PhD Supervision Prenup

Will you … take me as your supervisee, guide me, stressed me out and assist me for the rest of my candidacy?

I will.

Will you … take me as your supervisor, respect me, follow my orders, and be independent for the rest of my supervision.

I hope not.

Ha..ha..ha..well, this is not ‘tempias’ from the Royal Wedding nor a straying bullet from the Obama-Osama ‘private’ drama 😉 This is what I got from a recent uni writing circle meeting.

Since it was immediately after Easter, there were only 5 of us, including two academics from the Language department, Suzanne and Jeannie. So it actually became sort of a ‘heart to heart’ session instead. One of the discussion was about our relationship with our supervisors. Obviously, lots of manual, research and books have been written about the roles of supervisor and supervisee. But in reality, it’s somewhat difficult to expect how these roles were actually played in a PhD relationship.

One very good suggestion highlighted by Suzanne based on her experiences was to actually sit down with your supervisor and list down what both of you think your roles are and should be throughout the candidacy. This can be done by answering or filling up a simple questionnaire and then immediately swap the answers to the questionnaire. So in way, both of your expectations are laid down quite candidly. Next, both of you must then sift through all the answers and try to find a middle ground for proportion of roles and responsibility you disagreed on or are imbalance from both of your expectations. This way you actually know early on what is expected of you and how much support your supervisor may or may not be able to give you.

It’s actually a prenuptial agreement, in a way. In fact, a Professor from the University of Tasmania, Prof Frank Vanclay, went all the way with suggesting a  personal agreement between supervisor and student about supervision expectations.

I think Prof Frank’s suggestion is an excellent idea. As he claimed, it might be a bit awkward initially, but later it is very much welcomed by the students and of course brought some certainty to the uncertainty of the “PhD” life.

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