Can I submit PhD thesis without supervisor's approval?


Hi All!

So as the title suggests how risky would it be? My supervisor and I are on disagreement at this point. He wants me to take another year but I am determined to spend max 3 months on it. I have done 60 % work. The department guidelines says the PhD thesis should be max 80000 excluding appendix and when I said I aim to write min 70000 words my supervisor said that it should be at least 74000-75000 words or you will get an MA. However I am not agree with it. My supervisor is not even commenting on the work I send him. He knows very well that I am in the financial crunch. I need to pay loan and in no case I can spend more time on my thesis. The most importantly spending more time will only result in increase in time and not increase in quality of the manuscript, which I explained him but he is not agree. My dept guidelines says that it is strongly recommended that I submit with the approval of my supervisors but I can submit without their approval as well.

I would like to know what are the risks associated with it? Could they fail me since my supervisors and dept are against me? Has anybody submitted without supervisor's approval?


A colleague of mine once submitted a thesis which was only 74.000 words and received a resubmission verdict. She simply wanted to get done with it, but she wasn't lucky. I would advice you not to risk it, and wait a bit longer. Your supervisor knows your work. He knows how much more work it requires. Also, don't think of the number of words - think of the quality of the thesis. Is it good? Is it original? At the point you are now, in my opinion, you should not take risks.


Check your university regulations. At my university, you can't submit your thesis unless your supervisor signs a permission form.


hi sunnychicka16
I sympathize with you where money is concerned. However if it were me, I would not submit my thesis without my supervisor's approval because there are more risks in doing so. If you are asked to resubmit, it would take even longer for you to finish this phd- -- and then you have your supervisor's "I told you so".

Is there a way you can find a job or do something about money so that you can still continue to work on your thesis? Can you ask your family for help? I finished my phd in 5 years, 2 without funding. To be honest, the waiting time took about 1 year (wait for supervisor's reply etc. etc.) so the writing time plus research and everything for the phd was about 4 years instead of 3.

It may take longer but if you have a really solid thesis at the end, it is worth it.

best of luck in whichever decision you make
love satchi


I would not advise you to submit without your supervisor's consent. This is really risky - in addition to risking revisions, re-submission and failed vivas, you would piss of your supervisor, making everything even more uncomfortable. I get what you're saying about money - but it is possible to work for a year and finish writing up. It seems like you don't think you have that much work left to do - so maybe you should take extra time, find a job, and write up part time.


HI Sunnychicka16

Contrary to other advices-I suggest you to submit.

I had very similar situation with you, and I passed it with minor correction.

Me and my supervisor had massive fallout about this too, she wanted me to take another year because she still needed me to do some of his research work (I am partly funded by her fund). I refused for the same financial reason, but she couldn't care less.

Anyway, I was lucky to have one of my previous undergraduate supervisor to give me some comments on 1-2 chapters. He thought it was good to go (and my supervisor read the same chapters and said it wasn't good enough).

And you are right that your supervisor is wrong about word count- Quality is the key, not quantity!

Can you get a second opinion from someone else about your thesis? And do you know that a supervisor has the responsibility for reading your thesis? They are PAID to do this. I had similar problem, and I had to complain to the department to make my supervisor read my thesis! And the department make her to return/comment on my thesis within 2-3 weeks.

Obviously the risk is that you might get a major correction or referral, but it will take 1 year the max, which is going to be the same if you want to take another year for writeup!

Hope you get this sorted out soon!


I agree that quality is more important than quantity, but I'm still very doubtful that with 60% done so far you can produce a quality-enough finish in just 3 months. I would listen to your supervisor. Get a job, work on your thesis in the evenings/weekends, switching to part-time study, to finish. That's how part-timers all over the place manage, and usually unfunded. A PhD doesn't need to be completed full-time.

In my case my thesis was under-length. It came in at 70,000 words when my department wanted 80-100,000. But I was advised that quality not quantity counts, but I didn't rush it. And it was bumped up to an extent with hefty databases in e-appendices, which sort of improved the bulk impression. And I passed my viva with just minor typo corrections. Which is sort of encouraging for you, but I'm still doubtful you can do enough in the full time left you are allowing yourself.


And more time can improve a thesis. You need time to edit it enough, and improve the writing quality. First draft, even second and third draft, is not good enough. Time is useful. Rushing it is not likely to work out well. You are increasing the chances of a resubmission verdict, and you don't want that.



Thanks to all of you to stop by and reply.

My situation is too complicated at the moment. Most of you are suggesting resubmission or major correction as a threat but I consider them as earning Distinction. My logic is this, even after spending 6 months there is no guarantee that I wont get RR or major corrections. I doubt the guidelines of my supervisors. Many times he contradicts with his comments. So it is better if I spend time on my thesis as the examiners' suggest. I feel so helpless when my supervisor has so much control over me.

To those who suggests part time job, I already am doing so. My loan instalments will start soon even though I will get PhD or not.

I know I sound hopeless or idiotic at the moment but there are so many issues going on in my life which I can not even list here. Thus I would like to know about the people who went against supervisor's opinion and what was the ultimate outcome.

@ human: Great that you went through all on your own. That was my point too, quality is ultimately imp and not quantity. I have read some of the best thesis which were so concise and to the point. I will try to get someone to read my thesis, that is a good idea. Did your supervisor or internal create any problem for you in the viva? I am so afraid about this like a chicken.

Thanks again.


I wasn't suggesting you get a part-time job, I was suggesting you get a full-time one, and work on the thesis part-time (switching to part-time registration at your university) in evenings and weekends. It's perfectly doable, and lots of part-time PhD-ers do this.


I happen to know of a PhD student who insisted to submit the thesis early...
The supervisor agreed but she told the external examiner that she had difficulty understanding this thesis.

There could be ethical issues when there is such communication between the supervisor and external examiner.
However, this student passed the viva with minor revision. But it is a risk.


@ BilboBaggins: Thanks for explaining in detail but as I am an international student, I have no option of working full time or to switch to part time PhD.

@ MeaninginLife: Thanks for sharing. It really helped!


First, you would be taking a big gamble by submitting without the approval of your supervisor. One of the best pieces of advice I've received from people who have passed and received their PhD is to do what your supervisor suggests.

Second, are you sure you can submit without the approval of your supervisor??


@ Barramack: Yes I checked my uni's regulations. It says supervisor should suggest but ultimately it is a decision of the student to submit.


@ Sunnychicka16

Trust me, I was afraid like you when making the decision too. And I felt as helpless when my supervisor being so controlling.

"My logic is this, even after spending 6 months there is no guarantee that I wont get RR or major corrections"- I used the same logic too!

To answer your question, although my supervisor was not happy when I submitted my thesis, she had no role in my viva. Once you submit your thesis, your internal examiner will take over the role of the viva and the rest of post-submission admin work. You do need to check this with your university as it might be different.

According to my experience, choosing the right "external examiner" is so CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT!! I have seen cases where some brilliant students ended up with major correction simply because their external examiners have different fundamental views on the the thesis topic. So choose carefully.

Ultimately it's the internal and external examiners who decide whether they want to pass or fail you. My internal examiner was fair and diplomatic when dealing with my case.

And not sure whether this would comfort you, some of the post-viva corrections were my supervisor's recommendations! I wished I have followed my guts when revising my thesis. So, don't follow your supervisor's advice blindly.

My advice to you is set a deadline for yourself, and if possible get someone you trust to read your thesis.

I did work like a cow during the last few months before submission, and yes, do leave substantial time to yourself to go through the final formatting & references etc.

I totally understand what you are going through now, and it's really scary when it seems to be totally unusual to go against your supervisor.

But ultimately, it's your thesis- and it's your decision what you want to do with it, and it's also your responsibility to deal with the outcomes- whether it's good or bad.

You are not alone here :-)