Superhero or hands-off supervisor? An empirical categorization of PhD supervision styles and student satisfaction in Russian universities

Abstract

This article presents the results of a cross-institutional survey on PhD students’ supervision at Russian universities. It is aimed at answering three questions concerning (1) styles of PhD supervision and their prevalence, (2) the relation between supervision style and PhD students’ satisfaction with their supervisor, and (3) the relation between supervision style and PhD students’ expected time-to-degree. We propose the empirically driven categorization of six supervision styles: superhero, hands-off supervisor, research practice mediator, dialogue partner, mentor, and research advisor. The most problematic category, characterized by providing no help for PhD students, was named “hands-off supervisors.” For this category PhD students reported the lowest level of satisfaction, and the highest expected time-to degree. Nonetheless, the large share of PhD students who are satisfied with hands-off supervisors may evidence a presence of a disengagement compact between PhD students and supervisors in Russian universities. Two categories of supervisors characterized by the highest level of PhD students’ satisfaction and shortest expected time-to-degree were named “superheroes” and “mentors.” These supervisors are reported to perform managerial and expert functions, which emphasizes the critical importance of these functions.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Training of Academic Staff in Russia, 2018. http://csrs.ru/archive/stat_2018_staff/. Accessed 29 May 2007.

  2. 2.

    Project 5–100 is a special governmental program which was launched in 2013 by the Ministry of Education and Science to develop Russian universities. Under this project, 15 and later 6 more leading Russian universities received financial support in order to maximize their positions in the global university rankings. See http://5top100.com/ for more details.

  3. 3.

    Under the federal higher education development program introduced by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, 10 universities with special status of federal universities were created between 2006 and 2014. Most of them appeared as a result of university mergers. The main goal of the program was the development of the regional higher education systems and strengthening the ties between regional economy and higher education system (to see more: Arzhanova and Knyazev 2013).

  4. 4.

    Not all universities provided such information.

  5. 5.

    Training of Academic Staff in Russia, 2018. http://csrs.ru/archive/stat_2018_staff/. Accessed 29 May 2007.

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Correspondence to Ivan Gruzdev.

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Gruzdev, I., Terentev, E. & Dzhafarova, Z. Superhero or hands-off supervisor? An empirical categorization of PhD supervision styles and student satisfaction in Russian universities. High Educ 79, 773–789 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-019-00437-w

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Keywords

  • Doctoral education
  • Academic supervision
  • Style of supervision
  • Disengagement compact
  • Educational reforms