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Unisa online - Challenges for postgraduate students

Dr Wei Ho (Senior Lecturer: Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering), Dr Simon Dhlamini (Department of Physics) and Prof David Kruger (Senior Lecturer: Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering)

We often hear about the successes of postgraduate studies, but, we do not normally hear about the challenges and difficulties. The Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering under the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) held a seminar to address these challenges.

Dr Simon Dhlamini of the Physics Department highlighted some of the challenges that postgraduate students encounter, such as conflict, culture, distance, funding, language, management, time, and priority, to name a few.

He also emphasised two main factors that could lead to difficulties in the research process:

  • undefined or unstructured project or process (eg research proposal)
  • lack of guidance or information about what students should spend time on

He also stressed the responsibility that students should take on. Among these responsibilities are:

  • sustaining a positive supervisor-student relationship
  • agreeing on a mutually convenient schedule of meetings, attending meetings and keeping a written record of supervisory meetings
  • attending the research training programme, including seminars and conferences

He argued that “good working relationships make the journey even more enjoyable”. Moreover, to be successful in research, students need to learn to cope with criticism, actively seek it out, listen to valid, constructive criticism and ignore destructive and pointless criticism. He concluded by quoting Albert Einstein when he said: “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be research.”

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