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Oh, The Places You’ll Go’: The Importance of Relationships on Postgraduate Research Students’ Experiences of Academia

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Abstract

Global trends in higher education which have seen increased research student enrolments have also brought growing uncertainty around employment outcomes, now encompassing both academia and industry (Jones, 2018). Related research has largely focused on the products of student work and the experience of supervision, with student voices often unnoticed, overlooked or unobserved. Through foregrounding student voices, this chapter explores the impact of relationships on the experience of negotiating academic culture and preparing for life, post-graduation. Linking our data to the leitmotifs of Dr. Seuss’ ‘Oh the places you’ll go’, themes emerged representing the highs, lows, uncertainties and unknowns inherent in their experience of academia and the relationships which sustain them. Data was viewed through the lens of identity theory (Whannell & Whannell, 2015), using a narrative approach (Crotty, 1998) and gathered from an anonymous survey of research students and recent graduates across universities in 15 countries (N = 425). Findings highlight students’ rich experiences and perceptions across the postgraduate research process, with attention given to the relationships that enabled or constrained their identity formation and sense of belonging. Whilst there was great diversity amongst the participants, there were surprising consistencies, particularly the significant impact of the quality of social interaction on identity and notions of belonging.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We use the term ‘postgraduate research student’ to describe a student engaged in a range of programs termed variously, including Ph.D., professional doctoral programs (see Jones, 2018, p. 817), also Masters of Philosophy (M.Phil) or Masters by Research. For brevity, hereafter we refer to them as ‘student(s)’.

  2. 2.

    This total takes into account 5 incomplete surveys which were removed.

  3. 3.

    ‘R’ = respondent identification.

  4. 4.

    Note: student quotes are followed by respondent number and stage of degree (1–7, see Table 18.1), presented thus: (R233, S2).

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Correspondence to Janine Delahunty .

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Delahunty, J., Harden-Thew, K. (2019). ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go’: The Importance of Relationships on Postgraduate Research Students’ Experiences of Academia. In: Diver, A. (eds) Employability via Higher Education: Sustainability as Scholarship. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-26342-3_18

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-26342-3_18

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