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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Holmes, P., Reynolds, J. & Chaplin, M. (2019). Case study: Durham University. In The doctorate as experience in Europe and beyond: Supervision, languages, identities. Byram, M. & Stoicheva, M. London: Routledge. 52-88.

Author(s) from Durham


In this case study, the experience of doctoral study in the United Kingdom (UK) is examined from the perspectives of both doctoral researchers and doctoral supervisors in the arts, humanities and social sciences at Durham University. Based on the reports of participants, the key themes of supervision, language and identity emerge as central to the UK doctoral experience. The chapter first contextualizes the research by setting out an overview of the processes and policies governing doctoral study at Durham. It then presents the case study, in which semi-structured interviews with 11 doctoral researchers and six supervisors from various departments were carried out, transcribed and thematically analyzed. Analysis reveals that the doctoral experience at Durham is highly bespoke, with variability in the experience of supervision deriving from the wide range of personal and professional circumstances of both doctoral researchers and supervisors. As regards language, the findings emphasize the dominance of English and the importance of learning the academic language and stylistic conventions of researchers’ disciplines. Linked into the two themes of supervision and language, the case study reveals the Durham doctoral experience as a journey of academic and personal identity development in which both doctoral researchers and supervisors are intimately engaged.

School of Education