Identity in doctoral supervision: perspectives on agency and structure

Carla L. Wilkin, Amrinder Khosa, Steven Burch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Motivated by growing trends to require doctoral students to be supervised by panels rather than single supervisors, our study investigates how these resulting structural changes affect students’ and supervisors’ agency and the co-construction of their identity. Using role theory as a framework to analyze the narratives of a matched sample of students and supervisors, findings reveal the effect of socially enacted roles on members’ engagement, with purposed conformance evident in their goal-directed agency. Besides the pivotal role of primary supervisors in ensuring a common purpose to achieve timely completion of the required research, findings demonstrate the importance of developing members’ shared understanding of the adjustments to structure and agency required to achieve diversity and excellence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-173
Number of pages35
JournalThe Journal of Higher Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • agency
  • conformance
  • doctoral supervision
  • Narratives
  • role theory
  • structure

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