Relationships of PhD candidate, candidature and examination characteristics with thesis outcomes

Year: 2006

Author: Bourke, Sid, Holbrook, Allyson, Lovat, Terence

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper provides information relevant to the increasing interest in studies of PhD candidates, candidature and thesis examination in Australia in the past five years. The introduction of the research training scheme and more general funding pressures on universities has meant that myths and claims about relative success of higher degree research candidatures are increasingly likely to drive university and government policies, without the benefit of supporting evidence. The paper provides data in support or denial of various claims made.

The characteristics of 804 completed PhD candidates across eight universities included here are age on commencement, gender, whether a scholarship was held, whether a local or overseas candidate, and English proficiency. Candidature information includes discipline, entry qualification, nature of enrolment, number of supervisors, and two measures of enrolment time - total elapsed time and candidature time expressed in equivalent full-time semesters of enrolment. Examination information consists of the number and locations of examiners, time taken for the thesis examination process, and length of examiner reports. Thesis outcomes are assessed by examiner recommendations and the university's decision on the thesis. Relationships of candidate, candidature and examination characteristics with thesis outcomes are considered.