Quitting near the end


Hi everyone,

A bit of a depressing first post I'm afraid :-(

I am six months away from the end of my PhD funding and have just been told by my supervisors that there is no way I will be ready to submit by the funding deadline and have at least another 12-24 months ahead of me. I do not have sufficient money available to continue past the end of my funding. I do have a full draft of my thesis but it's not good enough apparently. I can't carry on with this because I literally live from month to month from my grant with no money left over to save. I don't have any parents that I could live with or a partner to take care of me. Basically, once the money runs out, I'm ruined.

The main issues as far as I can tell is that they don't think my writing is up to scratch, however I do also feel that my supervisors have lost interest in me and have effectively "written me off" as a bad job. I haven't ever been asked to do any teaching, never been included in anything to do with the department, have had insufficient access to funding and don't get invited to conferences. I've worked so hard over the last 2 years to carry out my fieldwork and get a full draft together but I feel like it has been for nothing! To top it all, I arrived at our meeting place 30 minutes early last month and one of my supervisors walked in, saw me sitting there alone and turned around and walked straight back out! He clearly didn't want to make small talk with me for half an hour!

I wondered if any of you could help me with what my options are now. Has anyone ever transferred down to a Masters or know anyone who has? Is it even possible? I'm also terrified that my job prospects are ruined now because I'm convinced I won't get a good reference from my current supervisor. My confidence in myself and my ability has been completely shattered and I'm regretting ever taking this PhD on. Are there any quitters or job seekers out there who are concerned about getting a reference from their supervisor? Also, how would I explain what I have been doing for the last 2 1/2 years?

From a very sad and deflated nevergoingtobeadoctor J.


I'm sorry to hear about the situation you find yourself in. The first thing I would advise is to get some independent advice from a postgraduate tutor type person at your uni to see if your supervisors' assessment of the situation is accurate. You need to be absolutely clear about what the specific perceived issue is. If it is just the writing, and you already have a first draft, I don't see why that couldn't be sorted out in the next 6 months. The fact that they are saying 12-24 months may indicate they feel you need to do more work, which would have different implications. But equally they may have an unrealistic idea of what a PhD should actually contain.

Even if your supervisors have a bad attitude to you, it is not in the university's interests to have you drop out when you want to complete and you're nearly there. There's a good chance they will be able to provide you with the additional support you need to finish on time. So do explore your options with someone independent.

One other thing - you need to be very proactive in seeking support and furthering your career. I am lucky to be in a very supportive department, but I've never been asked to teach or 'invited' to conferences. I've sought out those opportunities myself and pursued them with the support of my department, but they didn't just magically fall into my lap. It may be that if you do need to carry on past your current funding that there may be bridging funds out there or small charitable grants, but it's up to you to seek them out.

Another option you could consider is to get a part time job and write up in your free time. Use the remaining funded work to do as much on the fieldwork/analysis side as possible, and just accept that finishing the writing up might need to be juggled with other employment.


I agree with what Hazyjane has said but just wanted to add another couple of things that might be helpful.

Usually it is possible to submit a shorter thesis for an MPhil, if it's agreed that the work is not PhD standard by the student and the supervisors, or the student wants to leave early. Have a look at the regulations for the MPhil where you study and see what it entails. But I'm not sure this is what your supervisors are telling you. It's very normal for PhDs to take 4 rather than the funded 3 years. I think you really need to arrange a meeting with your supervisors and get them to give you very clear guidance on what the issues are with the draft and what you would need to do to get it to PhD level. Then you need to discuss your options with them - be open about the financial issues. Try to be as calm and collected as you can, so you may need to leave it for a couple of weeks. You do need this information to make choices - no-one makes good decisions when they are upset and panicking so don't do anything hasty. Could you see if you could make an appointment with the university counselling service - for some people talking it through with an impartial counsellor might help you see possibilities and options that you don't think of yourself.
I would also suggest that you need to try to separate your supervisors' views on your work from their opinions of you as a person. I suspect that the supervisor that that walked away rather than sit and chat for 1/2 an hour before your meeting, did so because s/he knew that s/he was going to have to deliver upsetting feedback to you in the actual meeting, felt awkward about it as it was, and just couldn't face spending 1/2 hour pretending everything was OK. I suspect that actually says that s/he likes you and was dreading the meeting - it's a lot easier to deliver bad news to someone you dislike than it is someone you like.


You would need to check with jobs and benefits but once your funding runs out see if you are entitled to job seekers allowance. You will need to show evidence of looking for a job (but I'd be very surprised if you got one) and perhaps you could continue writing up during this time. If you did get a job, perhaps you could fit the thesis round it. It's surprising what you can achieve when you're up against it.

All the very best!


Sorry to hear that. I was in a similar situation around half a year ago (perhaps still is), thought different to you financial wasn’t such a big issue to me. I was forced to change all my supervisors as they either retired or resigned. I was thinking about switching to a Master as well back then, but decided to give PhD one last try. (My friends told me that if your supervisor didn't tell you to switch, then they probably think that it is still worth a PhD). My funding is going to run out in September, and I have got nothing written yet, and I am still doing experimental work…. I know how it feels in your situation when your supervisors basically tell you that the work that you did worth nothing. It feels like all the hard work that you did was wasted. I guess you are also suffering from a very low self-esteem as well. My suggestion to you is that you should try to calm yourself down, try to talk to your family or friends, this is a very good way for releasing your emotion and let someone else to take the burden with you. Perhaps try to talk to a counsellor at you university or even the post-grad co-ordinator/advisor (usually is the person that do the admin work for post-grad student). Also try to think through your project to see whether you can slightly change you goal and fulfil that goal with a short experiment. If so maybe that would be the way out. As for your financial problem, I suggest that you try to ask around for teaching jobs. Try to talk to your postgraduate co-ordinator in your school, they are usually the people that get the most up to date information about teaching job when a professor need someone to help out. Also try to be open with your supervisor about your financial problem, I think they might be able to help in some way, or perhaps give you some suggestion or even give you a teaching job.

Just remember one thing, even if you supervisor dislike you, they will still try to help you out, because it will look bad on them if they have a student that quit or fail a PhD. (This is what I tell myself to carry on my work and my meeting with my supervisor). Good luck!


First of all, they haven't told you its rubbish, they have just said it needs some more work. I can't imagine anyones first draft is perfect, but it can be improved. Go back to them and find out what needs doing, is the structure OK? Do you need more results? does your lit review do its job? Get some detailed feedback and then you will have a clear idea what is ahead. If you think they are bored with your topic, ask them, if you do that, and they are, then they should find someone else to take it on. Go to whoever is in charge of postgrad work and tell them what you have been told. They should have some ideas about wha tcan be done, andif there is any money you can tap into in order to finish your studies. The part time job is a possibility and one well worth pursuing try not to be disheartened, these things happen but you can get through it. the reference shouldn't be a problem. there is no reason why you should not be given a decent ref from your supervisor, they won't want to suggest that they are so bad at supervising that they couldn't see you needed extra help to finish. Anyone who has even been accepted on a PhD course must have ability, they don't let just anyone on you know! Get an extension on the deadline if necessary and explain to future employers that you need extra time to finish but are doing it away from the uni in your spare time as your grant has run out. Think positive, you are nearly there and don't let anyone tell you you can't do it. Good luck! J


Thank you all for your advice and kind words, it really does make me feel better. I'm a bit shell shocked still and I am finding it hard to think straight so I think I'll have a little break for a week or so, then come back and make a proper decision once the shock has worn off and I'm not so panicked!

I think I do need to meet with a post grad tutor, I'm just frightened that it'll cause issues with my supervisory team if they find out. I can't think about this logically at the moment so I think I need to take some time out. Thank you all so much for your advice :-)

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

The situation you describe is exactly the same as that I faced. I found myself a post-doc in the department where I was doing my PhD and that saw me through the extra year I needed to get sorted out.

The situation you describe is very muchthat faced by alot of PhD candidates in that they overrun up to a year (or longer if their University will allow) and have to find money to see them through.

If you can find a job to finance you whilst you write up in your spare time, that is the way to go. If you are struggling to find work, can you not claim unemployment benefit (whilst finding a job)? You may also be entitled to housing benefit if moving in with parents, relatives or friends is not an option.

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)