Spotlight on: Supervisions – The Supervisor’s Perspective

Students on PKP normally take three academic courses during the programme, but it is also possible to do an independent supervision in place of one of the three courses.  The supervision is a wonderful opportunity to research a topic in depth and to be guided in this work by an expert in Cambridge.  Dr Damien Freeman was one of the supervisors on the 2016 Pembroke-King’s Programme, and he oversaw the Philosophy project that Kaden worked on.  Dr Freeman had this to say about the supervision process and the relationship between supervisor and student.

Supervisions are great preparations for doing dissertations and are often inspired by students’ personal or academic interest in a subject with a deep desire to find out more. In the case of Kaden, he had read a lot of philosopher Peter Singer’s work and wanted to work on answering critics of what Kaden calls his ‘theory of beneficence’, Dr Freeman had to then help him tease out the issues and the questions to encourage him to revisit the stuff he had read in a different way.

As Dr Freeman said, the job of a supervisor is to “observe the direction and offer guidance. It is not about orders and commands.” Therefore each week he asks questions of Kaden to encourage him to elaborate or expand on a point or to re-evaluate why he thinks a point is important as what is important varies from person to person.

The most important thing about a supervision is that students go into them with a flexible plan because the focus will invariably change and develop as the research continues. Kaden’s original focus on Peter Singer for instance became a broader look into why the question of poverty is important and also how Thomas Pogge, another philosopher, deals with the problem differently to Peter Singer.

Overall, the experience of a supervision should leave you with more confidence, especially when the supervisor values what you’ve done.

“If you rise to the challenge of a supervision, it’s pretty rewarding”


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