University of Tasmania

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Doctoral student distress and progress - can mindfulness help?

Doctoral students have a high level of attrition, being between 30-50% in the UK, Australia and North America. To inform how doctoral students can be better supported in order to increase retention, performance and student satisfaction, this study had two aims. The first was to examine doctoral student experiences of stress related to candidature and their perceptions of study progress. This highlights the "student blend" between student welfare and study and how supporting one can benefit the other. The majority of PhD candidates (70%) who participated in the study reported they were meeting or mostly meeting their study schedule and these students had significantly greater psychological capital attribute (hope, resilience, self-efficacy and optimism) values compared to students who were categorised as being behind schedule. The biggest challenges in doctoral study reported were candidature- and project-related, with self-confidence and motivation of particular note. The second aim was to determine whether a self-help package could improve psychological indicators. Half of the participants were randomly allocated to an intervention consisting of a daily mindfulness practice for 8 weeks (supported by an audio resource) and half received no intervention. Preliminary findings indicate that the intervention led to a greater decrease in depression, stress and anxiety compared to the control group and an increase in the psychological capital attributes of hope, resilience and self-efficacy. The blend of support for student wellness and academic outcomes is important for student progress.


Publication title

Teaching Matters 2015: Tasmanian Blends


Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)

Event title

Teaching Matters 2015: Tasmanian Blends

Event Venue

Hobart, Australia

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Date of Event (End Date)


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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives


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