1st Year PhD - Removed from Project


Until recently I was a 1st year PhD student working on my project. However, I was dismissed following my viva under the guise of "poor writing" in a continuation report for transfer into the 2nd year. Initially shocked at this sudden change from my supervisor, as we meet weekly to touch base and my writing ability has never been raised as a concern. Going back through the assessors feedback comments from the initial draft, it was generally positive or constructive. i.e make figure x larger, move paragraph y above z. Overall, the report and oral viva were praised for well thought out discussions, sound methodology, good results and clear progression/future plans (all documented) with just a vague "introduction is poorly written". However, when pressed the assessor could not/would not expand on this, dismissing me with "its all poor" contrary to the feedback he himself had provided! I was told my only options at this stage are to "withdraw from your course, or submit an MPhil but I will not accept it". Thus I am appealing this verdict.

After speaking with various staff and peers it has become obviously clear to everyone who has heard the situation that you would not remove someone for poor writing, if that is indeed the case. Institutional guidelines recommend to advise relevant training, workshops, exercises and teaching to address a students weaknesses. I believe this serves as wrongful dismissal/ not adhering to due process of the university. So I raised this further to the senior staff.

It has also come to my attention that the lab I was part of is notorious for politics and shady conduct. The student who had the project before me was bullied into leaving. In addition to a high staff turn-over, improper conduct and breaches of contract. From what I hear the uni does nothing about it because the head brings in too much money. "Poor writing" just seems to be the excuse to get rid of me, or the project is cursed! Advice on how to navigate this matter would be appreciated.

Many thanks

Avatar for rewt

What does your supervisor say?


I have not seen your academic writing, but your writing does not seem poor based this post. I have no idea how you deal with this if you want to fight it (well, apart from appealing - which is actually the standard approach in situations like this - you go to a panel, have a hearing etc and a decision is made, which you can then appeal). But seriously, if you fought it and won, would you want to stay in this environment? I also know that fighting is exhausting and demoralising (having sat on a panel myself as a student representative). I suggest moving on. Try and find a decent project and supervisor elsewhere. Get a second opinion on your academic writing if you do have any doubts about that side of things.


Ps. It sounds a nightmare and sorry you have to go through it.


I am sorry to here Dyel. I am a new PhD student also and i actually find it very difficult to focus given the current Covid19 circumstances and working from home. I suspect you maybe have had some issues also.

I found it harsh why they dismissed you from the course especially since there will be ways to improve your writing skills regardless if they are good, bad or somewhere in-between.

In addition surely at the proposal stage when you applied they would have received a piece of writing from yourself - they could have mentioned it at this very early stage.

All the best


These environments can be difficult. It seems someone may have taken against you and if you fight this you will likely face more difficulties even if you do win and can resume study. From what you say the lab sounds toxic. While looking for postdocs I have seen a number of PhD opportunities advertised with July application deadlines. If you look now you might find a new project for an October start.


Yes, but perhaps even more to it than that - tho I'm not sure what. I feel suspicious about the previous person also being pushed out. I mean, they know funding doesn't grow on trees so they are losing out too here by keep doing this. Toxicity yes but I wonder what else is at play.


Hi all,
Many thanks for your replied. Will do my best to answer them all, as I appreciate your input.

Rewt: Since the meeting I have not had any correspondence with my supervisor, not even to check in how I am dealing with the news. From what I hear he is aware I am appealing/raising it and "isn't happy about it". So it feels to be a press until it hurts situation.

Tudor Queen : The student who previously had the project before me was also bullied into leaving but was all swept under the rug after he left. Fortunately he has reached out to me and provided me with all the logs and reports from his time aswell. It does seem to be a trend! From what I can guess, I was harassed and touched by a senior member of the lab, I raised this to my supervisor as the first point of contact and was told "keep your head down, let it happen and you can get your PhD at the end". I would guess me raising it/making it known has made me a target and they would rather get rid of me and protect that member.

From the handbook/contract I should be entitled to a review meeting, meetings with the advisory, academy and others to discuss what can be done to "save" the project. i.e more hands on?, re-manage goals, implement support etc. but the whole leave and i wont accept your MPhil makes it seem very final and none of the above was offered or even mentioned until I requested it myself. I am going to have the academic appeal to at least get my MPhil for the year of work I did, and then raise the procedural misconduct/wrongful dismissal. At the very least I should receive an apology, salvage a reference to move on to something else due to the fact that this has been a repeating issue with the conduct of some senior members. I cant return to my project as there is too much bad blood.


CG2525: Congrats on your new position. I hope you have nothing but the best experience through your project.

Likewise, at no point in my regular meetings or previous work has writing been raised as an issue. My experiments were well recorded, I have shown promise and good data. I know the area of study and have met all the objectives laid out. If writing was such an issue, it could easily be resolved by a writing workshop, support or a bit of guidance. So such a drastic final measure is suspect, the lab I was in is notorious for shady conduct and politics. If my writing was bad, it should have been flagged at an earlier stage, I didn't just suddenly forget how to write that week.

CAT123: I am already looking/applying for other positions. Unfortunately I am limited as I have to stay in my city. I am a carer for my mom and brother. So I can't up and leave for jobs elsewhere. Ideally, I would like to appeal and at the least get the MPhil for the year I have done. that and a letter of apology/references I can use to explain why I left my previous post and looking for another project. Knowing how close knit academics are, I would be cautious taking another project at the same uni, as this may further provide opportunities for the previous members to target me. The student before me was bullied out of the lab, took up another project and the head of the first lab intervened and pressured his new supervisor to let him go.