If I don't get the PhD can I try again later?


I have a fairly simple question. I'm enrolled as a PhD student and am near the end of my candidature but for various reasons might downgrade to a Masters or even quit. I want to know if it is possible to re-enroll and do a PhD later. Basically, if I have been a PhD student and failed, can I have a second chance to do a PhD later?


There are a few of us around who are doing this second time around. I only did one year the first time and would not have been allowed to continue. There was a very long gap before trying again - it really broke confidence, and not just for the PhD but in general. After a while I just edited the whole experience out of my CV completely - easier with one year than two. Perhaps getting a masters (which I didn't) would be useful as for any other application process it automatically accounts for the time without having to go into details.


I'm doing a PhD the second time, but in a totally different discipline (first was science, second humanities). There are implications for funding if you don't succeed the first time: if you apply for funding again the new funding council can ask you to declare what prior funding you've received, and reserves the right to reduce your second round of funding accordingly. You can not declare things to them, covering it up, but I was totally up-front in my application. I think it helped that my second PhD was in a totally opposite discipline, so I got the full funding again. You also have to consider how keen a new supervisor would be to take on someone who's failed/quit the first time. Again you can cover things up, but is that something you should really be doing?


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I nearly quit my PhD but decided to continue because I had serious doubts about whether I'd be able to start again - the upshot has been I've taken a long time completing my PhD. Obviously you have reasons for wanting to downgrade your PhD, but think carefully about if you can work around them and possibly extend your time to finish up the PhD (the uni will probably agree to this if it's a choice between you leaving or completing). I would imagine most people who quit their PhD with intentions of returning, never actually do (marriages, mortgages and kids start getting in the way). Of course, it can be done as the other posters have explained.

You say 're-enroll' - does this mean you'd want to do the PhD at the same uni? Also are you sure you can get the necessary references for starting a new PhD? You say you're at the end of your candidature, so this means having to explain 3/4 years on your CV?

British uni's are being told to publish their PhD completion rates, which means they will be less keen on taking on students who have a history of non-completion.

I've voted 'yes' - you can have a second chance - but for many disciplines, I imagine this will be very hard.


I quit my PhD two years ago( same uni as Smilodon i think ) I'm on an MSc at another uni at the moment. I will be starting a job in the NHS in September back in the same city I did my PhD ( attempt ) at and I may end up applying to do a PhD again at the same uni or somewhere else in the next couple of years as it is seen as an important qualification in the feild I am getting in to and I would like to try again if the circumstances are right.

The answer to your question is yes it is possible to have another go at a PhD, as the previous posters have said ,but how easy this is to do will really depend on your personal circumstances. You will need to do either one of two things: Wait enough years so that you can comfortably erase your first PhD studies from your CV (although in your case this might be hard to do as three years is a lot harder to hide than one) or make sure you can get references from your current uni that will strongly support your application for another PhD.

Most importantly also ask yourself objectively how leaving this PhD and doing another one will improve your situation. Why do you want to leave in the first place? bad supervision, disinterest in topic, stress, lack of progress....? This is important because if you don't consider this carefully you can end up signing on for another PhD and will still have the same problems as in the first instances. I have heard of a few people on this forum who have dropped out of two PhDs. It doesn't happen very often but it does happen. To be honest my first drop out was a very soul destroying experience so I won't sign up again for a PhD unless very confident I will complete it.

If your just fed-up with your project, but everything else is good, then my advice would be stick with it, get your PhD (or at least a masters) and then if you want to research something else after, sign up for a relevant post doc or do a conversion masters.

If it is bad supervision you are worried about then talk to your department. You may be allowed change supervisors.

if its a case that you are not making enough progress to complete and/ or have a general lack of motivation ( with adequate support from your supervisor I might add ) then jumping from one ship to another will probably not help.