Research Supervisor Support Development

The identification and application of good practices in research supervisor support.

Research supervision has been identified by graduate students as the single most influential factor on PhD satisfaction and has also been linked with time to completion (Taylor and Beasley 2005, Lee 2013). The significance and impact of good supervisory practice is not under dispute, however, a consensus on a definition of what good supervisor practice is and also on the kinds of support to be provided by universities, has proven difficult to reach and is often ambiguous.

Following a period of restructuring of the Doctorate in Ireland, University College Dublin (UCD), as part of a multi-institutional collaboration, developed a National Institutional Framework which acts as a guide for institutions considering programme development for research supervisors. The need for innovation in university management, steps required for the professional development of supervisors and the growing need for prioritisation of research supervision in HE policy, were key action areas which arose out of this collaboration. The challenges associated with implementing this national framework, along with approaches taken by the diverse Irish HEIs involved have recently been published (Carton et al, 2013) and an overview of the NAIRTL project was presented at the QPR, Adelaide in April 2014, prior to commencement of this project.

The identification and application of good practices undertaken in leading HEIs (Higher Education Institutions) in supervisor development was a key incentive to undertake this review, with the purpose of introducing and embedding, where appropriate, similar practices into Irish (and other U21 partners) HE policy. A number of the leaders in this domain are part of the U21 network and UCD proposed to carry out an investigative review of supports and practices in five U21 partners, the first initiative of its kind in the U21 network on research supervision. The overarching aim of the exercise was ultimately to inform the broader U21 network of existing quality practices in the support, provision and management of research supervision as well as offering the participating institutions, a unique opportunity to work together in underpinning good practice.

A report of this project is available below and was also the topic of a DDoGS workshop in Shanghai in March 2015, a report of this workshop also available below. UCD followed up this work in September 2016 and plans are currently in place to produce a U21 Statement on best practice in Research Supervisor Support.

Dr Christina Mellor
Researcher Engagement Cluster Manager