No feedback - only 5 days left to submit


Hi all

A while back I posted in "1 month to go" that I submitted my "final" draft of my PhD to my supervisors for examination approval. My main supervisor got back to me within a week with final comments and suggestions. I addressed those while waiting for my other supervisor's feedback. The co-supervisor then unfortunately had a death in the family and was absent from the office for a week. I went to him to offer my condolences and told him not to worry about my work right away, there was still time and if need be, I could make arrangements to submit late. He reassured me and said he was going to read my work in that week. That was about 3 weeks ago (6 weeks in total after I submitted) A week after that, my other supervisor went to speak with him and said that time was running out, would he be willing to let me submit it without his final comments and he said no, he was getting to it. Every week he promises something like "by next Wednesday at the absolute latest" but then that goes by without a word, leaving me with the awkward task of approaching him to find out what is going on. It has put a lot of strain on what has been a great working relationship, to the extent that there is some animosity between us. I have no idea what to do next, since we can't keep nagging him (and it hasn't helped anyway) and he seems unconcerned that the deadline is fast approaching, my entire life has been on hold for 3 weeks, I spend every day waiting for his feedback, I can't make any plans to do anything else because IF I receive the feedback I will have to work on it day and night if I want to have any chance of submitting it on time. I don't want to sound insensitive to his circumstances, but this has been HELL.

Any advice, please?


Do you need his approval to submit your thesis? If not, I would suggest to stop worrying about it and do the final preparations for submission. He had enough time to give his comments and corrections and even though he promised to do so several times, he did not. No matter if there were personal circumstances that prevented him from corrections, it is obviously not your fault and you can't do more than reminding him of the nearing deadline. You did so and you can't do any major corrections in 5 days anyway so just "relax" and come to terms with the submission of a thesis that does not include his final comments. In my opinion it is already too late. If you start now with further corrections it will probably not improve the thesis, but make it worse. I imagine that last phase as incredibly stressful, so don't make it harder as it already is :) I can't believe that he would be mad at you for not including his comments if he waited till your 5 days out to submission.

Good luck!


Is it possible just to get a final chat with your main supervisor and get their agreement about submitting? I would be tempted to do that at this stage, so you and the main supervisor have a plan for moving forward without the co-supervisor at this stage.


He knows how close you are to the deadline so I very much doubt he is going to make substantial changes, so I really wouldn't worry. I would just wait for a bit longer.

Avatar for Eds

On ToL's point, you can always submit half hour behore closing: so you still got most of the five (four?) days to come


Is it an electronic only submission or a paper one? Because if the latter, submission tends to take longer than people think. Printers don't work, binding goes funny, etc. So it's best to allow at least a whole day to make sure everything goes ok with that. Electronic only submissions can be an awful lot easier.

I honestly think it's too late for you to make significant changes now, and your co-supervisor is unlikely to come through with the goods now. You should have a frank discussion - face to face preferably, or email if not - with your main supervisor, and ask if he or she will approve your submission as it stands. Typically only one supervisor needs to sign a submitted thesis ...


Hi everyone

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

To respond to ToL and Eds, and link to Bilbo's - I can't wait until Friday to submit because we have to first submit to plagiarism detection software (it can take 24 hours to generate a report) and then the report must be "analysed" by your supervisors before they can sign off on your dissertation. Then only can I print the final copies (I have to courier 3 - two abroad and one local). And to do this on the last day of submission is asking for trouble - the systems are bound to be jammed because everyone is submitting etc. But I guess I can wait til Thursday and see if anything happens by then - it just seems so pointless, because as all of you pointed out - I can do much in the last few days, even if I did get his comments today or tomorrow. I wish I could just go ahead and submit, but my supervisor asked him whether he would agree to this and he said no. I will have to find out whether I can submit without his approval, although I was told last week that he needs to sign all documents and reports etc.

Sorry if my thoughts are coming out a bit jumbled, but I am starting to feel completely frantic about this.

I guess the first thing to do is to try and speak with my main supervisor to figure out what the game plan is, although he told me on Friday that he can't do much more than he has already done.

Avatar for Eds

He cannot prevent you from submitting by enforcing his absence can he- at least, not without taking the responsibility upon himself?


To be honest, it doesn't really matter whether you submit by the deadline or not - it's not your fault and the admin team and exams office will understand. It's the department and your supervisor that will look bad, because they have to have 80% of students submitting within the deadline. It's some sort of requirement for funding.

You could ask your other supervisor if it is worth letting the relevant people know that your submission may be late.


This is really unfair on you. Do you have a written (i.e. emailed) record of communication regarding his delay in feeding back? Make sure you have something, even if you just send him an email detailing your concerns and the time frame that you've been working with. IF he doesn't get back to you and still won't allow you to submit, at least then you've got evidence that it's not your fault.

So sorry to hear you're going through this. Good luck!


What a terrible situation for you. I'm afraid it sounds like he's just taken up your offer of 'take your time and I can always submit late', despite his saying he'll do it in time. Because you've told him you're prepared to submit late if needs be I don't think there is anything that can be done other than wait on him and hope he gives no recommendations. The only other way around is I guess you have to give some forewarning of late submission to admin? I also guess that has to be done in good time and not on submission day? Can you find out when admin need to be told for a late submission and then email saying 'admin need to know by (x) if this will be a late submission'. Might jolt him into making a decision? Good luck.


Thanks for the info, everyone.

I don't have any paper trail of this, so I guess I need to send him an e-mail, in case I need it later for admin. Luckily my supervisor is aware of everything, if I need some kind of "proof" that I did try to make him aware of the deadline etc.

What is just so exceptionally frustrating is that I did in fact, as Wowzers mentioned, offer to make arrangements to submit late. This is quite a mission at my uni because technically you have to let a committee know NOT to appoint examiners etc despite your previous indication that you intend to submit on time. Now my examiners have been appointed and my grant provider has been notified of my "intention to submit" - processes that wouldn't have happened if he was just honest with me and said that he wouldn't be able to get to it. Late submission is a big deal at my uni - there is a "penalty fee" and I won't be allowed to submit until November, meaning my viva will be next year - and I start a new job in January, meaning I will have to ask for leave and travel back to my uni to do the viva. I told him about all of these implications when I said that we need to decide beforehand whether I would need to submit late so that I can make the necessary arrangements. Now everything is a complete mess.

The worst part is that I just heard that he gave feedback to another student last week Thursday - meaning that he is reading students' work, just not mine.


I would still send that email, just in case the supervisors try to join ranks - even trusted people can sometimes surprise you. You need to make sure you have evidence independently if at all possible.

I also think that although you 'offered to make arrangements to submit late', you also need to make it clear that he has given you no indication that that would be necessary and has made it seem that you would get your feedback in a timely fashion (which is his responsibility) - as demonstrated by him always saying 'by next Wednesday at the absolute latest' over and over. Your kind of offer to submit late doesn't really have any impact on the situation because, as far as you were aware, you'd been assured that you'd get your feedback and that wouldn't be necessary.

You're being messed around here and from all the info you've given, for what it's worth I personally think that you need to stand your ground. This isn't your fault! (And as you say, he's given feedback to another student too!)

Again: good luck! And keep us posted if you can.


Well then that is just outrageous behaviour by him! Can you go to admin and tell them the situation? Can they email on yoyr behalf saying ghey exoect submission ny x dare? surely you should not be fined as you tried to make the appropriate arrangements. I hope for your sake he signs off with no amendments. Tbh even if he signs with amendments it looks like you'd have to submit without attending to them (prob no biggie as your main sup has already given comment). I'm having an issue with mine over admin they've not done that's out me 3 months behind. Lack if accountability for sups seems rife!


Quote From wowzers:
Well then that is just outrageous behaviour by him!

Being disorganised and chaotic with one's workload after a family bereavement? Yes, what appalling behaviour. *rolls eyes*

Look, I know it's a deeply frustrating situation to be in, but you *have* received feedback from your main supervisor who didn't give you any major amendments to make, so I'd take that as sufficient endorsement and treat anything else as a bonus.

Do make sure that all the difficulties are documented so that, should any issues arise, you have a paper trail to go back to. But beyond that, I'd proceed without his comments. Try not to resent the fact that he gave feedback to another student - unless that other student had an entire thesis to give feedback on then by nature their enquiry will have been simpler to tackle than yours.

I'm not saying he hasn't stuffed up, but it is highly unlikely he's setting out to deliberately inconvenience you. Rather it is more likely the case that he's in a state of disorganisation and been over-optimistic about what he can achieve in difficult circumstances. I'm sure he would like to give you timely feedback but is probably struggling in the situation. Try not to sour what you had said was a previously good working relationship - one day you may find yourself in a similar situation to what he is experiencing and be grateful to those colleagues who understood and didn't hold a grudge if you didn't get things done.

Trust your main supervisor's feedback, and proceed with what you feel comfortable doing and which will cause you least stress. I'd suggest writing an email to both yours supervisors outlining your plan to submit without further comments as you appreciate the difficulty of them being provided at this stage. They then have the opportunity to consent or offer further advice.

Good luck.