In knowledge-based economies, governments see universities as engines for change and expansion of prosperity. The work of postgraduate students constitutes a vital component of a university's research effort and contributes significantly to the institution's research profile. Since the quality of supervisory practice has a demonstrable effect on postgraduate outcomes (Cullen et al., 1994) it is in the interest of university's to reliably improve the efficacy of postgraduate supervision. High quality supervision facilitates students in fulfilling their potential which, in turn, enhances the institution's research reputation. In a beneficent cycle, high calibre students are attracted by a reputation for excellent supervision and a strong research profile.

Effective supervision of research degree candidates is a complex multi-factorial process that encompasses issues at all levels from that of individual students and supervisors, to available infrastructural support, to institutional and governmental policies, structures and procedures. Numerous factors have been identified in the literature as significant predictors of candidate completion. These include attendance status (part- or full-time), availability of research funding, age, prior completion of an honours degree, discipline (sciences or humanities), gender, research topic suitability, the intellectual environment of the department, and access to appropriate equipment and computers (Rodwell and Neumann, 2007; Bourke et al., 2004; Seagram et al., 1998; Wright and Cochrane, 2000; Gasson and Reyes, 2004; Acker et al., 1994; Latona and Browne, 2001; Pearson and Brew, 2002).


In order to maintain a tractable scope and provide a useful starting point for more ambitious investigations this literature review focuses primarily on research that evaluates and models the factors that influence the...