Issues with doctoral student supervision

Supervisors who show no interest in their doctoral students. Research used without citing the doctoral student as the author. A new report has shown these to be common issues for doctoral students.

The results of our survey underscore the need to review the academic and working conditions of doctoral students, says Annika Pontén, acting head of the Swedish Higher Education Authority.

Common to not be cited as the source

More than a quarter of students say someone has used their research without being cited as the source, according to the report Postgraduate Student Mirror, which is based on a survey of doctoral students in Sweden.

Using the research of others without citing the source is completely unacceptable. The basic principle is that researchers own the results of their research, says Anette Gröjer, project manager for the report.

Unauthorised use of research is most prevalent within engineering. Thirty-two per cent of doctoral students responded that they have seen unauthorised use of their research. Nearly 30 per cent of doctoral students in agricultural science have experienced the use of their research without permission. Doctoral students in the social sciences and humanities report the least (21 per cent) unauthorised use of their research.

Subpar supervision

The most important person for doctoral students during their studies is their supervisors. Almost 20 per cent feel that their supervisor is not particularly interested in their studies.

The supervisor's main role is supporting the doctoral student in developing into an independent researcher that applies a scientific approach. Without a committed supervisor, doctoral studies can be problematic, says Anette Gröjer.

Twenty-seven per cent say that they have experienced such shortcomings with their supervision that it became an obstacle for their research work. Nearly a fifth have experienced an uncomfortable position of dependence with their supervisor.

Positive ratings

Eighty-six per cent of doctoral students rated their education as good or very good (sixty-four per cent said it is good and 22 per cent said it is very good). Would the doctoral students begin a doctoral programme if they were faced with the choice today? Approximately four out of five said they probably or definitely would.

The survey was answered by 4,751 doctoral students who have completed three semesters or more of their education.