“I’m not the only victim…” student perceptions of exploitative supervision relation in doctoral degree

Michelle W.T. CHENG*, Man Lai LEUNG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Drawing on a five-ethical principles framework, this study examines how the thirteen recruited doctoral students across disciplines in Hong Kong interpret the idea of and experience “exploitative supervision”. Findings reveal that doctoral students’ lived experiences of exploitation are expressed in five different themes: autonomy exploitation, justice exploitation, fidelity exploitation, beneficent exploitation, and non-maleficence exploitation. The phenomenon was scaffolded through a Foucauldian perspective on power relations. Varied understandings of academic exploitation among doctoral students point to an urgent need to take reference from the employment and labor law to outline the fundamental rights of doctoral students, set up a probation period for the matching of supervisor-supervisee, and establish a higher-level independent inquiry to handle academic exploitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-540
Number of pages18
JournalHigher Education
Issue number3
Early online date15 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The first author is the recipient of the Research Grants Council Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme (PDFS2021-8H01) funded by the University Grants Committee.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Academic supervision
  • Doctoral student
  • Exploitation
  • Higher education
  • Power


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