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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 22: Attract postgraduate students

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay


Effective student supervision or advising is an increasingly common measure of academic research productivity and success. Some institutions use completed PhDs as an empirical marker of the adviser’s research activity. Less formally, there are occasions when acclaiming a colleague’s career in retirement speeches and other laudatory moments that speakers will refer to the number of doctoral students supervised and what those students have gone on to do as indicators of professional impact and influence.

Developing a cadre of postgraduate students has other significance for a successful scholarly career. Enthusiastic and engaged postgraduate students working in overlapping and related areas can be energizing, mutually sustaining and attractive to other students and colleagues. A flourishing research group is something many aspiring and successful academics long to be associated with.

Moreover, many advisers co-publish with their postgraduate students. Not only can this relationship help students negotiate and learn about publishing processes and procedures, it also contributes to the adviser’s publication record and scholarly career. As alluded to in Chapter 18 this is not without its risks, however: some advisers fall into a trap of co-publishing almost exclusively. This may benefit the various students involved, but it does not reflect well on the independent career of the adviser.

Research student supervision is also a clear means of influencing students in ways that are more immediately evident than undergraduate teaching where student–teacher relationships are more detached and where developmental effects may be unnoticed in...

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