Bente Jensen, Professor with Special Responsibilities, Danish School of Education

What’s the advantage of writing your thesis in collaboration with a Company?

“Students feel that the work they’re doing is very relevant. They also gain insight into and knowledge of the kind of company they might want to work for in future. Last but not least, I think the students love being part of the practical world of a private or public company, where they can help to develop ideas and contribute something that their host organisation can use.”

What does it take to supervise this kind of thesis?

“I think the link between theory and practice, as well as studies linking theory and theoretical perspectives to the development and change of organisations, are very inspiring. For instance, one of the Master’s theses I’m supervising at the moment deals with my own field of research, which is the public sector and childcare centres and processes of change in particular. So in this area I can offer special guidance. But it’s also inspiring to supervise Master’s theses in which students collaborate with companies. For instance, it’s great to supervise a thesis that shifts constantly between academic theory on the one hand, and relevance for the world around us on the other.”

Is it different from supervising a standard thesis?

“As a supervisor, it’s important to make sure that the thesis meets the goals of a standard thesis without losing sight of the fact that it must also be relevant for the world of practice. This makes the supervision process interesting, but it is also demanding for the student and the supervisor because it requires them to stay focused.

Like any other Master’s thesis, a thesis produced in collaboration with a company must live up to the academic quality criteria. But a thesis produced in collaboration with a company is different because it’s linked to a specific practice. A standard thesis is often more focused on theory and doesn’t need to adopt a practical perspective. In terms of quality, there’s no difference between the two types of thesis. It’s also meaningful for the students to see that their theoretical work is relevant in the real world; and that the things that go on in the real world can be understood from a theoretical perspective. The academic outcome of this type of thesis is the same. In fact, the link between theory and practice might even give it a boost. I think that research and practice become really relevant when the two things go hand in hand.”

How involved are you in the start-up phase of the thesis process? Are there any points you need to be particularly aware of?

“The students usually find the company they want to collaborate with themselves. But the extent of my involvement as a supervisor varies from one company to the next. I think it’s a good idea for the supervisor to confirm that students are doing their thesis in collaboration with a particular company. As a supervisor, it’s important to make sure that there is a balance between the students’ wish to appear interesting and help the company with their ideas and thoughts, and the need to produce a thesis that meets the academic requirements. In this respect, the supervisor must constantly remind the student that the top priority is for the thesis to meet the academic requirements.”

Extract from an interview with Bente Jensen, Professor with Special Responsibilities, Danish School of Education