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Induction is vital for all graduate students, and especially for those on fast-paced MPhil courses. It provides an opportunity for inclusive, constructive exploration of the norms and conventions of Cambridge's academic culture, including expectations of students and supervisors, research and academic writing skills, facilities and support. In managing and clarifying expectations on both parts from the start, students and supervisors should agree:

  • the pattern of formal meetings (supervisions)
  • what will be required at a meetings (for example, discussion of written work)
  • who is expected to initiate a meeting.

Meetings (Supervisions)

The style and frequency of meetings and supervision varies according to the discipline: be aware of a minimum number or frequency of supervisions set down by your faculty. The frequency of meetings will also change over time and are likely to be more frequent to start with, during the planning stages, and during the writing-up phase. In any case, the Board recommends that formal progress meetings ('supervisions') take place between the principal supervisor and the student at least twice a term. This requirement also applies to part-time students.

Make sure there are clear communications with the student:

  • make clear the frequency and timings of meetings
  • make sure that the student knows how to make contact at other times
  • some students will not, on the strength of their previous experience, expect to make the first approach to set up a meeting, but will expect their supervisor to take the initiative. It is advisable therefore to make firm appointments for students at least in the first instance and to be alert to the possibility of misunderstanding if the student does not make contact regularly
  • respond promptly and appropriately to requests from students to meet.


Once the student's topic has been establish, you should guide the student in planning, focusing and developing their study by encouraging them to make a written timetable to ensure that a manageable piece of work is undertaken.

Read and comment on draft chapters. Most Supervisors will specify that they wish to see at least some draft chapters at an early stage, as they are written, so that the student has the opportunity to incorporate any feedback into subsequent writing. This timely formative feedback is particularly important for one-year courses. Make sure any criticism is honest, constructive and supportive.