Doctoral and master’s supervision: Does preference for research versus teaching really make a difference?

  • C.W. Callaghan School of Economic and Business Sciences University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg


Longstanding debates exist across literatures as to potential consequences of preferences for teaching versus research for a host of academic work outcomes. Seemingly absent from the literature, however, is evidence of the effect of such preferences on academic outputs, such as master’s and doctoral supervisions, and the extent these preferences and their effects are gendered. Applying a comprehensive purposive sampling strategy, a large South African higher institution was sampled. Structural equation models were used, with tests of path invariance to test for gender moderation, as well as further tests of such preferences as mediators of relationships between certain academic productivity variables (research publications output, academic experience, preference for quantitative versus qualitative research methods, and family-work spiller effects), and master’s or doctoral supervisions. Findings suggest that men with an oppositional preference for teaching (research) report significantly higher (lower) numbers of successful master’s supervisions. No difference in master’s supervisions was found by gender, but men were found to have significantly higher numbers of doctoral supervisions. Dependent children are found to be associated with more master’s degree supervisions, but only for male academics. However, total publications output is more strongly associated with master’s supervision for female academics. Academic experience is significantly associated with numbers of doctoral supervisions only for male academics. Implications of these findings are discussed, and recommendations are made. 


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

C.W. Callaghan, School of Economic and Business Sciences University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Chris Callaghan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Management and Human Resources Management of the School of Economic and Business Sciences (SEBS) at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Director of the Knowledge and Information Economics/Human Resources Research Agency (KIEHRA) in the School.


Albertyn, R. M., Kapp, C. A. and Bitzer, E. M. 2008. Profiling exiting postgraduate students’ performance and experiences. South African Journal of Higher Education 22(4):749-772.

Anastasi, A. 1990. Psychological Testing. 6th ed. New York: Macmillan.

Arvey, R. D., Bouchard, T. J., Segal, N. L. and Abraham, L. M. 1989. Job Satisfaction: Environmental and Genetic Components. Journal of Applied Psychology 74(2): 187-192.

Aspland, T., Edwards, H., O’Leary, J. and Ryan, Y. 1999. Tracking new directions in the evaluation of postgraduate supervision. Innovative Higher Education, 24(2): 127-147.

ASSAf 2010. The PHD Study. An evidence-based study on how to meet the demands for high-level skills in an emerging economy. Academy of Science of South Africa. September. Available at: [Accessed 13 June 2013].

Baliamoune–Lutz, M. and McGillivray, M. 2015. The impact of gender inequality in education on income in Africa and the Middle East. Economic Modelling, 47:1-11.

Bandiera, O. and Natraj, A. 2013. Does gender inequality hinder development and economic growth? Evidence and policy implications. The World Bank Research Observer, lks012.

Barbezat, D. A. 2006. Gender differences in research patterns among PhD economists. Journal of Economic Education 37(3): 359-375.

Becker, G. S. 1964. Human Capital. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bitzer, E. M. 2011. Knowledge with wisdom is postgraduate studies and supervision: Epistemological and institutional concerns and challenges. South African Journal of Higher Education 25(5):855-874.

Booi, M., Vincent, L. and Liccardo, S. 2017. Counting on demographic equity to transform institutional cultures at historically white South African universities? Higher Education Research & Development 36(3): 498-510.

Branisa, B., Klasen, S., Ziegler, M., Drechsler, D. and Jütting, J. 2014. The institutional basis of gender inequality: The Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI). Feminist Economics 20(2): 29-64.

Brown, C. and Czerniewicz, L. 2010. Debunking the ‘digital native’: Beyond digital apartheid, towards digital democracy. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 26: 357-369.

Browne, M.W. and Cudeck, R. 1993. Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In Bollen, K.A. and Long, J.S. [Eds.] Testing structural equation models. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 136–162.

Byrne, B. M. 2010. Structural equation modeling with Amos: Basic concepts, applications, and programming, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Taylor and Francis Group.

Callaghan, C.W. 2015. Designation differences and academic career progression. Acta Commercii 15(1): 1-12.

Callaghan, C.W. 2016. ‘Publish or perish’: Family life and academic research productivity. South African Journal of Human Resources Management 14(1): 1-9.

Callaghan, C.W. 2017. Motivational values and gendered research performance. Acta Commercii 17(2):1-12.

Cascio, W. F. and Aguinis, H. 2011. Applied psychology in human resource management. New Jersey: Pearson.

Dilworth, J. E. L. 2004. Predictors of negative spillover from family to work. Journal of Family Issues 25:241-261.

Dilworth, J. E. and Kingsbury, N. 2005. Home-to-Job spillover for Generation X, boomers, and matures: A comparison. Journal of Family and Economic Issues 26(2): 267-281.

Eboiyehi, C. O., Fayomi, I. and Eboiyehi, F. A. 2016. From exclusion to discrimination: Gender inequality in the senior management of Nigerian universities. Issues in Educational Research 26(2): 182-205.

Edwards, A. L. 1984. An Introduction to linear regression and correlation. 2nd ed. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.

Grow, A. and Van Bavel, J.V. 2015. Assortative mating and the reversal of gender inequality in education in Europe: An agent-based model. PloS one 10.6: e0127806.

Hattie, J., and Marsh, H. W. 1996. The relationship between research and teaching: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research 66(4): 507-542.

Hayden, E. C. 2016. South African universities awash in political turmoil. Nature 535(7611): 207-208.

Hooper, D., Coughlan, J. and Mullen, M. 2008. Structural equation modelling: Guidelines for determining model fit. Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods 6(1): 53-60.

Kenny, D.A. 2015. Measuring model fit. Available at: [Accessed 28 February 2017]

Kruss, G., Haupt, G. and Visser, M. 2016. ‘Luring the academic soul’: Promoting academic engagement in South African universities. Higher Education Research & Development 35(4): 755-771.

Luckett, T. and Mzobe, D. 2016. #OutsourcingMustFall: The role of workers in the 2015 protest wave at South African universities. Global Labour Journal, 7(1):1.

Morales, M. P. E., Avilla, R. A. and Espinosa, A. A. 2016. Does gender inequality influence interest in pursuing a career in science or mathematics teaching? Issues in Educational Research 26(1): 65-81.

Mouton, J. 2007. Post-graduate studies in South Africa: Myths, misconceptions and challenges. South African Journal of Higher Education 21(8):1078-1090.

Nielsen, M. W. 2016. Gender inequality and research performance: Moving beyond individual-meritocratic explanations of academic advancement. Studies in Higher Education 41(11): 2044-2060.

Nonaka, I. 1994. A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation. Organization Science 5(1): 14-37.

Polanyi, M. 1973. Personal knowledge: Toward a post-critical philosophy. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Reilly, A., Jones, D., Rey Vasquez, C. and Krisjanous, J. 2016. Confronting gender inequality in a business school. Higher Education Research & Development 35(5): 1025-1038.

Romer, P.M. 1994. The origins of endogenous growth. Journal of Economic Perspectives 8(1): 3-22.

Schmitt, N. and Drasgow, F. 2002. Applied Problems and Methods of Analysis. In Drasgow, F., Schmitt, N. (eds). Measuring and analysing behavior in organisations: Advances in measurement and data analysis. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Stevens, S. S. 1946. On the theory of scales of measurement. Science 103(2684): 677-680.

Waghid, Y. 2011. Initiating debate. On Cavellian scepticism and postgraduate student supervision. South African Journal of Higher Education 25(3): 393-396.

Wild, S. 2016. Violence escalates at South African universities. Nature 538(7626): 440-441.

Winberg, C. 2009. Engineers are from Mars and educators are from Venus: Research supervision in engineering and educational collaboration. South African Journal of Higher Education 23(1):205-217.

Zippel, K., Ferree, M. M. and Zimmermann, K. 2016. Gender equality in German universities: Vernacularising the battle for the best brains. Gender and Education 28(7): 867-885.

How to Cite
Callaghan, C.W. 2018. “Doctoral and master’s Supervision: Does Preference for Research Versus Teaching Really Make a Difference?”. South African Journal of Higher Education 32 (2), 43-64.
General Articles