Post-graduate supervision practices in South African universities in the era of democracy and educational change 1994–2004

  • G Pillay
  • RJ Balfour


Supervision might be understood as the provision usually by an academic to a student of either the expert guidance in subject knowledge or genre knowledge in relation to postgraduate thesis development. The Project for Postgraduate Educational Research (PPER) team members, in the course of their field visits, sought to interview supervisors of postgraduate education research in the different institutions’ faculties and schools of education where there was a substantive history of successful supervision. Evidence of sustained supervision was determined by the number of theses found in particular disciplines supervised by the same supervisor who is still employed at the institution at the time of the project visit. This article raises questions with regard to pedagogy and research and explores the complex nature of supervisory relationships which is central to the pedagogy of postgraduate education. Questions about the pedagogy of postgraduate education research leads the authors to explore how conventional attachments to supervisory relationships are challenged, changed or remain unaltered (Johnson et al. 2000, 137) – in the context of higher education, where, according to the CHE (2009), Ph.D. candidature has become more frequent. Our argument is that supervisory relationships in PhD pedagogy are negotiated and defined by the supervisors’ particular ideas and interests about scholarship and knowledge generation, within situated, institutional realities. We find a variety of supervisory models and practices which arise from supervisors’ ideological commitments, as well as personal experiences, and we conclude that there is exists a continuum – from a traditional model where there is deep, intense attachment to the one-to-one relationship on one end, a hybrid model where the supervision relationship is reconfigured and opened up for multiple relationships, on the other end.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1011-3487