I was forced to quit my PhD by both my supervisors


People have said that a PhD is like a marathon and it really is much more about stamina and endurance than intelligence or ability.

I think the role of the supervisor is really underestimated in academia. Just doing a PhD is not enough for this, and there needs to be a pedogogical and pastoral training for this crucial job.

I feel the adverse effects of having my dictatorial supervisor HAS influenced me not being able to find doctoral level work in the longer term and similar stories of other students being undermined so much they lose confidence is too commonplace.


I really sympathize with the all the writers here who have problems with their supervisors. I had a very difficult relationship with mine. I only managed to go through it because I focussed constantly on my objectives. But it was tough. This person has now left this uni and I have a new supervisor. Things are much better, although it's still early to say. I attended a seminar the other day, by one of the PhD students in our dept. and she had her two superiors there. It was such a pleasure to see them asking questions and interacting with her - it was clear that they both knew every detail of her research and enjoyed being there! I was a little bit jealous I must admit. Things like this help your self-esteem enormously and also give you sense of purpose and self-motivation.


It is much more difficult when you don't have this support, but you can make it.
Of course the field you are in also play a role. However, I would like to encourage everyone to build relationships with other scholars, members of staff. Also outside your own uni.


Yeah Corinne, I've got a bit of supervisor-envy going on at the moment too. My friend gets oodles of support from his supervisor, and it's making a world of difference to his confidence levels. I wish I was stronger and could just block it out and get on with things, but I can't deny it--it's really affecting me.


But you are strong xeno! Much stronger than you think! When I started studying under my former supervisor it was clear from day one that her thought was: 'she is going to quit in 4 weeks time!'. I thought: ' you don't know how wrong you are!!!' I studied furiously, and results were there, she couldn't do anything about it. In the end, although our relationship wasn't idyllic I think that I earned some respect. But I don't deny it, it was very tough at times. However I am still here, more determined than ever.


Corinne it's so cool to see that you've got a steely determination and are pushing through. You're right, you've just got to block it out and carry on. I know I'll do the same, as this sort of challenge always makes me fight harder.


Living proof… I was so determined to finish the PhD I think that’s what annoyed him so much. There was NO WAY JOSE I was going to quit. No way. So he spent his entire time concocting ways of getting rid of me. I mean he was totally obsessed. I really had to laugh… I didn’t know that somebody would put so much effort into getting rid of me!!! It’s laughable.

Yeah, a PhD is about going through the tough times and not quitting. Stay strong Living… something good will come out of this even if you can’t see this at the moment. I’ve come to the conclusion that they only bully the best. So stay as you are and keep going strong!


Badhaircut!!! Don’t let the b*******s get you down!! Don’t do it!!! Don’t take up that attitude… if you do, you’ll be forever doomed. This is b******t! It’s only in your mind. If you think like that they’ll win. Don’t let them win. You worked damn hard for your PhD and you are worthy of a good academic job at the end of it, just like they were/are. Think positive, stay positive and it will be alright, I promise…!


Badhaircut – that was so well put what you said “I think the role of the supervisor is really underestimated in academia. Just doing a PhD is not enough for this, and there needs to be a pedogogical and pastoral training for this crucial job”.

Hear, hear!! I hope an academic is reading this and will do something about it.


Corinne, reading your story one particular line rang very true with me when you said “Things like this help your self-esteem enormously and also give you sense of purpose and self-motivation”.

Exactly… don’t academics know this already???

I must say though, I’m not sure how I would feel if I was an academic and took on a bright, young PhD student…. maybe I’d feel slightly threatened too.

But still, bullying is in no way acceptable. I totally understand if no words of encouragement are uttered, I could live with that, but bullying, scheming and undermining are no-no’s. It’s an abuse of power. It’s wrong.


QTPIE. I take inspiration from your story and i think i could avail from your advice. you sound like you are exactly in the same position as me. i started a PhD last october but i had no backround in the topic and was still selected because i had the credentials. my ex supervisor is nothing short of a Pig and yours sounds worse. i was only five months in when i was told i probably wouldnt last one year and i could be easily replacable. he offered no support, rest of my research group were in another building half an hour across the city. i got destroyed in my first year review by him and was accused of faking results and ive never had such a good cry in years.

my department and college have taken my side. i have found a supervisor willing to take me on, but my confidence is shot and im debating about whether so accept or move on.i do agree how important it is to research the backround of the project, visitng labs and talking to the supervisor before accepting.


Wow rjb… thank you for sharing your story… it is very similar to mine.

You say you have found a supervisor “..willing to take me on”.

That’s exactly how I felt at the beginning. This all happened to me 5 months ago. They offered me another PhD straight after my supervisor forced me to quit and at the time I felt like a “hot potato”, that is that they weren’t offering me the new PhD on merit, rather because I was a liability and it was something they had to do. But later I realised that this was actually only existent in my mind because my confidence was so low.

I can tell you that at the time I wanted to sue my supevisor’s ass. I envisaged going to the top newspapers and hiring a lawyer because I knew I had a case. I could see the headlines now “top university at centre of bullying allegations”. The allegations my supervisor made against me made me want to puke because he was half responsible. If he had worked with me properly none of it would have happened.


Also, in his final damning letter to me he copied in the director of undergraduate studies and other significant people in the college, so he effectively black-marked my name.

HOWEVER. However. It’s actions that count. The college swiftly worked to relocate me onto another PhD.

You see there would have been two ways the college could have dealt with this case: 1) by agreeing with the supervisor and the accusations made against the student hence ejecting the student from the course and never allowing them in the college again OR
2) By realising that this was in fact a disagreement between two parties and that the student needs help with finding a new project and supervisor within the college.

If they had taken option 1) I was getting ready to defend my name. But since they took option 2) it looks like I wasn’t all that bad after all.


I think it was Rogue that said earlier, disagreements between student and supervisor are common. But when you’re in it your confidence sure takes a big knock.


Aww, Rjb, big hug ((((((((((((Rjb))))))))))))))

So you got another supervisor to supervise you on that same project and now you don’t know whether to stay or whether to take the high road….?