University of Oulu

Löfström, E., Peltonen, J., Frick, L. et al. Profiles of doctoral students’ experience of ethics in supervision: an inter-country comparison. High Educ 86, 617–636 (2023).

Profiles of doctoral students’ experience of ethics in supervision : an inter-country comparison

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Author: Löfström, Erika1; Peltonen, Jouni2; Frick, Liezel3;
Organizations: 1Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
2Department of Educational Sciences and Teacher Education, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3Centre for Higher and Adult Education, Faculty of Education, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
4Rectorate, and School of Digital Technologies, Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-11-02


The purpose of this study was to examine variation in doctoral students’ experiences of ethics in doctoral supervision and how these experiences are related to research engagement, burnout, satisfaction, and intending to discontinue PhD studies. Data were collected from 860 doctoral students in Finland, Estonia, and South Africa. Four distinct profiles of ethics experience in doctoral supervision were identified, namely students puzzled by the supervision relationship, strugglers in the ethical landscape, seekers of ethical allies, and students with ethically trouble-free experiences. The results show that the profiles were related to research engagement, satisfaction with supervision and studies, and burnout. Not experiencing any major ethical problems in supervision was associated with experiencing higher engagement and satisfaction with supervision and doctoral studies and low levels of exhaustion and cynicism. Similar profiles were identified across the countries, yet with different emphases. Both Estonian and South African PhD students were overrepresented in the profile of students with ethically trouble-free experiences, while the Finnish students were underrepresented in this profile. The Finnish PhD students were overrepresented among the seekers of ethical allies. Profiles provide information that can alert supervisors and administrators about the extent of the risk of burnout or discontinuing of PhD studies based on students’ negative experiences of the ethics in supervision.

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Series: Higher education
ISSN: 0018-1560
ISSN-E: 1573-174X
ISSN-L: 0018-1560
Volume: 86
Issue: 3
Pages: 617 - 636
DOI: 10.1007/s10734-022-00917-6
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Funding: Open access funding provided by University of Helsinki including Helsinki University Central Hospital.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2022, corrected publication 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit