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The Impact of Institutional Power on Higher Degree Research Supervision: Implications for the Quality of Doctoral Outcomes

journal contribution
posted on 16.03.2021, 04:13 by Edith BlassEdith Blass, Angele JonesAngele Jones
This paper examines the impact of power in the supervision process as experienced by the PhD students, the institutional influence upon this, and implications for the quality of the doctoral outcome. This research paper is based on findings of a larger, recently completed PhD with the aim to develop a participant-driven theory of the lived experience of being a PhD student. This was done by analyzing the reported experiences of 23 PhD students in various disciplines and stages of their PhD studying at Australian Universities over a period of 12 months. Participants were given the freedom to choose and prioritize the experiences to report on and how they reported on them. Core to the supervision findings was the issue of power and how institutional influences distort the power relationship between the supervisor and the supervisee. Adopting French and Raven’s (1959) Bases of Social Power, the institutional power sources that play on the PhD candidate are enacted through ‘actors’ in the institutional process including the supervisor are presented. The findings support the need for institutions to systematically review their practices to meet their duty of care to their PhD students to provide high quality HDR supervision and improve doctoral outcomes. This research addresses a gap in contemporary supervision literature by addressing the impact of institutional power and institutional practices on the academic supervisor and how these play out in the utilization of power on and over the PhD student and the doctoral outcome.


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