1. Recruitment and selection
Supervisors can be involved in recruitment activities in a number of ways, including publicising the areas within which they can offer supervision and reaching out to under-represented groups.
Supervisors should be involved in the selection of candidates from supporting intending applicants to develop their applications through to making final decisions and giving feedback.
- Publicising the areas of research within which they personally can offer supervision.
- Participating in campaigns to recruit candidates from groups that are under-represented in doctoral education.
- Assessing whether applicants are likely to make the transition to independent researchers.
- Assessing whether applicants’ proposed research projects are realisable and whether they have (or can acquire) the knowledge and skills to complete them.
- Interviewing applicants.
- Making a final decision and giving feedback.
Many supervisors also have their own web sites to inform prospective applicants about the areas in which they can offer supervision. Such sites need to also inform prospective applicants how to go about constructing an application, how to get in touch, how to apply to the institution, and what would be involved if they were successful and became a candidate. A good example is the web site of Dr Adam Baker of the School of Computer Science, University of St Andrews.
While there has been considerable progress in opening up undergraduate education to historically under-represented groups, this seems to have been much less marked in doctoral education (see for example McCulloch and Thomas 2012, Wakeling and Kyriacou 2010). Some institutions and professional bodies have special initiatives intended to recruit candidates from these groups.
Once applications are in, judgements have to be reached about the candidate and the research proposal. As Bernstein et al (2014) have argued, the crucial decision is whether they are capable of undertaking independent research.
For the research proposal, a judgement has to be made about whether it is suitable as a doctoral project, and whether it is doable and viable within the timeframe allowed.
As well as an academic relationship, supervision is, of course, a personal relationship as well, and for that reason as Pells (2018) has suggested, good-practice is to interview applicants, either face to face or if that is not possible through the use of technology.
Once a decision has been taken in the light of the application, the interview, and usually references as well, this has to be communicated to the applicant. Where the outcome is favourable this is easy. But, where applicants have spent a lot of time and effort in putting together an application, it can come as a crushing blow to be rejected.
- Do you have a personal web site? If so, what considerations did you have in relation to inclusive language? How do you describe your approach to research supervision?
- Have you taken part in outreach activities?
- How do you find out about the research capability of potential doctoral candidates? Do you, for example, ask applicants for a research report or dissertation?
- Do you work with applicants on developing their research proposals prior to making a formal application?
- What is your personal policy on interviewing applicants?
- What do you consider appropriate feedback to unsuccessful applicants?