Information for Current Graduate Students > Academic Progress > The Student-Advisor Relationship
The advisor plays a prominent role in the scholarly and professional development of his/her graduate student(s), and thus is integral from start to finish of the student's program. Communication between the student and his/her advisor of each other's expectations and responsibilities within their respective roles can play a large part in the overall graduate educational experience. In theory, both parties develop a written or unwritten "contract" at the commencement of the student's program, in which several agreements are placed between the two; however, in practice, no such contract is established and issues are addressed at the moment it occurs. Student-advisor relationships can vary widely within the department, from very healthy with open communication to unhealthy with near-unidirectional communication. This page was created to help graduate students establish a positive relationship early in their program and inform what to do should any issues between you and your advisor arise.
There are some common topics in relation to your graduate program that should be discussed and in line with your advisor to prevent any miscommunication. These include:
- Meeting frequency (how often should you two meet to discuss your research and other matters)
- Feedback & regular/semesterly academic evaluations
- Work hours
- Program requirements
- Attending conferences
- Meeting deadlines for various tasks i.e. progress of your thesis
Below is a list of the advisor and student's responsibilities within their respective roles. The responsibilities are often conversely related between advisor and student, and upholding these require diligence between each other. Imbalance of roles ought to be avoided and prevented whenever possible.
The University of Guelph's Graduate Calendar has its own elaborate information on the respective responsibilities of advisor and student, as well as responsibilities of the department. The following table is adapted from an external college and serves as a simplified set of guidelines.
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In addition, both parties have shared responsibilities within their roles:
- Articulate, then select and plan a manageable and appropriate research topic for the student to undertake. The advisor ought to be sufficiently acquainted or willing to become familiar with the area of research in order to provide guidance for the student.
- Keep each other aware of matters that may affect the progress of the student's program (i.e. vacations, leaves of absence, etc.). This works both ways in that should the advisor be absent for a prolonged period of time, the student's supervision in his/her research is maintained through alternate communications or means.
- Acknowledge contributions and joint authorships made by each respective party in presentations and publications.
The University's Graduate Calendar features the Policy on Responsibilities of Advisors, Advisory Committees and Graduate Students and Graduate Student-Advisor Mediation Procedures, and within it, the Dispute Resolution Mechanisms (PDF format found here). The page contains flowcharts which visually detail the process involved should there be any conflicts in either direction within the student-advisor relationship. The University's Human Rights Policy and the Human Rights and Equity Office is consulted whenever a complaint arises.
The Office of Graduate Studies features a slideshow which provide an overview of the student-advisor relationship, and briefly contains university-specific information on appeals, etc.
Should you choose to create a "written" contract outlining expectations and responsibilities between you and your advisor, OGS has also created a Role Perception Rating Scale to help organize your plans.
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