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No road is long with good company. What factors affect Ph.D. student’s satisfaction with their supervisor?


Marco Seeber, Hugo Horta 



How frequently may be advisable for a supervisor to meet a PhD student? Are PhD students more satisfied if supervised by someone of the same gender, nationality or with common research interests? Thus far, we lack quantitative evidence regarding similar crucial aspects of managing PhD supervision. The goal of this study is hence to investigate what factors affect Ph.D. students' satisfaction about the professional and personal relationships with their supervisors.


We focus on the characteristics of the interactions between the student and the supervisor, controlling for other important factors, namely, the supervisor's and student's traits, and the characteristics of the context. We employ survey responses from 971 Ph.D. students at two public, research-oriented and internationally renowned universities in Hong Kong and South Korea.

The results show the importance of meeting the supervisor at least once per week. Students are more satisfied of the relationship with their supervisor when they have similar research interests, whereas a key finding is that similarity in terms of gender or nationality does not matter. We also found remarkable differences between disciplines in the level of satisfaction (up to 30%), and that students are more satisfied when the supervisor is strongly involved in international research, whereas satisfaction is negatively affected by the number of Ph.D. students supervised.


The article's findings suggest that students are not more satisfied of their relationship with their supervisors when they have the same gender or nationality, whereas it is other traits of their interaction, such as the frequency of meetings and the similarity of research interest, which matter.

Higher Education Evaluation and Development

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