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This Category: > PhD Advice / Support


Supervisor Ratings

User: Gudwin - 15 July 2011 10:18

======= Date Modified 15 Jul 2011 10:21:20 =======

Im just wondering if there is any website or alternative method to get honest advise on a PhD supervisor. I say this because I am pretty sure that if I knew what I know now about my current supervisor, I would not have decided to accept the PhD that I did. Of course when I had my PhD interview I asked the other PhD students what my supervisor was like, but I am pretty sure from my experience with my supervisor and obviously from conversations with students after I joined the group, that they did not give honest answers, most likely afraid that the supervisor finds out they said anything bad about them ( I have found that the fear of upsetting the supervisor is common, as students do not want bad references the main reason).
Therefore is there anyway a prospective PhD student could get honest information about a supervisor.
If there are no websites that do this, it might be a good idea to setup one, something like "".

User: beajay - 15 July 2011 19:24

What a great idea!

User: bewildered - 15 July 2011 20:21

But a lot of it is so subjective so I'm not sure that you'd really get an accurate idea anyway. OK there's clearly some nightmare supervisors - from this forum seemingly concentrated in lab-based sciences, but I think most supervisor relationship issues come down to personality clashes. I got on really well with my supervisor but someone else thought she was the most evil person on the planet. A lot of the time it's whether your personal styles of working mesh or not. My supervisor was admittedly fairly hands off but that suited me - I would have loathed to have to have weekly meetings and made to account for every minute of my time. But that was what the woman who hated her wanted - really to be told what to do every step of the way. So if we'd both posted on your putative website all you'd have got was two diametrically opposed views so no more helpful than what you got from the other students.

User: beajay - 15 July 2011 21:56

Hey Bewildered - you're a PhD student. Isn't the careful examination and consideration of numerous viewpoints supposed to be a research strength? Seeing multiple assessments of supervisors would be really helpful and offer a rounded view. The only downer on this is that we couldn't name the person - libel etc - so it wouldn't get off the ground. But I'm a bit sad that it wouldn't.

User: patseya - 15 July 2011 22:31

======= Date Modified 15 Jul 2011 22:33:38 =======
Quote From Gudwin:

obviously from conversations with students after I joined the group, that they did not give honest answers, most likely afraid that the supervisor finds out they said anything bad about them....
Precisely so! In my third year, an International PhD student arrived my department, joined my research group and was scheduled to be supervised by my primary and secondary supervisors. Because she arrived late due to visa issues orientation programmes were already over. In any case, as we shared the same office and I've been around in the university for a while, both supervisors asked me to assist whenever and wherever possible. This newly arrived repeatedly asked me about how I found mine and her supervisors. While, I've got absolutely nothing negative to say about our primary supervisor then and now, but have huge reservations about my secondary supervisor (despite the fact that we got on fine and avoid stepping on each other's toes), I refused to say anything negative. Conversely, however, another PhD student, who comes from the same country as our newly arrived PhD student was tongue lashing XYZ: "Dr Jo is a d***", Prof Blog is an a**. Months down the road, they fell out and you know what, Dr Jo and Prof Blog heard what was said about them. Needless to say this guy found himself in a very difficult position.

This said, your idea is sound. But, to ensure that KFC staff doesn't attempt rating their supervisors on the site 8-), I'll suggest (up)

User: bewildered - 15 July 2011 22:35

Mmm have you ever looked at ratemyprofessors and seen what sort of 'honest' information you get on those sort of sites? God help US professors who try to uphold academic standards - they get eaten alive. Not to mention the sexism, homophobia, racism etc.

I've finished my PhD but when I think back to the people who were doing PhDs at the same time as me, I know exactly which ones would post on something like that. How can I put it - I doubt it would be a fair reflection on their supervisors' characters, ability etc. There were definitely individuals who left me with nothing but sympathy for their supervisors. But anyway the OP's wish is going to come true in a way if the white paper goes through unchanged - every evaluation by students of teaching staff is to be made available to the general public online. Presumably that would include research student surveys.

User: beajay - 15 July 2011 23:14

But anyway the OP's wish is going to come true in a way if the white paper goes through unchanged - every evaluation by students of teaching staff is to be made available to the general public online. Presumably that would include research student surveys.
Good. Let's have some transparency. Then perhaps some of them would be kinder to us.

I sent my Dept the stats from my Uni's thesis/reports/published data database this week, really pleased that my thesis is the highest accessed research paper in the Uni database this month by miles and miles, and thanked everyone concerned. I got an email from my ex-super to say that actually he didn't want to embarrass me by sending this to others BUT this database isn't ALL research done by Uni people, it's just that published by the Uni, and that journal papers are what matters. I emailed back to say yes, I understood that but no thesis from my dept had ever been top of stats lists, and by this huge margin.He replied that actually most postgrads don't bother to submit to the electronic database. I pointed out that since 2008 it was a statutory requirement. He replied by saying he thought we should end this discussion as it was getting us nowhere.

Nice one, mate.

What a downer I was on when I had to listen to that ego-driven rubbish day after day (unless of course he was relying on me to do his work for him as his Research Associate)! He HAD to put me down as a ritual male act.

Scary green-eyed monsters. Academia is full of them. They dish it out - they can't take it.

User: dunni73 - 16 July 2011 09:23

My sups have been really good and I think we have got on well throughout my part-time PhD.  Hopefully this will remain so while I get my final corrections done!

The idea of a supervisor rating system is great in an ideal world but I cannot see it working in reality. In the UK, a poor reference cannot be made for an employee and likewise I would think that a negative reference of a student or supervisor is not acceptable either.  Based on this, the ratings could only include positive attributes rather than negative due to litigation, deformation of character etc. Similarly, a student should not give bad feedback to a prospective student, rather decline to comment. There would be many ways of affecting the system via false students making fabulous reference or those with a grudge skewing the system.  In my clinical profession, the only way to make a informed decision on a clinician is to look at the stats, ie types of cases, mortality versus risk etc. Similarly, a system could be worked for supervisors on PhD student numbers, pass rate with minors, pass rate with majors, fails, length of study duration, funding £ etc.

User: Melsie - 16 July 2011 10:28

It's something you'd want to know, sure, but I'd never leave a review of my supervisors - there would be no anonymity, especially if your supervisor is at an early stage of their career and hasn't supervised many students yet. I imagine if everyone in my lab wrote even a short paragraph about my sup, I would quite easily be able to tell who wrote what - and so would my supervisor.

Even on this forum, I think a lot of people come dangerously close to compromising their anonymity. They don't state their names of course, but the information they provide about themselves make them easily identifiable to their supervisor, if they ever checked the site.

User: damned - 17 July 2011 09:29

As other have said there would be no anonymity. Supervisors don’t normally have enough students to not be able to recognise the writing and situation dependant comments of one in particular.

Instead I would strive for some sort of advocacy group that actually has some sort of power. Basically at the moment most supervisors can screw over students completely and because they are academics, institute and universities do nothing to support to student. They are toothless and gutless wonders at the moment.

User: Natalie - 17 July 2011 20:32

======= Date Modified 17 Jul 2011 20:44:19 =======



User: Gudwin - 18 July 2011 23:31

Good points everyone, but maybe it could be just a score rating say a mark out of ten for a set number of topics such as communication, time management etc etc then take the average of these scores to give a final overall rating. This way no specific information is given about the student doing the rating. There could be a way to ensure that the students are legitimate. Anyway was just a thought ;-)

User: eska - 19 July 2011 00:49

I think it's a good idea to have some way of regulating the supervisory process and curbing behaviour, but I also think this method would be open to abuse. Anyone could just go on the site anonymously and say anything, or allocate any rating as many times as they like. Say a jealous colleague, or a rubbish student who is angry - this happened to me this year with anonymous student feedback - I had 6 forms filled in by the same student. So feedback must also be monitered properly or it could become a tool for bullying supervisors.

In the absence of any organised monitering, I think it is good to check how your supervisor sees his or her students or ex-students, and what they have achieved. Mine lists their achievements on his profile page, he is obviously very proud of them and sees their work as, partly, the fruits of his own as an educator. I think this is possibly the best thing to look for. Plus you can ask other students, but be mindful that, perhaps faint praise will be the strongest damnation you'll find.

User: MasonBrown - 21 March 2018 11:26

See, this question has a lot of sides. Even if there was a site where a student could write something about their supervisors it would not always be fair. There are different situations and different people. For example, when a student asks the supervisor "rate my thesis" ( he or she can tell about all the gaps and inconsistencies, etc. But another tutor, who don't care can tell that everything is OK. And then a student would think that a supervisor is just a very picky man. So the best you can do is to think thoroughly about each factor before choosing a PhD.

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