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to think a MA dissertation supervisor does more than this?

(21 Posts)
postmanpatscat Sat 11-Jun-16 15:42:31

Since starting my final year in September, I have had two face-to-face tutorials (October and March) and have swapped a few emails, mostly involving arranging tutorials. At the tutor's request, I emailed my first 5000 words at the beginning of April for his appraisal. Since then I have heard nothing, and although I started a complaint in March, that too died a death and I have just had to resurrect it and institute a formal complaint rather than going through the Students Union and the Deputy Director of the faculty.

Not sure whether I am expecting more than I am entitled to, but having spent almost three years of my life and around £5000 completing this I am determined not to fall at the last hurdle. It's tough enough doing an MA while working full time without having to chase up someone who should be doing their job.

I would be interested to hear how others' experiences compare.

ImperialBlether Sat 11-Jun-16 15:47:41

That sounds terrible. Do you have a course handbook outlining what should happen re contact?

postmanpatscat Sat 11-Jun-16 16:08:43

This is what the handbook says:
Supervision will be via individual and/or group tutorials wherever appropriate and at the direction of supervisors. Tutorial support will largely be by face-to-face meetings at the University of xxxx, although other means are possible to (e.g. phone, Skype, email). After an initial meeting(s), further tutorials will be related to planning and carrying out the project and feedback on draft writing.

The Programme Convenor is responsible for allocating supervisors and ensuring that students receive information about the allocated supervisor’s name and contact details.

Dissertations are contributions to scholarship and they observe academic values and conventions so, however natural it may appear, the supervisor-researcher relationship is a formal one. Students are expected to keep in regular contact with their supervisor and are required to contact their supervisor no less than once a month to ensure that their supervisor is updated on the progress of the Dissertation. It is good practice at each tutorial to make an appointment for the next one.

The supervisor will agree the times and dates of tutorials and keep a record of the meetings as well as a record of feedback given on draft writing provided to the student. Agreement must be made with the supervisor about the timing of submitting draft writing. Feedback comments made on draft writing will be provided by the supervisor within 10 working days of receiving the draft writing only if the agreed date for the draft submission is adhered to by the student. If the agreed date is not adhered to by the student, the supervisor is not obliged to provide feedback or to provide it within 10 days. It can be a good idea to agree a schedule for submitting draft writing, completing chapters and practical project tasks with the supervisor. This should be discussed with the supervisor.

From time to time supervisors will be required to report on students' progress to the Programme Convenor.

So, the first problem is that my supervisor IS the Programme Convenor.
Secondly, I have not had feedback on my first submission in over two months, never mind ten working days!

theshyretirer Sat 11-Jun-16 16:21:10

That's not satisfactory: challenge it. My MSc supervisee (and other students supervised in my department) gets 5 meetings between Feb and June / July for a submission in mid-August. Turnaround time for her draft is 2-3weeks. Each supervision is summarised by the student and she makes a list of things to do (mostly things she's suggested because she's really good but also my suggestions and requests) which I check for any misunderstandings or omissions.

If for some reason she didn't submit work when she was meant to I'd be right on her back to do so - so if your supervisor says they never got a draft, I'd have chased it up. If she submitted wor late and for some reason I couldn't turn it around in time, it wouldn't take me 2 months and I'd let her know when I could get it back to her.

You need to get onto them really, there's no way you should have left it this long! Who have you complained to?

postmanpatscat Sat 11-Jun-16 16:31:15

I know, I have been too nice. Back in early March I was fed up enough to check the university website and the first step in the complaints procedure was to contact the students union. So I did, and they got straight back to me and asked me to contact the Deputy Director of the faculty and copy them in, which I did straight away. She never replied!! I chased this up with the students union. At the end of March, I had a tutorial and this assuaged my fears temporarily, as the tutor reassured me that I was right on track and not to worry.

Then again I heard nothing, I was busy with soldiering on with the chapters I had not yet submitted, plus data analysis and final interviews regarding trends in the data. Earlier this week I was so fed up that I followed the formal complaints procedure by contacting the university secretary. Guess what, he hasn't replied either!! However, something must have triggered because the Deputy Director suddenly resurfaced and apologised, saying my email had arrived at a busy time and she had wrongly assumed that it had since been resolved (bullsh*t!) and my supervisor suddenly emailed and apologised, asking me what he could do and that he will prioritise me. I was still seriously considering a change of supervisor so emailed the DD again while I considered my response to the supervisor, that was on Thursday but she has not replied hmm. Then the supervisor text me saying he had emailed me and could I please respond!! Bloody cheek.

So I did, and it wasn't even a little bit soft and fluffy.

theshyretirer Sat 11-Jun-16 16:49:04

Sounds like it's getting a bit messy and they have realised they've ballsed up but at least they are trying to resolve it. However, don't expect a reply to an email sent on Thursday - I wouldn't get that from a colleague if they are teaching a lot or need to attend meetings (eg lots of stuff on with exam boards etc or trying to clear things up before staff disappear on annual leave over the holidays at this time of year). I collaborate with colleagues in other departments who often take a week to reply to messages - it's a pain but don't take it personally.

Can you email the supervisor, cc the DD and say that you would appreciate a meeting as soon as possible (suggest a date next week?) to review the draft feedback and could we arrange times and dates for the remainder of our meetings now? Then write them an email immediately after any meeting to confirm what was agreed.

postmanpatscat Sat 11-Jun-16 16:51:33

I could, theshyretirer but I now feel so uncomfortable around the whole situation and have so little faith in my supervisor that I would like to find out whether someone else (who, in theory, will do a better job) could take over that role.

nocoolnamesleft Sat 11-Jun-16 16:58:55

Not great. Mind you, I handed in my masters dissertation, was asked who my supervisor was, and pointed out they'd never told us we were meant to have one. I moved to the far end of the country, left a few messages, heard nothing, then some months later I contacted them to again ask if my dissertation had passed, and they said they'd never received it. The following week the admitted that I had sent it, it had "actually been quite good...and we awarded you a degree a few months back".

Nice of them to have told me.

postmanpatscat Sat 11-Jun-16 17:08:05

nocoolnamesleft now I feel like I've got off quite lightly!!

Socksey Sat 11-Jun-16 17:14:13

Lol.... so you email your supervisor on an MA after 3 years, 5000 words of who knows what, at the beginning of the busiest and most stressful period of undergraduate coursework and exam marking, when they have deadlines to have thousands of words read and marked and then double marked, as well as double marking other work, a slew of deadlines ...... and you've not heard anything yet.... hmm mm
Maybe, you might consider that your work needs some serious reading, which can't just be done between all that....
Or maybe your supervisor is incompetent; in which case why have you stayed with them for 3 years?

postmanpatscat Sat 11-Jun-16 17:36:35

That's uncalled for socksey. What's above is a summary of events, and he has only been my supervisor since September. If he has too much to do, then he shouldn't have agreed to read it and give me feedback, perhaps? Or he should read it and give me timely feedback, because that is what he is contracted and being paid to do?

It's not as if I can make a unilateral decision to change my supervisor either.

MaudGonneMad Sat 11-Jun-16 17:44:55

Tbf, if one of my MA students had handed me a 5000 word draft in April, there's no way I would be able to read it. I'm drowning in UG coursework and exam marking and have been since then. I'd let them know it was going to be late, though. The problem is primarily with the lack of communication from the supervisor.

And 2 week turnarounds for reading drafts is ridiculous, anyway.

theshyretirer Sat 11-Jun-16 17:48:50

I'd understand why you might not feel comfortable with them but I'd just keep it as business-like as possible. If it helps, I deal with about 100 students' work in various forms (mostly not dissertations thankfully!) between April and August so it's all quite impersonal for the supervisor even though as a Master's student, that person and the writing is hugely important in your life. I'm sure some of my students think I'm an arse for whatever reason but TBH I just want to get on, get their writing marked, decent feedback given, and for them to achieve the best they can. Presumably what you're writing about comes under their area of expertise which is why they, not another person, is supervising you. Reassigning you to another supervisor could result in contradictory advice / instructions to what you've already been given and a lot more work or confusion for you. Focus on the output you've produced, how you can use their feedback to improve your work, and on clarifying the remainder of the dissertation timeline to avoid more fannying around.

For what it's worth, my supervisor on my first Master's disappeared on study leave in the first couple of months of my dissertation and I had to start the thing again confused twat

theshyretirer Sat 11-Jun-16 17:59:32

Maudgonnemad 2 weeks for reading drafts in my institution too. Yes it is ridiculous. <weeps>

Postmanpatscat Not excusing your tutor; as the pp said their communication sounds poor and they seem to have dropped the ball with your draft. But sometimes a tutor doesn't have much choice in the work they take on. 2 Christmases ago in my peak marking and teaching period I had 3 consecutive weeks of 80 hours per week work to get through. Bonkers but I had no choice as I was on a zero hours contract and as a fairly junior member of the department, was basically told to suck it up or find work elsewhere.

RobinsAreTerritorialFuckers Sat 11-Jun-16 18:05:13

That is awful.

My current MPhil student is required to see me at least twice a term (so, less often than you), but every time, I read the draft, which was well over 5000 words from the second meeting onwards. I'm sure it depends on the subject, but I would not find it difficult to read such a short draft before a meeting, even mid-marking. Certainly I think it's absolute nonsense to suggest someone couldn't find the time between April and now to read it. I think socksey must have misread something to suggest that was unreasonable!

You definitely should have complained much more strongly, much earlier. FGS do it now, and make a lot of noise, before it's too late. Sorry to be harsh, but you're not being 'too nice' - you're being unprofessional about your own learning (and your supervisor is being worse).

joangray38 Sat 11-Jun-16 18:35:23

We had to email and send a paper copy on as well - some of the professors thought it was really bad manners to just email and expect them to print pages out sometimes at home. When I was doing my PhD we had a contract with the uni which stated we were entitled to contact 2 X per term - not necessarily face to face. You unfortunately picked the wrong time in the academic year to give him 5000 words to read but I do hope you get it sorted and complete your MA without any further hassle.

daisychain01 Sat 11-Jun-16 18:54:03

Sounds awful. When I did my MSc, we were given meetings every couple of weeks from Sept until May if we wanted them, especially towards the date when the dissertation was due to be handed in.

I know it's too late now, but if I hadn't had any meetings with my supervisor by say November, I would have been knocking on their office door during "Office Hours" ( general drop in sessions), insisting on some commitments to regular meetings, to keep me on track.

nagsandovalballs Sat 11-Jun-16 19:27:28

I just wrote my dissertation and handed it in. I didn't have a dissertation supervisor! Or if I did, I don't know who they were. It then got a prize that got me on a pathway to ahrc funding for a PhD. Is purely independent research not possible? Do you need check ins? I'm in humanities so maybe it is unique to our subjects that you can be entirely independent...

RobinsAreTerritorialFuckers Sat 11-Jun-16 19:51:34

But surely the point isn't that subjects differ - it's that she is being judged against other students who have been given supervision, and the regulations state she should have it, but she hasn't had it.

An unsupervised dissertation is a different kind of thing, and no one marking it should be expecting as much as if it were supervised.

DissertationTutorUK Sat 01-Oct-16 11:57:34

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

pinkiponk Sat 01-Oct-16 12:10:05

No great advice but I can sympathise. My MA dissertation tutor was awful, I'd send draft chapters and not here anything for months, when I did it would be one line of feedback. I failed the first attempt (no idea I was failing because of the lack of feedback).
Second time round I didn't bother with them and a kind colleague helped me with proof reading and feedback.
It was such a stark contrast to my undergrad which was at a top 10 uni, my masters was at one of the lowest rated and it bloody showed! The standard of tuition generally was abysmal. (I used as it was cheap!).

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