Liina Lepp „The Objectives of Doctoral Studies and Factors Influencing Doctoral Study Process from the Perspectives of Different Parties“
On 21 December 2015 at 10.00 Liina Lepp will defence her doctoral thesis „The Objectives of Doctoral Studies and Factors Influencing Doctoral Study Process from the Perspectives of Different Parties“.
Supervisors: associate professor Mari Karm (PhD; University of Tartu), senior research fellow Äli Leijen (PhD; University of Tartu), associate professor Marvi Remmik (PhD; University of Tartu)
Opponent: research fellow Erika Löfström (PhD; University of Helsinki)
Estonia needs doctorate holders. Meanwhile, one of the problems prevalent in PhD studies is students extending and discontinuing their studies. This is both costly for the universities as well as emotionally draining for the students and their loved ones. Consequently, the aims of this dissertation were to identify factors contributing to the discontinuation and extension of PhD studies in the field of Educational Sciences—as this field is characterized by a low graduation efficiency—as well to describe the supervisory processes of doctoral supervisors in order to provide empirical basis for discussions between the various parties involved in doctoral studies, and to make recommendations for policy development with regard to doctoral studies in Estonia. Data were gathered by means of interviewing dropout PhD students and doctoral supervisors. The study concerned with former PhD students revealed that the students associated both personal (e.g., lack of intrinsic motivation; heavy workload; family commitments) as well as environmental (e.g., insufficient supervision; low financial support; lack of community support) factors with their discontinuation of studies. The results of the study carried out amongst doctoral supervisors indicated that the supervisory process is affected by the specific attributes of the academic field, as well as the values held by supervisors themselves. The latter is also influenced by the supervisors’ own experience as supervisees. Supervisory practices in the field of Educational Sciences are characterized by the supervisors taking initiative in supporting the student primarily during the early stages of the students’ PhD studies. In the later stages, the supervisors ascribe more responsibility to the students, viewing themselves as counselors available at the students’ own initiative. Leading authors in the field, however, recommend that supervisors take significantly more initiative and hold regular supervisory meetings in order to increase graduation efficiency. To sum up, the dissertation addresses a highly relevant topic, offering a number of recommendations for increasing the efficiency of PhD studies, aimed at supervisors, universities, as well as policy makers in general.