Macquarie's Higher Degree Research Mentors. Image courtesy of Kim Khim Tan.
Macquarie's Higher Degree Research Mentors. Image courtesy of Kim Khim Tan.

Beyond isolation in Higher Degree Research

Australian universities had 65,000 Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidates in 2015.

Due to the nature and structure of the HDR program, doctoral candidates encounter a range of different learning experiences.  Findings show that as high as one-third of doctoral candidates felt isolated or lacking a sense of belonging to the wider research community, and not surprisingly, this feeling of isolation is one of the major factors contributing to the attrition of doctoral candidates.

Kim Khim Tan currently heads up the HDR Mentors program under the Office of the Dean, Higher Degree Research. She asks whether HDR peer mentors have an increased sense of belonging to the research community and if they have an improved sense of wellbeing. Kim’s work aims to increase the retention of doctoral students in their degree program through improving candidature experience.

With a Universitas 21 ranking of 10th out of 50 countries, 2015-16 education related exports accounted for $19.9 billion or 9.4% of Australia’s total exports, representing the largest service export and the third largest export category overall. The study into improving quality of HDR candidates’ experience and wellbeing is crucial not only for the candidates, but also to the greater Australian economic and social prosperity.