Determinants of PhD student satisfaction: The roles of supervisor, department, and peer qualities

Gerard H Dericks, Edmund R Thompson, Margaret Roberts, Florence T T Phua

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61 Citations (SciVal)
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Understanding the determinants of PhD student satisfaction is likely to become increasingly vital for universities as student satisfaction rankings already ubiquitous at undergraduate and master degree levels extend more broadly to the PhD level. Moreover, as PhD student populations and university competition become increasingly transnational, there is a growing need to understand cross-nationally common determinants of satisfaction. Building on prior research into PhD student satisfaction, and drawing upon relevant conceptual and metrical refinements in the measurement of satisfaction from cognate domains of psychology, we use cross-sectional data (N=409) from PhD candidates across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities in 63 universities from 20 countries to examine how overall PhD student satisfaction is determined by, respectively and in combination, supervisor, department, and peer-group, in terms of both their academic qualities and supportiveness. Taken together, we find that supervisor supportiveness is the greatest predictor of PhD student satisfaction, but that supervisor academic qualities have no significant effect. However, both the academic qualities and supportiveness of departments significantly predict PhD student satisfaction, suggesting university departments and PhD supervisors would ideally work jointly, and perhaps more closely than many currently do, to achieve competitive levels of PhD student satisfaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1053-1068
Number of pages17
JournalAssessment and Evaluation in Higher Education
Issue number7
Early online date3 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2019


  • PhD-doctoral student satisfaction
  • academic qualities
  • department
  • peers
  • supervisor
  • supportiveness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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