ENG | A Lesson for the Faculty
The campus has gotten crowded. The student population is growing rapidly and there simply aren’t enough funds available to provide close supervision to all thesis students. But even though times have changed, the system has not. Currently, much of the thesis procedure stems from the old days in which professors were able to keep close track of what the students where doing. Because of this intense supervision, the student could count on solid advise and strong direction – especially when things were not going well.
Today’s supervisors are typically too busy to provide the required amount of students with thorough supervision in various fields. As a consequence, many of those required to write a thesis do so indeterminately. They plunge into the deep unprepared and run into all kind of problems – problems that, in essence, are far from heterogeneous. And they all root in lack of supervision.
Because of the developments, several faculties offer ‘proposed topics’: professors can suggest several research topics and open up a couple slots for thesis students. This is a very efficient way to overcome the aforementioned problematics. With several students doing a similar research, the supervisor can use peer theses as benchmarks. In addition, saying the proposed topics are closely related to their own field of research, the supervisor is not required to become acquainted with a vaguely related field, which is good. Supervisors simply don’t have time to study alternative fields when that’s required for thorough supervision of the student.
The implementation of the new systems suggests understanding of the core purpose of having students write a thesis. Preparation – for an academic career or one in an alternative direction. Good preparation. For this, a thesis need not be original, nor need it be valuable to the field. It needs to be valuable to the student, as an experience. And so focus should be on the procedure, not on the ends. Graduation should be consequential to a well-prepared, well-executed, well-documented research, not to results or significance of the findings.
If faculties agree with the nature of the thesis and of good research, the system is better off when the ‘slot-system’ is fully and radically adopted and the option to freely choose topics is generally abandoned. It is fairly easy for a supervisor to assist twenty students doing exactly the same research. She can even make pairs within the pool and match poor performance with sound performance. Perhaps one student struggles with data, another with literature. A match could boost mutual performance, spur good research and relax supervisors.