Effective Postgraduate Supervision: Improving the Student-Supervisor Relationship

Effective Postgraduate Supervision: Improving the Student-Supervisor Relationship

Effective Postgraduate Supervision: Improving the Student-Supervisor Relationship

Effective Postgraduate Supervision: Improving the Student-Supervisor Relationship


What kind of problems are encountered while undertaking postgraduate study? How are these problems best avoided or resolved? How can the student/supervisor relationship be improved? This practical guide is based on a series of successful workshops on postgraduate supervision and presents the most frequently encountered difficulties in the student/supervisor relationship. Detailed but concise case studies offer realistic solutions to the thirty issues discussed, including: Conflict Culture Distance Funding Isolation Language Management Plagiarism Priority Time Transfer Write-up Each case study raises important questions to generate discussion, and suggests solutions and preventative measures. The book also includes a section that shows how the case studies can be used in a teaching workshop setting. Effective Postgraduate Supervision is essential reading for supervisors of postgraduate degrees including those at masters and doctoral level as well as prospective and current postgraduate research students.


Postgraduate research degrees and the challenges of effective supervision are high on the agenda of many higher education institutions. It is now normal for institutions to require new supervisors to be trained before supervising students; some institutions now require regular continuing professional development for existing supervisors. However, this training barely scratches the surface of the potential challenges facing supervisors, particularly given the diversity of researches, research degree provision and the more demanding 'customer culture' today. The days of acquiring knowledge by sitting at the feet of a great researcher are long gone.

This book is written as a handy reference of case studies of potential issues encountered in research degree supervision. Some are more extreme than others, and hopefully no one supervisor will encounter them all. However, they do provide a useful framework to think about the complexities of being an effective supervisor, irrespective of your previous experience.

If you are an experienced supervisor, you will recognize some case histories as similar to your own or colleagues' experiences. There may be others you have yet to come across. Use this book as a handy reference source to consider how to engage with your researchers and to give advice to others.

If you are a new supervisor, I urge you not to read this book cover-to-cover: the cumulative effect of these issues all at once would be too depressing! You will be unlikely, or very unlucky, to encounter many of the situations in this book. But prevention is always better than cure, so do dip into it as you find yourself in new situations. You can use the case histories as a way to avoid any potential issues by being aware of the pitfalls and setting up structures and procedures to prevent them in advance.

This book is also of relevance to trainers, staff developers and others responsible for providing support for supervisors. The book describes how case histories can easily be adapted to become discussion topics for workshops. Those responsible for quality assuring research degree programmes could also use the book to reflect on whether their procedures are robust enough to minimize the risk of these issues happening in their institutions.

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