The student-supervisor relationship at universities is changing. It is no longer bound to the model where the post-graduate is the apprentice of the supervisor. Now the approach is towards group supervision, cohort training and sharing of resources.

Should South Africa adopt the route of collaborative doctoral training centres as in the UK, or pre-doctoral training courses such as those offered at some universities in the US, asked Professor Stephanie Burton of the University of Pretoria. Or should we take the models of cohort and collaborative training to build our own capacity?

Professor Burton was addressing the recent meeting of Universities South Africa’s (USAf’s) Community of Practice (CoP) for Postgraduate Education and Scholarship (PGES), which was focusing on supervision models and their implementation.

She said South African universities all talk about increasing their number of postgraduate students, but if they did not have the capacity to provide more people to supervise the research, this enrolment would be a huge challenge.

“What we need to be thinking about is not only increasing the number of supervisors, but smarter ways of providing supervision,” she said.