Sometimes doctoral supervision is referred to as thesis supervision. While this takes the focus of surveillance off the student, there is always a risk that the production of the thesis comes to dominate the supervisory relationship. A doctoral supervisor needs to be much more than a text editor: supervisor and student are really co-designers of an evolving career, with the student’s future like a sheet of paper laid out before them. Actually, it’s not a blank sheet, as in the image above. It’s full of all the life experiences that both participants bring to the relationship.
If a doctorate is truly an apprenticeship for an academic career, then writing a thesis is a bizarre hurdle, as no academic ever has to write a thesis again, unless heroic enough to take on another doctorate. A supervisor needs to learn with the candidate, as they study together, about features of academic life as varied as complying with journal styles, using social media to develop a profile and giving presentations. How can students and supervisors explicitly broaden the parameters of what constitutes supervision? How does the enormity of this relationship, and the impact it can have on a student’s career, feature in initial conversations around supervision?