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failed the upgrade-MPhil is offered

Hi KK. This very thing happened to me. Granted, I’m sure our stories are different in some ways – I also have dyslexia which I have disclosed to my supervisors – but I too received no support or warning from my supervisor regarding my upgrade. For me, it was sprung up on me two days before it happened, and with no advice on what to prepare or do for the upgrade. Also, because of the disorganization of my department the whole situation took two and a half years from the first upgrading meeting to a (semi)resolution. (They happily continued to take my fees during the process.) My suggestion, take notes at EVERY meeting and even record the meetings if you can. Speak immediately with student support services; it is there job to speak on your behalf if necessary. And take it out of the department to the highest and most neutral authority. I had my complaint used against me as the people I appealed to in the department were life long friends with my supervisors. Also read your postgraduate handbook to know your rights and get a lawyer if necessary. Eventually I was given a new supervisor and asked to submit as an MPhil with the possibility of upgrading to a PhD once I’ve submitted that MPhil. I plan on pushing for an upgrade. Although this battle has been very difficult, tiring and has cost me a lot of research time. Not to mention, I now don’t have the best reputation with my department. (I no longer receive departmental emails and all teaching has been taken from me.) So, I’d only recommend appealing if you want your PhD very badly and you’re willing to fight for it. If you don’t think a PhD is something you want to do (and you have enough to submit as an MPhil fairly soon and with ease) then submit as an MPhil – or just leave and regain your life. Remember, academia is very inclusive and unless you have someone of relative importance on your side, a fight can be long and arduous. Good luck and I hope this helps. And remember, lack of university management does not note a lack of skills and ability on your part. Don’t let this get you down.

PhD and Dyslexia

Hi there. I am an dyslexic postgraduate in literature as well, and my problems and ‘issues’ seem to mirror a lot of the posts on this forum. I know this post is a bit late, and the original poster has probably moved on, but I just wanted to share my experiences for anyone else who may come across this link.

I am a horrible speller, and because I do not think in a traditionally linear fashion writing essays and papers takes about six times longer than my peers because of organizational skills. However, I am an avid reader, I used to be a journalist, and I regularly writer creatively. People would also be surprised to find that I teach English and Media (not at the University where I am a student, but at another institution), and to be honest I am quite a good teacher.

I was doing a PhD in literature and never disclosed my dyslexia. But I began to have problems with ‘sloppiness’, and I was tired of wasting supervisoral meetings discussing grammar issues that I was well aware of and would have been able to fix once I was given the time and quiet to proofread. But because of the extremely unpredictable nature of the supervisoral role, I was often forced to turn in papers at the drop of a hat. After being threatened with dismissal due to ‘syntax and structural problems’ in my papers, I confessed to being a dyslexic. This was, without a doubt, the worst thing I could have done. I was met with comments such as ‘dyslexics shouldn’t be doing a PhD in English’, ‘if you have dyslexia you’ll never gain the skills needed to do a PhD’, and ‘you can use that EXCUSE here, we’ll review your papers in the same way.’ These comments are almost verbatim to what I was told.

In the meantime, I registered with the disabilities unit, and they have been so unbelievably supportive. They have provided me with a proofreader for occasions that I have to do present papers and do not have time to proofread. They have provided me with a laptop with special software that reads my work back to me out loud, and I have attended several seminars on ‘academic writing for dyslexics’. (It was here that I would like to add that I did not inform my employer at the other institution that I was dyslexic due to the fact that they took the same view as my University. My team leader once told me, regarding a dyslexic student of mine, ‘some people are just too stupid to learn to read.’)

Unfortunately, the damage had already been done with my supervisors. They had made the decision that I was incapable of completing my degree and had essentially stopped supervising me despite the fact that several of my thesis chapters have been published through peer reviewed journals.

In the end I have decided to not complete my PhD and submit for an MPhil just so that I can leave this environment (I am worried about passing due to the internal examiner knowing that I’m dyslexic because my supervisor told him as a ‘warning’.) I am worried that an MPhil will look like a black mark on my record and I feel like I have put in the energy and effort of a Doctoral candidate but have been pushed aside due to my ‘lack of traditional thinking’. (I prefer this term instead ‘learning disability’.)

My advice to anyone doing a PhD in the humanities, especially literature or languages, with dyslexia is to apply without disclosing it. Then once you’ve been accepted disclose it to the institution, but do not let them tell your supervisors. Get the support you need through disability services, not your department. Then if and when you feel that your supervisor might be able to cope with the information tell him/her. It is a very sad state of affairs that academics are so unbelievably misinformed regarding student affairs and modern pedagogy; however, no one wants to be the martyr for dyslexia. Sorry to sound so harsh, but having just come through this situation I can only hope my experience will help someone else.