PhD probation

posted
21-Dec-11, 19:22
Avatar for PhDstruck
posted about 6 years ago
======= Date Modified 21 Dec 2011 21:24:10 =======
======= Date Modified 21 Dec 2011 19:27:44 =======
======= Date Modified 21 Dec 2011 19:26:12 =======
I am nearly 3 years into my PhD, all seemed OK with my supervisors until recently when it came to light that I have not had as much supervision as I ought to have had, in my recent progress report which they failed to comment on (because they were both not available to check their e-mails for some reason in the whole of the summer) before I submitted it to my dept. My sups have ticked me as 'unsatisfactory' for the very first time, and asked that I resubmit my report. The second submission was accepted without amendment. Then I was asked to submit two chapters of my thesis (April will be the 3rd year of my registration). Instead of giving me feedback, my sups have asked that I be put on probation for 6 months starting from January 2012.

has anyone ever been in this sort of situation before? How does being on probation affect my progress?

Any suggestions/advice is most welcome!!
The background story...

In my university, PhD students are required to submit a yearly progress report (to monitor up to date PhD progress). In addition to the yearly report is a quarterly progress report where tasks are set by the sups for the student to achieve within a three to four month period. In my case, I had met all my targets which did not include the yearly report because it was not due in until 6 months after the last supervision I had.

However, nearing the due date of my yearly report, I sent a copy (via e-mail) to my sups in the summer so I could get their feedback and work on the report. they did not get back to me and I didn't have any supervision for three months. So after submitting my yearly report to my dept (which would have been assessed by a PG tutor and a head of Dept. My main sup called for a supervision meeting where we would have to agree on the tasks for the next few months. In this form, I would have to state whether or not I had received 'enough supervision in the last three months'. I had ticked 'no' because I hadn't received any supervision in 'the last three months'. My sup had ticked 'unsatisfactory' progress. He explained that I would have to resubmit my report to them (sups) instead of the dept. I did. Report was accepted without further amendment.

We had another supervision where he stated that I would have to submit two 'good' chapters of my work by last week. I did. I went in today for supervision and feedback, but sups said they have to put me on probation starting Jan-Jun 2012. This is why I'm confused and want to hear from people who have been through this sort of situation. What does this mean? End of the road? I hope not!
posted
21-Dec-11, 19:40
edited about 29 seconds later
by Delta 4 star member
Avatar for Delta
posted about 6 years ago
When you say, "it came to light that I have not had as much supervision as I ought to have had" is that your opinion, what your sups have said or what another party has said?

It is a poor show that they didn't comment on your progress report but I'm confused because you say they have ticked you as 'unsatisfactory' and asked you to resubmit the report. Did they or didn't they comment on your report?

I think it's also a poor show that you submitted two chapters yet received no feedback and were then put on probation. More positively, you're 3 years in and so they'll be anxious to get you through it and probation (although this is only my opinion) might suggest that they intend to keep a closer eye on your progress. Sounds like a back covering exercise but they and the University will be working to get you through the PhD so hopefully you reach a successful conclusion.
posted
21-Dec-11, 20:19
edited about 17 seconds later
Avatar for PhDstruck
posted about 6 years ago
Hi Delta,

Thanks for your input...

In my university, PhD students are required to submit a yearly progress report (to monitor up to date PhD progress). In addition to the yearly report is a quaterly progress report where tasks are set by the sups for the student to acheive within a three to four month period. In my case, I had met all my targets which did not inlude the yearly report because it was not due in until 6 months after the last supervision I had.

However, nearing the due date of my yearly report, I sent a copy (via e-mail) to my sups in the summer so I could get their feedback and work on the report. they did not get back to me and I didn't have any supervision for three months. So after submiting my yearly report to my dept (which would have been assessed by a PG tutor and a head of Dept. My main sup called for a supervision meeting where we would have to agree on the tasks for the next few months. In this form, I would have to state whether or not I had recieved 'enough supervision in the last three months'. I had ticked 'no' because I hadn't recieved any supervision in 'the last three months'. My sup had ticked 'unsatisfactory' progress. He explained that I would have to resubmit my report to them (sups) instead of the dept. I did. Report was accepted without further amendment.

We had another supervision where he stated that I would have to submit two 'good' chapters of my work by last week. I did. I went in today for supervision and feedback, but sups said they have to put me on probation starting Jan-Jun 2012. This is why I'm confused and want to hear from people who have been through this sort of situation. What does this mean? End of the road? I hope not!
posted
21-Dec-11, 21:16
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 6 years ago
Hi, to be honest with you, this sounds like they did not appreciate you ticking the 'not enough supervision' box. The result of your report probably went to the head of the department and they were more than likely not pleased with your supervisors for not undertaking your supervision properly. Like Delta said, they are probably just covering their backs.

If I were you I would just ask the direct questn of how well they think you are doing and whether this probation means you are not on target. The cynic in me says that this could be their way of getting you back for stating lack of supervision but you know your supervisors and hopefully they wouldn't be the sort of people who would do that!
posted
21-Dec-11, 21:59
edited about 9 seconds later
by DGold 1 star member
Avatar for DGold
posted about 6 years ago
Something doesn't look right! I think I agree with others. Your sups are meant to give you feedback and help you through your PhD with constructive feedback. However, it seems like they're taking the place of examiners. Strange one, but please hang in there, you've come this far!!
posted
21-Dec-11, 22:06
by lughna 3 star member
Avatar for lughna
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From Treeoflife:

The cynic in me says that this could be their way of getting you back for stating lack of supervision but you know your supervisors and hopefully they wouldn't be the sort of people who would do that!
Unfortunately this was my thought too. Of course, this would be an awful outcome - since the purpose of such internal mechanisms is to give the candidate an opportunity to note these things. Hopefully you will get an explanation. Surely you are entitled as to a reason for your probation?

Try not to be disheartened though: you seem to have put a lot of work in recently and just because you are on probation doesn't mean that you can't keep doing the same. Be strong.
(up)
posted
21-Dec-11, 23:00
by Delta 4 star member
Avatar for Delta
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From Treeoflife:

To be honest with you, this sounds like they did not appreciate you ticking the 'not enough supervision' box.


I'm inclined to agree if they were able to see the box you ticked. Difficult to say without knowing your supervisors but it sounds as though it's their way of slapping your wrists while protecting their backs. It would be bad practice if they could see what you write about them. I would think it should be confidential.

However, going back to a point I made previously, you're nearly three years in and it's in their interests to see you complete and pass as it reflects very badly on them if you don't and so try to keep this in mind. I think you'll be OK for that very reason and they might even tighten their game as well. Keep your head down, continue to work hard and let us know how you get on.
(up)
posted
22-Dec-11, 05:10
edited about 5 seconds later
by wwwen
Avatar for wwwen
posted about 6 years ago
======= Date Modified 22 Dec 2011 09:41:34 =======
============= Edited by a Moderator =============
posted
22-Dec-11, 16:37
edited about 5 seconds later
by olivia 3 star member
Avatar for olivia
posted about 6 years ago
I agree that it sounds like a back covering exercise. This is an unfortunate position for you to be in and I sympathise with how upsetting and frustrating this must be for you. It is bad form if supervisors can see what you ticked-- but in my own experience, my supervisor could see any remarks I made about supervision, and I was asked in his presence if I was happy with things. What other answer was there to give but "yes" whether it was true or not.

Have you considered challenging the decision to put you on probation?

Other than that you might ask for the particulars of what and where and how your progress was not satisfactory. If you do not understand what they view as to being up to the mark, how on earth can you fix it? I would ask to be presented with a detailed list of benchmarks or areas where your work has fallen short, so that you can be sure to addresss this in your future work. I would ask for frequent written feedback on the work you are developing and submitting during the course of this probationary period.

I am aware of similiar things happening to students. They are in the end, now Dr Whomever, having successfully submitted and passed their vivas.

Unfortunately academia is rife with bizarre and unbridled politics that have no bearing on the actual quality and merits of work being done. One can get the sense of being in a minefield, where any step taken is likely to result in an explosion, and yet, to take no step is to become utterly paralysed and unable to carry on.

You might think of taking the initiative and in a very constructive way, ask for a meeting with the supervisor(s) to review their decision to put you on probation, to ask for detailed benchmarks on where your previous work has fallen short and what they will expect ( in detail) for your chapters to meet their standards. And then ask for them to agree to intermittent comment and review along the way so that you know if you are on the right track. At a minimum, this is what supervision should supply in any event, probation or no.

Good luck.

posted
23-Dec-11, 09:16
Avatar for cplusplusgirl
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From olivia:

ask for the particulars of what and where and how your progress was not satisfactory. If you do not understand what they view as to being up to the mark, how on earth can you fix it? I would ask to be presented with a detailed list of benchmarks or areas where your work has fallen short, so that you can be sure to addresss this in your future work. I would ask for frequent written feedback on the work you are developing and submitting during the course of this probationary period.
<----------------THIS!

You've said you received inadequate supervision over the summer (holidays essentially) and so have been put into a period of closer supervision. Essentially, they are doing what you have asked of them (albeit naming it a probationary period won't sound that great to anyone given it).

Take the bull by the horns and get some control back into YOUR phd. Find out where things are considered inadequate. This level of supervision is actually a great way of getting a thesis written WELL, and if you handle the constructive critiscm in the right way, you'll be full steam ahead to receiving your phd quicker than you thought.
:-)
posted
24-Dec-11, 01:13
Avatar for PhDstruck
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From cplusplusgirl:

[quote]Quote From olivia:

ask for the particulars of what and where and how your progress was not satisfactory. If you do not understand what they view as to being up to the mark, how on earth can you fix it? I would ask to be presented with a detailed list of benchmarks or areas where your work has fallen short, so that you can be sure to addresss this in your future work. I would ask for frequent written feedback on the work you are developing and submitting during the course of this probationary period.
<----------------THIS!

You've said you received inadequate supervision over the summer (holidays essentially) and so have been put into a period of closer supervision.  Essentially, they are doing what you have asked of them (albeit naming it a probationary period won't sound that great to anyone given it).

Take the bull by the horns and get some control back into YOUR phd.  Find out where things are considered inadequate. This level of supervision is actually a great way of getting a thesis written WELL, and if you handle the constructive critiscm in the right way, you'll be full steam ahead to receiving your phd quicker than you thought.
:-)
[/You've said you received inadequate supervision over the summer (holidays essentially) and so have been put into a period of closer supervision.  Essentially, they are doing what you have asked of them (albeit naming it a probationary period won't sound that great to anyone given it]

Hiya CPPG,

I see what you mean, but telling them that I have not had enough supervision didn't mean I was asking for a probation or was I :) )? May I quickly add that I have had 3 supervision from January to June and nothing from June to October.

Anyway, back to the status quo, I had a look at the student handbook and found that FT students can only get an initial three month probation (which may be extended following unsatisfactory progress) and PT student, an initial six month probation (which may be extended following unsatisfactory progress). I am FT and as I mentioned before, this is the first time that I'm finding myself in this sort of situation. Now I'm beginning to wonder why six months and not three months? Yes I am worried and I am beginning to think that perhaps I need a change of university!

I need more suggestions, for those of you who have already contributed please feel free to say as much as you can. I may think a change of university is a good idea, however, like CPPG have said, the probation period may just be the best way to getting a quality thesis out of me :$
posted
24-Dec-11, 13:36
Avatar for PhDstruck
posted about 6 years ago
sORRY all, but I seriously do not know how this 'quote' thing works!

Anyway, back to the status quo, I had a look at the student handbook and found that FT students can only get an initial three month probation (which may be extended following unsatisfactory progress) and PT student, an initial six month probation (which may be extended following unsatisfactory progress). I am FT and as I mentioned before, this is the first time that I'm finding myself in this sort of situation. Now I'm beginning to wonder why six months and not three months? Yes I am worried and I am beginning to think that perhaps I need a change of university!

I need more suggestions, for those of you who have already contributed please feel free to say as much as you can. I may think a change of university is a good idea, however, like CPPG have said, the probation period may just be the best way to getting a quality thesis out of me
:$
posted
27-Dec-11, 18:27
edited about 29 seconds later
Avatar for TwankyPhD
posted about 6 years ago
i would be going above their heads if i were in your position!
posted
27-Dec-11, 21:42
by Delta 4 star member
Avatar for Delta
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From TwankyPhD:

i would be going above their heads if i were in your position!


In my experience, this would not be a wise move. When challenged people often adopt a pack mentality and they'll look after what they see as their own. It's not right, it's not fair but very sadly it's part of life. I've been there and so I know. PhDstruck, keep your head down but chin up, work hard and deliver the goods. If only for their own agenda and careers your supervisors will want you to pass. Honestly, it reflects badly on them if you don't and try to remember that.
(up)
posted
27-Dec-11, 22:06
edited about 7 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From phdstruck:

sORRY all, but I seriously do not know how this 'quote' thing works!

Anyway, back to the status quo, I had a look at the student handbook and found that FT students can only get an initial three month probation (which may be extended following unsatisfactory progress) and PT student, an initial six month probation (which may be extended following unsatisfactory progress). I am FT and as I mentioned before, this is the first time that I'm finding myself in this sort of situation. Now I'm beginning to wonder why six months and not three months? Yes I am worried and I am beginning to think that perhaps I need a change of university!

I need more suggestions, for those of you who have already contributed please feel free to say as much as you can. I may think a change of university is a good idea, however, like CPPG have said, the probation period may just be the best way to getting a quality thesis out of me
:$


Hi,  I used to work as a bank manager so have a lot of experience with this sort of thing in a work setting. Probation periods are used for 2 reasons: to manage up or manage out.  In other words, to assist you to complete your PhD or to prevent you from completing it (because you are not 'good enough'). From your previous posts, I would suggest that it's unjustly the latter.  However, the fact that they have gone against the rules laid out in the handbook is good news for you - they are only allowed to put a Ft student on 3 months probation not 6.

My advice to you firstly is to just ask your supervisors why you are on probation - is it because they think you are not good enough to complete or is it simply that they are ensuring you are getting adequate supervision?

If this doesn't give you a satisfactory answer, then speak to your HR department or student relations etc, or look at the information on your university website designed for your supervisors because they are not allowed to put you on probation for 6 months and once you point this out to them via HR they should reverse this decision.  You will probably have to take out a grievance against your supervisors if they refuse to lift the probation and you still think it's not fair. This is obviously worse case scenario because this will detrimentally effect your student/supervisor relationship even further.

Alternatively you can do what other people have suggested - knuckle down and work hard and prove your supervisors wrong (ie you are good enough to pass your PhD).  This would work in a regulated work environment but I'm not so sure about a university...
PM me if you want if you think I can help further.

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