Hi guys...

In final year of doctoral variant and crushed by situation. This is a fixed term course - the funding includes a guillotine on duration.

Long story short - no-one has addressed my topic in the UK as no suitable software. I'm a mature student and have software development experience, so started developed my own tools.

A lot of meddling from supervision (such a dominant character) who has complete power over direction - but no development experience; knows no coding languages and does not get the need for design.

System design stage banned ("takes too long!") - seconded by the course director who let me know that I was to comply or consider the effects of a split (which I took to mean booted out).

Two years later - changes and lurches in goals. Significant wasted time, re-interpreted intents (which I made sure were clear and in writing).

Upshot - I'm 6 months away from the guillotine. Yes, I have the nominal, but I need a plausible draft thesis -
and other than waffle about what might be - I have nothing, for there are no results. Further effort will take, I think, 6 months minimum.

This is not a software doctorate. This is all for a tool to address a gap (= novelty). I'm over 60,000 lines of complex executable code, no design except my notes and more effort needed to complete it. I'm lost in the scale of this thing (yet got 2 papers out of techniques developed to make progress). But it's an aside; not what the doctorate's about.

I am burnt out from effort, stress, the changes in direction, the wasted time (this year! 6 weeks lost on a method discarded by diktat) the grind and the IGNORED calls for supervisory help (1:1, in writing, in front of others, in the upgrade/transfer report).

Second supervisor - powerless (and no coding experience). My colleagues are chemists and don't know anything of what I do so cannot comment or help.

The guillotine forces a fail; I see no way out.


I am sorry to hear of your situation. But it does seem like there are solutions, provided others are prepared to work with you (not a given, I know, but you have reasonable grounds).

From what you wrote, it seems like if you had a year you could get it done, but you only have 6 months left. I would ask for a meeting with supervisors/committee/ head of dept. I would demonstrate 2 things in that meeting. Firstly, what you have been doing in last 3.5 years and as result why you need an extension. and secondly your plan for proceeding forward with time line. So you need to sit down and make realistic plan to finish before the meeting. Be realistic, but i think if you need 14 months not 12 better ask for that now not later. I wouldn't expect to be funded for that 6/8 month extension- not saying that is right- but i just wouldn't expect it. So that's another hurdle... if you can't get a loan from family member or friend , maybe credit union or bank (live frugally, it will be worth it, since you have come this far)

I would document meeting and try to keep record of as much as possible (emails ect) . Maybe if there is a grad student adviser I would go to him/her first. or if you think one of your supervisors would support you, go to them first . it would be nice to have someone in your corner at meeting.

You are not really in a bad position, asking in advance for extension. also you need it due to difficulties that weren't to do with laziness or procrastination; you have been working hard and have valid reasons for needing extension.
I know every school is different. But I know lots of people who got extensions and it wasn't seen as a big deal. some had to pay fees (or partial fees) and their funding wasn't extended, but they got it done and it was worth it.



just wanted to add and hadn't space in last message

People are emotional beings at the end of the day, so you need to sell yourself and your case at meeting. 2 publications are great: this all universities really care about (my uni anyway). You have a lot going for you going going into this meeting. Don't let self-doubt take that away from you.

Good luck. every problem has a solution.


Hi newlease36,

thank you for your suggestions!

Alas the contract the doctoral collage has with the funding body sets a timescale guillotine. I can carry myself for a year money wise; the funding is not the issue. On the 17th November 2017 there is a pass to nominal or a fail.

I've been to see the head of the doctoral collage. He says "with this one we cannot do extensions, or suspensions without significant cause. We cannot give you a benefit others on the same contract do not have; it would not be fair."

Yep, I've been keeping evidence as soon as it was clear I was not being heard; I can evidence my attempts to get supervision to assist. On spelling those out the college director said he thought that I had a case to show ("...if it went to litigation" !!) that the University has failed to provide suitable resources.

He's talking litigation over extension. Is that just to put me off? I don't want to go down that road.

Without the software there is no hope; it is too late to change horses (even if there was one to hop onto).

My game plan at present is to get as much done as possible (ignoring everything else), to blow through the deadline and finish the work at home. With a working system (and some results) to then approach another Uni with everything and say "can you put together a board to look at this?".

Fortunately I have some material likely to form an interesting 3rd paper / another thesis chapter. It's looking OK as far as the work goes.

What else to do? Take an MPhil and walk away? Perhaps both the MPhil and another Uni.

And I really do not know what to put in the thesis Acknowledgements; it has been loathsome throughout.


You won't be able to go to another university and get them to award you a PhD for work done at another institution I'm afraid. It is a big no in quality assurance agency terms. So I think you need to burn some bridges and kick your complaint up a level at the university you are registered at.
You have a significant cause for a extension to be granted -poor supervision, which helpfully the head of the doctoral college has agreed is the case. Therefore, I would suggest looking up the formal complaint procedure for your institution and complain now about both your supervision and the head of the doctoral college's refusal to give you an extension. Follow the procedures meticulously. There is nothing high ranking administrators are more scared of than a student with a case, who is following procedures. Use evidence from whatever annual progress reviews you have had / upgrade reports etc to show how you were not discouraged from following this line on enquiry. If this is an RCUK-funded DTC, then threaten to complain to the research council too. Be unemotional and legalistic in the way you complain and evidence your claims. I suspect that pretty quickly they will find a mechanism to grant you that extension after all.
I know this means burning bridges with your supervisory team but you have probably done that already by complaining to the head of the doctoral college. And given the remedy you seek is fairly easy to supply, then I think the university would rather give you an extension now, than deal with you renewing the formal complaint after a failed viva.


Hi, random_6772

I agree totally with bewildered. Talk to your postgraduate coordinator or Students Union on how to lodge a formal complaint. Do it ASAP. You have nothing to lose anyway. If you do not get an extension, you will be forced to fail. So give it your best shot and complain and fight for your extension on the basis on poor supervision. You no longer have to worry about future relationship with your supervisor, because a) if he ignored you during your PhD, he will ignore your future request for reference letter and b) what use is a relationship if you fail your PhD.

Fight on! Good luck!


Hi there bewildered and tru,

that's good advice you're giving; I'll put things in place to prep a complaint and take it to the SU. But they've already told me that even if I win a complaint the University is likely to have their hands tied by RCUK rules :( so still no room for extensions.

Which confirms the glum position of the head of the doctoral college.

Thanks for your suggestions; you've motivated me!



Hi Random, just a thought. It's obviously not possible to go to another institution and get them to accept a thesis written elsewhere, but you did say you already have a couple of papers published. Would it be possible to register elsewhere for a PhD by publication? You'd need more than 2 papers, but you could use the time left now to work on that? Hope that you find a path forwards through all of this


As far as I know, there's no RCUK rule that you can't have an extension. Universities don't want to give you one because they have a target to get 80% of PhD students submit within 4 years or it affects some funding I think. I know plenty of students who have had 6-12 month extensions on top of their 4 year funding (unpaid usually). The university can give you an extension if they want to, and it's in their interest to do so if you are likely to fail without it. You might have to play the mental health card though...


Hi, random_6772.

So they told you that even if you win a complaint, the University is likely to have their hands tied by RCUK rules? "Likely" is not "surely".

By the way, you have to understated that whenever PhD students have big problems, the uni tends to close ranks and protect its staff aka your supervisor. Seen it happen many times, even to myself. But guess what, even when they (a couple of very, very high ranking people of the university) told me to let go of my case because my supervisor did nothing wrong (despite the mountains of hard evidences), I persevered on and eventually won my case completely. And I got my PhD award later. In your case, the uni has to admit fault that your supervisor was not supervising. That is why they would prefer that you fail than them having to admit fault. Understand the underlining reasons for them not helping.

Go and seek advice from your students union and postgrad coordinator. Be warned, that as you lodge the complain, you may see the ugliest side of the uni to sidetrack you and prevent your from lodging (aka uni self defense mechanism). Another word of advice, collect and organise your documentations to prove your case. Be thorough in your documentation and stay calm in the face of adversity. Don't walk away from your PhD without even trying to fight. You have nothing to lose.

Toughen up, and fight for what you feel is right for you. Act FAST. I wish you the very best.


sorry to hear such kind of problems where one is helpless and those who are supposed to help are careless to say the least . I just finished reading a kindle e-book entitled
"20 Signs of Problematic PhD Programs and Supervisions"
which opened my eyes to the broken system around... One has to be careful with whom to work these days and what kind of program to enter in..


Hi random, just wondering how you got on in the end?


Still wobbly - but better. 20 months of my work discarded; that hurt

Got new supervisory team, another change of direction and starting 12 months of nominal. Which is odd, as I've got no upgrade to nominal - and the new supervisor didn't like my old transfer report (which had passed under the old regime) so threw it out.

This puts me in limbo as far as the PGR route is concerned; I'm drifting off the map, seeing peers finish and get their doctorates. Anyhow, if there is a thesis handed in I will look to only accept a few changes; I'm not spending another year on top of 5 so far to rewrite the thing.

As far as content goes, good success with a simplified section yet need a month to write an analysis engine. Each hypothesis test generates c. 100 GB of data. That's 100 k Excel spreadsheets per hypothesis. So a results analyser is needed; it'll do high level results / summaries extraction.

That progress spurt (I'd fled home so to be free of old supervision) came to a stop under new supervision, who wants papers as if from scratch. The approach suggested is much better in terms of getting pertinent info (alternative literature search - learnt a lot) but it's eating time.

I'm not insanely stressed, and the University did (in extremis) flex, given no other option.

I'd NEVER go to a big-name, top-of-the-top Uni again. Too much obsession with appearance and success over doing useful work plus deaf "look-at-me" ego people who don't give anything for the students. Politics, ego and image - very important for my 1st supervision.

My old Uni (Newcastle) is a decent second tier place (with, looking back, better facilities). I should have gone there. On hearing I was looking at doctorates they made 2 offers (I applied once, got 3 offers).

But my ego pulled me in to a big name place. Oh well.

Overall, doing better :) but likely a fail.


Ahh there's lecturers with egos at my uni and my uni is low in the league tables. It seems once they get their PhD and lecturing job, they think they are something else and it's ok to bully students.


I agree with helebon, big egos everywhere in academia. I wouldn't judge yourself too harshly got choosing big name's what most people would advise doing.

You sound a bit disheartened. .and understandably so.

But having said that you need to rethink the story about all this in your head and fight to pass..since your going to be doing the work anyway, you might as well.

It sounds from your post your being really harsh with
Yourself and blaming yourself u necessarily and feeling like a failure.

There are other ways of looking at it. I would see it as someone who is very smart and capable who had bad luck with supervision (unfortunately all too common) and who despite setbacks is still in with chance to get the award