Current issues in doctoral supervision practice in the UK

Amanda Thomas*, Rhiannon Packer, Gina Dolan

*Corresponding author for this work

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Doctoral study remains the most popular form of research degree globally. The student and supervisor relationship is an integral part of the postgraduate researcher (PGR) experience. Supervisory relationships can be complex and multi-faceted, with differing expectations from both supervisor and PGR. However, comparing different perspectives of the PGR supervisory journey is relatively unexplored. This study aimed to explore how both PGRs and supervisors perceive the evolution of supervisory relationships throughout the doctoral journey. Employing a mixed methods design, the findings indicate that there is a transition in the dynamics of the relationship between the supervisor and the student which changes during this process. The role of the supervisor moves from being a more knowledgeable other operating in an advisory capacity, described by one participant as a ‘balance of expertise’ that ‘swings’ as the relationship evolves. Drawing upon Jindal-Snape’s multiple and multi-dimensional transitional theory, the results suggest that managing expectations, supporting the transition to doctoral study, the role of peer support for PGRs and supervisors are fundamental to a positive supervisory experience. The global pandemic affected the supervisory relationship and research journey posing some challenges for data collection; however, it facilitated opportunities to adapt and evolve supervisory practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-188
Number of pages31
JournalResearch in Post Compulsory Education
Issue number1
Early online date18 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jan 2024


  • Supervision
  • doctorate
  • postgraduate research
  • supervision styles
  • doctoral support
  • COVID-19


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