In a draft proposal from the University review of combined studies, it has been suggested that “supervision of students on combined degree programmes should rest with a single supervisor” to take “overall responsibility for monitoring the student’s progress and performance.” The University proposal has been rejected by YUSU.
The proposal resulted in an urgent meeting last Thursday called by Academic Affairs Officer, Charlie Leyland, for combined studies course representatives. The single supervisor system has already been trialled for some Joint Honours students and the School of PEP. Nikoo Atraki, a first-year Politics and Economics student, emphasised her dissatisfaction and sense of alienation in having one supervisor. “I feel like I can only get feedback from my specific tutors on how well I’m doing but can’t get an overall view with just one supervisor who only specialises in one of my subject areas.”
The problems faced by Joint Honours students, such as finding an academic identity, varied ‘cultures’ in different departments, and the current lack of communication for students who have more than one supervisor, were called to attention at the meeting.
Leyland also voiced concerns over whether international students in particular would feel confident enough to approach a single supervisor in charge of a large cohort of students. Francess Daly, course representative for Social Policy and Politics, remarked that “if I had one person who I knew was in charge of 600 students, I wouldn’t feel as if they knew me or ever cared.”
The issue was raised at Union Council, who passed Leyland’s proposal to reject a single supervisor system and aim to improve current interdisciplinary communications, to be submitted for consideration by University Teaching Council this week. The University review proposes: “So far as possible, supervisors are to be drawn from a small pool of staff with a knowledge of and commitment to a particular combined degree programme.” The recommendation would prove cost saving for individual departments.
Whilst praising other aspects of the review, such as the electronic recording of tutorials, and stating that “we should recognise that there are already some great relationships,” Leyland believes having a single supervisor for Joint Honours students “simply will take us backwards in enhancing the experience of combined students.”
Zahra Latif, first-year combined studies faculty representative, summarised the Union’s proposal: “What we’re asking for is not innovative change, but just for the system to work as it should.” Atraki added: “I’m conscious of input on references that you might have when applying for jobs, knowing who I am.
“It also puts the supervisor in a difficult position because it’s not their fault, it’s just the way this system is failing.”
Lucie Vincer, an English and History of Art Joint Honours student, said: “Surely if you had one supervisor for the lot, the other wouldn’t really know anything about your other subject? They each have their own specialities, so having one for both wouldn’t really work. At the moment it’s like having two people you can go to.”