Doctoral Supervision Practice: What’s the Problem and How Can We Help Academics?


  • Susan Carter University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Barbara Kensington-Miller University of Auckland
  • Matthew Courtney The University of Melbourne



Doctoral supervision seminars, discipline-specific versus generic, supervision challenges


Academics are feeling squeezed by increasing research supervision demands within tightening time constraints. In a changing higher education environment, demands on doctoral supervisors need to be better understood in order to provide them with the right support at supervision pressure points. As academic developers, our aim was to better understand supervision challenges across multiple disciplines. A two stage study firstly sought differences in research and supervision practice between faculties by means of an anonymised digital questionnaire [n226]. Twenty-two questions explored supervisors’ experiences of project management, communication and writing. Secondly, we interviewed 11 experienced supervisors from disciplines other than our own (education), focusing on supervision’s discipline-specific challenges and constraints. We expected to find discipline-differences between science and humanities.

However, analysis showed that supervision challenges are the same across disciplines. We report on what these entail and argue that, as graduate numbers rise in an internationalised academy, supervision support can and should be developed centrally in order to address the growing pressures on faculty.

Author Biographies

Susan Carter, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Susan Carter is an academic developer at the Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education, the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She researches doctoral pedagogy.

Barbara Kensington-Miller, University of Auckland

Barbara Kensington-Miller is a senior lecturer at the Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education, the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Her research fosters and promotes teaching and research of early-career academics.

Matthew Courtney, The University of Melbourne

Matthew Courtney is a Research Fellow in the Assessment Research Centre at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education who specialises in statistical analysis of quantitative educational data.


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Original Research