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Doctoral research supervision experiences of business education students in Nigeria.

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Research supervision has been an integral process in doctoral education for the development of researchers or scholars. However, until recently this important pedagogical process has received little attention. The recent awareness of the centrality of research supervision in the development of new generation researchers and knowledge workers has been attributed to the global move towards a knowledge-based society where nations strive to produce quality intellectual human capital in order to be able to compete favourably at the level of the global knowledge economy. The persistent high rates of doctoral attrition and late completions, as well as the declining quality of research outputs has sparked debates about ways to improve the quality of learning, student satisfaction, and research productivity. Although most advanced countries, in an attempt to make all stakeholders accountable, have now placed the focus on what has hitherto been regarded as a clandestine relationship or the supervision relationship little is known regarding the contexts in developing African countries. Research evidence has shown that, even though doctoral students are central to the supervision and knowledge production processes, their voices have been under-represented. Available studies in that regard have mostly focused on contexts in developed Western countries. Thus, there is an acute lack of research on the experiences of doctoral students with respect to research supervision in developing African countries such as Nigeria. The aim of this thesis was, therefore, to explore the research supervision experiences of doctoral students in Nigeria. To this end, this study used an interpretive research design which specifically employed the phenomenographic approach with which to explore the experiences of a purposive sample of fifteen doctoral students selected from four different universities in Nigeria. The need to obtain a broad range of student experiences related to research supervision led to the selection of participants from different stages of their candidature. The study was underpinned by the Ecological Systems Theory developed by Bronfenbrenner (1979) and draws on the Conceptual Framework of Research Supervision by Lee (2012) and the discourses of analysis of supervision by Grant (2005). The presented findings of my research thesis were based on the analysis of interview transcripts across the whole group of participants. The main findings of this study were that participants experienced research supervision in three qualitative ways – 1) as apprenticeship-like/power relationship; 2) as transacting in the social space; and 3) participants expressed a yearning for positive supervision relationship. These three ways of experiencing research supervision were found to be characterised by strong power dynamics that for the most part impacted negatively on the participants’ learning experiences. These findings, therefore, have important implications for opening up debates on the subject of power in academic supervisory relationships within the African context. The study concludes that in order to improve students’ learning experiences and productivity; and to align with international good practices, there is a need to disrupt the way in which supervision happens within the Nigerian context. By institutionalising and operationalising policies that empower postgraduate students to become more active in the supervision’s proximal processes, the ultimate personal, institutional and national goals of undertaking a doctorate would be realised.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.