Duties of the PhD supervisor

Roles in PhD supervision

PhD supervisors take various roles and duties when supervising PhD candidates: evaluator, supervisor, manager and coach. The duties that come with these roles are described briefly below. In addition to these roles, supervisors often serve as mentors to their PhD candidate.
See also chapter 2 of the AMC-VUmc Research Code about Good Mentorship.

In their role as managers, supervisors should hold a formal performance appraisal interview at least once a year. During every meeting between supervisor and PhD candidate, the specific role the supervisor is taking should be clear. In daily practice, the various roles might interact.

Duties associated with the various roles

  • Supervisor: make formal decisions based on judgment about suitability for the job (appointment, ‘go/no go’ after first year, approval of PhD thesis); acts as a more distant supervisor, a daily supervisor, or both.
  • Evaluator: make assessments based on conclusions about mutual functioning and cooperation
  • Manager: provide organization to achieve concrete results (project planning, attainable goals)
  • Coach: provide guidance about obtaining knowledge, skills and competencies
  • Communicator: provide and receive feedback on performance and behavior (positive and/or negative)

These duties apply both to distant supervisors and daily supervisors, but to a different extent.
For the distant supervisor, assessment and evaluation are crucial, whereas for the daily supervisor result-oriented managing and coaching is more applicable.


AMC Graduate School
Tel: +31 (0)20 - 5663108