A supervisor’s account of reviewing literature review by candidates from different cultural backgrounds
There is a whole lot of dilemma linked with being a supervisor to students from different cultures. It is understandable that these students must be feeling perplexed, lonely and confused in their Ph.D. journey. As a supervisor, with a humane touch one would want to do everything that is reasonable enough to help, but then there is always some ambiguity about the best way to help, and with so many responsibilities attached, a supervisor is always short of time and energy, both.
With varied experience in my kitty, and all that I have seen around, I feel that prospective supervisors should be given a choice to accept or not a student who belongs to a diverse cultural background. This holds all the more weight when one talks about semantic barriers, such as the scholar and supervisor not being comfortable on the grounds of language. In universities and institutes who have big monetary motives often don’t say no to applying scholars as they don’t consider these challenges significant in front of the money that is coming to them.
As a supervisor you much check in prior to accepting that whether you are in a position to offer support that needs to be given to the scholar. Sometimes, I have also had to face rudeness from the scholar who belonged to another culture. To be explained better, because of cultural differences, certain behaviour of the scholar seems unacceptable in our culture. For example, getting late for appointments, or looking into the eyes and talking. All these may be signs of normal behaviour in some culture but at the same time signalling rudeness or impoliteness in some. If you are facing anything such, you must do what I did. Explain to the scholar in a tactful manner the changes in the culture that need to be adopted certainly.
Yet another dilemma faced during handling cross cultural scholars is the correction of work and telling them their mistakes. The usage of appropriate words and vocabulary matching the standards of the culture are certain challenges that are difficult to comprehend by the scholar. One needs to devote a lot of time and energy on perpetual basis, trying to do this. This may sometimes make scholars believe it is actually a part of the supervisor’s job but that is not possible, and then further conflicts or differences may arise, which sometimes may get out of control.