MSc Learning Agreement DRAFT

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                           MSc. Project and Dissertation
                              Autumn 2009 version

                           Postgraduate Student
                            Learning Agreement
              An electronic copy of this agreement may be downloaded from

Each student registered to proceed at MSc level must read this document. It provides an outline
of what you can reasonably expect from your supervisory team and administration support and
states what the course team and your supervisor may expect from you as a student.

In the absence of any comments or objections raised by you, regarding the pre-filled information,
you will be deemed to have accepted the agreement. Should you feel there are aspects of the
agreement you wish to modify please seek advice from your supervisor as to what sections
should change. Once your supervisor has approved any amendments, you should regard that
new agreement as the one you will use throughout your MSc.

If you are satisfied with this agreement now, you should keep this copy for your own records.
Under these circumstances you do not need to return it to UNIGIS or your supervisor.

Return amended forms only to:
Manchester Metropolitan University
Dept of Environmental and Geographical Sciences
John Dalton Building
Chester Street
Manchester M1 5GD

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Candidates will be expected to demonstrate:
The creation or original interpretation of new or existing knowledge through original
research, novel analysis, technological development or other advanced scholarship, of
such a quality to satisfy peer review. The correct and original use of management
procedures or application of technologies (dependent upon chosen degree pathway).

A systematic approach employing a range of appropriate data collection, analysis and
synthesis strategies. Such methods and approaches must satisfy academic scrutiny and
reflect a good measure of originality and understanding.

The general ability to work independently (under academic supervision) in such a way
that problem solving and adaptation to unforeseen circumstances become challenges
that are met with in a realistic and justifiable manner.

A clear understanding of how a scientific line of enquiry can be tackled using a variety of
knowledge-based and methodological approaches.

Learning Agreement Questions
The questions below illustrate how we formulate the Learning Agreement. The list is not
exhaustive and it is likely that you will have to consider further questions when you
examine your own circumstances. Ideally, this document should be read in conjunction
with any discussions with your supervisor.

Approach to the work:
What are the principle purposes of the student-supervisor partnership?
What is the nature of supervised postgraduate research?
What are the objectives of the research proposal as a whole?
How are creativity and conceptual understanding going to be stimulated?
How does enquiry and critical thinking relate to postgraduate study?

General roles of postgraduate and supervisor:
What are the responsibilities of the student and supervisor?
What regulations and university procedures relate to the degree?
Have you read all documentation supplied to you by the university?
How will a realistic programme of work be created and monitored?
How will liaison with a second supervisor (if applicable) operate?
What support and opportunities does the postgraduate community provide?
How can you achieve academic independence?
Does the student have any individual needs, which must be taken into account in
providing her/him with the necessary means to complete her/his research?

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Topic specific roles:
What are the key characteristics of the topic being studied?
What are the key characteristics of the literature?
Who are the most appropriate first contacts in the field?
What are the relevant theories associated with the research field?
Are there particular ethical considerations involved?
How will a suitable end point be determined?

Research Support:
Are there identifiable research and/or operational training requirements associated with
this research?
Are there any health and safety concerns (beyond those which relate to use of
computers) attached to this work and how will these be addressed?
Will it be necessary to carry out fieldwork as part of this research?
How will you (or your employer/organisation) meet the cost of carrying out any field
research (e.g. mailing questionnaires and travel expenses)?

Consultation and reviews:
What are the expectations concerning preparation and attendance of meetings?
How often will you proactively discuss your progress with your supervisor?
Would a research diary or lab notebook be helpful?
What records will be kept of the contact (emails, telephone calls etc)?
Who will develop and review the programme of work?
What are the expectations about provision and feedback on written work?
What progress assessment requirements are there?

Approach to collaborating organisation (if appropriate):
What are the agreed areas of mutual benefit for all parties?
How will the postgraduate arrange to work in conjunction with the company/employer?
What should the postgraduate's objectives be in relation to the company?
How will the interest of the collaborating company be protected?
How will liaison with the company supervisor operate?
What will be the protocol for contact with the collaborating company?


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                            LEARNING AGREEMENT FORM

Student’s Full Name

Approach to Research
It is the responsibility of the student to ‘take ownership’ of his/her own research and ask
the supervisor for advice when appropriate. If problems arise, the student should try and
solve these in the first instance before contacting their supervisor for advice. Research
requires setting aside enough time to undertake reading and reflection on existing work.
The student should be actively searching and reading appropriate journal papers and
books. Research requires the synthesis of literature early in the process, and then
formulation of draft methods or techniques. Ideas about what methods or data collection
should initially come from the student – and then indicated to the supervisor for his/her
critical feedback. It is important to regularly review your own performance and status in
the research process. Keeping a research notebook and timetable of work yet to do can
help with planning and reflection. At all times, the student should be critically assessing
their own approach to their research and make efforts to ensure their progress is
ongoing or that obstructions are reported in a timely fashion to their supervisor.
Research becomes a personal activity – and students should try to inject their own
creativity and conceptual understanding into the work.

General Roles of Student and Supervisor(s)
It is the responsibility of the student to maintain regular communication with their
supervisor to ask for guidance and advice. The supervisor is meant to provide critical
feedback and ensure that draft material is corrected to reflect university writing styles
and procedures. The student should aim to incorporate any corrections or suggestions
received from the supervisor into the finished work.              Students must familiarise
themselves with regulations and deadlines by reading all information and resource
guides. It is crucial that the student maintains regular contact with the supervisor – and
provides him/her with draft material for critical review – in a timely manner. Do not send
a draft of your entire thesis to the supervisor two days before the submission deadline
and expect detailed feedback the same day. Plan ahead and try to send an email to the
supervisor every few weeks saying where you are up to and what you are intending to
do next. Furthermore, don’t rely on the supervisor to ‘chase you’ and ask you for draft
material for feedback. You should aim to get draft material to your supervisor in plenty
of time for review and feedback, and importantly, enough time to make any necessary
modifications. A student who intends to have a second supervisor (or industrial contact)
if appropriate, must think how best to reduce repetition and decide which supervisory
contact can give the best feedback or assistance needed. Remember that the main
UNIGIS supervisor is the one who will be marking the thesis and who knows the
University procedures and regulations. Students should strive for academic
independence – but not by ignoring the supervisor or failing to keep in contact. If you
have any individual needs, which must be taken into account in to complete your
research, notify your supervisor as soon as possible. Finally, remember that the

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supervisor is meant to deal with academic matters only. If students have any questions
or problems relating to administrative matters then these should be directed to the
UNIGIS office.

Topic Specific Roles
Try to ascertain the key characteristics of the topic you are studying. This can be best
achieved by looking at appropriate literature and synthesising similar published work.
Clearly identify the relevant theories associated with the research field – again by
synthesis of published work. You should be prepared to make detailed notes related to
characteristics, concepts and theories you have read for later inclusion in your own work
(remembering to record and cite the original author’s work). You are required to
determine if there are any particular ethical considerations involved. By careful crafting
(with feedback from the supervisor) of your central aim and research objectives, you
should clearly understand how a suitable end point can be determined.

Research Support
Are there identifiable research and/or operational training requirements associated with
this research? If so, you should discuss these with your supervisor as early as possible
who may need to consult with the MSc coordinator. If there are any health and safety
concerns (beyond those which relate to use of computers) connected to your work, you
must decide how you intend to mitigate against them and consult your supervisor who
will make a decision. You may need to change aspects of your intended work if it is
deemed too dangerous (either to yourself or other people). Will it be necessary to carry
out fieldwork as part of this research? If so, how will you (or your employer/organisation)
meet the cost of carrying out any field research (e.g. mailing questionnaires and travel
expenses)? You must think about these potential pitfalls as early as possible and not
leave them until it is too late.

Consultation and Reviews
If a student intends to have a face-to-face meeting with the supervisor, this must be If a
student intends to have a face-to-face meeting with the supervisor, this must be
arranged in advance to allow both parties to prepare any notes or materials. Try to
proactively discuss progress with your supervisor every few weeks – even if just by
sending a short email. A research diary or lab notebook is often helpful and can remind
you of queries or problems you need to consult your supervisor about later. Try to retain
records of the contact you have with your supervisor and UNIGIS administration (emails,
telephone calls etc) as this will help you to focus on what you have already been advised
or discussed. You must initially try to develop and review the programme of work – but
remember to incorporate any guidance from your supervisor. Draft material should be
passed to your supervisor at the earliest opportunity – but he/she is normally only
expected to see one full draft of the dissertation to give you feedback and critical
appraisal. Avoid resending the same material with only minor changes. You will also be
expected to respond to the regular progress report requests from the UNIGIS office each

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Approach to Collaborating Organisation(s) – if applicable
A professional approach should be taken at all times. When dealing with external
organisations or individuals, it should be kept in mind that students are representing
UNIGIS and their host university as well as themselves.

Research Ethics
Any research involving human subjects, animals, vulnerable groups etc must conform to
the University’s policies and guidance procedures. All relevant documentation such as
ethics framework, flowchart, notes for guidance and the ethics form itself are accessible

Learning Agreement Declaration

This learning agreement is made on:________________________(enter date)

Between the above named postgraduate student and UNIGIS-UK


Supervisor:_____________________________________ Date:_________________
(for and on behalf of UNIGIS)

Postgraduate Student:____________________________ Date:__________________

IMPORTANT: Any request for extension of studies may be dependent upon having
adhered to this Learning Agreement correctly. By signing this agreement you state your
understanding that the Learning Agreement will be used appropriately.

For UNIGIS Office Use Only

Date of receipt:_______________________________

Date checked:________________________________ By (initials):______________

Date returned for amendment (if applicable):_________________________________

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