importance of supervisory relationships. Arguably we cannot ‘teach’ a PhD or Research Degree, but we can facilitate higher learning required by our students to complete. Being responsive to our students and supporting our staff to do that effectively keeps me coming back to those staff development sessions with renewed enthusiasm; I’ll take that into 2021 whatever format I need to deliver via.      

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