Doctoral capital and wellbeing amongst Australian PhD students: exploring capital and habitus of doctoral students

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Usher, Wayne
McCormack, Brittany
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The Higher Degree Research (HDR) journey is known for its difficulties, complexities, and challenges (Lees-Deutsch, 2020), with many students experiencing multi-faceted issues and concerns (Skopek, Triventi & Blossfeld, 2020). Therefore, the purpose of this research aims to investigate the relationships that exist between variables, vulnerability factors and doctorial capital of candidates (n = 532) studying at Australian universities (2019). A quantitative cross-sectional correlational research design and Bronfenbrenner’s socio – ecological framework (personal, home, university, community) was utilised to collect participants’ (n = 532) descriptive statistics. Bourdieu’s social reproduction theory was used as a lens to examine how experiences, across the PhD candidature, are influenced by several psychosocial factors and doctoral capital. From such a dual methodological approach, the findings from this study suggests that; 1) age, 2) gender, 3) nationality, 4) financial / work status, 5) years of PhD and 6) attending postgraduate (PG) student events, go to significantly (p < 0.001) impact (positively and negatively) on students’ experiences and correspondingly, impacts on their self-confidence, motivation and mental health and wellbeing status. Research limitations are related to the recruitment of more doctoral students across more Australian universities. Further research is required from HDR supervisors so as to 'balance' the experiences of the PhD journey in Higher Education. In order to succeed in academia and HDR programs, students need to identify with and develop the ‘right kind of capital’ to successfully navigate fields of social and scholarly play. Investigating how the participants perceive their social and scholarly habitus is seen as crucial in helping students to develop positive dispositions relevant to being a doctoral student. The concept of doctoral capital and wellbeing, amongst Australian PhD students, is under researched and requires further investigation as a precursor to developing more specific policy designs aimed at providing heightened positive learning environments / HDR programs tailored to support doctoral students. Whilst reforms to improve PhD experiences are well established across the international literature (Geven, Skopek & Triventi, 2018; Skopek et al., 2020), evidence for Australia is largely missing. It is envisaged, that findings from this research will further assist in the development of quality policies that would go to provide effective services and support for doctoral students within Australian universities.

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Health Education

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Usher, W; McCormack, B, Doctoral capital and wellbeing amongst Australian PhD students: exploring capital and habitus of doctoral students, Health Education Emerald Publishing, 2021