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Discussing ‘older’ PhD students and supervision

by on June 17, 2016

This piece in THE is based on work of Julie Davies, University of Huddersfield and her co-author, Yusra Mouzughi summarising a paper to be presented at the annual conference of the UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE) in Liverpool this summer.

This topic is of particular and personal interest to Age at work, as Rebecca highlighted in her tweet earlier this week. I will forgive her for the institutional promotional bit but of course at both Birkbeck and the Open University we are mostly teaching mature students – and not just those studying for a PhD either, but across all levels of qualification.

Perhaps unusually, as Rebecca highlights, both of us were also ‘older’ students at Masters and PhD level.  And while I won’t reveal their ages, those I am currently supervising at PhD probably all fall into the demographic covered by the THE piece.  Maybe because of this, I am surprised by the representation in the THE article of the supervisory process.   While it may be based on a ‘apprenticeship’ model, the descriptions in the article are not ones that necessarily resonate with my personal experience.  Each of my supervisory relationships is different, and age doesn’t really come into it as a factor, although recognizing and talking about our different experiences and how they shape the PhD is essential.  Nevertheless, opening up a discussion about broadening the demographics of students within HE is definitely a positive move, as are other discussions about diversity of all types within the education sector.

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