Seeking Advice: Considering Filing a Complaint Against my Supervisor as a PhD Student


I began my Ph.D. program in September 2020, and over the past three years, I have found myself enduring a challenging situation. Among my two supervisors, one holds the primary role. Regrettably, she is never present in her office, resulting in just one in-person meeting (she was late and did not even listen to me) throughout these years and only 3 to 4 online meetings. From my perspective, this seems incredibly unusual, particularly as I initially did not enroll in a remote program. Following the first year, comments from her started indicating delays and a perceived sluggish pace on my part. I do not know why, because I successfully passed my general exam (qualification exam) in the first year and my phd proposal at the end of the second year.

Each email from her triggers stress and nervousness. While she is a CS department supervisor, she consistently asserts that she is not an expert in machine learning, directing me to consult my co-supervisor instead. I dedicated substantial effort to crafting a survey paper, which she not only failed to read but also dismissed by suggesting I add more pages. To add insult to injury, she made jest of the fact that a 9-page content, along with references, isn't sufficient for a survey. She even went as far as comparing my solitary-authored work to a comprehensive survey penned by four authors, all contributing equally.

In two separate summers, she abruptly suspended my funding, citing inadequate work. This had a profound impact as I had financial commitments such as rent to meet. I acknowledge some delays, but comprehending her actions proves challenging. Despite her physical absence, I find myself isolated within the project, and her unsupportive demeanor only intensifies this feeling of isolation and self-doubt. My confidence has been severely shaken. Despite my strong academic performance with a GPA of 4/4.3 and all my efforts in the project, she appears dismissive of my capabilities.

I conveyed my feelings about her behavior, but her lack of response left me disheartened. Our communication is exclusively through email. Whenever I requested feedback, her responses cited my supposed unavailability, even claiming I am traveling somewhere that lacked internet access. My repeated appeals for online/ in-person meetings were consistently ignored.

These instances highlight some of the key issues I've been facing with her. Do I possess the right to initiate a formal complaint against her conduct? Additionally, would it be advisable to seek a change in supervision? The distress has reached a point where I'm contemplating abandoning my Ph.D. pursuit.

I genuinely welcome your insights and opinions on my situation.


Does anybody have anything to say?
I really appreciate you in advance for your help and guidance.


It sounds like you are in a toxic environment. You need to get out.

Talk to your postgrad coordinator about changing supervisor. If this option is not available, perhaps leave with a master instead. I don’t see how you will graduate with a PhD even if you put in the efforts under these circumstances.

It’s hard and I am sorry you are going through so much. Stay strong


Did you write the survey paper on your own initiative, or was that your supervisor's idea? Did you offer her coauthorship?