The Road to Become a Legitimate Scholar: A Case Study of International PhD Students in Science and Engineering

Pia Bøgelund, Erik de Graaff
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 10  •  2015  •  pp. 519-533   FEATURED ARTICLE
The purpose of the doctoral education process is to create and legitimize scholarly researchers. This transformation, from student to scholar, is widely discussed in the literature. However, recent rapid changes in university culture have resulted in less time for supervision, stricter completion deadlines, and a greater focus on efficiency and productivity. This has had an impact on this transition process, and this impact has not been widely studied. The aim of this article is to understand the consequences of the current trends for PhD students and the education of PhD students in general. The article is based on interviews with 14 international students from two different research programs at the Faculty of Engineering and Science at Aalborg University in Denmark. The case of international PhD students in a western setting is singled out as a challenging case for becoming a legitimate scholar, since they face the additional challenge of becoming socialised into their new foreign setting.
Overall, the study concludes that the transition process of doctoral students is affected by the way different supervisors deal with current university trends and how PhD students fit or do not fit into their knowledge production practices. The study identifies matches or mismatches in a knowledge production perspective, quality of contact, and degree of independence of the PhD student as factors that influence whether a transition process can be marked as sound, troublesome, or lacking. Finally, the study identifies an overall risk of neglecting the more interdependent types of international PhD students. Suggestions are given as how to address this risk.
Legitimate scholar, independence, interdependence, international PhD students, knowledge production
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