Graduate Supervisory Experience Survey

Graduate Supervisory Experience Survey – Pilot Study

The Faculty of Medicine is committed to ensuring that our students are supported to academically thrive, while engaged in their graduate training. An important component of this training involves their supervisory experiences in a research stream Master or doctoral program.  Ultimately, the purpose of the Graduate Supervisory Experience Survey is to gather information about the supervisory experience of graduate students as part of our quality assurance program.

The Faculty of Medicine is the first Division at the University of Toronto to initiate a survey to explore the supervisory experience of its graduate students, thanks to funding from the School of Graduate Studies Innovation Fund.  Last year, a Task Force was established, comprising of departmental chairs and graduate students across our 10 research stream MSc and PhD programs.  Chaired by Dr. Allan Kaplan, Vice Dean, Graduate and Academic Affairs, one of its tasks was to develop a survey  to capture key aspects of a student’s graduate supervisory experience based on the 2017 SGS Graduate Supervision Guidelines for Faculty and StudentsThis survey was pre-tested in Summer 2018 among a small group of research stream doctoral students. The Task Force also discussed issues regarding confidentiality and de-identification of data, how aggregate data will be stored and used, as well as transparency about protocols in cases which students wish to report inappropriate behaviour. We have also consulted with several Provostial offices across the university, as well as the Office of Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy. Faculty across the 10 research stream graduate programs have also been informed of this study. It is crucial that our decisions remain informed by students and faculty.

We are now at the stage to test the online system and invite senior graduate students to participate.  Our primary objectives for the pilot study is to test the online system, work out any glitches, and ensure the platform is user friendly.  The results of this pilot study will not be used for any purpose other than to test the operating system and the validity and reliability of the survey.  Data collected for the pilot study will not be utilized for future use.  

If you have any questions regarding this pilot study and the full implementation of this survey, please send your queries to glse.supervision@utoronto.ca.

1.  Confidentiality and Voluntariness
Participation among the students, in both the pilot study and moving forward, is strictly voluntary.  The raw data collected will be treated as strictly confidential.   To participate, you will need to login using your UTORid and password.  This information is required for the sole purpose of verifying the identity of each participant, prevent non-eligible students from participating and avoid duplicate survey results from being submitted.

All data collected for this pilot will be stored, encrypted and protected through appropriate technical and process protections by the Office of the Vice-Dean, Graduate and Life Sciences Education (GLSE).  It will also be used to produce aggregate results, based on the conditions outlined below, which will be the responsibility of the Office of Graduate and Life Sciences (GLSE) in the Faculty of Medicine, and reviewed by the Vice Dean, Graduate and Academic Affairs. Raw data collected for this pilot study will not be reported to Faculty of Medicine stakeholders or external organizations without the graduate student’s written consent, except as required by law.

2.  Disclosure of Aggregate Results for the Pilot Study and the Full Implementation of the Graduate Supervisory Experience Survey
As noted in the above, the purpose of the pilot  study is to work out any glitches, and ensure the platform is user friendly.  The results of this pilot test will not be used for any purpose other than to test the operating system and the validity and reliability of the survey.  Data collected for the pilot will not be utilized for future use.

Details regarding the full implementation of this survey (scheduled before the end of the calendar year) and how the responses will be collected, aggregated, analyzed and shared are outlined below for your information.   These protocols were developed by the Graduate Supervisory Experience Task Force with extensive consultation with the appropriate Provostial offices, Office of Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy, as well as Human Resources and Legal Counsel in the Faculty of Medicine.   This information will be sent again to you before the full implementation of the survey.

a) Request to Voluntarily Participate by Email
Each year, registered graduate students in a research stream program in the Faculty of Medicine, will be invited, by email, to voluntarily participate in completing the Graduate Supervisory Experience Survey.  All responses collected will be stored, encrypted and protected as outlined in the previous section, Confidentiality and Voluntariness. 

b) What will the Vice Dean, Graduate and Academic Affairs receive?
The Vice Dean, Graduate and Academic Affairs, will be responsible for reviewing all aggregate quantitative and qualitative results of each supervisor by the summer of each academic year (i.e. June).  If necessary, raw data will also be reviewed by the Vice Dean, Graduate and Academic Affairs for quality assurance purposes.  

c) What will the Primary Supervisor’s Departmental Chair receive?
The Departmental Chair will receive qualitative and quantitative survey results for each individual supervisor with a primary appointment in their department, as well as an overall aggregate report of graduate supervision for their department by the summer of each academic year. If there are at least five distinct survey responses for one supervisor, the data will be aggregated to create one report for that primary supervisor.  Responses from multiple years may be combined to achieve the minimum of five distinct survey responses needed to provide an aggregate report.   If there are less than five distinct survey responses for one supervisor per year, only the Departmental Chair will receive the data for that primary supervisor to prevent the student from being clearly identifiable to the supervisor. 

Departmental Chairs will treat all survey data and results received from GLSE as strictly confidential. The survey is meant to serve as a quality assurance tool to inform the assessment of the effectiveness of graduate student supervision within a particular Department.  Departmental Chairs will review qualitative and quantitative survey results with the supervisor who has a primary appointment in their department each year. In sharing the results of this survey with the individual primary supervisor, the Chair may wish to provide informal feedback on the quality of the supervision provided; these discussions should be conducted as strictly confidential.

d) What will your Primary Supervisor receive?
Primary supervisors will review their results from the survey on an annual basis with their Departmental Chair, ideally by the summer of every academic year.  If there are at least five distinct survey responses for the primary supervisor, the data will be aggregated to create one report for that primary supervisor. Responses from multiple years may be combined to achieve the minimum of five distinct survey responses needed to provide an aggregate report.  S/he will receive this report by the summer of each academic year.  If there are less than five distinct survey responses for a primary supervisor per year, a verbal summary of the data will be reviewed with the Departmental Chair at their annual meeting.

Primary supervisors will be encouraged to use these aggregate results, at their discretion, to demonstrate their excellence in teaching and/or supervision.

What will Graduate Students receive?
Graduate students will receive an aggregate quantitative report of the overall graduate supervision in their department (i.e., not supervisor-specific) by the summer of every academic year.  No qualitative data in any form (i.e. raw or summarized) will be shared with the students.

Will the data be shared with anyone else?
Aggregate quantitative results by Department and the Faculty of Medicine, as a whole, will be shared with members of Dean of Medicine’s Executive Committee, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and with the Graduate Chairs.

3. Reporting Discrimination, Violence and Harassment (Including Sexual Violence and Harassment)


This survey is not intended to identify and address complaints of harassment, violence or discrimination against a graduate primary supervisor. The Faculty of Medicine and University of Toronto take complaints of this nature with the utmost seriousness and have established policies and guidelines for disclosing such behavior and ensuring it is addressed in a timely way.

If students decide to comment on egregious behavior of their primary supervisor (e.g. sexual harassment, discrimination, violence) in this survey, the University is obligated to investigate such alleged behavior. In the course of such an investigation, a student’s name and the name of the supervisor may be required to be revealed in confidence to the appropriate University official.

The following University documents provide specific processes for raising concerns regarding this type of conduct in respect of both medical clinical faculty and academic faculty supervisors:

In the event a student has encountered discrimination, violence or harassment, they are encouraged to do one (or more than one) of the following:

  • In situations where his/her safety is at immediate and serious risk, s/he should contact 9-1-1 and seek emergency assistance. After calling 9-1-1, and as circumstances permit, contact Campus Police at 416.978.2222.
  • In situations where there is less immediate or serious risk of harm, the following resources are available:
    • Review the above referenced documents above and make a disclosure or file a formal report in accordance with the procedures set out in the applicable document;