Skip to main content

2.1 Your Work: Directors of Studies


Your Director of Studies (DoS) oversees your academic progress and development, will provides guidance about your course and our teaching and advice on the most effective ways of working. You are required to see your DoS at least twice a term for a one-to-one meeting to review your academic progress and for you to receive feedback. These meetings take place at the start and end of each term. Your DoS will discuss your supervisors’ reports on your work and the advice offered will build on what supervisors have said and your responses. Please read your online reports through the CamCORS system prior to your feedback sessions with your DoS and keep them in mind. The College attaches great importance to these discussions. Practical arrangements concerning supervisions are made at these meetings. Failure to attend causes a disproportionate amount of extra work for the DoS and inconveniences potential supervisors. It therefore attracts an automatic fine.

Cambridge courses are challenging. All undergraduates will have moments when they worry about mastering some part(s) of their course. With help and advice, these moments can quickly pass. That is when your DoS is key.

  • Always be prepared to discuss any difficulties you are having with your work with your DoS.
  • You won't be the first or the last of their students to experience such difficulties.
  • Your DoS's experience and expertise can be helpful to you and they are likely to be the person best placed to offer guidance.
  • They will also give invaluable advice on how best to prepare for exams.
  • Do not hesitate to seek them out more often than the start and end of term if necessary.

Your DoS is also responsible for overseeing your entry for the examinations. In most subjects, the DoS will organize progress tests and/or mock examination papers at an appropriate point in the year. Take them seriously.

In most subjects, the DoS will be a Fellow of the College. Like all Cambridge colleges, the Selwyn DoS in certain of the smaller subjects is a member of the relevant University Department or a Fellow of another college. Details can be found in the list of Fellows of Selwyn.

Director of Studies duties towards towards their students are as follows:

  • Meet students at the beginning and end of each Term, and more if necessary, to advise on a programme of work and to monitor progress, and serve as a first point of contact for feedback to and from students.
  • Provide initial advice and support to first-year students in their transition to teaching and learning in Cambridge and manage expectations of what is and is not required. 
  • Be available to meet and advise students on subject-related matters, particularly if the student is experiencing academic difficulties.
  • Warn students if they are neglecting their studies or if their supervision reports give cause for concern.
  • Liaise with tutors and the rest of the Welfare team when students appear to having problems.
  • Advise students on University courses and examinations.
  • Liaise with the College Librarian to ensure that stocks of books are kept up to date.
  • Be aware of and ensure compliance with any specific academic requirements in Student Support Documents and recommendations concerning reasonable adjustments.
  • Arrange supervisions or, in some cases, ensure that Departments have done so and that such provision is satisfactory.
  • Read supervision reports submitted by supervisors and discuss them with students to provide feedback and guidance. 
  • Liaise with the Senior Tutor in monitoring students' progress. 
  • Check and approve (where necessary) examination entries in CamSIS. 
  • Be available to meet any student who is considering a change of subject, be aware within reason of the options available in related Triposes and the regulations governing progression from year to year.
  • Whenever possible, give advice on possible postgraduate courses or career choices.
  • Where appointed as DoS to higher level courses (Part III, MASt, LLM, MCL, MPhil etc), ensure they are aware of the issues associated with these one-year courses and be prepared to offer appropriate levels of support, especially to students arriving for a one-year course from out side the U.K.
  • Write references as reasonably requested by students.
  • Arrange College exams and progress tests.
  • Explain to students the detailed information available concerning their examination results.
  • Make recommendations on Scholarships and Prizes.

For students arriving for their first year of study, the Director of Studies also supplies introductory material, reading lists etc. in advance of arrival; meets new students at the beginning of the year to explain the teaching and learning at the Collegiate University in detail; and advises students on how to get the most out of supervisions, lectures, seminars and practicals, and from available learning facilities and materials.

The system is based on a set of reciprocal assumptions. Just as students may expect the above from their Directors of Studies so there are mutual expectations. In return for their efforts on the students’ behalf, Directors of Studies can reasonably expect students to:

  • Keep up with their work commitments as their top priority.
  • Attend a meeting at the start and end of every term.
  • Attend promptly other scheduled meetings with their Director of Studies, unless there is a compelling reason why they cannot, and in such cases give as much notice as advice and guidance received on academic matters possible of unavoidable absence or delay. 
  • Respond to email or other messages within two working days.
  • Keep their DoS informed of any issues that may affect their work and discuss their interests and plans with them.
  • Attend relevant University lectures, seminars and practicals, and make use of the available learning facilities and materials.
  • Attend supervisions arranged for them and give as much notice as possible to both the supervisor and the Director of Studies of any unavoidable absence due to illness or other grave cause.
  • Pro-actively discuss with their Director of Studies any concerns they may have about their supervisions, in particular when they seem not to be working satisfactorily or there is a problem.
  • Respond to requests for feedback on supervisions and supervisors.
  • Deal promptly with all academic correspondence (especially email) and with College and University administrative requests, such as enrolling for examinations, completing teaching questionnaires, etc.
  • Give the maximum possible notice when requesting a reference from their Director of Studies, or when seeking other advice and support; also make the request in such a way that the DoS is able to provide appropriate support.*
  • Provide feedback on the outcome of applications, the better to inform future references or guidance.

The more effort you put into establishing a rapport with your DoS, the better will be the communication between you and the easier it will be for you to raise matters with them.

Your DoS may not always be the best placed person to provide a reference. Sometimes (for summer employment or for rented accommodation for example) your Tutor may be in a better position. Sometimes (perhaps applications for further study) a dissertation supervisor or project leader may be the ideal choice. So whilst discussing references with your DoS is always a good idea, you should not assume that the DoS is necessarily always going to say they will write for you. One circumstance in which they may decline occurs when a student has neglected their studies and has placed the DoS in a position where they feel it would be inappropriate to write on someone’s behalf as there was little positive to be said. The College’s reputation would be put at risk were we to adopt a policy of always providing unqualified support if it then transpired that we had misled others about a student’s diligence and good conduct.

* A DoS’s definition of appropriate notice may vary according to the time of year (e.g. if they are interviewing or examining they may need longer than usual, for example) and to the nature of the request. As a rule of thumb, however, one might expect at least a week’s notice to be given, and preferably longer. It is as well to secure an in principle agreement to provide support well in advance. Then if a shorter notice is required it does not come as a complete surprise to busy people.