AFter 1.5 years, I have to restart


Hello to everybody
Thank you for hearing me in advance. I turn to forum for advice, since here people understand well what is to do a PhD. I decided to start my PhD at 29 years old, with the goal of finishing within 3 or maximum 4 years. Due to various problems adapting to the local enviroment (I am a foreigner), my rate of advance was not the best. In any case, after 1.5 years, I had a meeting with my advising committee and basically it was discovered that the actual problem I have been working must be "refocused", which basically means almost starting again. This happened because my advisor, who is very good mentor and does his best, is not an expert in the exact area of the initial problem, he is an expert in the general area. That the problem was badly focused would have been detected in any case, after 1 year, the 6 months delay I am to blame. In any case, I dont want to take 5 - 6 years to do a PhD (my maximum allocated was 4 years) and I believe this setback just simply will take me that to finish, which of course, is common. Besides, there are the usual uncertainities about research, like if things are going to work, funding, acceptance of papers (I only have 1 small publication). I am thinking seriously to quit, being a professor was never my idea, I started the PhD because I would like to land an industrial research position, but I am already 30 and I believe by the time I finish, I will be too "old" for industry >33 and I am worried I end either burned out, waste more time, or get to 35 being unemployable. What do you think, should I quit? thank you again!.


A wise and very experienced prof said to a friend at the end of their first year 'so I'm guessing you're at the top of a mountain and realise now it's the wrong mountain, the right summit being a distance away and considerably higher. Still, at least you now know the right mountain to climb'.

Your experience is not unusual. In the final throws of my PhD (part time 5 years), my first year (which was full time - I had to switch due to family commitments) in a way was a total waste of time. Yet a) I had learnt to climb and b) I had seen the correct summit. The realisation was exhausting and I find myself sometimes thinking oh if only I hadn't wasted that first year. But it wasn't wasted. I had to do it to get to where I am today. And the 2nd mountain climb was certainly quicker though definitely higher. Does that make sense?


I just wanted to say what an amazing advice that is DundeeDoll!

Avatar for sneaks

This happened to a friend of mine - except it happened at about 3 years, his supervisor left and he got a new one and it became apparent that the first supervisor was really rubbish and had no idea what was going to make a good thesis. So he had to start from scratch.

BUT I would say that its not from scratch, because you have built your analytical and writing skills, so everything will be much quicker. As your supervisors have realised the new change in direction, you can ask for more support from them to get data collected etc. and try and get this done in 4 years.

Although its a set back, there are many ways you can move forward positively. My friend, he ended up going on to a part time lectureship (given to him because of the mess he had been left in) he has finished his PhD and is now a full time lecturer with TONS of publications because he has published both his PhDs - the wrong one and the right one!


hi Sneaks! that is really encouraging. i also have a publication from the wrong PhD! maybe i should look to getting more out of it when am done.

Pepipox - i restarted after THREE years! when my supervisors said there was a problem with my research question i almost died! how could they have wasted my life and money for so long!

anyway, here is what i have to say: for me i did it because i could not see life another way. my phd was my dream, my passion. if i quit i would have spent the rest of my life feeling like a failure. today, about a year and 9 months later i have a complete draft of my new thesis! in three months, i should be done. what i did was change supervisors and find someone who was willing to supervise under the circumstances.

this happened to a lot of my friends - foreigners - in my rubbish uni which claims and is regarded as one of the top unis. all of them quit. only one girl stuck it out. she was literally depressed by it all. one of my friends got high blood pressure and was on constant medication. i don't know if she ever finished.

but what i can say is am here and i have done it. 1.5 years is a long time to get your act together with a cooperative supervisor. 2. 5 adding the extra year is too much time. you will find that you do things faster. you know more. even if its a different field. you're more disciplined after the shock, so you can do it if you put your mind to it.

i can understand the age factor. it is a pain thinking about it. but am only 3 months away and for me it was worth it not giving up. whether i get a job or not. funding-wise; my funding ended. i work part time and get support from family.

take time off and think seriously and follow your hearts desire.

all the best(up)


Thank you all for your kind advice! The mountain comparison was poetic and really true. Only that in my case, there is no second mountain to climb in view, just a bare idea of where is the direction to find the new mountain to climb :-(.

I am really at a crossroads. As I said, going back to my country is something I would not like. Salaries completely suck there and I am relatively well paid in my PhD. However, I repeat, I do not like academia or becoming a professor, I just like doing research and constantly learning things, and using analytical skills all the time. I am honestly doing the PhD for an industrial research position. At least the ones who detected that the problem was being badly focused where the doctoral advising comittee. My advisor is really dedicated guy. But even he told me "is a tough world. If you dont publish, I will not have arguments to find you more funding" which I find quite reasonable. My funding runs out next year in september (it is a 3 year project).

Sadly, the "do it part time and get support from family" will not work here. I repeat, I am foreigner and in this country I dont speak the local language (the doctoral school is 100% in english), so if I am not funded, it is the end. By the way, I have been unable to do friends in this country for the last 1.5 years, I am alone 100% and I dont like the city were I am living. This also pushes me towards quitting. I also believe myself if I dont get a research related position, or even something that require some analytical skills, I will end frustrated. But it will be even worse if I keep going and then I end with no work on sight at all. I believe the least risky strategy is to quit, but I will let down my advisor and probably will end up forever with the "what if I had given it a harder try?" question.

In the end, there is no easy answers on sight. If I were 25, I wouldnt care staying longer, but I am not 25 anymore. I believe honestly there I will push for a few months to see if I find the mountain again. In any case, my advisor wants to cite the doctoral committee again in 2 months. They said it for the sake that I dont waste 6 months more on possible wrong thing. I dont know.

For the ones that spent 3 years and got into the same thing, I really offer them my sympathy, specially if they have incurred in debt (at least I am 100% debt free). The more I read about things in academia, the more I believe government should try to regulate in some way graduate schools, in some way it can waste a lot of taxpayers money and time and talent from people that in many cases is brilliant. Just some musings.... thanks again to all of you!


Pepipox, I could not understand your post completely. What do you mean by Analytical Methods? Can I ask you about your subject area? You still got plenty of time. 18 months is a long long time. Why the refocusing issue drives this research in a completely new direction? You can still use the same analytical methods?. I like the mountain climbing scenario, but from my experience as an amateur high altitude climber, no climbing experience is a complete waste of time. It builds up your stamina, prepares your defense against altitude sickness and as you said it has strengthened your analytical methods. I have to refocus many many times. It is you who has to drive your project in the right direction. You are the pilot and the navigator at the same time. I still cannot understand why the research panel asked you to refocus? Sorry, I could not be more specific with the information available.


It looks to me like you want to quit and this is giving you the excuse.

As someone who embarked on a part-time PhD (while working full time) a month before her 44th birthday and after 16 years in a completely different career I do find all these "will I be too old at 27, 32, 108, whenever"? posting tiresome.

Have you tried to get an industrial research position with your research skills as they are - do you actually need the Phd? Could you get a research job and carry on with PhD part-time? Like lots of people here I know loads of people who completely changed well into their research but I also know more people who never completed.


@pepipox - where there is a will there is a way. looks like you have no will.

am not in debt given that i work part time and get family help in the form of accommodation. it only costs about 200 pounds a year to stay registered on a phd after the 3 years because you have already paid the full course fees. you are paying to access the library. wherever you are, you would have to pay rent and expenses. with 400 pounds you can live reasonably well in a shared house; but you have to be willing to make a sacrifice. otherwise there's no point moaning about it. as the previous poster has shown you, it is possible. if this is not what you want, try to find a job that you can do full time and close that chapter. by the way as a foreigner to get the right to work full time you have to graduate - whether thats PhD or Mphil in your case. if i were you i would go for the Mphil - worst case scenario - to get the right to work. otherwise you will be stuck in manual jobs.

all the best.


Jojo, I am really alarmed after reading your post regarding the prestigious University that has caused so much frustration and headache to PhD students. For some reason, I am getting paranoid that perhaps it’s the very same Uni that is offering me a place for PhD. Would you mind very much if I request you to PM me the name of the Uni so that you can retain your anonymity?

@Pepipox - sorry for hijacking your post, but I simply couldn’t resist asking Jojo about this issue!


@Starlight Make sure your supervisor has reasonable knowledge and more important an interest in your research area. Look at their web pages and carefully go through their list of publications. The ranking based on RAE is just a formality. In my department a female professor publishes about 10 papers each year and most of those are copies of the ones written 3/4 years ago with a different title or with minor changes. I was first shocked to see all this happening.
No one is really bothered about the success/failure of students. They even have a pre-calculated number that they use to restrict students to MPhil, and this happens after all the research funding has been drawn from government bodies. And this university is also a prestigious one ranked 4th/5th in UK.


i had to change topics after 2 years and still managed to finish my PhD in 4 years! of course it meant a lot of lost weekends, but the first two years didnt feel lost to me - i learnt so much about how to write papers (initially it would take me 2 weeks to write a crappy paper, now i need less than a week for a good one), how to approach research, how to look out for the seemingly small issues that surely will turn into big ones, etc.

if you are really insecure, how about continuing on with your research for now while at the same time applying for industrial R&D positions? in industry a phd is not always required. maybe you get lucky, find a nice job and then you can quit with a good conscience!


Really a very great advice man...I liked it every way:-)


Thanks for the advice, Goodboy.