Just thought I'd give a quick update on my prior message. I've been doing a lot of soul-searching and am starting to find the strength to stand up to the pathetic external and go forwards with the thesis. I am not ready to walk away from it yet so therefore I need to start getting myself together.
I have spent a little bit of time talking to a counsellor and have let go some of the despair and anger, I've got a way to go but at least I feel like I might be on the right psychological path now.
All I can say to everyone is that this is an absolute b***h of a time but I guess they don't give phds away.
AngeloftheNorth, good for you. I know how you feel although my viva wasn't bad other than finding out all the things my supervisors should have told me years ago :-s I know it's a complete b*tch to have to go through the hassle. I go from feeling glad it's nearly over, to panic that I won't finish (I have a month left) to depression that I should have chosen another subject. I was talking to one of my colleagues last week and she says that 10 years on, she still feels the pain of her PhD (BTW she got it). We were moaning about the UK PhD system and be both agreed it needs a serious overhaul. It should be really tough but this all feels more about luck than anything else.
Still, nearly there eh? ;-)
Angelofthenorth, I can compeltely relate to what you are going through. A similar experience happened to me during my viva, just 6 days ago !!!:-(
Same situation: good supervisors, good progress, really enjoyed my work, presented my work at several international conferences and I have a postdoc lined up I should be starting beginning of November. Yet for 6 days now I have been feeling drained, discouraged.
The jury failed me and would consider only awarding me an MPhil after corrections .. The external was an absolute arrogant b####d who did not like my work at all (not the same method he used), criticised every single aspect of my work (he said I missunderstood the meaning of some words between French and English..he was French himself !!) and wouldn't listen to my answers. there were two internals in the room and a chairperson .. chairperson didn't say anything, even though the guy was clearly bullying me and I was in tears. One internal didn't say a word and the other asked a few questions but not really massively important ones. In fact, of the three main areas of work making up my thesis, the external only focused on one, the one he was more expert in. 3 hours of hell ... and a complete shock... I am filling in a formal complaint because the assessment was clearly biased .. I could understand I had some corrections to make in my thesis but 4 years of work to only get an MPhil after corrections ...I can't believe it! My supervisors are as shocked as me and clearly supporting me !! I don't know what I am going to do now because I have to wait for the appeal ...I don't know whetehr I will eb able to do my postdoc ..and I don't ahve any plan B ... Been crying for 6 days and don't see myself getting over it!
Hi FrenchyMarie, I'm so sorry that you had to go through that experience. It sounds really harsh, especially as you were making such good progress and were used to presenting and defending your work. I seem to hear many stories of examiners who give the student a rough time if the student didn't use the exact same method as the examiner. It seems as though their egos and reputations are more important than encouraging the more junior members of the field to carry on with research. Please don't let it put you off though. From the sound of it, you were doing really well, and if you are confident enough to present at international meetings, I'm sure its possible to pick yourself up and carry on. Maybe spend a bit of time doing something nice to try and distract yourself from the appeal and so that you recover. Would it be helpful to visit friends/family to try and put this into prospective. Remember, its not over yet, and despite how it might feel now, its not the end of the world. I think its a real shame when students are so discouraged, even if the work was not quite enough for a PhD (which would be strange as your supervisor should have seen and warned you), there is no need for bullying a student during what is surely a very stressful time. Hope that your appeal gets settled positively and that you feel better soon:-)
I am wondering....in the UK the examiner is always decided on the suggestions of both the supervisor and the supervisee, so why did this debacle happen in the first place? The supervisor usually tries to personally and professionally know the examiner and their work, so does the student, such that a 'suitable' examiner is identified...correct me if i am wrong...
In my case, I was consulted about the external examiner and my supervisors and I agreed that he "should" be suitable for my PhD.. except that the examiner only focused on one part of the study that is relevant to his expertise (my project is multidisciplinary) and completely ignored the other two parts ...and in the end anyway he "didn't like my approach"...so in any case, he may be an expert but that does not guaranty he will provide a fair judgment ... expertise does not mean good attitude ..and also my supervisor has met the guy several times and said he was ok ...people act differently depending on the context they are in: with colleagues, with students, etc ...
Just got the official letter today ... I am finalizing my appeal form...
In respect to the question about the external - we had only three people we could identify as a potential external - I ended up with mine kind of by default. Strangely, but similarly to Frenchymarie, one of my supers knows this woman well and can barely believe the way that she behaved and the harshness and unfairness of her questioning and her feedback. I guess she behaves very differently outside the viva room and with people that she perceives as being of equal status.
Meant to say FrenchyMarie how sad I am to hear of your experience - that is an utter bastard. Try to hang on in there and no matter what keep fighting. It is such a body blow when this sort of thing happens, and just so goddamn unnecessary.
Big hugs to you and the bestest of luck with your appeal.
Thanks Angelofthenorth for your kind words .. I can only describe that kind of experience as an earthquake as it is so unsettling. As for the question for the supervisor being in the room, same as for Angelofthenorth, none of my supervisors thought it was necessary, they thought I would pass with flying colours and that the internals would do their jobs. I must say as well that the chairperson, even though she saw me in tears and clearly under constant criticism (should I dare say "bullying") from the external did not say anything because "she has to remain neutral" ..all she managed to say at the end was "I can't say anything because I must stay neutral but on a personal note I am very sorry" ..yeah right, that helps...
I have collated all my bi-annual PhD progress reports to attach to my appeal form ...fingers crossed !!
Oh my goodness! I wish you the best of luck with your appeal, this all sounds like a really nasty horror film! I'm beginning to wish I hadn't read the thread. I'm just starting this week and in some naive and dumb way thought that the sups wouldn't let you submit and go to the viva unless you were pretty certain of a pass. The idea that externals can come in and shred you like this is quite horrifying. I also didn't realise quite what a viva entailed, I'm scared already - I can write, but I find talking very hard, to explain myself under barrage is difficult for me and I get all tongue tied, so the thought of three hours of it is just too much. It makes me wonder when there seems to be so much luck involved with who you get to examine you whether its worth the agony of 3 years of work to be slashed by someone who just doesn't like you in the end? :$
Well the more I think about it the more I think the viva is also a question of luck. I sent my appeal documents yesterday. And today I finally received (after two weeks) the external's report ...and I am outraged, so much so I stopped reading the document after the first paragraph. The guy slaughters my thesis again, saying there is nothing new in my research ( not true) and that my thesis is ill-written...well that means that my two supervisors, who are native English speakers, don't speak English properly and can't correct me and this guy, who is French, knows better! I am feeling sick !
On a positive note, the researcher I am supposed to work with as a postdoc in November has emailed me to say he still wants me for the job whatever the outcome of the appeal ... which again proves that my external is an idiot (to remain polite) !
Excellent news about the job FrenchyMarie.
Yes, I remember reading my feedback for the first time (having waited six weeks for it) and feeling that pain and anger all over again. I still have trouble looking at the actual document and have transferred each comment, observation and request contained within it into a word document of my own creation - breaking it down into seperate points is soul-destroying at one level but makes it more manageable in the long-run. Hang in there and try not to despair too much.
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