Standardization of supervision procedures: the cross-cultural perspective
Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Viseu
(Report from the Lisbon Congress round table on supervision, September 2004. Convenor: Andrew Chesterman)
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
The Cross-Cultural Perspective
is most immediately obvious about the AHRB Guidelines on supervision procedures
is the extent to which they reflect the values and organisation
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:
structuring of the kind envisaged in the guidelines could not, I feel, be
easily implemented outside the
Some of the differences to be taken into account are:
1)Profile of the PhD
while in northern Europe the PhD is perceived as a preliminary qualification
for getting started in an academic career, in a country such as
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
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.