At the end of a recent lengthy meeting with my supervisor, in preparation for my end of year GRC (Graduate Research Committee) meeting, I asked about if I would be able to contact them during the summer holiday period in relation to my research.

Background is that I am a History Masters research student and as I'm completing it part-time I'll be doing as much work during the summer months (maybe even more as one of my major visits to archives is during this period) as during the academic year.

My supervisor was open to me emailing him during the summer and submitting any written work I may have completed. As it was we were finishing the meeting we did not elaborate on exact details. In my own case this will suffice as I am working on my project on my own with my supervisor.

While I just asked if I could keep in contact with my supervisor and that's probably the best thing to do in most cases, I am interested is it reasonable to request that you can have access to an advisor/supervisor during summer time (either by email or face to face)?

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    I'm not entirely clear on what the specific question is. In particular, I don't understand "While I just asked if I asked if I could keep in contact with my supervisor and that's probably the best thing to do in most cases, I am interested was this a reasonable request?" Are you asking whether it would be reasonable to ask for face-to-face contact during summer, over and beyond email? May 23, 2014 at 10:07
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    Every advisor is different, and it's always reasonable to request to meet your advisor. It's up to him/her to accept or deny that request.
    – user102
    May 23, 2014 at 10:25
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    @bingung wow, that is hard. In some countries even PhD students are entitled to more than one month of paid vacations!
    – Davidmh
    May 23, 2014 at 12:40
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    @bingung: See Peter Jansson's answer. In many cases, professors are not actually employed by the university during the summer. May 23, 2014 at 13:24
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    What is GRC? ....
    – adam.r
    May 23, 2014 at 20:31

4 Answers 4


Supervisors are employees just like everyone else. They have duties (to supervise you), and they have vacations and business trips. Both vacations and business trips (conferences, field trips, probably archive work in your line) will be more common during summer. Specifically for academia, many people will use summer to spend more time working from home while they don't have to give lectures, but they may designate certain days when they are in the office, specifically to meet with everyone on a single day.

That said, I see no reason whatsoever why email contact should decrease during summer, of course except for known vacation or trip periods, where everyone can agree that emails may take a little longer to be answered.

Face-to-face contact is also important, but given that many people will spend more time at home, there is a case to be made that you may not meet quite as frequently with your advisor during summer, even after accounting for vacations/trips.

Nevertheless, I see no reason why a request for email contact and (possibly somewhat less frequent) face-to-face meetings should be unreasonable. It would of course be optimal to work out a schedule before summer, taking vacations etc. into account. "I'll check in every day with a short email, and I understand if you reply later to email questions. Could we set up at least some face-to-face meetings, perhaps not every week as during the semester, but every other week, except for the week you are at a conference?"

After all, your supervisor will be just as interested in hearing from you and knowing that you don't spend all of summer at the beach...

  • Good point about conferences etc. during the summer. In my own case I am volunteering for a couple of days at a conference where my supervisor is one of the organisers. Probably be chatting to him at that but didn't put it in question as it would not be a formal project meeting.
    – gman
    May 23, 2014 at 11:00
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    Your supervisor will likely have a chock full calendar during that conference, meeting with many people he only sees at conferences. Don't expect him to have a lot of time for chatting with you. And don't take this personally; after all, you two can meet all year long. May 23, 2014 at 11:02
  • Good points; we have only have a very general chat about what they want me to do at the conference. Might only be there to make the tea/coffee :-). He hopes we make some introductions with some of the speakers relevant to my field though.
    – gman
    May 23, 2014 at 11:12
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    Sometimes it's a little more complicated than your first paragraph. At US universities, faculty appointments are often for 9 months. At research universities, faculty often have grants to pay for summer appointments as well. But if that's not the case, your supervisor may actually not be an employee during the summer. (However, there's a good chance that, out of professionalism, he will meet with you anyway.) Aug 22, 2014 at 22:21

The question is perhaps not whether to contact or not. You can send mails as much as you want and you may expect variations in the timing of a response. What, IS important is to communicate and organize work so that you optimize the time. There is no point in arranging your own work so that you definitely would need help when you simply cannot get it.

As for what you can expect, some of the answer lies in the employment conditions which will vary between universities and certainly between countries. In some cases university employees are not salaried during summer. In cases they cover this by applying for research money. It is clear that the focus will then be on other things. In other cases payment also cover summer and instead vacation is planned for some of that time. So, you need to know what the system is like in your part of Academia and expectations made up based on that.

In the end, I see it mostly as a communication issue. To just expect without actually finding out is not a good strategy.

  • +1 for importance of communication. As far as I know in Ireland salaries are year round.
    – gman
    May 23, 2014 at 13:20
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    At many American universities, we only receive 9 months of salary. We either cover the summer 3 months from our grants or we ask the university to divide the 9 months of salary over 12 calendar months.
    – RoboKaren
    Jul 15, 2014 at 3:03

It is our job to be available to our students!

I'll be gone for half the summer, and the half I'm in town I will be working from home. My students shouldn't expect to just look for me in my office and find me, but I will be very receptive to coming in and meeting as long as I am in town, and corresponding by e-mail otherwise. I suspect this scenario is reasonably typical.

"Expect" is a little bit of a dangerous word; I advise you to replace it with "ask for". Take the initiative in requesting meetings, asking questions, and the like. Don't overdo it --- but other people aren't shy about asking for your advisor's attention, I urge you not to be either :) Good luck!


It's reasonable to email him and stay in contact that way. You're still working/researching and you need support from him. What would not be reasonable is to expect immediate (ie, within 24 hours) replies. If throughout the summer, he responds fairly quickly, and you feel that meeting in person would be beneficial to you, then ask.

However, keep in mind that he is probably planning on doing his own research during the summer as well and also is likely not getting paid to advise you during the summer. That doesn't mean you can't send him questions. It just means that the frequency of your emails should probably decrease during the summer.

I would also suggest that at some point during the summer (maybe after your trip to the archives) that you rest and relax. If you keep up a continual level of work and stress, sometimes one can't see a perspective on the work or the work becomes less interesting. I'm not recommending not studying, just make sure that you take care of yourself. Limiting how much you email your supervisor will likely also help with this.

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