Bond University
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Abstract

There is growing attention in the educational literature on the role of postgraduate student research groups in Higher Degree Research (HDR) student learning and experience. Yet, there is little research specifically on law HDR students, including research on the factors key in successful development and sustainability of HDR groups in law. This article focuses on the institutional and disciplinary framing of postgraduate research student groups. It considers how academic involvement in these groups might be both limiting and productive and asks how the contours of legal scholarly inquiry might impact on students’ engagement in an interdisciplinary HDR group and on its sustainability. Given an absence of literature and empirical research specifically within the legal discipline, the article draws on empirical data from surveys and interviews we conducted to identify factors promoting postgraduate student group sustainability. HDR students surveyed indicated a strong desire for academic involvement. This may reflect a desire for longevity and stability in groups, but also a need for continuation or reiteration of the traditional “master-apprentice” type relationship between student and academic that has traditionally characterised HDR pedagogy. Alternatively this may signal a perceived need by HDR students to establish pathways for professional engagement with academics as a vehicle for transition and socialisation into the scholarly community. Although impermanence is a particular challenge given the transient nature of student populations and the sometimes onerous administrative burden placed on coordinators of groups, the development of academic independence in students is also vital to achieving sustainability. Further in light of the legal discipline’s particular tendencies towards isolationism and reductionism we consider whether successful strategies for longevity utilised by interdisciplinary groups, primarily from the humanities, might be successfully applied to a group based within the law faculty.

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