Enhancing the experienced environment for doctoral candidates in a diverse array of settings and arrangements

Formerly Director of the University's Centre for Educational Development and Academic Methods (CEDAM), Margot Pearson has been involved in research on higher and doctoral education and research training since the early 1990s. Her earlier publications have drawn on three substantial government funded research studies (Cullen, Pearson, Saha & Spear, 1994; Pearson & Ford, 1997; Thompson, Pearson, Akerlind, Hooper & Mazur, 2001) that have extended our understanding of how research training is constituted for both doctoral students and early career researchers.

She is a founding and current member of the Steering Group for fIRST; a member of IDERN, an international group of researchers on doctoral education and regularly reviews for international journals.

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A significant feature of contemporary doctoral education is the continuing trend for research and research education to migrate beyond discipline-based institutional teaching and research structures, as stated in a government consultation paper DIIRS 2011.

Although the majority of formal training is undertaken within a university environment, research training can also take place in a wide variety of settings. Besides university environments, research training occurs in medical research institutes and hospitals, in the CSIRO, Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) and in office and industrial settings.

The result is a diverse array of settings and arrangements for doctoral education linked to an increasingly global research enterprise. Opportunities for funding and access to other resources including expertise can vary across doctoral programs and within them. The resulting experienced environment of doctoral candidates is one that that can afford them opportunities and challenges for completing their candidacy. Drawing on recent research it is argued that in this fluid and distributed environment attention needs to be on the individual candidate and how they negotiate their candidacy within a framework for exploring the doctoral experience that is candidate-centred; a framework that includes a focus on candidate agency, personal-academic connections, and networks.