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PhD survey: Minority of PhDs have almost no contact with their supervisor

One out of ten PhDs only talk to their supervisor about their dissertation once a semester - or less

A group of PhDs at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) have been left out on their own by their academic supervisor, a survey done by the University Post shows.

One out of ten PhDs state that they only talk to their supervisor about their dissertation once a semester – or less.

18 percent only have contact with the supervisor once every two to three months, and 23 percent once a month on average.

Show no interest

The survey shows that there are large differences in the interest that supervisors take in their PhD students, making it a gamble for PhDs as to whether they get a supervisor that actually supervises them.

And apparently the bad supervisors can be really bad, as the comments made by the PhDs in the survey shows:

“My supervisor is always on vacation and my second supervisor always refers me to the first one who is not there!,” one PhD student writes in the questionnaire.

Another just states “one year without supervisor.”

One PhD writes that her supervisor “is looking for his retirement and has no interest in my research”.

Busy schedule

Supervisors are often too busy with their own research projects, the comments show.

“I have a supportive, but very busy supervisor. Scheduling of meetings/feedback tends to be tricky,” one writes.

PhDs associated with the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences have the least contact with their supervisor, the survey reveals. 16 percent here only talk to him/her once a semester or less.

Open door

While some complain about lack of supervisor contact, others are blessed with a supervisor made in heaven, and get help and guidance frequently.

Or “almost every day. As real supervision should be,” a PhD-student comments.

Others are also happy with their supervisor even if they don’t have daily contact. “In writing intensive periods about once a week, Sometimes several times a week, but at other times not at all. However, I can always knock on my supervisor’s door if I need something,” says one PhD

“We have a scheduled meeting every 2nd week, but I drop by his office more frequently,” says another.

(See an overview of all of the PhD survey responses on the pdf file below this article.)

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