Supervisor and university congruence


What does it feel like for PhD students when their supervisor tells them a good, solid PhD cannot be done in less than four years, and yet they are told by the university that they must finish in three? What is it like when the university demands a detailed time plan for candidature, and the supervisor says this requirement is rubbish, and the student should just fabricate something? What is it like when a supervisor denigrates compulsory course work requirements, for example ethics training, that the university offers?

These are real examples of conflicting advice and practice that create significant stress for PhD students. Serving two masters is never easy and supervisors need to be very careful not to place students in difficult positions. A supervisor’s dissatisfaction with university requirements needs to be taken up with the faculty, not enacted upon students. Otherwise, doctoral candidates become pawns in a game of “fight the bureaucracy” that distracts them from the important work to be done and undermines confidence in both supervisor and university.



Author: Lucinda McKnight

Dr Lucinda McKnight is a lecturer in curriculum and pedagogy at Deakin University. She has a BA in Fine Arts, Women's Studies and English from the University of Melbourne, an MA (Distinction) in Media, Culture and Communication, from the Institute of Education now at UCL, and a PhD in Education from Deakin University. Her cartoons have appeared in a number of publications, including Farrago and Health Voice. She has exhibited her artwork at Museum Victoria and the Victorian College of the Arts.

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