In this second article to mark Nature’s 2019 graduate survey, respondents call for more one-to-one support and better career guidance.
When Peter Butler started his PhD programme in physics at the University of Bristol, UK, he saw himself spending many hours at a whiteboard working on problems, with his supervisor by his side. Those long hours of togetherness never materialized. In that sense, he says, “I didn’t get what I expected.” However, he adds that his supervisor gave him plenty of good strategic advice and helped him to get published. And having to turn to other people for support was useful, he adds. “I had to act like a scientist.”
This commentary and the survey that underpins it (data available online) points to serious dissatisfaction among HDR candidates, which should prompt institutions to reflect on their guidance and monitoring of supervisors. We have included links to ten related items.
The survey — created with Shift Learning, a London-based market-research company — had its bright spots. Overall, 67% of respondents said they were satisfied with their relationship with their supervisors, with 41% of those in Africa and South America saying they were very satisfied. Some are especially grateful. “When I started my PhD, I didn’t know about all of the possibilities,” says Marina Kovačević, a PhD student in physical chemistry at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia. Now, she hopes to run her own laboratory, a goal that her co-supervisors encourage by letting her help to write proposals and take on other tasks of a lab leader. ”She is truly one of the most devoted PhD students,” says one supervisor, Branislav Jovic.