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Conversation Co is working with the University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association seeking feedback from students about their experience with research supervision. At the University of Melbourne, there are 5400 graduate researchers being supervised by 2700 academics. 

The focus for the engagement is the University’s graduate researchers who are students doing a Masters by Research or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). These students have academic supervisors assigned by the University and their research projects last between two and four years.

We are talking to research students across a wide spectrum with the larger faculties being Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, Engineering and IT, Education and Arts.

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) has had some feedback from students about communication issues with their supervisors, the University’s processes for providing feedback and addressing potential conflicts of interest. We’re also taking feedback from the supervisors themselves and any graduate students planning to do a research project in the near future.

Research students are on campus during November as they do not have ‘swot vac’ or exams like undergraduate students. We’re talking to them when they come on campus, at the food trucks events and free breakfasts offered by the GSA. For those students who like to discuss their experiences with others in a similar situation, we are facilitating online and in-person focus groups. Students can also provide private feedback in an online survey or a personal interview.

Some preliminary work has been done by the GSA regarding potential recommendations for an advocacy campaign. It is expected that the results of this engagement project will ‘flesh out’ these potential recommendations and also lead to the development of one or two new recommendations.


Quotes from the Engagement:

“I think having to fill out a supervisory agreement early in candidature is a good conversation starter – it encourages both the supervisor and students to communicate their expectations.”

“Mandatory training and review of performance for supervisors, statements from past students is one example that might inform whether a university endorses a supervisor taking on students.”

“More training to supervisors. I especially believe that training in soft people skills can be quite valuable for people in science.” 

“Supervisors should receive better training on diversity issues, so they are better able to understand the needs of all types of students, including disabled, POC and international students.” 

“My experience has been fantastic, but I have heard others who have had more complicated experiences with their supervisors. It might be helpful to offer additional support outside the supervisory team, perhaps even from another department at the university, to offer a fresh perspective in the case where problems might arise.”


Find out more about the project here:

Conversation Co

Conversation Co proudly acknowledges and celebrates First Peoples of Australia and their ongoing strength in upholding some of the world's oldest living cultures. We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands throughout what is now Victoria – where we live, conduct pop-ups, and engage with our communities – and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present. Conversation Co acknowledges First Peoples' sovereignty has never been ceded. The strength, resilience and pride of First Peoples, their cultures, communities and identities continue to grow and thrive today despite the impact of colonisation and ongoing experiences of racism.

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