A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Between Supervisor and Postgraduate Enhancing Postgraduate Environments EPE

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Between Supervisor and Postgraduate

The aim of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) is to give the postgraduate student and supervisor an opportunity to develop a sound and productive working relationship. There is no blueprint for such an agreement. Rather, it is the result of an open discussion in the early stages of the relationship, during which both student and supervisor can clarify expectations and preferences, surface any misunderstandings or misaligned expectations and pave the way for a productive working relationship.

The aim of this resource is to provide a starting point for such a discussion between postgraduate student and supervisor. The content given here is meant to serve as a prompt for things to include in one’s own agreement, and supervisors/students are encouraged to make as many changes as needed during their discussions. In its current form, this MoU template should not be regarded as policy or even as a fixed template. Each supervisor-student relationship is unique and the outcome of this discussion will be a personalised and adapted version of this MoU.

Having said that, it may be the case that your faculty or department already has its own MoU template. It may even be compulsory for you to complete such an MoU, according to your departmental requirements. In that case, please see this document as an additional prompt for issues you might want to discuss with your supervisor/postgraduate student at the start of your relationship. Departments and faculties are also welcome to use and adapt this template. It is then up to individual departments or faculties to explain the “status” of the MoU, e.g. whether it is compulsory, recommended or optional.

Developed by Stellenbosch University, Postgraduate Office. Thanks to Natasha Mothapo, Ethel Phiri, Jenna Leysens and Alison Bucholz who played key roles in the production of this video (SU). Thank you to Venita Januarie, David Phair, Rose Richards, Mannini Kotele, Karen Esler, Jaco le Roux, Nathaniel McGregor, John Measey and Samkele Zonyane for their valuable contributions in the making of this resource. Thank you to Sioux McKenna (Rhodes University) and Ronel Steyn for their earlier contributions to the MoU template.

Who might find this useful?

This resource might also be useful to postgraduate studies support divisions and faculties or departments that co-ordinate postgraduate supervision and that may not have an official MoU in place.

The following open questions are posed at the end of the video:

  • How do you feel about an MoU?
  • Does your department have one?
  • How do you intend to establish a healthy postgraduate/supervisor relationship?
  • Have you considered all aspects of how the different stages of the research project will be handled?
  • Have you agreed on the type and frequency of communication that needs to take place to maintain a good relationship?
  • Are you prepared to be flexible in your approach – to adapt the MoU contents if necessary as you progress along the research journey together?


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