Saudi Mathematics Students’ Experiences and Challenges with Their Doctoral Supervisors in UK Universities

Dr. Mansour Saleh Alabdulaziz
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 15  •  2020  •  pp. 237-263

The purpose of this study is to identify the challenges Saudi doctoral students studying in UK universities face with their supervisors, shed light on their experiences, and examine the extent to which these experiences impact their ability to complete their thesis. Furthermore, the aim is to examine the aspects of supervision the students found to be effective during their studies.

The overall intention of this article is to provide more information about the experiences and challenges Saudi mathematics students face with their doctoral supervisors in UK universities. Therefore, overcoming these difficulties will enhance the academic success rates of Saudi students, and will help them to complete their studies on time when studying at UK universities.

This was a multi method project resulting in the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data. It started with a questionnaire, which was administered to 300 Saudi doctoral students, 32 of whom subsequently agreed to be interviewed. The sample was randomly selected from doctoral students who were specializing in curricula and methods of teaching mathematics and other related areas.

This study added information to the literature on Saudi mathematics students’ experiences and challenges with their doctoral supervisors in UK universities. This also represents the first study to be context on this subject within Saudi Arabia.

There are some positive and negative challenges experienced between doctoral students and their supervisors, which are comprised of four main dimensions: team supervision, the supervisory relationship, the elements of effective supervision in their current supervisors, and supervisors’ written feedback. Additionally, based on their experiences, the students stated the specific elements of supervision that were effective, including general knowledge of the research area and research methods, receiving continued support from the supervisory team, and the establishment of regular and realistic deadlines, friendliness, approachability and flexibility, the provision of detailed feedback on students’ work, joint meetings with both first and second supervisors, constructive criticism, and sufficient interest in their research.

The stakeholders in Saudi Arabia should take advantage of the answers given by the participants to help those and future students. Furthermore, this study invites doctoral students to solve the challenges they face with their supervisors immediately, in order to be able to complete their thesis on time. Additionally, it is important that university and departmental administrative bodies consider tracking their study paths to better assist students. Furthermore, universities should be clear regarding the different roles and responsibilities of the students and their supervisors before the candidates commence their studies.

Further research is needed to explore supervisors’ views and experiences, as well as staff supporting and coordinating doctoral programs who may have a more holistic view of the supervisory process.

The study participants’ experiences of their doctoral studies could be highly beneficial for comprehending the problems that confront them when studying, which will enable better assistance to be provided.

Future studies could be extended to other areas of the education field. Furthermore, particular measures can be implemented to enhance supervision, which could be associated with satisfaction levels and/or the performance of students.

doctoral students, supervisors, UK universities, experiences and challenges
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