The training needs of supervisors of postgraduate students in the social sciences and humanities

  • PC van der Westhuizen Potchefstroom University
  • JJ de Wet Potchefstroom University


The two main functions of the university, namely teaching and research culminate in PhD-training. The literature places a primacy on the role of the PhD-supervisor on the quality of the PhD in terms of completion rates and completion times. Formal training of the supervisor is very seldom mentioned in the literature and no overview exists on formal training for supervisors. It is the aim of this article to give a coherent, integrative and structured overview of the existing literature. The skills and knowledge a supervisor needs and in which he/she should be trained are divided into four categories. Firstly, general perspectives on postgraduate study and supervision were identified. These include aspects, such as the aims of doctoral research and study, and the characteristics of the student, the supervisory process and the supervisor. Secondly, it is obvious that the supervisor should possess the necessary skills and knowledge to do research. The skills can be subdivided into skills relating to the different phases of research, namely the introductory, design, creative and presentation stages. Thirdly, the supervisor should know how to teach the student the different phases mentioned above, for example, how to teach the student to present his/her research results. Fourthly, some general or generic competencies cut through all the phases of research, such as management outcomes, relationship outcomes, and conceptual and professional outcomes. Some skills and knowledge are very important but are not susceptive to training, such as the personality traits of students and supervisors. Other aspects should rather be included in a code of conduct.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol.16(3) 2002: 185-195

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eISSN: 1011-3487