Notes from the panel on supervision

at the Lisbon EST Congress,

26-29.9.2004

 

Each member of this panel spoke briefly on one aspect of supervision, before the general discussion. Our contributions are summarized below.

 

Andrew Chesterman: The psychological aspect of supervision

 

Christina Schäffner: Formalising supervision – A step towards better quality?

 

Jenny Williams: Results of surveys of research students

 

Sebnem Susam-Sarajeva: First encounters

 

Karen Bennett: Standardization of supervision procedures: the cross-cultural perspective

 

 

We also add three other documents.

Appendix 1 is the Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education produced by the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. It is discussed in detail by Christina Schäffner.

Appendix 2 is the Joint statement on skills training requirements by the UK research councils,  also mentioned by Christina.

Appendix 3 is a version of the PhD contract developed by the Department of Scandinavian Languages and Literature at the University of Helsinki, mentioned by Andrew Chesterman in the discussion that followed the panel presentations.

 

We are aware of the structural and organizational differences between PhD requirements and procedures in different countries. Some of these are mentioned by Karen Bennett,  and they also came up in the general discussion.  It is clear that we are some distance from a common degree structure in this respect, even within Europe.

 

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Panel contributions

 

 

 

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Formalising supervision – A step towards better quality?

Christina Schäffner

Aston University, Birmingham

(Report from the Lisbon Congress round table on supervision, September 2004. Convenor: Andrew Chesterman)

 

 

The quality of postgraduate research in Translation Studies is of major concern to all higher education institutions, and also to EST. At the EST Congress 1998, we had a panel on thesis supervision, at which results of a questionnaire on PhD and Master's supervision in translation studies were presented. The results then were mainly of a quantitative nature, reflecting differences in the structure, expectations, and procedures of postgraduate research.

 

With regard to the quality of programme provision, universities in England undergo institutional audits and subject reviews at regular intervals. For conducting these reviews, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has produced a variety of guidelines, benchmark statements, and codes of practice. One such Code, which came into force in September 2004, is the Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education (see http://www.qaa.ac.uk/academicinfrastructure/codeOfPractice/section1/default.asp).

 

This Code was produced by a working group including representatives from Higher Education institutions, research councils, funding councils and other organisations, and the final version is the result of a lengthy consultation process. This code sets out what a PhD student can expect from a university and vice versa. Although the Code is presented as “a statement of good practice”, universities must comply with it in order to secure funding from the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE). The code will also be the basis for future audit and review processes. As stated in the forward: “[The Code] provides an authoritative reference point for institutions as they consciously, actively and systematically assure the academic quality and standards of their programmes, awards and qualifications.” Universities are required to have policies and procedures in place that are robust and effective in securing and enhancing the quality and standards of the provision of research degree programmes.

 

The matters relating to the management of academic quality and standards in higher education which are covered by the Code are presented in the form of system-wide principles (precepts). These precepts express “key matters of principle that the higher education community has identified as important for the assurance of quality and academic standards.”

 

Since the Code is to give Higher Education Institutions guidance on fundings councils’, research councils’ and QAA expectations in respect of quality and standards of research programmes, the precepts are accompanied by explanations. There are 27 precepts in total, covering the following issues:

 

·        Institutional arrangements

·        The research environment

·        Selection, admission and induction of students

·        Supervision

·        Progress and review arrangements

·        Development of research and other skills

·        Feedback mechanisms

·        Assessment

·        Student representations

·        Complaints

·        Appeals

 

In the following part, I will only focus on the Supervision section. The complete list of precepts is given in Appendix 1, followed by a Joint statement by the research councils/AHRB on Skills training requirements for research students (Appendix 2). It is expected that doctoral research students develop these skills during their research training, and institutions are to ensure that this is the case. It is interesting to see that in addition to research skills and techniques, this list of skills also includes communication skills, networking and teamworking skills, and career management skills. With their PhD thesis, research students are expected to make a substantial, original contribution to the knowledge in their area, but at the same time, they are expected to prepare for a professional career in the academic environment. I mention these skills here because they explain the national and institutional context in which the Code and the precepts have to be understood. That is, although the Code says that the precepts “are intended to cover the many different types of students undertaking research programmes in the UK, including full and part-time, students of all ages and with different needs, UK and international, and from all backgrounds”, both the list of skills and the comments in the Code seem to reflect that the typical research student is a young person at the beginning of their career, coming to PhD research after having completed a Master’s programme. This can also be seen in the Code’s section on Development of research and other skills (precept 18), which speaks of skills students require “to become effective researchers, to enhance their employability and assist their career progress after completion of their degree.”

 

All precepts in the Code are interrelated, and although they apply to the UK context, some of the requirements are of general relevance in respect of quality of research and quality of supervision. For example, research students should work in an academic envrionment in which high quality research is being done and which provides sufficient support for research; institutions will only admit appropriately qualified and prepared students to research programmes; responsibilities of research students and supervisors are defined and communicated clearly. The Code thus clearly argues for formalised and regulated arrangements which allow for monitoring and control. Supervision is seen as an institutional matter. In other words, the traditional practice of a more personal arrangement between supervisor and supervisee is no longer seen as being conducive to high quality research.

 

The aspect of Supervision is covered in precepts 11 till 14. These precepts deal with the institutional responsibility to provide regular and appropriate supervisory support, opportunities for interacting with other researchers, advice from independent sources, and arrangements that protect the student in the event of the loss of a supervisor. I will present the precepts, give extracts of the accompanying explanations, and add my own comments.

 

Precept 11: Institutions will appoint supervisors who have the appropriate skills and subject knowledge to support, encourage and monitor research students effectively.

 

All supervisors need appropriate expertise for their role. They will wish, and institutions will require them, to engage in development of various kinds to equip them to supervise students.

 

New supervisors will participate in specified development activities, arranged through their institutions, to assure their competence in the role.

 

Institutions will expect existing supervisors to demonstrate their continuing professional development through participation in a range of activities designed to support their work as supervisors. Supervisors should take the initiative in updating their knowledge and skills, supported by institutional arrangements that define and enable sharing of good practice and provide advice on effective support for different types of student. Mentoring relationships are one example of how support can be provided for supervisors.

[…]

 

Comment: The qualifications of supervisors are a crucial aspect. In the UK, academics who have a PhD can be supervisors of research students. This means that somebody who has just completed a PhD themselves may be appointed as supervisor shortly afterwards. That is, appointment as a supervisor is independent of the academic position and of experience. It is also possible to be appointed as a supervisor without a PhD if the person concerned has relevant experience in the discipline and/or has published widely. In other countries, only professors are appointed as supervisors, or an academic needs to have a higher doctorate (e.g. a Habilitation in Germany) in order to act as a supervisor. These specific conditions of supervisor appointment in the UK explains the requirement for training expressed in precept 11.

 

But when does a supervisor have ‘appropriate expertise’? The supervisory role includes expertise in the subject domain and also interpersonal skills. Anybody who has completed a PhD themselves should have proved their expertise in a relevant topic and subject, which will enable them to give guidance to the supervisee. The interpersonal level is crucial for the success of supervision. Supervising a young full-time research student who is a novice to research requires different skills from supervising a colleague who is working part-time for a PhD and who may already have published and/or given papers at conferences. Age and gender may be important factors in the relationship as well. The country of origin of the research student is also crucial, since expectations about the role of the supervisor are different (e.g., supervisor as a fountain of knowledge, as a facilitator, as a friend). Institutional training for supervisors can be helpful in this respect if it is organised as exchange of experience and raising awareness of potential problems. Developing expertise in supervising is a gradual process, and training as such can be useful in speeding up this process. However, there is also the danger that institutions may overact in their quest to comply with the Code (structured programmes that lead to a postgraduate certificate in supervision, awarded after completion of sessions and examinations have already been developed in some institutions).

 

 

Precept 12: Each research student will have a minimum of one main supervisor. He or she will normally be part of a supervisory team. There must always be one clearly identified point of contact for the student.

 

[…] Involvement with a supervisory team can provide valuable staff development and grounding in the skills required to become an effective research supervisor. A supervisory team can give the student access to a multi-faceted support network, which may include: other research staff and students in the subject; a departmental adviser to postgraduate students; a faculty postgraduate tutor; or other individuals in similar roles.

 

Between them, the main supervisor and, where relevant, other members of the supervisory team, will ensure that research students receive sufficient support and guidance to facilitate their success.

 

At least one member of the supervisory team will be currently engaged in research in the relevant discipline(s), so as to ensure that the direction and monitoring of the student's progress is informed by up-to-date subject knowledge and research developments.

 

[…] In all cases, a student should have an identified single point of contact, normally the main supervisor. […]

 

As and when a main supervisor is not able to continue supervising the student, an appropriate supervisor will be appointed to assume the role.

 

[…] It is important that, if a student/supervisor relationship is not working well, alternative independent sources of advice are available to the student. […]

 

Students will have sufficient opportunities for contacting and receiving advice and guidance from their supervisor(s) throughout their programme, irrespective of their geographical location. […]

 

Comment: These explanations again highlight the fact that supervision is perceived as an institutional responsibility.  On the one hand, this can be interpreted in a positive way: research students are integrated into the research environment and they are encouraged to see themselves as members of a research community, and not just as ‘a student of Professor X’. On the other hand, having a supervisory team is also a kind of insurance policy for universities against potential failure, complaints and appeals.  In the UK, research students have to pay a fee, unless they receive a scholarship or a bursary and/or the fee is paid by sponsors, employers, or research councils (universities also receive some money from the funding councils, depending on the number of research students, and only for a specified time; recently, plans have been announced to fund only research students at universities that got the highest scores of 4 or 5 in the Research Assessment Exercise). This means, if students fail to to complete their PhD after having spent a lot of money, the chances that they may complain about inadequate supervision are higher. Also in order to safeguard against lengthy processes  of complaints and appeals, universities are expected to have procedures in place with which to monitor progress (e.g., annual reports on each student’s progress, to be completed jointly by the supervisor and the supervisee;  questionnaires  on supervision arrangements to be completed anonymously by the student once a year; annual monitoring reports on research degree programmes are submitted to the university’s Quality and Standards Committee, including information on student numbers, completion rates, withdrawals). The focus on supervisory teams is another one of these measures to monitor quality of provision (NB: the label ‘provision’ itself is evidence of the marketing discourse of higher education, where the institutions are seen as programme providers, and the students as customers who want to buy quality products, and if they don’t get quality, they complain to the manager). It is thus also in the institution’s interest to do everything to help research students complete their PhD in time and to a high level of  quality, and this explains the responsibility for a student in any case (e.g. finding another supervisor if the original supervisor leaves the university). This again shows that for research students too, the institutional affiliation should at least be equally important than ‘attachment’ to a particular supervisor.

 

Precept 13: Institutions will ensure that the responsibilities of all research student supervisors are clearly communicated to supervisors and students through written guidance.

 

It is important that supervisor(s) and student are fully aware of the extent of one another's responsibilities, to enable both to understand the supervisor's contribution to supporting the student and where the supervisor's responsibilities end.

 

Depending on institutional and research council guidance, supervisory responsibilities may include:

  providing satisfactory guidance and advice;

  being responsible for monitoring the progress of the student's research programme;

  establishing and maintaining regular contact with the student (where appropriate, guided by institutional expectations), and ensuring his/her accessibility to the student when s/he needs advice, by whatever means is most suitable given the student's location and mode of study;

  having input into the assessment of a student's development needs;

  providing timely, constructive and effective feedback on the student's work, including his/her overall progress within the programme;

  ensuring that the student is aware of the need to exercise probity and conduct his/her research according to ethical principles, and of the implications of research misconduct;

  ensuring that the student is aware of institutional-level sources of advice, including careers guidance, health and safety legislation and equal opportunities policy;

  providing effective pastoral support and/or referring the student to other sources of such support, including student advisers (or equivalent), graduate school staff and others within the student's academic community;

  helping the student to interact with others working in the field of research, for example, encouraging the student to attend relevant conferences, supporting him/her in seeking funding for such events; and where appropriate to submit conference papers and articles to refereed journals;

  maintaining the necessary supervisory expertise, including the appropriate skills, to perform all of the roles satisfactorily, supported by relevant continuing professional development opportunities.

 

Supervisors will be sensitive to the diverse needs of individual students, including international students, and the associated support that may be required in different circumstances. […]

 

Institutions may find it helpful to include in their code(s) of practice […], guidance on the minimum frequency of contact advisable between students and supervisors. […]

 

Comment: This list of responsibilities reflects the different roles of the supervisor (subject expert, advisor, mentor, assessor, ‘agony aunt’, …). It also highlights the supervisor’s responsibility both towards the research student (in the narrow sense of producing a PhD and in the wider sense of becoming a member of the research community) and towards the institution (reporting on progress, informing of problems). It could be argued that the whole list of tasks referring to the responsibility towards the research student is common sense. Each academic should be interested in enhancing knowledge in their respective discipline, and subsequently, each supervisor should be interested in seeing new scholars emerge and helping them getting established – and a successful PhD thesis of high quality is a major step in this process. In the environment of UK universities, as explained above, this list of responsibilities can also serve as performance indicators against which the quality of supervision is monitored. Supervisors and supervisees are encouraged (or even expected) to sign a kind of ‘contract’ at their first meeting in which all these responsibilities, rights and duties of both partners are spelled out. With their signature, both sides confirm that they are aware of their roles. This will also guarantee that (culture-specific) different expectations a student may have had are clarified right at the beginning. It is also expected that records are kept of each meeting with brief statements about the content of the discussions  and the next steps agreed. These records too, are signed by both supervisor and supervisee, and they can be referred to in case of complaints, or to bring a new supervisor, if needed,  up to date.

 

 

Precept 14: Institutions will ensure that the quality of supervision is not put at risk as a result of an excessive volume and range of responsibilities assigned to individual supervisors.

 

In appointing supervisors, institutions need to be aware of and guided by the overall workload of the individual, including teaching, research, administration and other responsibilities, […]

 

Supervisors need time to provide adequate contact with each research student and to fulfil the responsibilities listed under Precept 13 above. Supervisors and students should agree between themselves the level of interaction required and what constitutes sufficient time, in terms of quality as well as quantity, to devote to the supervisory role. […]

 

Comment: This point again highlights the institutional responsibility. Even if in reality, potential research students very often contact an individual academic whom they would wish to have as a supervisor, in the end it is the institution that appoints the supervisors. In other words, academics are not selecting their supervisees themselves. Institutions are expected to specify a maximum number of research students one supervisor may have at the same time (at Aston University, the maximum number has been set as six students). As to the frequency and length of meetings, it has been recognised in the final version of the Code that these depend on the discipline, the nature of the research, and the status of the student, and that minimum thresholds cannot be prescribed. It is expected, however, that the ‘contract’ between supervisor and supervisee includes a statement about the frequency of meetings, and the questionnaires which research students are to complete once a year include questions to this effect.

 

Concluding comments:

As should have become clear in the extracts of the Code, research degrees in the UK are not seen as exclusively individual aspiration and personal fulfilment. Research degree programmes (note the word ‘programme’) are part of the higher education system, a system which is increasingly subject to monitoring, auditing, and control. Although, as mentioned above, the Code repeatedly refers to the variety of research students (e.g. full-time and part-time, different age and background), the requirements expressed in the precepts can more easily be assured if we are dealing with young full-time research students.

 

The Code needs to be seen in the context of the UK, where universities are expected to function like companies (a business and management culture), where most universities are short of money, where research students have to pay a fee, where research output is measured effectively in financial terms (the score in the Research Assessment Exercise, the number of PhD students, the completion rate, and similar factors decide on the amount of money universities can get from the government). In such an environment, it is understandable that universities develop policies and procedures with which to assure themselves and the government of the quality of research degree programmes. The QAA Code of practice sets out minimum standards for such programmes against which universities can judge their own practice. In view of all the required openness and transparency of research degrees, it is surprising to see that the final assessment of the PhD is still to be done ‘behind closed doors’, so to speak. In contrast to other countries where the final assessment is conducted in the form of a public defence or dispute, the practice in the UK is a viva, conducted by two examiners. The supervisor is allowed to be present, but must not be involved in the assessment; and very often it is not even known that a viva is taking place. The Code proposes the introduction of an independent, non-examining chair (Precept 23), a proposal which has been hotly disputed and resisted at my own university. It seems that academics, faced with increasing red tape and monitoring procedures (and the accompanying paperwork) want to hang on at least to one of their traditions and thus preserve some form of autonomy.

Based on my own experience as a PhD supervisor in the UK, and also familiar with the system in Germany, I would say that supervisors in the UK do indeed work within specific constraints, but that these constraints can also be seen as facilitating factors. Regular monitoring helps all parties to become aware of potential problems which otherwise might not have come to light (e.g. because the supervisee was too shy to mention problems). I would not want to be required to get a formal qualification as a supervisor, e.g. being made to attend a training programme where I have to sit exams and get a certificate. But I would have appreciated some form of training, had it been available, when I got my first PhD student. I would have found it useful had I been given some advise about what to expect from research students from particular countries, about how to (re)act when faced with particular problems at the interpersonal level. Without such advice at the beginning of the ‘career’ as a supervisor, we probably all try to do as our own supervisor did but not repeating things we were not happy with. New supervisors might be reluctant to ask more experienced colleagues for help when faced with a particular challenge, because they may not want others to know that not everything is working smoothly in the supervisory arrangements. Training at an institutional level, which allows for exchanging experience and sharing good practice, can thus be very useful for new supervisors.

 

In short, although the Code has been produced for the context of the UK, it contains proposals which should be useful for the arrangement of research supervision in other countries as well. The formalising of supervision should result in more efficient institutional arrangements of skills training for research students and thsu to an improvement of the completion rates. Whether such a formalisation also results in a higher quality of the research and the PhD thesis remains to be seen.

 

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Jenny Williams

Dublin City University

(Report from the Lisbon Congress round table on supervision, September 2004. Convenor: Andrew Chesterman)

 

Results of surveys of research students

 

There have been two surveys of research students undertaken in the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies at DCU over the last 4 years from which 2 major issues emerge.

 

1.         Position of research students in the School and in the University

 

1.1.      Induction both at the level of the department and the university:

 

At the level of the department:  Who’s who in the department? How does the department function? Where do they fit in?

 

At the level of the University:

The roles of the Finance Office, Admissions Office, Examinations Office etc.

Procedures in respect of registration, progression, submission, vivas

 

1.2.      Entitlements of research students:

 

Are research students entitled to:

space?

equipment?

• funding? (What are the sources of funding in the University? How do students apply?)

training? Where does that training take place – at departmental level or at University level?)

 

1.3.      Responsibilities of research students:

 

Are they expected to teach – and, if so, for nothing? Or at what rate? Is there a regulation about maximum hours per week a student may teach?

 

1.4.      Social life

 

Where can research students meet research students from other Departments? Is there a Postgraduate Society?

 

These may all seem like technical issues, but our experience is that they can pose major difficulties. So much so, that they now form part of our Research Training Programme.

 

On the issue of research training, it is not only students who may require training; supervisors may need training, too. Last year we ran a Research Training programme which was aimed at both students and supervisors: the take-up on the part of the supervisors was poor, partly because some supervisors did not recognise the importance of training – and partly because some supervisors regarded their research students as their personal property.

 

Which brings me to the second issue to emerge from the surveys:

 

2.         Relationship with the supervisor

 

The traditional 1:1 supervisor-student relationship is a residue of the medieval master/apprentice tradition: when it’s good, it’s very good, but when it’s bad, it can be dreadful.

 

There are two main problems in the traditional 1:1 supervision arrangment:  

i.                     it is relationship of unequals in which the student can be very vulnerable;

ii.                   the expectations (on both sides), which are mostly unspoken, can differ enormously

 

A key issue here is the establishment of mechanisms for dealing with breakdown during supervision.

 

Another aspect which has been largely ignored has been arrangements for supervision after a viva when the student has been asked to make major changes to the dissertation. In this situation the relationship between the supervisor and student may have broken down – what supports are there for the student?

 

In both surveys students expressed a preference for having more than 1 supervisor.

 

My own view of team supervision has changed recently as a result of a team supervision I currently am involved in: 3 colleagues at DCU along with the Translation Manager of an IT company are supervising a research student funded by the IT company who is working in the field of Controlled Language/ MT. This student, it seems to me, has a lot of advantages over someone being supervised by a single individual.

 

Some students surveyed also proposed a more formal arrangement – such as a contract outlining roles, rights and responsibilities:

-         frequency and nature of consultations (eg. Once a month/ over coffee or in the office?)

-         submission and return of work

 

 

In informal discussions with TS colleagues over the years I’ve been struck by the similarity of the problems facing us in the area of research supervision. While institutional frameworks and national traditions may vary, it seems to me that there are a number of issues which are universal. EST is an appropriate forum in which to identify these and – hopefully – agree on a set of principles and procedures of good practice.

 

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Sebnem Susam-Sarajeva

University of Edinburgh

 

First encounters

(Report from the Lisbon Congress round table on supervision, September 2004. Convenor: Andrew Chesterman)

 

Based on my belief that a good start will ease one’s journey on the road, my contribution to the discussion on research supervision within translation studies focuses on the first encounter(s) between the supervisor/institution and the PhD candidate, and on the first year of PhD study. It is divided into three parts:

 

1.         Enquiry / application stage

 

In my first encounters with prospective PhD candidates, either via e-mail or in face-to-face interviews, I try to find out about their determination to study for a PhD degree. I emphasise the commitment (time, energy and money-wise) it entails, and enquire whether their reasons to apply for a PhD are compelling enough for them. If they are still keen on the process and if they are physically present in Edinburgh, I invite them to the monthly PhD seminars in translation studies, so that they will attend the presentations given by current PhD candidates, will gain more understanding about the process and get acquainted with the research community they will eventually be introduced into if they apply. Taking out the current PhD students and the would-be applicants to lunch together proved to be another effective tool in encouraging or discouraging members of the latter group.

 

Also, while answering the queries about PhD degrees, sending the applicants guidelines about writing up a research proposal is extremely useful. Certain future disappointments can then be avoided at this stage.

 

2.         First month

 

In our first meeting with a student now registered for the PhD, we try to identify the research experience and training he/she already has and to find out ways of enhancing this experience. Areas of relative ‘ignorance’ within translation studies are also pinpointed, and the student is then encouraged to take the initiative to learn more about those areas. Other problems which might interfere with their work, such as accommodation, financial issues and family, often need to be addressed.

 

3.         First year

 

During the first year, the role of a supervisor seems to be that of encouraging and orienting. Students need encouragement to attend national and international conferences, to start thinking about possible future publications (especially if they are carrying over from a Master’s degree at the same institution), to prepare for the first year mini-viva, and to start building up an academic network in general. Orienting the student to the other resources available both within the university and within the country is also crucial if one would like to avoid a strictly 1:1 relationship with the candidate and to fight the isolation associated with a PhD. Such resources might include:

  • library induction days, introducing the collections and most importantly the databases to the students;
  • relevant Master’s courses which the PhD candidates might attend, e.g. courses on research methodology in translation studies;
  • guest lectures or seminars in translation studies, organised within the university or within neighbouring universities;
  • monthly PhD seminars, which are invaluable opportunities to practice one’s oral research presentation skills, to receive feedback from one’s peers and to exchange tips about upcoming events and research resources;
  • summer schools in translation studies, offering training not only in generic research skills but also in discipline-specific research methodologies;
  • university careers services which will guide the students in preparing for an academic career;
  • workshops on organisation, time management, effective communication, thesis writing, computer programmes, databases, personal skills (e.g. motivation, flexibility), etc.;
  • nation-wide web-based networks dedicated to postgraduate students, especially if they are specifically related to translation studies.

 

In short, I believe that the PhD candidates should not be left alone on their own, or alone with their supervisors for that matter, especially in their first crucial year. The institutional infrastructure should be fully utilised. In cases where such structures do not exist or are not sufficient, the supervisors might advocate further development in these areas.

 

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Karen Bennett

Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Viseu

 

Standardization of supervision procedures: the cross-cultural perspective

(Report from the Lisbon Congress round table on supervision, September 2004. Convenor: Andrew Chesterman)

 

What follows is a subjective response to the proposals recently raised for standardizing supervision procedures in the area of Translation Studies. It should be noted that these comments are entirely based upon my own experiences as a student and teacher in both England and Portugal, and I do not claim to be speaking on behalf of any authority, or indeed for any other individuals.

 

The Cross-Cultural Perspective

What is most immediately obvious about the AHRB Guidelines on supervision procedures is the extent to which they reflect the values and organisation of the British University system. While many of the suggestions are clearly useful, and indeed valid for different cultures, there are other aspects that would be difficult to implement elsewhere due to deep-rooted differences in the whole approach to postgraduate study. 

 

Aspects that may be transferrable:

§   Structuring of the supervisor’s role: certainly students everywhere will gain a sense of security from the knowledge that their supervisor is in some way answerable to an institution or network, and that they are not at the mercy of the whims of some individual. Indeed, the existence of a supervisory team or panel would go a long way towards ensuring that the proper checks and balances are in place. (However, the precise nature of that structuring may need to be established on a national or even faculty level – see below).

§   Training of supervisors:  clearly students will benefit greatly from the implementation of a training scheme for supervisors, particularly as regards the all-important counselling skills, which are at present somewhat left to chance in most institutions. Once again, however, the exact nature of that training should perhaps be established locally, in the light of the other complementary services provided by the institution.

 

 

Possible areas of difficulty:

Rigid structuring of the kind envisaged in the guidelines could not, I feel, be easily implemented outside the UK without a complete standardization of the whole doctoral system. This is largely due to the fact that the various systems in existence in Europe have developed out of very different traditions, and therefore have their own logic that may not necessarily be amenable to the importation of foreign procedures.

Some of the differences to be taken into account are:

 

1)Profile of the PhD student: while in northern Europe the PhD is perceived as a preliminary qualification for getting started in an academic career, in a country such as Portugal, most people who embark on a doctorate do so because they are already lecturing. That is to say, these people will not perceive themselves as ‘students’ as such: they are earning professionals, who have a certain status in the community already. Due to the fact that all academic degrees take much longer than in the UK, these people will be much older than their British counterparts – perhaps in their late thirties or even early forties  – and their supervisors may well be their colleagues, with whom they have been working side-by-side for years.   Naturally, these factors mean that they will have a very different relationship with their supervisor than that envisaged in the Guidelines. 

2)Institutional structures available: many of the institutional structures mentioned in the Guidelines are not necessarily available in other countries or are operated by other bodies. Many Portuguese universities have only limited closed-access library facilities, no career guidance or other support services to speak of, and pastoral care may be provided by the priest. In these situations, the supervisor’s role needs to be more loosely defined.

3)The Dissertation: in Portugal, dissertations are much longer and more loosely structured than in the UK, and the discourse is often used in a very different way. This naturally has repercussions on the kind of training supervisors are expected to give their postgraduate students. 

 

Indeed, the ideology of scientific materialism that underlies almost all research in the English-speaking world is perceived as only one of a number of competing approaches to the production of knowledge in Portugal; far more deep-rooted in the humanities is a certain logocentrism (no doubt the result of the pervasive influence of the Catholic Church, not to mention more recent Post-Structuralist imports). Consequently, not all potential supervisors will be operating within the same paradigm, and this will, in turn, affect all aspects of the relationship: perception of roles; attitudes to questions such as originality and plagiarism; use of language; examination procedures, etc. 

Attempts to impose rigid norms from outside will, I suspect, meet with a certain resistance, or at best will create confusion. We should also ask ourselves if it is morally justifiable, especially in a discipline such as Translation Studies, which supposedly gains its raison d´être from a profound respect for cultural difference. 

 

 

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Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education

produced by the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. (27 Precepts)

(Report from the Lisbon Congress round table on supervision, September 2004. Convenor: Andrew Chesterman)

 

Institutional arrangements

 

1 Institutions will put in place effective arrangements to maintain appropriate academic standards and enhance the quality of postgraduate research programmes.

 

2 Institutional regulations for postgraduate research degree programmes will be clear and readily available to students and staff. Where appropriate, regulations will be supplemented by similarly accessible, subject-specific guidance at the level of the faculty, school or department.

 

3 Institutions will develop, implement and keep under review a code or codes of practice applicable across the institution, which include(s) the areas covered by this document. The code(s) should be readily available to all students and staff involved in postgraduate research programmes.

 

4 Institutions will monitor the success of their postgraduate research programmes against appropriate internal and/or external indicators and targets.

 

The research environment

 

5 Institutions will only accept research students into an environment that provides support for doing and learning about research and where high quality research is occurring.

 

Selection, admission and induction of students

 

6 Admissions procedures will be clear, consistently applied and will demonstrate equality of opportunity.

 

7 Only appropriately qualified and prepared students will be admitted to research programmes.

 

8 Admissions decisions will involve at least two members of the institution's staff who will have received instruction, advice and guidance in respect of selection and admissions procedures. The decision-making process will enable the institution to assure itself that balanced and independent admissions decisions have been made, that support its admissions policy.

 

9 The entitlements and responsibilities of a research student undertaking a postgraduate research programme will be defined and communicated clearly.

 

10 Institutions will provide research students with sufficient information to enable them to begin their studies with an understanding of the academic and social environment in which they will be working.

 

Supervision

 

11 Institutions will appoint supervisors who have the appropriate skills and subject knowledge to support, encourage and monitor research students effectively.

 

12 Each research student will have a minimum of one main supervisor. He or she will normally be part of a supervisory team. There must always be one clearly identified point of contact for the student.

 

13 Institutions will ensure that the responsibilities of all research student supervisors are clearly communicated to supervisors and students through written guidance.

 

14 Institutions will ensure that the quality of supervision is not put at risk as a result of an excessive volume and range of responsibilities assigned to individual supervisors.

 

Progress and review arrangements

 

15 Institutions will put in place and bring to the attention of students and relevant staff clearly defined mechanisms for monitoring and supporting student progress.

 

16 Institutions will put in place and bring to the attention of students and relevant staff clearly defined mechanisms for formal reviews of student progress, including explicit review stages.

 

17 Institutions will provide guidance to students, supervisors and others involved in progress monitoring and review processes about the importance of keeping appropriate records of the outcomes of meetings and related activities.

 

Development of research and other skills

 

18 Institutions will provide research students with appropriate opportunities for personal and professional development.

 

19 Each student's development needs will be identified and agreed jointly by the student and appropriate academic staff, initially during the student's induction period; they will be regularly reviewed during the research programme and amended as appropriate.

 

20 Institutions will provide opportunities for research students to maintain a record of personal progress, which includes reference to the development of research and other skills.

 

Feedback mechanisms

 

21 Institutions will put in place mechanisms to collect, review and, where appropriate, respond to feedback from all concerned with postgraduate research programmes. They will make arrangements for feedback to be considered openly and constructively and for the results to be communicated appropriately.

 

Assessment

 

22 Institutions will use criteria for assessing research degrees that enable them to define the academic standards of different research programmes and the achievements of their graduates. The criteria used to assess research degrees must be clear and readily available to students, staff and external examiners.

 

23 Research degree assessment procedures must be clear; they must be operated rigorously, fairly, and consistently; include input from an external examiner; and carried out to a reasonable timescale.

 

24 Institutions will communicate their assessment procedures clearly to all the parties involved, ie the students, the supervisor(s) and the examiners.

 

Student representations

 

25 Institutions will put in place and publicise procedures for dealing with student representations that are fair, clear to all concerned, robust and applied consistently. Such procedures will allow all students access to relevant information and an opportunity to present their case.

 

Complaints

 

26 Independent and formal procedures will exist to resolve effectively complaints from research students about the quality of the institution's learning and support provision.

 

Appeals

 

27 Institutions will put in place formal procedures to deal with any appeals made by research students. The acceptable grounds for appeals will be clearly defined.

 

 

 

Appendix 2

 

Skills training requirements for research students: joint statement by the research councils/AHRB

 

(A) Research skills and techniques - to be able to demonstrate:

 

1. The ability to recognise and validate problems and to formulate and test hypotheses.

 

2. Original, independent and critical thinking, and the ability to develop theoretical concepts.

 

3. A knowledge of recent advances within one's field and in related areas.

 

4. An understanding of relevant research methodologies and techniques and their appropriate application within one's research field.

 

5. The ability to analyse critically and evaluate one's findings and those of others.

 

6. An ability to summarise, document, report and reflect on progress.

 

(B) Research environment - to be able to:

 

1. Show a broad understanding of the context, at the national and international level, in which research takes place.

 

2. Demonstrate awareness of issues relating to the rights of other researchers, of research subjects, and of others who may be affected by the research, eg confidentiality, ethical issues, attribution, copyright, malpractice, ownership of data and the requirements of the Data Protection Act.

 

3. Demonstrate appreciation of standards of good research practice in their institution and/or discipline.

 

4. Understand relevant health and safety issues and demonstrate responsible working practices.

 

5. Understand the processes for funding and evaluation of research.

 

6. Justify the principles and experimental techniques used in one's own research.

 

7. Understand the process of academic or commercial exploitation of research results.

 

(C) Research management - to be able to:

 

1. Apply effective project management through the setting of research goals, intermediate milestones and prioritisation of activities.

 

2. Design and execute systems for the acquisition and collation of information through the effective use of appropriate resources and equipment.

 

3. Identify and access appropriate bibliographical resources, archives, and other sources of relevant information. Use information technology appropriately for database management, recording and resenting information.

 

(D) Personal effectiveness - to be able to:

 

1. Demonstrate a willingness and ability to learn and acquire knowledge.

 

2. Be creative, innovative and original in one's approach to research.

 

3. Demonstrate flexibility and open-mindedness.

 

4. Demonstrate self-awareness and the ability to identify own training needs.

 

5. Demonstrate self-discipline, motivation, and thoroughness.

 

6. Recognise boundaries and draw upon/use sources of support as appropriate.

 

7. Show initiative, work independently and be self-reliant.

 

(E) Communication skills - to be able to:

 

1. Write clearly and in a style appropriate to purpose, eg progress reports, published documents, thesis.

 

2. Construct coherent arguments and articulate ideas clearly to a range of audiences, formally and informally through a variety of techniques.

 

3. Constructively defend research outcomes at seminars and viva examination.

 

4. Contribute to promoting the public understanding of one's research field.

 

5. Effectively support the learning of others when involved in teaching, mentoring or demonstrating activities.

 

(F) Networking and teamworking - to be able to:

 

1. Develop and maintain co-operative networks and working relationships with supervisors, colleagues and peers, within the institution and the wider research community.

 

2. Understand one's behaviours and impact on others when working in and contributing to the success of formal and informal teams.

 

3. Listen, give and receive feedback and respond perceptively to others.

 

(G) Career management - to be able to:

 

1. Appreciate the need for and show commitment to continued professional development.

 

2. Take ownership for and manage one's career progression, set realistic and achievable career goals, and identify and develop ways to improve employability.

 

3. Demonstrate an insight into the transferable nature of research skills to other work environments and the range of career opportunities within and outside academia.

 

4. Present one's skills, personal attributes and experiences through effective CVs, applications and interviews.

 

PhD Contract

University of Helsinki

Appendix 3.

(Report from the Lisbon Congress round table on supervision, September 2004. Convenor: Andrew Chesterman)

This is the PhD contract used in the Department of Scandinavian Languages and Literature at the University of Helsinki, developed in collaboration by supervisors and postgraduate students there.

In actual use, this document relates to another one (not included here) describing the particular rights and duties of a postgraduate student in the department concerned, such as:

the right to expect a total of at least 50 hours supervision per year (including reading of manuscripts, seminars etc.) for five years;

the duty to keep research and study plan up-to-date;

the right, if resources permit, to teach a course in the department (and be paid for it);

the right to help with the supervision of MA theses;

the right to apply for travel grants to attend conferences, e.g. once per year;

the right to use departmental copying machine etc.;

the right to language revision if necessary.

 

 

CONTRACT

 

1. Roles

 

a) Supervisor’s responsibilities

            to supervise the doctoral student

            to be available for consultation at reasonable notice

            to provide the student with information about research training, academic networks etc.

            to write references and testimonials

 

b) Student’s responsibilities

            to keep the supervisor informed of the progress of the thesis

            to take advice from the supervisor e.g. on choice of subject or limitation of subject

            to be prepared to present his/her work both orally and in written form, as suggested by the supervisor

           

c) Second supervisor (name:___)

 

2. Practice

 

            • How often will the student meet the supervisor? (E.g. two hours every second week)

            • How will contact be maintained? (E.g. email)

            • Deadlines? (E.g. the student shall hand in one chapter every second month from the third year on)

            • Timetable? (E.g. planned completion date 2010)

            • Is the student working on the thesis full time or part time?

            • Neutral party to whom appeal can be made in case of conflict: ____

              Deputy arrangements if the supervisor is on sabbatical / retires / is sick / dies. (E.g. second supervisor ___)

            • How often will this contract be updated? (E.g. annually in September)

            • How, and how often, will the contract be evaluated? (E.g. annually in September)

 

3. Supervision content

 

            • (E.g. how much criticism or support is to be expected)

 

4. External supervision

 

            • How much of the supervision will be the responsibility of an additional or external supervisor?

            • Special responsibilities of the second supervisor?

 

5. Other issues

 

Signed ...