Research Degree Mediation
Whilst the majority of research degree student supervisor partnerships work extremely well, there may be occasions where students and/or their supervisors are unhappy with their partnership. This can be for a variety of reasons, but quite often, it is mis-communication and/or misinterpretation of intention between the student and supervisor which leads to partnership breakdown.
The Graduate School, in partnership with Student Services and the College’s accredited Mediators have launched a confidential research degree mediation service, designed for use where other services and support have not worked yet and with a view to pre-empting a breakdown of the relationship.
How do I request mediation?
What is mediation?
Mediation is a process where a neutral, non-judgemental third party brings the parties together in a safe and confidential environment to facilitate open and honest dialogue. The discussions focus on enabling understanding of each person’s perspective. It is not designed to assign blame and it is not adversarial.
Who are the mediators?
The College’s accredited mediators all have the industry standard National Certificate in Workplace Mediation and participate in regular quality assurance activities. They are not affiliated with any academic department.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How would you promote the value of mediation, overcoming scepticism from either party?
- In your conversations, you may actually find that either party is relieved to have support and the chance to fix an unhealthy working environment.
- Present the benefits of mediation:
- It’s not arbitration and it's non-judgemental; the process does not assign blame
- Completely confidential
- Mediators are professionals with no prior knowledge of the individuals and are completely independent from academic departments
- It is a neutral process, designed to provide all parties with the opportunity to be heard and to be listened to.
Some individuals may be concerned about the formality of a mediation process and from a student perspective, there could be added worry that mediation will affect progress. How can you overcome this?
- Mediation is not a formal process. It sits outside any formal College procedures. It is not connected to any other procedure. The whole point of mediation is to support individuals to have meaningful conversations and to support solutions where this is possible.
- No records are kept and nothing is added to staff or student files. Agreements between parties are written down and given to the parties involved – no other copies are kept.
- The referring Senior Tutor (PGR) will not be provided with any information about the conversations, only that an agreement was reached or not reached.
What sorts of circumstances are appropriate for Mediation?
- Challenges or issues where there is a breakdown in communication between the parties lend themselves well to mediation.
- One of the most common issues raised by students is feedback and how this is communicated by supervisors who are often very well meaning. Such cases would also lend themselves well to mediation.
What is not appropriate for Mediation?
- This pilot scheme is specifically for students and their supervisors. It is not for student-student disputes.
- Mediation is not appropriate for cases involving inappropriate behaviour such as sexual harassment or harassment in general. In such cases, the Senior Tutor (PGR) should consult the College’s Harassment, Bullying and Victimisation Policy.
- Mediation can only work for actions which are within the gift of the parties involved. For example, if a supervisor and a student both agree that a student should be supervised by another supervisor, but the department do not agree to this for a number of practical reasons, such as funding implications, then it is not within the gift of the mediation process to overturn the department’s decision. Instead, the mediators will work with the student and supervisor on moving forward with this decision and how to make it work.
What happens if either party refuses mediation?
- Ultimately, the service is voluntary and individuals cannot be forced to participate. If one party has agreed to mediation, it may be a helpful nudge to let the other individual know this. However, as part of the conversation, Senior Tutors (PGRs) may wish to ask individuals the following questions
- What other options are available to move forward?
- What would happen if no action is taken?
- Can you afford not to take any action?