The Ethics of Postgraduate Supervision: A View from Cultural Studies

  • Liam GrealyEmail author
  • Timothy LaurieEmail author


What does good supervision, or advising, of higher degree research (HDR) look like? What implications have historical transformations in higher degree training had for conceptions of good or effective supervision? Are models of good supervision generalisable and, if not, what institutional and demographic factors might impede their uptake? This chapter considers these questions from the view of cultural studies, both for the critical tools the discipline offers to interrogate claims for the promotion of normative social models and for how such supervision models bear on HDR training within the discipline itself. In three parts, this chapter links the development of teaching skills around HDR supervision to broader institutional issues of working conditions and knowledge production. The chapter begins by comparing critical approaches to HDR supervision, including the recent turn towards supervisors’ ethical responsibilities in relation to what Christine Halse and Peter Bansel (Oxford Review of Education, 38(4), 377–392, 2012) call ‘learning alliances’. While endorsing conceptions of learning as a collective practice, we foreground instances where the language of moral obligation can risk displacing important conversations about affective labour and contractual precarity in an increasingly casualised tertiary sector. Building on these observations, we argue for critical engagement with the value- and community-making functions that HDR supervisors perform. Finally, specific challenges are identified for postgraduate (a.k.a. ‘graduate’) students working in cultural studies, especially when faced with interdisciplinary restlessness and methodological experimentation. Throughout, the chapter does not make strong prescriptions about what best practice supervision should look like, because the diversity of institutional circumstances makes the ‘actionable quality’ of such prescriptions somewhat negligible (Morris, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 14, 433–450, 2008, p. 433). Nevertheless, we do identify points of tension between what good supervision practices hope to achieve and the changing institutional contexts within which these practices take place.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of SydneyCamperdownAustralia
  2. 2.The University of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia

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