Signup date: 18 Feb 2015 at 4:39pm
Last login: 26 Nov 2020 at 4:20pm
Post count: 51
You are right to be looking at exit strategies, sadly. You've done the right thing by insisting on time to focus on study, allowing these problems to be identified; but there's no quick or surefire solution.
Having supervised a PhD with a small company before, I've seen these issues and it put me off working with SMEs towards the 'very small' end of the scale, funding a PhD.
On the one hand, yes they do pay the fees/stipend. But this is also a cheap, tax/NI free, talented member of staff if they abuse the system by giving that person a load of unrelated work. They may well have entered into it with the best of intentions, but with 10 people they don't have the capacity to reliably guarantee you'll not get repeatedly drafted in to solve problems elsewhere. Covid has probably exacerbated this, as the shifting financial situation of the company will also be a factor in whether something behind schedule is well-managed or an all-hands-on-deck panic.
I'm sure your supervisor does have a good relationship with them if he's enabling them to abuse the system, as it's a cosy win-win for the supervisor (who gets research funding on the CV), and the company (who get a cheap member of staff), whilst the student is the one that loses out, with two full-time job equivalents. I don't know if it's the case here, but as with any supervisor you'd probably want to know how many of their students have successfully completed or dropped out before, and if there were any with the same company.
With the company hemorrhaging managers this is also a worrying potential sign they either can't retain staff, or have a politic-y environment, or are flat out running low on cash and offering people the opportunity to resign, as is the fact the relationship with your industry sponsor is already starting to grate.
I don't want to be all doom and gloom though - it is worth reading the studentship agreement carefully, before making any decisions. If the company cuts the funding at some point in the future, what's the implication for you? Will the University step-in to cover the shortfall (unlikely but possible in the terms), or will you be left self-funding the remainder? Will that be affordable? You want to identify a Plan B so if you do need to dig your heels in and ask for better terms it can be on the basis of 'or I'll accept this alternate offer'. A strategy to try is setting immediate actions that you have control over - e.g. 'I will only respond to emails for company work on Fridays'. If you do choose to stick in there, you want to be agreeing tangible things and concrete tasks at meetings, not what an immeasurable % of your time will be spent doing.
You're in a rare and fortunate but also challenging position, if you've not managed people before.
It is, in general, always better to spend budget in academia if you have it, otherwise it usually gets taken away.
One tip is to talk to the individual (or potential candidates), and try to identify their own long-term goals. If they want to do their own PhD, experience helping you analyse data or literature is something that they'll be more keen to do. If they want to go into industry, helping with programming aspects might be more useful to them. What's relevant will depend where you're up to in the PhD, but any boilerplate coding or statistical analysis etc. is fair game.
I would try to balance giving them tedious things they need to do, with interesting things they want to do. Bear in mind if it's just translation you need, you could pay a professional translator and probably get a better result for less cost. If they're intellectually-minded and/or ambitious, you may find they don't perform well at mundane, repetitive things; on the one hand, that doesn't mean you can't ever give them a mundane, repetitive task (that's why you pay them), but is also means you probably won't get the most out of them (and potentially a resignation) if that's all they do.
If you're stuck identifying interesting things they could do, ask them for their input (not doing this is a common management error). If you're interviewing, ask this to candidates. You may not be able to give them an accredited graduate project, but that doesn't mean you can't jointly devise something useful to you, and useful to them, and an employee will be more enthusiastic about undertaking a jointly devised task.
As a final note, the other thing to balance is giving them a task that's useful but not essential for your PhD. With any graduate RA role, you need a Plan B for anything mission-critical, since they don't exactly have a contract they're going to worry too much about quitting from, and limited experience/expertise.
Be wary of asking on internet forums for a correct statistical analysis.
The root here, is that you give the impression you don't understand your own stats, and are attempting to 'blame' the supervisor for okaying them if they're wrong. This will not help you get a PhD.
To correctly infer if the numbers are entirely correct, you'd need the raw data and method. It is your job as a PhD candidate to understand this - it is completely reasonable if you consult a statistician - but not an internet forum. It will not hold up in viva if you say 'PhD forums said it was right' or 'supervisor said it was right' - you need to understand and answer this question yourself.
I'm in the relatively unique position of knowing a colleague who worked for the church and made the leap to a PhD.
For them, the original motivation was that it would enable them to teach at a higher level. This evolved over the course of the PhD, to the extent they're less interested in teaching now and work full-time as a researcher.
If you want to teach at University-level it is basically a pre-requisite; otherwise you're stuck as a TA for your entire career.
I wouldn't factor much the fact you're daunted by it; it will be hard, but it's actually a good sign if you realise this early on, and it probably won't be as hard as you think - but the only time you'll realise this is after completing it. A PhD will be very research-focused and whilst it serves as a passport to higher-level teaching positions it will take you away from teaching in the short term rather than towards it.
It is also my experience that the dedication and empathy a church role takes to support people spiritually and emotionally - however much you may describe the pressure as 'not enormous' - is something that will serve you extremely well when it comes to the hard work, rigour, and honesty involved in a PhD.
You sound well-suited; the only real consideration is the financial one. If you can come up with a way to make ends meet, I'd be very optimistic you'd succeed. If you self-fund, do 'shop-around', and be unafraid to commute, as it's a buyers market and you should be wary of accepting the first self-funded offer.
Speaking as an academic who's been on many panels, it's not really an issue in terms of 'job after PhD'. It will just be assumed you can teach it and you'll be appointed on the basis of REF-ability and potential to bring in funding. Quality of teaching is usually based on internal NSS proxies, which are as much to do with how students like you, as it is the quality of your content.
This isn't how it should be, but it's how it is. The problem I've seen more recently, is Unis care about on-time completions to the level they won't let PhDs engage in teaching, because (in their blinkered view) it reduces the probability of a 'timely' completion. Obviously, teaching and research go hand-in-hand in academia, and it's a false assumption, but since Unis are run by managers, it's a logical consequence.
It's also understandable these things are re-offered, because academics are human and will invariably want to avoid screwing over the TA that worked really hard on x the last year, to appoint new person y. Objective checks and measures should be used, but I'd think anyone would realise that what you want to look for are opportunties when people leave, rather than to kick a TA out of post on the promise of doing a better job (you may well be able to do it better, but it's a hard-minded manager that would enable and support this).
In short, you don't really have to worry about the lack of experience long-term, as a post-doc nobody really cares about your teaching portfolio, even if you're applying for a lectureship. But it will be a struggle to get one at your current place, since TAs are, for reasons above, generally 'stitched up'.
You could volunteer for free if you're particularly worried, but I'd be skeptical - likely the Uni would take your effort and there wouldn't be a commensurate return.
Most universities have a stats support programme. Make sure you check for this before help online.
I mean, if the covid vaccine etc. had been verified by a random online forum, then you'd be skeptical, right? Don't fall into the same trap with your own work. What you need is a professional statistician, and you probably won't find one posting here.
If you do resort to online, ask widely (multiple sources), and fundamentally use that to learn how to interpret your data - not as a get-out for not understanding it. Stats are so widely abused in research/politics/social media you need to understand them as a researcher. It's tedious, painful, but what you want to find is a good tutor at your Uni you can meet with to discuss and develop your knowledge, not a green light from here.
PS - if you go the self-funded route, it's still worth asking if the Uni could meet you in the middle, if you're on track for a good degree, and have a supervisor that's read your proposal and is interested in it. They will be unlikely to fully stipend you, but you may be able to get a fees waiver. It's usually considerably easier for an interested supervisor to use what little power they have to get the university to waive the fees in exchange for a really good potential of a timely PhD completion, rather than pay out a stipend.
It's very rare, in the UK, for a lecturer to have immediate access to PhD funding - i.e. be able to decide to take you on and make a funded studentship happen. What normally happens with any grants they secure, is they go out to jobs.ac.uk at the point the project they're related to starts. Candidates then apply in a normal job application scenario.
Unfortunately it's a bit of a false assumption that Universities fund PhDs (though most have small-scale, fought over schemes); the majority of funded PhDs come from UKRI or EU projects whose investigators are at the institution. This means there are comparatively few rolling 'open' calls for applications. If your Uni doesn't have an immediately apparent scheme, it's possible one doesn't exist.
It's very likely you'd need to move for a funded studentship given this, since you'd need to be applying for studentships funded by projects in your field, and the chances of there being one starting at the perfect time, at your institution, and you being the best candidate, are pretty slim.
Universities are, of course, open to self-funded applications. I think the reality might be you need to decide between mobility, or, if it's absolutely not an option and you're determined to do one, doing a self-funded full or part-time one at your local institution.
I'll do my best here but please remember this is ultimately my opinion/limited experience:
(1) the student was given non clear advice;
This is subjective, a court wouldn't be expected to, or be capable of, judging what constitutes 'clear' advice to a PhD student.
(2) the university has acknowledged that provoked severe distress in the student due to lack of supervision and communication;
Bear in mind with a court the judge will likely have heard cases of bricks being thrown through windows, knives being pulled, or years of abuse; this doesn't make the stress of any individual experience less or more significant, but you do need to understand there's a (depressingly) high bar there around claiming for stress. If you're not claiming for stress, but a procedural failing, this doesn't help your argument.
(3) this stress is scientifically proven to affect the rational adjustment of a person, who becomes unable to estimate risk/reward ration and tends to ask and trust the opinion of an "expert" (aka Dean of Department);
It would be a court hearing, not a PhD viva. The way civil courts work they will want to be in and out in 15 minutes. It's also for this reason having multiple points isn't a strength; you want a single clear (ideally procedural) failing on the universities behalf, because they will find for the defendant if you don't provide one. Basically a judge will look (in about 10 minutes) for a) what was promised/contracted, b) the evidence this was not delivered. a) and b) need to be crystal-clear to win as if things get vague/complicated/compounded, it's in favour of the defendant.
(4) a deadline was coming;
(5) the observations reported timely by the same student (since 18 months) affected the viva; (6) in the entire university websites and regulations there is no written information on the possibility or procedures to postpone (so, actually, he didn't have really other options in that moment).
You may get them on this. Anything with regulations/procedures/breach of contract is where you would want to focus. If there's a lack of information that they're obliged to provide, or you were treated unequally due to them failing to provide you with information, you can win a case. Basically, the vast majority of cases won against universities are them failing to provide services as advertised or to-contract. As I mentioned in my previous post, though, they are aware of this and have stealthily and unethically been amending/carefully wording what they advertise and contract to protect themselves.
"I see. I got a fees-exempted scholarship for my Ph.D. (so I did it for free, but I did not have a full scholarship and had to pay my living expenses working part-time), so you think that I cannot appeal for my +14 months (when they could have been +2) if my supervisor actually did his job as reported in the university's regulations (which is technically my contract, right, through which I am entitled with some services)?
You can (though it would more accurately be a complaint over the time you did not receive supervision, and - more difficult to argue - the consequences. It's very hard to argue rationally beyond doubt that if the supervisor had done their job you'd have passed sooner. It's also hard to argue they forced you to submit if you signed the form.
The hard bit over supervision, would that legally this would be assessed 'as contracted'. Not answering for 5 weeks might seem unreasonable, but you will probably find the University *promises* you (contractually binds themselves to) a scandalously low amount of supervision. For many Unis, the contracted amount of supervision is something like 20-40 hours a year, including time to review your drafts. It usually does not specify how frequent this should be, and will almost inevitably have no clause they they will respond within x weeks.
It's pretty scandalous tbh as any competent supervisor is going to put in way more than 20 hours per year, but legal departments at universities have become savvy to litigious students, and this protects them against that, because all they'd have to show is that over the calendar year you had a few meetings and feedback on a draft. Applications for studentships are so competitive most people are happy to sign (or don't check) against these terms.
As others have said, you may well be best served cutting your losses and moving on. It's a risk if you spend money on litigation, since whilst I'd readily agree with you the Uni is not in the right morally or ethically, I can see their position arguable legally, and that's what would matter in court.
There is an element of 'graft' in any PhD, regardless of whether you pick the topic or not. Most successful PhDs are absolutely sick of their own thesis by the time they graduate. To research even the most interesting topic rigorously usually involves a degree of repetition, tedium, and attention-to-detail.
So, changing topic won't automatically be a magic solution, if the problem arose from the tedium and monotony of academic rigour. Especially if you don't want to go into academia I'd carefully consider the 'cut your losses' route, as employers outside of academia tend to attach little value to a PhD, and you'd be better off with 3 years industry experience than a PhD. This obviously depends on the field/area/what you want to do with your life, but if you're not interested in becoming an academic, I'd think carefully before spending both money and time training to become one.
I'm not sure if you're misinterpreting, since you appear to have passed w/ majors and been given 14 months to do them.
This doesn't mean you need to take 14 months, but you do need to address the corrections. You'd be perfectly entitled to refuse any work other than the corrections if you're not being paid to do it.
I don't think you're necessarily in a worse position here, as you survived the viva, and the alternative as I can see it is they'd advised you not to submit, and spend another 12 months working on it, in which case the ultimate time for you to complete the PhD would, in all likelihood, be longer.
If you have evidence you literally got nothing from your supervisor for 6 months, then you're also not in a bad place (still having passed). Most universities have a policy indicated the minimum contact time for a supervisor (this is typically low, but it's rarely silent-for-6-months-right-before-submission-is-ok low), so you could appeal for reimbursement of fees based on lack of supervision. It's important to note you can never appeal or complain for a better outcome, or 'free' PhD due to supervisor negligence, but you can absolutely appeal for reimbursement if you paid money for supervision at an agreed level (written into the paperwork) and didn't get it.
It's definitely not impossible, and I disagree that the 2:1 at undergrad is a major barrier as well. Admittedly if you're trying to get into a world-leading group at a top uni, it's probably the case that the majority of applicants will have 1sts/distinctions/know the right people from Eton. But for the remaining 95% of opportunities, you would likely meet the requirements to get through the initial sift, and it will be more down to how you perform at interview. Most experienced academics have learnt (often the hard way) a student with top grades is not automatically the best PhD candidate - especially if they have top grades because they're really good at exam technique and working to short, clear, assessed objectives; both of which are almost irrelevant to a PhD.
If you come across as knowledgeable, passionate, and can explain away the grade (or just say you have an MSc, which is true, and should be grounded in the kinda-ridiculous-when-you-think-about-it fact that what you feel was an awful result was only 12% off a distinction), you will be in good stead.
It's probably worth noting you would substantially increase your chances if you're not constrained to looking in the UK.
You're also in the fortunate position of having a full-time job, so you can take the time to keep applying. If you do this, and accept the odds of success per application are going to sit around 5%, then you'll recognize it will take patience but is very unlikely to be a lost cause.
Btw it seems a really bad idea to do a 2nd self-funded masters in the hopes of getting a higher grade. That's based on some really risky assumptions (that you'll get one, and that it will make the difference). It's not just £3k you're gambling but a year of lost earnings while you study. I'd put the £3k on a roulette table and shoot for self-funding a PhD with the winnings before doing that...
The general progression for me over my academic career has been gaining the confidence not by my own gains in knowledge, but the realization that pretty much everyone in academia is 'normal' (including myself).
I would not say they're faking it, as this implies there's a 'genuine' academic majority who are the kind of geniuses I daresay the general public or undergraduates think of. I learned progressively that:
1) Most multi-million dollar research grants are not genius science concepts, but obvious incremental work, that most people could come up with in 15 minutes with a Wikipedia-level knowledge of the field. But only an academic would suffer writing it as 100 pages in a particular style.
2) Most professors know about 5 vaguely current papers well, plus the one their PhD student mentioned in the last meeting, and mention them in every meeting to sound well-read.
3) Most academics have developed an air of authority not from mastery of a field, but from the necessity of telling students at the back to be quiet on a daily basis.
4) A good academic is probably not an expert in their field in the sense of knowing that much about it, they're a good academic because they've repeatedly screwed up basic things like how to do an ANOVA or write a literature review, and learned from it.
Read them carefully; then do them.
It's simple advice, but you're in a position now where it's (statistically) hard to *not* get a PhD.
Your examiners will be faced with the simple option - is this a PhD, or a fail. It takes a really harsh examiner to fail a PhD after minors. What you don't want to do, is give them the impression you don't care about the corrections, or haven't listened.
In general, you should always submit a secondary document explaining how you've addressed each correction you received, with a page reference to the thesis. This helps examiners massively, as they don't have to then trawl through the thesis trying to find if the correction was addressed. I'd wait until you get the list of corrections, tabulate them, then work through one-by-one, adding to the table how you addressed it.
If you find one you strongly disagree with, you could instead provide an academic argument in this table as to why, on reflection, you've not undertaken the correction, but this is one to be super-careful with, as the academic argument you provide needs to be pretty water-tight.
You can do additional corrections outside of this, but bear in mind what an examiner really cares about is a) did the candidate listen, and b) did they undertake the correction - and if not, why not. It will be - very likely - extremely painful for them if they fail you after a successful viva, so provided you show genuine effort listening to where they're coming from, and addressing the corrections, you will, almost undoubtedly, be Dr. wekkies very soon :)
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