What supervisors and universities can do to enhance doctoral student experience (and how they can help themselves)

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Abstract

Over the past two decades, there has been a flurry of government papers and policy reports worldwide calling for increased number and diversity of doctoral researchers and a broadening of the curriculum to meet the developing needs of respective national ‘knowledge-driven’ economies. This has been followed by position papers and best practice examples of employability skills development in boundary-crossing doctoral programmes, especially in response to these initiatives. However, there is a disassociation between this ample literature expounding the new doctorate with its broader remit, inclusivity and production of ‘industry-ready’ graduates and the comparatively sparse literature on the doctoral candidates’ experiences of their programmes and career readiness. Within this review, we briefly outline international government initiatives and examples of the responses by Life Science and Biomedical doctoral programmes to address these various challenges. Furthermore, we explore the recent literature on the lived experience of doctoral researchers by examining their perception of the recent changes to the research context to make recommendations for universities and supervisors on how to better support an ever more diverse doctoral population for a wide range of career opportunities. Examples of how doctoral researchers themselves can make the best of currently available opportunities are also provided.

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