Conceptualising doctoral researcher training through Bernstein's theoretical frameworks

Barbara Crossouard (Department of Education, The University of Sussex, Falmer, UK)

International Journal for Researcher Development

ISSN: 2048-8696

Publication date: 11 November 2013



The purpose of this paper is to present a theoretically-informed analysis of an exploratory study which included a focus on postdoctoral researchers' views of their training needs.


The wider mixed-methods study was focused on post-doctoral career trajectories at a time of ongoing policy interest in doctoral education. Bernstein's theoretical perspectives are used to illuminate the data, particularly his concepts of classification and regionalisation.


Respondents' reflections on their doctoral training showed a much stronger appreciation of training which was based in disciplinary practices, even if these were subject to regionalisation, as opposed to more generic professional skills training.

Research limitations/implications

The small scale and exploratory nature of the study is recognised, as well as the need for more independent research in this area.

Practical implications

The study has implications for the nature of the training provided as part of doctoral education. First, it is argued that this should include more explicit discussion of policy shifts relating to doctoral education. Second, rather than being glossed over in the imposition of generic competency frameworks (conceptualised through Bernstein as a generic performance mode), researcher training should attend closely to the social and cultural base of the skills and practices of different regions of knowledge production, at the same time as recognising these to be fluid and dynamic.


Overall, while recognised as exploratory, the study aims to contribute insights on doctoral graduates' perspectives on researcher training as well as suggesting the usefulness of Bernstein's theoretical framework for understanding the reconstruction of doctoral education in the UK.



The author would like to thank the Society for Research into Higher Education for their support for the research drawn on in this article.


Crossouard, B. (2013), "Conceptualising doctoral researcher training through Bernstein's theoretical frameworks", International Journal for Researcher Development, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 72-85.

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