Review of EPSRC-funded Doctoral Education
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (2021)
When poor supervision was mentioned, a compounding issue was the lack of visible routes to raise and resolve issues. Even where the students were aware of complaint procedures, they were sometimes reluctant to go down this route due to concern about the power imbalance and (perceived) possible consequences for their research and career prospects. A wide range of supervisory structures were mentioned by the students. This meant it was sometimes difficult for students to relate their situation to standard procedures/advice.
It is fairly common for students to have multiples supervisors of varying sorts. Students with industrial supervisors were generally positive about the opportunities this provided them to engage with industry and access internships. Supervision by multiple people was found to be beneficial only in arrangements where the roles were clear, and every supervisor was bought into the structure and their roles. The most common feedback on supervision was the challenge in balancing the different requirements from within the supervisory team, particularly between academic and industry supervisors. This results in the student having to independently negotiate a path between these different expectations and ways of working.