Understanding university responses to HDR candidate-supervisor relationship challenges (Phase 2)

The Australian Human Rights Institute and the Gender Violence Research Network at UNSW have launched a major research project examining relationship issues between higher degree research researchers (HDRs) and their supervisors.

HDRs (PhDs and Masters by research candidates) and supervisors at the 10 participating university are being emailed invitations to participate in online surveys during April and May.

The 10 participating universities are:

  • Australian National University
  • James Cook University
  • RMIT University
  • Swinburne University of Technology
  • The University of Adelaide
  • The University of Melbourne
  • The University of Sydney
  • The University of Western Australia 
  • University of New South Wales 
  • University of Tasmania

***If you are an HDR or supervisor at one of these universities please look out for the email invitation and click on the link provided to participate.***

Participant information statements & consent forms (PISCFs)

For further information please contact: Dr Allison Henry at the Australian Human Rights Institute: allison.henry@unsw.edu.au

Why are we doing this research?

While there has been long-standing informal awareness in Australia around unacceptable behaviour in university environments, research to date has largely focused on coursework students, overlooking the experiences of the higher degree research (HDR) /graduate researcher cohort, particularly in the context of candidate-supervisor relationships. As a result, there is limited systematic research on the impact and incidence of these issues, and a lack of understanding of their severity and extent.

Following a successful pilot project led by the Australian Human Rights Institute (Phase 1), in 2024 the Institute and the Gender Violence Research Network at UNSW are undertaking Phase 2 of the Understanding HDR candidate-supervisor relationship challenges project.

Phase 2 will seek to further explore the relationship issues commonly arising between HDR candidates and their supervisors, and how these issues are managed.

While Phase 1 was limited to the observations of professional and academic staff at two universities, Phase 2 will explore the views and experiences of HDRs and supervisors themselves.

It is anticipated that the direct testimony of HDRs and supervisors, via quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews, will not only enhance understanding of the HDR experience but also provide a platform for the development of training materials to support supervision reform. The research is therefore expected to generate practical benefits to both the research participants, and the more than 66,000 research candidates currently undertaking HDR programs in Australia and their supervisors.

Phase 2 is being supported by the Australian Council of Graduate Research and the participating universities.

Research team

Chief investigators

Professor Jan Breckenridge – Head of the School of Social Sciences, Co-Convener of the Gendered Violence Research Network, UNSW Sydney.
Professor Belinda Hewitt – School of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne.
Professor Justine Nolan – Director, Australian Human Rights Institute, UNSW Sydney.
Dr Allison Henry – Research Fellow, Australian Human Rights Institute, UNSW Sydney (Project Manager) allison.henry@unsw.edu.au