The postgraduate student : progress and problems
The aim of the investigation described in this thesis is to contribute to our knowledge and understanding of postgraduate students. The investigation has two stages. In the first, student records were used to provide information on entry qualifications and characteristics, which were then related to success or failure to obtain a postgraduate degree. Whilst no single factor was found to be sufficient on its own to predict the outcome of study, young, male, Science students, especially if on full-time study and of overseas origin, were found to be those most likely to be awarded a degree. Older, female Arts students were the group least likely to succeed. The second stage of the investigation took the form of a longitudinal study of a cohort of postgraduate research students, whose progress was monitored regularly over a three year period. After an enthusiastic start to research study, by the end of first year a decline in morale was apparent. Progress was slow and a variety of problems, arising especially from unsatisfactory supervision and inadequate finance, was reported. By the end of second year, however, the picture became brighter. Only slightly fewer difficulties were experienced. Practical problems assumed priority over others and supervision continued to be a source of dissatisfaction. But the impression was of greatly increased resilience, determination and maturity on the part of the students in the ways in which they tackled the difficulties they encountered. Similar experiences were shared by most of the group during third year. Despite early optimism, thesis writing presented difficulties poor supervision, financial strain, intellectual isolation, inadequate working conditions and lack of skilled technical assistance created problems. The reactions of the student group to the experience of third year were however more varied. One year later, 45 per cent still had not submitted a thesis. The hypothesis is advanced that personality factors, organisational skills, institutional climate and supervision may be important features of success in postgraduate study. In the discussion, means of making research study less stressful are proposed. These include improved facilities, more rigorous selection of supervisors and students, and provision for training in writing skills. The responsibility for change, it is argued, rests with the university, its departments and with postgraduate students themselves.