The Director of Research and Postgraduate Support at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), Dr Linda Linganiso, recently hosted an online webinar session for Supervisors and Postgraduate students via Microsoft Teams.
The programme entailed presentations from the Research and Postgraduate Support team on topics pertaining to improving the quality of supervision, the timely completion of higher degrees, empowering supervisors with respect to postgraduate supervision, research outputs from postgraduate students, improved enrolments and students’ bursaries as well as more on the role of the postgraduate school.
The Programme Director of the virtual event was Ms Vaneshree Govender, who spoke on improving the quality of supervision and empowering supervisors with skills and knowledge with respect to postgraduate supervision. She relayed that the Research Capacity Development (RCD) Unit in collaboration with Rhodes University is hosting the Strengthening Postgraduate Supervision course which will be held virtually via Zoom over five (5) weeks. She said that the interactive, accredited (NQF level 7) course covers four themes, viz: Social Justice in Supervision; The importance of scholarship; Supervisor Practices and Supervision Processes.
“The programme is designed for professors and novice academics and consist of two (2) synchronous online sessions and three a-synchronous tasks per week,” she said.
Also addressing the attendees was DUT’s Dr Linda Linganiso, Director, Research and Postgraduate Support, who said the purpose of the session was to discuss students’ research publications and writing retreats. She outlined more on her presentation which focused on the supervision policy for postgraduate research degrees, publication requirements as a requirement for graduation: postgraduate students, Doctoral review reports, challenges with respect to supervision (what are the proposed solutions?) and the highlights of the roles of the faculties and the research office.
“DUT maintains its academic standards and integrity in the supervision process, appointment of postgraduate supervisors and in the management of the supervision process,” she said.
Dr Linganiso spoke on the approval timeframe, saying that approval was done in September 2019 by SENATE.
“The diversity of our disciplines, therefore, supervisory practices will have different forms across the University,” she said.
She relayed that the applicability is to postgraduate supervisors and co-supervisors (internal and external) and University staff responsible for administration and support of postgraduate research candidates.
Dr Linganiso delved into the supervision requirements, indicating that supervisors need to meet suitable academic qualification, have an acceptable level of supervision experience and appropriate expertise in the chosen topic of research.
She stressed further that the responsibility of ensuring that appropriate supervision is provided, lies with Heads of Departments (HoDs), who are responsible to ensure that the students receive appropriate and continuous supervision during their period of registered study.
“HoDs must ensure that the supervisors are eligible for supervision as per DUT postgraduate student guide which provides clear roles for the faculty administrative staff, HoDs, students as well as supervisors. HoDs need to ensure that both the student and the supervisor are aware of their responsibilities,” she said.
Dr Linganiso stressed the importance of supervisors needing to meet the eligibility criteria of the policy, and be appointed as supervisors in the Faculty in accordance with this policy.
“In the case of Doctorate student’s supervision, supervisors must have a Doctorate. In the case of research masters, supervisors must have a Doctorate. A supervisor with a masters may be accepted in case of lack of internal supervising capacity holder (which must be approved by the Faculty) in case there is shortage of supervision capacity,” she said.
She conveyed that supervisors must also have a manageable number of students to supervise, they are not allowed to supervise more than 10 full-time students at a time, more especially if one has intensive teaching and learning sessions; and they must complete at least one supervisory and ethics capacity training workshop if they are a first-time supervisor.
Delving further on the role of supervisors, Dr Linganiso said that there are factors to be taken into consideration when allocating supervisors such as their workload balance between Teaching and Learning, administrative work and research, innovation and engagement. She said that there is also a need to look at the completion rates of the supervisor’s previous students.
Dr Linganiso emphasised on internal co-supervisors, who are appointed to contribute his or her specific expertise in assisting the main supervisor through the development of the student’s research. She also explained the important role of external main supervisors and co-supervisors, who need to be appropriately qualified with sufficient experience for supervision and be prepared to adhere to DUT policies, rules and regulations.
In terms of clinical/industrial supervisors, she said it is necessary to appoint a clinical/industrial/technical supervisor to account for the industrial, technical aspect of the research degree.
Further into her discussion, Dr Linganiso said explained about the publication requirements as a requirement for graduation: postgraduate students.
“PhDs are expected to publish at least one journal article. We did not decide on masters, but we expect them as well to have an article or Conference Proceeding accepted. Senate is still to deliberate. We also do not know if it will apply to only people registering after the rule is approved. A proposal has been tabled and we will inform you in due course,” she stressed.
Dr Linganiso communicated that according to the Doctoral Review Report, it was indicated that there are overreaching challenges that existed pertaining to the supervision of postgraduate students.
“There is a need to grow supervision capacity. This scarcity is addressed through external supervision and initiatives to increase the number of staff with Doctorates,” she said.
Dr Linganiso spoke about the policy for the appointment of external supervisors; as well as the development and implementation of a service level agreement between the supervisor and the students to assist in managing expectations and deliverables.
She also spoke on the Conference in Research Ethics, ongoing Workshops and Training in Research Ethics, the Short Learning Programme in Research Integrity and Ethics (which is under accreditation, and the Appointment of a Research Integrity Officer (Dr Stella Shulika).
Last but not least, she explained more on the Research and Postgraduate Support, saying that different staff play different roles.
“In terms of the improvement of the quality of supervision, it is (Ms Vaneshree Govender). To empower supervisors with skills and knowledge with respect to Postgraduate Supervision (Ms Vaneshree Govender). Research Outputs from Postgraduate students (Dr Ncumisa Mpongwana /Ms Philisiwe Charity Cele). Timely completion of higher degrees (Ms Vaneshree Govender). Improved Enrolments and Students’ Bursaries (Ms Nicky Lundall/Dr Bloodless Dzwairo), and the Postgraduate School (Ms Nicky Lundall),” she said.
Pictured: The Director, Research and Postgraduate Support, Dr Linda Linganiso.