Helping new supervisors engage with the practise and process of postgraduate supervision.

A number of national studies have indicated a need for better support of novice supervisors if postgraduate graduations are to increase. In response to this need, the ‘Strengthening Postgraduate Supervision’ programme provides an intensive and engaging 30 credit short course. The course provides the space for novice supervisors to come together with the focused intention of learning about supervision. It provides the opportunities for collegial support networks to be developed within your university and across the higher education sector.

The course is funded by the Dutch government through NUFFIC and is being offered 18 times between 2013 to 2015. Further funding from the DHET has allowed for 18 additional offerings. The course is run over a single semester, but the online community arising from this process is ongoing and the materials and discussions can be accessed for years to come.

This innovative course provides the structured support needed by academics as they take on the complex and demanding role of postgraduate supervision.

The course is structured around four themes:

Social Justice in Supervision

The Importance of Scholarship

Supervisor Practices

Supervision Processes

The first theme focuses on the relationship between the student and supervisor, the second theme is concerned with the supervisor’s own academic identity and the research community to which he or she belongs, the third theme looks at various approaches and models of supervision, including coaching and mentoring, and the final theme considers the supervision of each stage of the research project, including attending to institutional requirements.


The course is made of three phases:

  • Phase I is a three day face-to-face workshop
  • Phase II is a six week online portion
  • Phase III is a three day face-to-face workshop

Course Bookings

This course focuses on postgraduate supervision, be it the PhD, D.Ed, D.Tech, MA., MSc. M.Tech etc. It is designed for supervisors who have limited or no experience of supervising at this level. Participants should already have or be about to get their own doctoral qualification and therefore be qualified to supervise at this level.

If you would like your institution to be amongst those who benefit from NUFFIC and DHET funded roll out of this course, please contact your university’s research office. All requests for the ‘Strengthening Postgraduate Supervision’ course should be supported by the Research Office of your own institution to ensure there is no unnecessary duplication.

The Research Office of any public university in South Africa can make enquiries and bookings for this course by emailing:

Course Resources

The facilitators are Dutch and South African and bring a wealth of supervision experience to this course. The materials are of an extremely high standard and include interactive tasks along with accessible theoretical readings.

All course materials have been licensed under creative commons whereby institutions are welcome to use the materials for their own future staff development purposes. See the Course Resources page to access the materials.


Funding from NUFFIC and the DHET supports this wonderful initiative and provides for 36 offerings from 2013 to 2016. The funding covers costs of the materials development, the online learning environment, the facilitation, the assessment, and all costs related to the travel and accommodation of the facilitators.

The host institution is expected to provide the workshop venue and workshop refreshments. The host institution is responsible for advertising the course and recruiting staff to participate in the course.

Assessment & Accreditation

This short course is accredited using Rhodes University’s short course accreditation process. Course participants who successfully complete the assessment will receive a certificate. The certificate comes from Rhodes University but reflects the involvement of the other partner institutions. Many institutions that offer the Postgraduate Diploma on Higher Education are willing to accept this certificate as evidence for the elective module of that programme.

The Strengthening Postgraduate Supervision course combines discussions, case studies, research literature, video clips, and numerous other activities and information, both online and face-to-face, to help the new supervisor engage with the practice and process of postgraduate supervision in a reflective and informed way.

As a new supervisor, I found the workshop very useful. What I found helpful was how one can provide useful feedback to students without erasing their voice. Often I had taken a very direct way of ‘assessing” students’ work which this workshop helped to understand supervision as a form of responding to the work of the student.”

“The whole of this course has been very worthwhile, informative and quite empowering, particularly for someone who is an emerging supervisor. I feel quite privileged to be part of this group. All that has been covered here has had impact into the way I view my role as a supervisor, the climax was on “intervision”. Where we dealt with realistic challenging scenarios in our practice and shared ideas of how to handle such situations. An issue that was not on my forehead was that of signing a contract with my students even though I have suffered as a supervisee due to such an omission.”