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As part of our undergraduate education at Cambridge specialists meet small groups of students weekly to coach them. These sessions are known as supervisions.

Supervisors support student transition into University life and guide their progress through their studies, ensuring they understand course material and directing them to additional support.

Supervisors range from early career researchers to world-leading specialists and help students to form connections between different parts of the course, providing rapid feedback on their progress.

Further information

For current or prospective undergraduate supervisors, there is more detailed information on expectations, training, payment rates, and supervision norms.

For current or prospective postgraduate supervisors, there is guidance on supervising postgraduates and creating supervision reports.


Q. What is a supervision?

A supervision is a small-group session where undergraduates meet with a specialist in their subject to discuss the course. Typically a student will have one or two hour-long supervisions each week (this varies from course to course).

Q. Who organises supervisors?

Directors of Studies in Colleges typically arrange supervisors to teach their students. They monitor their supervisors' performance and effectiveness, and address any concerns raised about the quality of the provision.

Q. How many students are in a supervision?

Supervisions vary between subjects but often have 2-3 students and one teacher in a weekly session.

Q. Who pays for supervisions?

Colleges pay for supervisions. Reports submitted by supervisors, to provide feedback to their students, are also used by Colleges to process payments for the work of their supervisors.

Q. Who determines the payment for a supervision?

Payment rates are set by individual Colleges, which will be at least as high as the intercollegiate recharge rate. The intercollegiate recharge rate is used by Colleges to pay for supervisions provided by other Colleges, and is set annually.

Q. What does the supervision payment rate include?

The supervision payment rate includes preparation, teaching and marking.

Q. How many hours does a supervisor teach?

The amount of teaching a supervisor provides varies, due to the subject being taught and each student's particular needs. On average 70% of supervisors provide 50 supervisions or fewer a year.

Q. Who delivers supervisions?

  • There are nearly 250,000 supervisions each academic year, delivered by 4,800 supervisors.
  • Approximately 30% of all supervisors are postgraduate students, 20% are early career unestablished researchers, 20% are University Teaching Officers, and 15% are College Fellows (15% are ‘Other’).
  • Approximately 20% of supervisions are provided by postgraduate students, 10% by early career unestablished researchers, 25% by University Teaching Officers, and 30% by College Fellows (15% by ‘Other’).

Q. Why do postgraduate students supervise?

A minority of supervisions (20% on average per academic year) are delivered by postgraduate students. Postgraduate students can choose to supervise, developing their teaching skills and preparing for future employment. In turn undergraduates benefit from receiving tuition from supervisors active in research within their studied subject.

Q. Is there a limit on how many hours postgraduate students can supervise?

Postgraduate students can supervise as much as they like, as long as they progress in their research and follow the funding body’s guidance.

Q. Do supervisors have a contract?

Most supervisors are self-employed. Some supervisors are contracted by Colleges, for example as College Teaching Officers, and supervision teaching forms part of their contract. Some supervisors have contracts with one or more Colleges.