Challenges in Supervising Postgraduate Students in A Business School in South Africa
Students in a Business School tend to be more mature than typical undergraduate students, and hence are considered adult learners. These are mostly part-time students, who are often employed, and may also have a family life. The programme offerings in the Business School under study include a Master’s programme focusing on Business Administration, as well as one in Leadership Studies. The Master’s degrees include a research component whereby students write up a dissertation. Students derive from diverse educational backgrounds, with many working in management positions in the public and private sectors in South Africa. The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the challenges of having supervised Postgraduate students in a Business School in South Africa. These challenges can be classified into three categories. The first category revolves around grasping the very process of conducting research. Some students struggle with the mind set change required to make the transition from coursework to self-managed research. Some may also experience difficulties in working with a supervisor. Postgraduate students in a Business School have to contend with balancing the various aspects of their lives, and hence require high levels of motivation and self-discipline. The second category arises when the student starts to engage the actual research. Students may come to terms with having to conduct research, but could encounter a challenge in selecting a topic and developing a research proposal. Others need to be convinced of the need to do meaningful research, as opposed to merely putting together an assignment or work report. Conducting research in the field of Business could be challenging for those originating from other disciplines. Some students grapple with the ethical clearance process, which includes gaining approval from gatekeepers in the organisation. The third category arises when students immerse themselves in reviewing literature, data collection and analysis, and write-up. Students do however reach a point when a sense of researcher identity and pride develops. It is then that the student finally develops into a researcher, capable of grasping the “big picture”. The paper concludes with recommendations for other supervisors who may find themselves faced with supervising Postgraduate students in a Business School.
Index terms- Supervision, Postgraduate Students, Adult Learners, Challenges, Business School, South Africa