I would like to give you a bit of background regarding my PhD journey thus far. My PhD topic is on fandom.
I registered for my PhD in early 2013 with the perfect person as my promoter. She was approved as my promoter through the various departmental and faculty postgrad committees without any resistance. She was instrumental in my topic choice, as well as methodologies and theory choices. I received a staff bursary to study from 2013 until the end of 2015 (I have been working for this University as a full time lecturer since January 2004). I attended a PhD Proposal Development Programme (hosted by this university's Research Office), which helped me greatly. I was told by one of the facilitators that I should be doing my PhD through a university such as UCLA and not my university, as it would have more impact in the States where studies on fandom were more popular. My proposal received full ethics clearance and was approved through the various postgrad and Research Methodology Committees. I started my data collection during October 2013, and my promoter left my university for another varsity during December 2013.
I needed to register for my second PhD year in 2014 and needed to have my promoter approved as my external promoter, as she was no longer working for the university. I was told by the powers that be that I was not allowed to have her as my promoter anymore as there were funding issues and because we were friends, which would not be appropriate for a PhD candidate/promoter relationship. To put this in context, I was one of her students when I started studying at in 2001. I became her student assistant in 2002/2003 and then a lecturer and colleague from 2004. We had worked closely together as colleagues for 10 years, and a friendship had developed between us. However, this did not affect our student/promoter relationship regarding my PhD. There was also no resistance when she was approved as my promoter in 2013 when she was still working for the university.
Basically, I was bullied into dropping her as my promoter as certain colleagues did not want her to have any kind of 'hold' on the Department or any kind of power. It was a personal issue for them against her. It was suggested to me that I ask a Dr from the Languages department to be my promoter, as he has a strong theoretical background (in literary studies, not fandom, which I found out later, unfortunately). I fought hard to keep my original promoter and even tried to have her appointed as co-promoter, but to no avail. My colleagues would not budge. So the languages Dr was then approved to be my promoter. I am his first Doctoral student, and he did not receive any assistance in the form of a co-supervisor with knowledge in media and fandom studies. I applied for a national bursary for Completing PhD Candidates at the end of the year, and had been collecting data throughout 2014.
I received confirmation in 2015 that I had been awarded the national bursary, and used that to fund my trip to the UK to attend the London Film and Comic Con and conference on Fandom and Religion, and teaching replacement for the sabbatical I applied for from July 2015 – January 2016. I also received a Teaching Replacement Grant from the Research Office that went towards paying contract staff during semester 2 of 2015. I was starting to write up the PhD and submitted it in December 2015, after a 6 month sabbatical.
In February this year (2016) I received the news that I would need to resubmit my PhD to two of the three examiners, and so I had to ask to have my staff bursary extended by a year. I decided to resubmit my PhD during August this year in order to make it for December graduation. However, I have recently learned that both examiners have asked for another resubmission. I checked the Postgrad policy for my university, and it is clear that PhD students can only resubmit once. However, if one looks at my exam reports, although they both state “resubmission” at the top, the examiners are again given the choice for me to resubmit, which goes against the policy. There should be a separate form for PhD candidates that are resubmitting, which omits the resubmission option entirely for examiners.
I suggested to the faculty officers that they should send the corrected reports to the examiners and ask them to amend their choices (it's basically just a tick on a form, their written report doesn't change). However, I was told that I would not be able to do that, and that "the process had to take it's course". This means that my PhD, along with all the reports from the initial submission to the resubmission, will need to go to an arbiter for a final decision.
My current supervisor and I were both thrown in the deep end during 2014 when I was forced to drop my original promoter. She has the knowledge of fandom and film/media studies that I needed in a promoter. My current promoter, whom I respect immensely, is not an expert in fandom, and was put in a difficult position when taking over as my promoter. He had to familiarise himself with my theoretical framework and methodologies and read up on fandom, as my topic is very niche and is not being studied in my country.
I am very concerned that I would have to pay back the staff bursary and the national bursary if I do not pass this PhD, and I worry that my reputation amongst my colleagues and peers will be irreparably damaged if I do not graduate.
I'd also like to mention that 2 of the 3 examiners are experts in the field, one from the US and the other from the UK. The one from the US chose to accept my PhD with major corrections. The other chose for me to resubmit twice. The third examiner is from my country, but does not have any qualification or publications in fandom. This examiner was selected by my new supervisor on advice from a more senior colleague. However, the problem was that this examiner's expertise lies in feminist studies and African studies, and this is not related to my field at all. He also requested the resubmission twice.
I'm unsure why you think your university is at fault here to be honest.
It sounds like you have submitted your thesis and essentially been told it isn't good enough. You have then re-submitted and have been told it still isn't good enough. At that point I would have expected either a downgrade to a Masters or something or an outrght fail. Instead they have given you another chance to submit for the third time.
Have I understood that properly?
If so, I don't see what your university has done wrong here.
Did nobody write down explicitly what you had to correct in order to pass?
Yes, the examiners gave detailed reports both times. The two experts' reports were much more appropriate than the non-expert, but I made the corrections to both my and my new promoter's satisfaction. We then resubmitted
The reason why I say my University has let me down is because I would have produced a much better piece of work if I had been allowed to keep my original promoter, and personal issues hadn't hindered that process. Also the fact that the examiners were given the wrong form for the resubmission. There should NOT have been an option for them to choose resubmit. It should just have been either
1.1 Accept unconditionally
1.2 Accept with minor corrections
1.3 Accept with major corrections
2.1 Not accepted. The candidate should not graduate.
The faculty officer said they could not resend the corrected forms to the examiners, and that it had to go straight to arbitration. However, this is an error on the part of the exams department and they won't correct it. If perhaps one of the examiners had then chosen 1.3 and the other 2.1 (which is what I suspect would have happened if they were given the correct form), then it could have gone for arbitration for the third report. However, now the arbiter will see the reports from the examiners with the incorrect forms and the examiners' selections and not know that the form is incorrect.
The arbitration is not a third chance - the resubmitted PhD from this year, including all the reports from the first and second submission go to an arbiter, who makes a final decision that then becomes the final result of the PhD.
I'm sorry to hear you are having difficulty with this. Is your promoter aware that there has been a procedural irregularity with the forms? Is he unable to help? Surely when this is looked at for a firm decision by the arbiter it will be obvious that there has been a mistake in the options offered to the examiners. I hope you get a fair and speedy outcome.
pm113, I have been a staff member in this department for 13 years. I know everything that goes on and know everyone's motives and agendas. However, when my current supervisor left (she was also the head of Department), there was a push to remove her and her influence from everything in the department. We were told to "move on" and to "cut ties" with members of the department who had left. I was also told that she would not be there to "protect" me anymore, whatever that may mean. I was also told that, because she and I were friends, did I really want people speaking behind my back that the only reason I have my PhD is because of our friendship and not the quality of my work. When I fought to keep her as my supervisor, I was told absolutely not, and that there were "other issues" at play that couldn't be spoken about.
Yes, the procedural thing is very confusing and extremely frustrating. I have spoken with the faculty heads and they have told me that the correct examination forms would not be sent to the examiners, which I think would be the easiest route. Instead, because the faculty post-grad committee had decided on arbitration, that this would be the path my submission would take. However, the Faculty post-grad committee did not know that the examiners were given the incorrect forms. One then has to wonder what they would have decided if they knew. I know that if I was the promoter, sitting on that board, discussing my candidate, I would insist that the correct forms be sent to the examiners along with an explanation as to why they needed to fill in a different form. Their actual reports would not need to change, just the form. But, I am the one raising these questions, not my supervisor.
I can imagine that he must be embarrassed and also just as frustrated as I am, but perhaps not keen to rock the boat and question the exams department or throw a spanner in the works with Faculty admin. Our year is coming to an end and there have been many disruptions at our university and others around the country. So my best bet is now to wait for the arbiter to come back with their decision, and then take things from there.
Lydia, I have no idea whether the arbiter will be told the full story and if they will know that the forms are incorrect. I don't even know if she/he has been given a copy of the university's postgrad policy.
None of the political stuff matters if your work is up to scratch. A knowledgeable supervisor can be very helpful, but equally doing a PhD also means that by the end you have become an expert in your field - and to a certain degree should be able to understand why your examiners think it's not quite right yet. You have been given another chance to submit - take it!
I am also wondering why you haven't consulted your former supervisor privately (if not officially)? If you're friends and former colleagues, I am sure she would not mind casting an eye over your current submission and share her thoughts with you?
The main point is - you can still improve this situation and pass your PhD, but retrospectively trying to figure out who is to blame is just not that helpful. I doubt you could take legal action anyway - your supervisor might have left and your university might have messed up the form, but these are things that happen all the time and do not sound severe enough. Just my thoughts on your situation.
I would echo the comments of PracticalMouse.
You really need to focus on what you can control.
Forget the politics and focus on the fact that your thesis is not up to scratch.
Fix that, get your PhD and then I have one final piece pf advice.
Find a new job. You have been there too long to the extent that the office politics is affecting you.
Masters DegreesSearch For Masters Degrees
An active and supportive community.
Support and advice from your peers.
Your postgraduate questions answered.
Use your experience to help others.
Enter your email address below to get started with your forum account
Enter your username below to login to your account
An email has been sent to your email account along with instructions on how to reset your password. If you do not recieve your email, or have any futher problems accessing your account, then please contact our customer support.
or continue as guest