Exploring perceived support of postgraduate medical science research students

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There is still much to learn about the support required by postgraduate research students, across academic disciplines, to facilitate successful completion of a research degree. The primary aim of this study was to explore postgraduate medical science research students’ perceptions of academic and mentoring support at different stages during their degree programme. A second aim was to explore the feasibility and acceptability of peer mentoring as a strategy to enhance student support in this population. A mixed method study design was used. Students first completed an online questionnaire, which was then supplemented with focus group discussion to explore emergent findings in greater depth. The main results indicated that the nature and quality of academic supervision support have a significant influence on research student training and development. ‘Functional’ and ‘relationship development’ concepts of supervisory styles were highlighted as important aspects to perceived support in this research population. The main facilitators to enhance academic support were effective communication, project planning and timely feedback. There was a high degree of acceptability for a peer mentoring programme as a complementary approach to enhance student support. Peer mentoring psychosocial functions such as friendship, counselling and career guidance were considered potentially beneficial to enhancing student support. Students also discussed peer coaching as central to their learning and research skill development. This work is a useful starting point to explore perceptions of research student support in the target population. Further work is required to develop strategies to enhance student support in academic practice.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Early online date28 Feb 2017
Publication statusEarly online date - 28 Feb 2017


  • student support
  • postgraduate medical science research
  • supervision
  • training
  • mentor


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