Quitting CASE studentship


Hi everyone,
I'm hoping I can get some advice but I've pretty much made up my mind I'm going to quit. I am in my first year of a CASE awarded PhD and am hating it. I have been out of academia for two years and am finding it very hard to remember things from my undergraduate, never mind trying to develop my knowledge to new things for my project. Also, I have never been involved in research before as I only have an undergraduate degree and not a masters.
I have never considered doing a phd before but when I was asked to do it I decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up and had to at least give it a go. Now six months later I've hated every minute of it and am still not really sure what I'm supposed to be doing. I don't even go into the office anymore because I used to just burst into tears with the stress and confusion and didn't want anyone to see me upset. I have also been seeing a counsellor at the university to try to help with these feelings but I feel that this phd is damaging to me and don't want to continue.
I would love to hear from other people who have quit and how did they go about it, did they have to pay back their funding (shitty question to have to ask but I have to think about it), what did their supervisor say, etc? Did you have to hand in the work you did so far? I feel like I don't have anything to hand in since all I've been doing is reading and trying to understand the literature!

Guys any help or words of wisdom would be appreciated.


Hey Firstyear

I understand what you're going through. No you don't have to pay your funding back. Do you remember the PhD contract you signed at the beginning? Go get a copy and read it... I imagine it will say nothing of the sort regards paying anything back, and most likely won't even specify a notice period. PhD students are not slaves, you have all the statutory rights you enjoyed before you started.

Please don't fret too much, warn your supervisors that you will probably be leaving - you will probably be surprised at how nice they can be when they want to be! They will usually have plenty of experience of people leaving, and are always wary of making enemies of people who may be useful in the future.

My advice is tofind work before you leave - it looks more attractive to prospective employers, and puts you in a better position to negotiate.


Hi Firstyear

I understood what you are going through, have been there before. I think your supervisor is responsibility of it as well, they should shape and guide you what you need to do, especially during the first year. First year can be quite miserable if you didnt have a good guideline.

Do you need to do any course work? You don't really have to know "what to do" during the first few months. First year is more like "read and define a research topic" that you want to do. Have you spoken to your supervisor about it? do you have second supervisor or research committee members who might be able to help you to redefine a research topic?

Don't get panic, once you set a research topic, it's easier for you to move on.


Hi First year,

I want to echo Chinglnc, I think it is pretty normal to start the PhD and have to cover ground on a new subject. Being away for 2 years from academic life and having no research experince is very common. I went through the same myself, academics comfort you saying " it is a steep learning curve" but I think they always sound like big talking fortune cookies :)

No need to panic, it doesn't help and slows you down. I always think that although I am quiet ignorant, at least I am cool 8-)

It is true you need to put a lot of effort- I am sure you are pretty capable of doing that, since you were offered a studentship. And as chinglnc said, try to attend courses in the uni, preferably some Master that is close to your subject. It might help you to build a general background on the topic. Attend writing courses too, they were very helpful for me.

Communicate with your supervisor these issues, like you need more guidance, may be he can give you a list of reading material.
Remember it is equally hard for everyone. Don't give up without a fight!


Hey guys,

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and get back to me. Everyone has told me that they didn't really do much in their first year and it wasn't until 2nd and 3rd year that they had a grasp of what they were supposed to be doing. To be honest I don't want to be walking around in a haze for the next few years, not really knowing what I'm supposed to be doing! That's my idea of hell! I think the problem is that I need structure and a means to an end and just dont think I'm PhD material :(
I have already spoken to my supervisor and told him I feel like a 2nd year undergraduate trying to do a Phd. He was understanding but that's about it. I don't think he realises just how stuck I am.
Anyway, I will have to decide pretty soon because I don't want to spend much more time on something I'm not going to finish. I'll keep you all posted and thanks again for the advice and words of encouragement.