I had a bombshell dropped on my doorstep today. Tomorrow is the start of 2nd year PhD in cancer biology (at a UK institution), funded by a small charity (also from the UK). I was told that the charity no longer want to fund the project. As yet, I don't know why.
My supervisor tried to make me leave the project after 9 months and when I wouldn't leave, initiated 'Termination of Studies' procedure. Since that procedure was started, an independent panel from the Uni has decided the concerns were unfounded and I am fit to continue (much to my supervisors' dismay). However, now there is no funding (the charity covered my stipend, fees and consumables). I suspect that this fact relates to the withdrawal of funding but this has not been confirmed as yet.
Does anyone know if the Uni are obligated to find me new funding/change me to a new project with new funding or whether I am effectively unemployed and bankrupt from here on in?
Any advice would be very helpful! Thanks in advance.
Hi Genette, sorry to hear that you’re having such a rough time.
First of all, while I understand that you’re concerned about the funding, it sounds like the situation with your supervisor might actually be the more pressing issue. Why do they not want you to continue? If they don’t want to supervise you, you really need to get a different supervisor, otherwise your chances of completing are not good at all. I’d think in your situation, you’d be entitled to help with this from your University. Is there someone else you can think of who could supervise you?
On the issue of the funding- I think the answers to your questions will depend on how exactly your funding was set up. So you'll need to read the confirmation letter or other paperwork you should have received at the start of your PhD, or get hold of a copy. Were you offered 3 years funding, or was it to be reassessed on a year by year basis? All this kind of thing should be in writing somewhere.
The situation does sound quite odd, as I think the usual situation is for the external funding body to transfer all the allocated money to the University at the start of the project, precisely so that things like this can’t happen, but maybe there are exceptions to this. Were you being paid via your University, or directly by the charity? How were you informed about the funding being cancelled? If the funding was tied to your supervisor and/or project, and you change your supervisor, you would probably lose access to that funding. But if your funding really is cancelled anyway, you might as well try to change supervisors and apply for new funding and/or scholarship from another source.
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Sorry to hear about your situation, it sounds awful.
As Elsie says the situation with your supervisor sounds equally bad, it sounds as though the relationship between you and your supervisor has broken down, which with or without funding would make it difficult to continue working together.
I don't really know how charity or business sponsored PhD's work, as regards funding. You would hope that the funding was transfered to the University at the start of the project to prevent issues like this arising. I guess there could be targets that have to be reached to continue funding of the project, if this is the case someone will presumably have to submit reports updating the charity on the progress of the project, it may be worth checking that these have been submitted and that their content is accurate.
I would check all your paperwork regarding PhD offer and funding, and speak to people in the department and at the University to to find out what is going on. The people on the independent panel you attended might be good to speak to as presumably they are quite senior in the University and obviously know your situation quite well.
Has your supervisor informed the charity of the 'Termination of Studies' procedure? That's how it looks to me.
It may be the charity has decided to pull the plug assuming you'll not be there to contine the project.
I'd contact the charity directly to inform then you're still there and willing to continue (or if via the University for them to do it).
You'll clearly not be able to continue with your current supervisor, so you'll need a new supervisor in place before you are able to argue for continued funding. With a new supervisor, the charity may consider this a new project and not the supervisor they were working with thus again not decide to continue funding.
See far how you can get, but it may be you're options are limited. If the charity do not restore funding, you're faced with funding the remainder of the PhD out of your own pocket or possibly calling it a day.
Depending on how badly you want to continue, it may be worth starting completely afresh with a different funded project with a new supervisor and possibly at a different University (and yes, I know that will set you back a year). Note anyone new may want to approach your current supervisor for a reference, so you may need to raise the panel's recommendation that the supervisor's concerns were unfounded. That in itself is not good and you'll have to hope other references will be sufficient.
I just wanted to say that in the current financial climate I've heard of a number of medical charities stopping funding research groups with very little notice. In one case where a friend is losing her postdoc job as a result, it turns out that for years and years the funding contract had always said that the charity could pull the funding with 3 months notice. They just never thought it would happen with such little notice but it has and that's the entire research group fired. It might therefore be nothing to do with you as an individual. I suspect the university are not obliged to find you new funding though.
Thanks guys. As far as I am aware, there is no chance of changing supervisor as the grant and effectively protein I'm working on are solely my supervisors idea, and there is no one else in the department who cares/understands enough to take over. My funding letter states the PhD is funded wholly by the charity and they can withdraw at any time, and the University doesnt have to fund anything. There is supposed to be a meeting today between some 'big-wigs' to try and sort out the funding but no one will tell me why the charity has pulled out. If the charity has run out of money then that somehow seems more fair than my supervisor "telling tales" and then the charity pulling the funding. I will let you know if I know.
Aside from this, does anyone know how long I should reasonably wait before trying to find a job? My rent for this month is paid but I have about £100 which now has to last me indefinitely! It will take time to get started in a position and to get paid, but I dont know if I should be able to get some money from the Uni - like a hardship loan, or some sort of compensation because I only found out the day before payday that there was no more money. What do you think?
Hi Genette, I think you need to seriously consider whether you want to/can continue with this project in any case, given the problems with your supervisor. If they are not supportive of you, this is only going to get worse. Are there at least any remediation steps in place, to try to repair your relationship?
There's no harm in looking into a hardship loan from your uni, but I have no experience in that so not sure what the outcome would be. Personally I would start looking for a job immediately, even some casual work to keep you going until you know what is happening. You could also look into unemployment benefits, you may be entitled to something there, but again, I'm not sure.
It's an awful situation to find yourself in. Do consider carefully what you think you can get out of this, whether it is worth persevering with this PhD, or if you might be better off moving on to something else.
Sorry to hear about this Genette, it sounds terrible... Is there any way you can contact the charity directly? I would have thought there's someone you can call. But if your thesis really is entirely dependent on your supervisor, is it possible to continue? I mean, from your post it doesn't sound like you're even on speaking terms. If you want to continue, are there people anywhere else (in an entitely different university) who could act as supervisor? If so, you could see about a transfer. But again, I think first you should try to contact the charity to ask them.
Unfortunately I doubt the university has any obligation to provide funding for your studies, but you should definitely look at hardship funds and any other sources.
You need to get the best advice you can now. Concentrating on finance - Have you been to see any advisors from your student's union? Also what about contacting the Citizen's Advice? If there is no way of continuing where you are at the minute, you have to look after your finances straight away.
With the best efforts in the world - hardly anyone walks straight into any kind of job. If you need to sign on for any benefits - make a claim as soon as you can. It can take a while to process, but at least you have started the ball rolling.
You have been treated really shabbily - but that particular PhD is not the only one in the world. Is there any chance of switching to another? Also that particular University is not the only one in the world either. It may be that you might have to get a job for a year or two and then apply somewhere else - and hopefully somewhere where the situation will be more reliable.
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