Higher Education

, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 357–376 | Cite as

Does external funding push doctoral supervisors to be more directive? A large-scale Danish study

  • Gitte Wichmann-HansenEmail author
  • Kim Jesper Herrmann


Around the world, changing funding policies have pushed for university departments to find increased external project-based funding. While this trend is widely acknowledged, mixed views exist about implications for faculty members’ academic practices. Regarding doctoral education, researchers have raised concern that external funding will push doctoral supervisors to be more directive in their supervision of doctoral students’ research projects. However, the empirical evidence supporting such concern is limited. The aim of the current study was, first, to develop and validate a scale allowing us to measure the degree of supervisor direction. Second, the aim was to examine the hypothesis that directive supervision is more likely to occur when the doctoral student’s research project is supported by external funding secured by the supervisor. A total of 1690 doctoral students at a research-intensive Danish university participated in the study. Three scales, including a directive supervision scale, were developed and validated by means of exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. Our hypothesis could be confirmed for the health sciences, but not the natural sciences. Results from the humanities and social sciences were ambiguous.


Doctoral students Doctoral supervision External funding Performance-based funding Supervision models Hands-on supervision Directive supervision Disciplinary differences 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Teaching and Learning, Aarhus School of Business and Social SciencesAarhus UniversityAarhus VDenmark

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