Supervising doctoral students: variation in purpose and pedagogy

Gerlese AKERLIND, Lynn McAlpine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


International policy changes that have prioritised increasing growth in the numbers of doctoral students have led to wide-ranging debate about the changing purpose of the doctorate. However, there has been little research aimed at investigating doctoral supervisors’ views of the purpose of the doctorate, despite the significant role supervisors play in enacting any doctoral policy changes. This paper explores the purpose of undertaking a doctorate from the perspective of doctoral supervisors in a research intensive university in the UK, and the pedagogical strategies supervisors described using to achieve these purposes, showing the essentially integrated nature of purpose and pedagogy. The paper argues for the importance, for both doctoral education and supervisor professional development, of making variation in views of doctoral purpose explicit, and argues that the predominant focus on developing skills and abilities in research and supervisor training needs to be complemented by a concomitant focus on purpose and intentions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1686-1698
Number of pages13
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2017


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