I have been studying for a part-time PhD and submitted a probationary report for extension to probationary, or upgrade to PhD. Prior to this, I made a complaint about my current supervisor, as he was very rude to me in an email, for which I received an unreserved apology from the university. However, following the complaint my relationship with the supervisor broke down. I felt very upset about all of this. He assessed my work and has made the recommendation to terminate my registration. I was told to only submit 4-5 pages, not to add a lit review and not to do any data analysis. He said I have not made progress and failed to devise a series of research questions. That my work was not of a standard for such an important document. This is not the case. I have collected data, included methods, did include something of a lit review. My work was also assessed by another in the department who agrees with my supervisor's findings. I don't understand. Everything prior to this was satisfactory and forward looking. I am so shocked.
I feel that as I have complained how could I then continue to work with this supervisor. I have had no supervision meetings for 15 months, as my main supervisor left, as he had to change jobs. So I had to then work alone with the other supervisor (the one I complained about) who until then had almost nothing to do with my work. He is not a specialist in my subject area either.
The university did provide additional support from another academic, who also was not a subject specialist in my research area. They have refused to find a suitable replacement supervisor until I passed the probation, but lack of support has hindered me.
I feel devastated. Any advice would be most welcome.
Have you spoken to your department's Director of Research about this?
It's a shame that you couldn't have resolved the problem between you and your supervisor without having to go to higher authority. Can I just clarify, had you, before submitting your report, been told by your supervisor that there wasn't a problem with your work? If he had told you not to include all that info (which seems a bit mad - no lit review?!) which resulted in both lecturers said that work was not of a high enough standard, perhaps there is a way you could appeal and re-admit? Getting a more detailed breakdown of the perceived weaknesses in your work could be useful to you.
With regards to having supervisors that are not specialists in your area, I'm afraid this is not an unusual state of affairs especially if you're in an arts based subject. Both of mine have only a tenuous link to my research area. It's not a great situation, but it's that or nothing.
I hope you can get some answers that will help you find a way forward.
this is a difficult situation, and one that needs thinking about carefully. When you say you had no meetings for 15 months, do you mean you had no guidance - or just you didn't have face-to -face contact with your supervisor? Some of us rely on e-mail rather than personal contact because that is easier, no contact at all suggests either they were ignoring you, which is something that your director of studies should have been told about, or you were not contacting them - sometimes you have to make the contact as they are busy people and they may forget that they haven't heard from you for a while! The chances of finding someone who knows a lot about all of your research is low, although they should have some inkling of your area, my supervisor is no expert in my specific area, but can still guide me when it comes to exploring different areas, so maybe they just wanted to make sure you were progressing before they went hunting for someone? I think maybe you need to try to talk to someone, your student representitive, or whoever deals with the admin side of research degree work at your university as starting point to find out if the report you submitted was as required, then you need to talk to your director of studies. They should be helping you to get through this stage, it does not reflect well on a university for students to fall by the wayside, so I think they would try to avoid this if they can. Is it the university who have said you have failed - or just these submissions by the supervisors? Could this be because you have not contacted these supervisors? Maybe you just need to resubmit an improved version? Find out what you need to do to get back on track, there will be a way through this I'm sure.
I think you have grounds for complaint on the basis of them not arranging a replacement supervisor straight away. I don't see that it makes any sense to delay this.
That said, I'm not sure of the wisdom of complaining about a rude email. I had a similar situation (although it was by no means a single incident) and approached the Graduate Tutor in my department. I was quite clear, however, that I didn't want intervention from other members of staff -- just the opportunity to talk it through, have my issue 'logged' in the system in case of future catastrophe, and work out how I was going to sort it out. I subsequently found out that my supervisor was going through a difficult time. While this is no excuse for his behaviour, I'm relieved that I didn't irreparably damage our relationship. I think lots of students (including myself) have a tendency to underestimate the diplomacy element of any working relationship.
Sorry to hear what happened to you. I am very much in the same boat. After you have filed a complaint, that said, you can no longer work with the same supervisor. In your case, I suggest that you should seek help from the student adviser and then file an academic appeal. The department or school will try and protect the staff member. In my case, they also refused to give me a new supervisor until I have gone through the first year viva and if you were against this, like I had, they will make it harder for you to stay on. The supervisors will never admit what they said like in my case; they said my report was good and etc, in the viva meeting, they put me on stand and a lot of questions and told me I missed out this and that when they had my paper for months. They put me on another probation period just so I would not file another complaint. The relationship has broken down completely. So good luck with you case and better get it sorted soon.
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