Considering dropping out of a funded PhD…


So I started a PhD 4 weeks ago with funding from AHRC. From the interview it sounded like something I had a lot of scope with and something that would lead on to a career that I would be interested in. Since starting it seems like a lot we talked about in the interview is a no go and there are actually quite strict parameters around the subject which definitely wasn’t mentioned in the interview. I’m finding it hard from these parameters to mould the phd into something that I will actually find interesting or will benefit my professional growth. I know from talking to others that being passionate about your topic is extremely important with a PhD as it is a massive undertaking.

I’m not sure what to do. Is it better to hold on a bit and see if things get better/I can mould the project into something I’m remotely interested in or leave early and thank them for the funding and opportunity but that it really isn’t what I expected. Will this look terrible on a CV? Will I be unlikely to be considered for another funded PhD if I leave this one? I feel like I’m in a bit of a trapped situation and can’t really see a good option out of it - if anyone has any experience with this some advice would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Avatar for rewt

I can't tell you whethere to drop out or not but don't drop out until you have something else lined up. It is a funded project and it is easier to make life decsisions when you have an income. Treat the PhD like a job, do the time but look or something else. There is nothing morally wrong doing that and it will make the transition easier.


If you know that there is absolutely no way to turn your current project into one that you have some interest in, leave. No point prolonging your pain.

You can leave in two ways. One, by looking for a new project and supervisor and transferring your scholarship across. Two, if you have no intention of being in academia, a PhD is probably less useful to your career move and so it would be best financial wise for you to get a job.

Don't waste your time staying hoping things will change. Red flags should not be ignored. I have seen so many PhD students holding on far too long and nearly all the time, the decision to stay was a bad one and the PhD student suffered and some failed their PhD completely due to bad project/supervisor.


I disagree on treating a PhD as a job. Financially, it is one of the worst possible move. The minimum stipend in UK is £17,668 a year. The average salary for a Project Administrator is £27666 per year in United Kingdom according to Glassdoor. Multiply that for 3-4 years, can you imagine the huge financial and career seniority losses?

Only do a PhD on a project that you love with a team that is good. Otherwise, it is totally not worth it. These days, a PhD no longer guarantees a job anyway. What you don't want is to suffer emotionally and financially to complete 3-4 years of PhD that you hate only to graduate and find that you cannot get grants to continue supporting your academic career due to the dwindling grant pool and lack of tenure.