The PhD by Published Work (PW) route is well established in the UK but the traditional PhD route still predominates. The PhD by PW retrospective route, where a series of peer reviewed academic papers or artefacts are produced around a coherent theme over many years, collated and submitted with a synthesis (or equivalent) and usually defended by oral examination, is becoming an increasingly popular alternative route for gaining a doctorate. The award provides researchers who have already published but not obtained a PhD award an alternative route to a PhD. It allows them to demonstrate, through the medium of their publications, that they have already undertaken doctoral level research and have the appropriate skills for that level.

Supervisors are essential for the emotional and academic support for students undertaking these PhD by PW retrospective routes as they write their final narrative synthesis and prepare for their oral examination (if required).

This paper concentrates on issues solely relating to supervising this PhD by PW retrospective route where supervision mainly occurs during the final synthesis writing stage (usually no more than two years in the UK) after sufficient eligible outputs are produced. The need to build the capacity for high-quality supervision for this new route at Leeds Beckett University (LBU) catalysed a small qualitative project which explored the role of the PhD by PW supervisor and how it differed from the supervision of a student on the traditional PhD route. Aspects of practice, the challenges, rewards, and nature of the role were explored through surveys and a focus group. Nineteen supervisor and student participants completed the surveys (i.e. eleven supervisors/eight PhD by PW students) and six additional PhD by PW students (who had not done the survey) participated in a follow up focus group to explore some of the issues raised from the survey findings. Identification of staff development needs for supervisors of this retrospective PW route are recommended and should focus on regulatory and process clarity and how to address the challenges of this route’s supervisory practice especially with collation of outputs, support in clarifying coherence, originality and contribution to the knowledge base, synthesis writing and emotional support for the students.  Emotional and practical support suggestions for effective PhD by PW route supervision are suggested.

23.06.2017 | Susan Smith