Dealing with very demanding and critical supervisors


Hi Eska,
I'm pleased you've come to that decision. Staying on will just give the sups more guts to raise the stakes for the next poor sod. I encouraged two of my junior PhDer to continue their PhD elsewhere after their upgrade - they left and are soooo happy and sucessful. Taking the first step in the right direction is scary but "feel the fear and do it anyway" - just believe in yourself.
Nope, changing sups have not made a dent in my academic career. Infact, my new team is more dynamic than the previous poxy ones. Citing the new team as referees has definitely increased my chances of getting shortlisted for academic posts. Within the academic world, everyone knows the men from the boys. There is a Chinese saying: " Where flowers around, its naturally fragant. If you have it, you don't need to flaunt it - others around will know who you are without you telling them how great you are".

Avatar for Eska

Hairui - A much better respected academic has been positive about my project and wants to talk about supervision so there is already light at the end of the tunnel. The hopefully new sup has a beyond ace record of getting his phds into good posts and into publishing books. so I have my fingers crossed. I was a bit concerened about wether I would need references from my current department, for any potential new one, but that doesn't seem to have effected your transfer. I am talking to my current HOD and when I go I will tell her exactly why I'm leaving. My current sup has a dreadful record with students hanging around for years after their planned submissioned dates. Can't help thinking this behavioutr/attitude is why.


Brilliant news! Just a few queries:
1. Are you leaving the uni or just the department?
2. Is the new sup within the existing faculty?
1. If you intend to leave the department/school, the HOD might want a sup within the department as he/she would not want to lose a thesis
2. If the new sup is from another faculty, that would impact on the focus of your thesis.
3. Paperwork might take 10-20 working days (min) for transfer of supervision. In my case, it took 9months! I was hopping mad and I made sure the VC knew about the incompetence of the people involved. Sounds like yours will be a smooth transfer. Well done, mate.

Avatar for Eska

Hairui - I will have to leave the department and uni (and locale) because there is no - one there who could supervise this, my existing sup can barely manage it in terms of expertise (being a fish out of discipline is another reason I want to leave). The new uni and department holds a very, very strong specialism in my discipline. And it looks like I'll have to wait until at least this Christmas to start with the hopefully super sup because of his schedule. Thanks for the encouragement, I really hope this works out.


Eska, I'm so happy for you. I tried completing my thesis in another uni but due to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), it was best to complete it in my present university. There is less of an IP issue when you transfer after the upgrade, unless the department funded your first year: one of the reasons why I did not go after the first year.
Well, you can chill out till Christmas. It'll be a well deserved break.

Avatar for Eska

Hairiu - and to think I was dissapointed I did't get funding! Sooo glad now.


Hi Pineapple, Hi All,

I'm having a similar problem with my supervisors, which I wonder if any of you can offer perspective on.

Like Pineapple, I have felt throughout my PhD that my supervisors have been very critical of my work. I also felt that during the pandemic they lost interest in my project. Now I am just a few months away from submitting the final thesis, and they have suddenly turned around with a very large number of criticisms, saying that my argument is inaccurate. This is on work that I have submitted to them previously and which they had tickex off as good work.

We had our final meeting before I submit today and they strongly implied that my thesis would not pass. They called my writing illogical and suggested this was because of my neuridivergency. They say they cannot understand my ideas. Again, these are ideas they have read and found no problem with in the past.

I have sought opinion from others on my PhD programme who have su cesfully passed their vivas, giving them chapters of my thesis to read and asking for their honest opinion of my writing and argument. They all say it is clearly communicated and well researched.

I am really struggling to bridge the gap between what my supervisors are saying (that my work will fail) and what my other readers are saying (that they think my work is good). What do I do? Who do I believe? I am so worried that I am going to fail my PhD!

Any wisdom or similar experience really appreciated!


Trust your judgement. If you strongly believe it's all good then I'd submit. Someone I know had their supervisor tell them their thesis would fail if they submitted it. They ignored that advice and submitted it and it got passed without correction and the examiners said it was the best thesis they'd ever examined. The supervisor then said "I can't believe I got it so wrong". Maybe your supervisors have done just that.