About to quit after 2.5 years of PhD


Hi everyone!

Sooo, like many others I'm considering quitting my PhD.

I'm in Earth Sciences (in Canada) and love my project. It's interesting and exciting. BUT I have a very bad supervisor. Basically he doesn't care. Everything I do is whatever for him. We only had 3 meetings about my project since I started, we never discussed my results, etc. Not very motivating to be supervised by a ghost. I've been pushing myself hard to keep going but everything turned bad recently:

The second chapter of my thesis implied me to go back to France for a whole year to collaborate with scientists. Everything was going alright until I find out my stipend went from 1950$/mo down to 1000$. Being away I can't be a teaching assistant (- 464$/mo). For some reasons I also don't get the departmental top-up of 220$/month anymore nor the increase of 250$ my supervisor had allocated 5 months ago after I had asked for it!

I should mention we had agreed before I leave that my stipend remain the same otherwise it wouldn't be feasible. Now my supervisor pretends he didn't know and thought what I get from him (1000$) would be enough. Not even talking of the increase, it's like it had never existed. I tried to explain in long emails that I really needed more but he just allocated me the same as my TAship, mentionning it was 33% more than what he gives to his other students and my living standards where probably to high, concluding by "good luck!"

Knowing I need to save 464$/mo to pay for my fees, I'm basically at 1000 euros/mo. Fighting to get a my regular income (not even an increase!) doesn't sound right for me at this level of education. Everybody else is getting more.

Not being supported neither morally nor financially, I getting depressed. I know I don't want to work in these conditions anymore and am about to quit. I'm 1.5 year from being done but I feel like I should rather start over again another PhD for 3 years in good conditions than struggling longer. The problem is I love my project and I'm scared all PhDs are the same pain.

Any advice??


Hi lucieinthesky,

sorry to hear that you're so down at the moment.
To be honest, I wouldn't throw away 2.5 years of work. I know supervisors can be a pain, but you see, you are not doing it for him, but for yourself. I had a similar experience with mine, though mine didn't have to make any financial decisions. If you love your project, I think you should go ahead with it regardless of the support you have, your own motivation is everything.
Re finances, I'm not sure if I understood you right, but even after putting away 464 dollars for the fees you will still have 1000 Euros? I understand that you had more before and that it is a huge cut, but it's still a lot of money.. my stipend was 650 euros, and I live in Ireland, where the cost of living is considerably higher than in France. You should be fine so, but sorry if I interpreted the figures wrong.

Things might turn around for you in France while working together with scientists etc., which may compensate what your supervisor is not giving you, you never know :)


Hello, I am new to the forum and share your pain regarding supervision.
I agree 2.5yrs is too much to throw away. There are steps to be taken that you can request another supervisor, especially if this is what you really want to do in life. Don't let them get in the way of your success. Its YOUR project, so find another supervisor. Or get another one on board who is more helpful.

I feel my supervisor lacks interest as well. So I have had to work many things out on my own. The lack of communication has also cost me funding money in addition to wasted time. However, I also felt like giving up. I pulled through, worked hard and moved forward on my own. I know at the end of it, I did it with minimal guidance. I am in my 3rd year now. My official finishing date is Oct 2014, with the write up year taking me into 2015. Dont get me wrong, I desperately want it to be over lol But sheer determination is what makes me so motivated

Good luck! let us know what happens

ps I am an Albertan studying in the UK


Hi people,

Thanks for the comments!

Lexika, yes I have 1000 euros but that's because I didn't mention I got a scholarship for an international internship. I applied for that scholarship asking the maximum (15 000$) for 1 year of work abroad. The committee wasn't too keen on giving so much away so I got to reapply. My supervisor told me to ask for a 4 months internship and actually use the money over a year. So I got 4000-ish $ that were supposed to pay for the round trip and also the higher costs of a furnished place and the crazy fees for money transfer. So in addition to the 1000$ I have from my supervisor, I also add 270$/month, making 1000 euros.

A rent is between 300-500 euros in France. Plus the bills and food. In the end I can pay for everything but I don't have anything left to go on vacations, or enjoy a restaurant every one in a while, etc. I still can't believe he increased my stipend in December, after I asked for it (which was already pretty hard to do) and just suppressed it like it never existed. What does that even mean?

Science isn't all my life and I know I need to have fun aside to work better. Plus I come from a poor family and have been told all my life if I wanted to get a better life I'd need to have diplomas. So being paid the minimum wage at this level isn't really what I had been promised. Especially considering every PhD I meet tell me I don't get much (in Canada they usually get around 2000$ or more and in France 1500 euros).

The real problem isn't so much the money but my supervisor's behaviour. It's too easy to take students, not pay them, not support them and then get your name on their papers. I can't accept that. If I had a bit of guidance I wouldn't even talk about the money cause I would be sure what I do is worth it. At the moment I just feel exploited and not respected.

The people I work with in France are amazing and I really wish their were my supervisors but they don't have any fundings. Even they say my situation isn't fair and they'd understand if I quit.

I think in the end I don't really want to give up on my project but I need to find a solution so that I'm happy with my working conditions. Having a new supervisor would probably be enough. I didn't think about that option. Is it even possible? No one would accept to do that in my department, it would start a war! I guess it is required to have a supervisor in the university you are registered in, right? (My question may sound stupid but it doesn't always work that way in France). The thing is we never talked about how my supervisor was doing bad at supporting me so it's easier to quit putting the fault on me (like I'm not so much into science in the end, blablabla) than finding another supervisor and having to explain why I want to change!

What do you guys do to keep your motivation? Is it even getting better afterwards (postdoc, etc)?


wow, I'm starting to get jealous hearing what students in other parts of the world get ;) No, just joking. I can see that it is frustrating and that you are feeling exploited. Here, rent is around 350 euros, so I had 300 for bills and everything else. It was certainly not much, but people manage here with that amount of money. And we do have fun here as well, going to restaurants and for drinks once in a while ;) Over in Canada, you seem to see PhD students as academics in normal and decently paid positions. I actually like that idea very much, but it is not like that everywhere. I don't know if I can speak for Europe in general, but PhD students are treated as normal students, maybe with a bit more respect than MA students. It certainly varies greatly in the different subject areas. When you have your diplomas and your PhD, then you can talk and negotiate salaries. Of course, your point of reference is Canada, and from that point it is very frustrating. What I'm trying to say is that the most important thing is your motivation. If you leave your position now and start at zero again, you will lose years and will start earning a decent salary later. Try to leave the financial worries aside. After all it's only for a year. You will survive AND have fun for sure! After that year, will you be able to return to your normal stipend again?

Regarding your supervisor, yes, I think changing the supervisor within the department would cause a war everywhere, and I wouldn't do that either. I would rather try and get someone from France on board as well. That can be easily justified as necessary in front of your supervisor, e.g. by saying that they have the specific expertise that you need, and that they are right there in the place where you will work, so there won't be any time delay when you need help via email.