Support and advice available for doctoral researchers

During a doctorate there will be points when you need help and advice. Often this will come from your friends and family, although on some issues your supervisor and your department might be better placed to help. Try and ask for help as soon as you need it and keep people around you informed about any major problems that you are experiencing.

Institutional support mechanisms

Your institution will have a range of services designed to help and support you. Bear in mind that as a doctoral researcher you may be able to access generic support services for both staff and students. Some institutions have a graduate school which may target support services specifically to doctoral researchers, typically including those listed below.

Your department

Typically, your first port of call when in need of help and support. Consider talking to:

  • members of your supervisory team
  • director or dean of doctoral study. If they cannot help you directly, they should be aware of other relevant support. 
  • your mentor (link to mentoring section of site if there is one) if you have one
  • research and support staff, who are well placed to help particularly with technical issues
  • your peers, informally or formally via a doctoral researchers’ representative on departmental committees who can raise common concerns at a meeting

Institutional support

Your institution is likely to provide a range of services designed to help all students, including doctoral researchers. Typically these include:

  • counselling services if you need to discuss problems in complete confidence
  • welfare services for practical problems such as visa renewal, accommodation or financial issues 
  • academic support/writing centres and learning support units to support you in developing competencies needed to undertake your doctorate and beyond
  • language centres for international students  or those needing to learn a language to do their research
  • careers services for specific help relating to career choices
  • research training units running training and development activity as part of your research degree
  • administrative office with responsibility for doctoral researchers, which should have definitive answers on regulations that relate to you
  • a person ultimately responsible for doctoral researchers, e.g. graduate dean,  pro-vice-chancellor or pro-rector, who can help you address serious concerns
  • institutional complaints procedures through which complaints are dealt at an official level.


Student representatives are likely to exist at a departmental or university level, some specifically representing doctoral researchers

Student unions or guilds are a useful source of representation. Within your institution there should be a named officer with responsibility for postgraduate researchers who will be able to offer advice

Trade unions If you have an employment contract. These may be open to doctoral researchers as, student members.