Doctoral students have the right to supervision for four years of full-time study or the equivalent, corresponding to 300 hours. In most cases, each doctoral student has two supervisors; however, it may happen that a doctoral student has a third supervisor. One of them is to serve as the principal supervisor. The role of the supervisors is to provide support and place demands in relation to the research, professional and career development. Supervision is consequently not only linked to the writing of the thesis but also concerns the learning outcomes in the general syllabus and all aspects of the doctoral studies, for example, courses, conferences, departmental duties/teaching, research communication and, in time, the labour market. ‘Supervision of third-cycle studies is about creating a colleague” as a wise person once put it. All of these aspects indicate the potentially close link between supervision and the individual study plan.
The supervisor-doctoral student relationship can vary widely. It is important that doctoral students have an honest conversation with their supervisors at an early stage of their research studies on their expectations concerning the roles and responsibilities of those involved and the forms of communication and supervision. It may involve discussing the structure of supervision, for example, the doctoral student may wish to plan supervision meetings by semester. It may also involve practical matters such as who is to take the initiative to meet or which of the supervisors can be contacted about particular matters. It should also be pointed out that a doctoral student always has the right to change supervisors, something that is also emphasised in the general syllabi for third-cycle studies. Such cases are managed by the head of department or director of third-cycle studies.