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Reflections on the Supervision of Postgraduate Research: The Students’ Voices in an Open Distance Learning (ODL) Context

Mncedisi Christian Maphalala, Nhlanhla Mpofu


Since the dawn of democracy in 1994 there has been a proliferation of postgraduate programmes aimed at responding to the social, economic and political needs of the country. This has led to an increase in the number of students enrolling for postgraduate programmes in South Africa. Some students successfully complete their studies, while others eventually drop out without attaining their chosen qualifications owing to various factors they encounter on their research journey. This study sought to determine postgraduate students’ experiences in terms of the educational and research experience at Unisa; the support services and funding; quality of access to facilities; and initiation into the community of researchers. Theoretically, the study was underpinned by ergonomics theory. To answer the research questions, the study followed a concurrent mixed method design. The study’s participants were 78 postgraduate students at Unisa who had volunteered to be part of the study. A self-constructed questionnaire and semi-structured interviews were used to collect data. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics while qualitative data used inductive thematic analysis. The findings indicate that students have a variety of experiences, both negative and positive, in their postgraduate studies.


distance learning; dropout causes; open distance learning (ODL); postgraduate studies; research supervisions; scholarship

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