I hope you're now considering legal advice regarding your situation - someone clearly has it in for you, and you need to make sure you've covered your bases. Despicable behaviour on their part - an honest mistake that could have been rectified discreetly, but that's clearly not their agenda.
Thank you once again for all your supportive messages. I am pleased to say that the complaint against me has been dropped after I provided sufficient evidence that I never used the title of 'Dr' to falsify or mislead anyone into giving me a job etc. Fortunately I was able to prove that this misunderstanding was down to administrative error. I would certainly never dream of calling myself a Dr - my PhD process has been jinxed enough as it is!!
Still no news regarding my result/examiner's dispute. So the wait continues.
I'm certain that this student complaint was directly resulted to the dispute and has held my result up for even longer. Not too sure if I'll hear anything this side of Christmas...
I've decided not to chase the university for now as any contact I have with them seems to result in very negative circumstances. I think I'm best giving them space and hoping that they are fighting for me (cue eye roll). Plus, my most recent emails of two weeks ago have been ignored anyway so I'm sure that more emails and phone calls will just meet the same fate.
Will keep you all updated.
So I finally got my result...which isn't really much of a result. As I've stated before, I doubt my 'congratulations Dr' email will ever come.
Although I've had 12 months R&R, followed by a 6 month minor revision period - both of which have taken up 2 years of my life (my viva was in December 2014), due to the dispute over my revisions, I have been given special permission by the Deputy Vice Chancellor to give further consideration to what my external examiner wants. As a result of this, I've been sent a rather vague 3 paragraphs of further revisions to do over the next 6 months (even though my last submission was meant to be my final submission - as per the university regulations).
This is a result I was not expecting at all because my last outcome letter said that my last submission would indeed be my last. So the thought of going back to my thesis now just seems impossible - I can barely remember large chunks of it.
I am absolutely sure at this stage that however I attempt to do these corrections will not please my external as we clearly are living in parallel universes. I am also sure that, if I resubmit for a third time, I will be waiting until 2018 for my result which, quite likely, will be a fail as my external has repeatedly shown that she does not want this thesis passed.
I think this revision period is just a way of giving the university more time to figure out how to deal with the situation. It's just time buying, nothing more.
So I don't know what to do. I've just thrown half my work across the room out of rage so, as you can imagine, I'm dealing with the situation very well.
My job is also incredibly demanding and I can barely stay afloat. There's no way I'm walking away from the PhD...but I don't deem this situation fair at all. Any advice greatly appreciated.
Is there any hope of appointing a different external at this stage? I do think you deserve your PhD after everything, but it seems submitting more revisions to this person is a recipe for more delay. Can you have a face to face meeting with your supervisor in which you lay out, in objective factual language, the timeline from your viva to now and suggest that - given all the delays and mistakes - you feel you are now entitled to have your work assessed by a third person? That seems to me the best avenue to pursue.
I also think you should get your ducks in a row for an official appeal, first via the university process and then via the OIAHE ombudsman. I have never heard of so much incompetence, malice, and nonsense in my life. If there is no chance of a new examiner, I think perhaps an appeal of the results is in order - on the grounds of procedural unfairness, given the delay in communicating the first report to you and in the handling of the revisions from them on - and your supervisor should know that you are looking seriously at a formal complaint to the ombudsman.
Latest update: I had a meeting with my supervisor yesterday who is being surprisingly supportive. He's just as furious as me and agrees that we could be working on revisions for another 20 years and my external would still fail it. Even he said that this was becoming more of a personal attack due to our ideological differences on what is, in essence, quite a sensitive research topic.
So, for now, I'm heading down the appeal road which will be long and tedious but I'm sure at this stage that it is the right thing to do.
The revisions my external has recommended are very short (about 10 lines) and incredibly vague. Even my supervisor said he doesn't understand what she's asking and can't think of anything to say to me anymore. We really have exhausted all options with these revisions.
I know my external has been signed off ill and I'm starting to wonder whether this could be due to a mental health problem as her behaviour is veering down the maverick path.
The one thing that has lifted my spirits is that my supervisor has said that my internal thought I had fully addressed all the revisions asked of me and has been fighting for me to be awarded this PhD. Why my external is so hellbent on me working on infinite revisions (considering the thesis is 163,000 words) beggars belief. Everyone at my institution is in agreement that I have addressed the revisions asked of me.
So, let's see where the road takes me. I am exhausted by the whole process but I'm 100% ready for this fight. I've been waiting an awfully long time for it...
Good luck, faded. I'm very glad to hear you have the support of your supervisor and your internal examiner on this. It does sound like it has become completely personal for the external examiner. I think everyone bar this one examiner is on your side here.
I think you're right that this could go on indefinitely if you let it. I didn't know it was even possible to be given further revisions after doing an R&R then minor corrections - surely there has to be a decision one way or the other by this stage? I'm surprised the institution isn't doing more to enforce that, as surely the situation is in breach of their own regulations now?
I'm struggling a bit to understand what your external's motivation could be for behaving in this way. My best guess is that she is determined not to pass you (for whatever personal or ideological reasons) but knows she can't justify failing you. That's the only reason I can think for dragging the process on like this. If she had a justifiable argument for your revised thesis not being up to academic standards, she could give her decision as a fail -- and then presumably whatever procedures the university has to handle a disagreement between examiners would come into play. The fact that she can't/won't do this strongly suggests that she knows no reasonable person would fail you, so the only way to keep you from passing is to keep you stuck in limbo like this until you give up.
I do think the PhD examination system works well the vast majority of the time (for all the criticism it gets) -- but this is a true example of how it can go bad, when one of the examiners is being completely unreasonable and unprofessional in their conduct, and no one can overrule them because academic judgement is sacrosanct.
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