Supervisor pushing me too far


Hi, I was just wondering if you lovely people could provide me with a bit of advice...I've been doing my PhD for a few months and to be honest it has been a nightmare from day 1. I was prepared to work hard but my supervisor is expecting me to work a 60+ hour week and wants results as soon as possible. He has threatened me with being thrown out and says that i'm not committed enough even though i have no life anymore, don't see my friends or family anymore and quite frankly have no quality of life whatsoever. Also, he doesn't really believe in allowing me time to read to inform my research. I really don't know what to do :-(.


It may not be what you expect in terms of advise, but I suggest the following: be happy about it. Being pushed is a very good thing in a PhD, it will make it more likely that you complete the thing.

If, however, your physical health starts suffering from the psychological stress, make sure you take enough breaks and be assertive about them in front of your supervisor. you are entitled to a number of breaks per year, make sure you take them.

And by the way, your supervisor can not throw you out of the programme, unless you miss the milestones specified by your university or the overall registration period.


I know the type.

Well you can do two things

a) put up with it and accept it as the price of working with the man and not making any waves.

b) call a meeting and negotiate what an appropriate workload would look like. You can ask other people in the department other students to get a good idea. If you think it will be too much for you alone, ask if you can bring a co-supervisor or tutor along to it.


i may be wrong but i dont think its possible to keep those sort of hours up for 3 years plus. i had same situation with my sup but at the end of the day i think lifes too short to stop living for three years.


Quite right. Doing a PhD is a marathon but not a long haul trip to becoming an academic imbecile. I think your sup is in la la land. Ask for a change of supervisors NOW, it can only get worse.


Take this as good advice from someone who has gone through a first year of a PhD and fallen flat on his arse (i dropped out). Your supervisor has no right to threaten you like that. I got the same kind of comments from my supervisor but i was 4-5 months in. you’ve only got your foot in the door, this is ridiculous!!! Your certainly well within your rights to complain to the department about this

I don’t agree with this put up or shut up mentality, as a student you have rights so find out what they are and exercise them.
If you feel you are been overworked and not getting enough support you need to do something about it now. There should be a graduate studies handbook or document which outlines the roles of responsibility of both the student and supervisor.


What you need to do is in the presence of another member of staff (say your advisor ), discuss you issues and then trash out reasonable work plan for your first year, including major milestones and timelines, the frequency and nature of support you should be getting from your supervisor and so forth. Get it all down on paper, in case the shit hits the fan at first year review..

Trust me when I say, id still be a PhD student if I had followed this advice


I was funded by the EPSRC and they recommend 40 hour working week and up to 8 weeks holiday a year. I went to one of the Oxbridge universities and I didn’t know anyone who worked 60 hour week for their PhD ( in their first year) and I knew a lot of people from different fields doing PhDs. It sounds to me like this guys has a lot of pressure to deliver on this project


Thank you so much for your replies. I'm currently looking into talking to the independent graduate advisor and trying to sort this mess out. In the meantime, I am just trying to keep my head above water by getting my supervisor the results he so desperately seems to want. No one in my department can understand his harsh attitude towards me and it is doing nothing for my confidence. However, I'm determined that he won't drive me out!!!!


Talk with your supervisor and tell him you are just human being not a robot.


change an advisor ?


perhaps you need to change your supervisor. Try the suggested meetings and if it does not work think of asking for another supervisor. 3 years is a long time to go through this kind of hell. A PhD is already demanding as it is and having supervision nightmare can make things go over the top. I happen to have a wonderful supervisor and my work still gets me worked up and i would say you need a balance. Remember that this is your journey. Don't let this supervisor ruin it for you because if you are ever to drop out it won't affect his life in any way but it will change the course of yours. You also have rights as a student, be on your guard.


I believe the best thing you can do in a situation like this is to find all the alternatives you have (except from quiting of course) and try to make changes that will make you happy ASAP. If you can change supervisor do it! There is no need to destroy your personality for the sake of someone who has obviously misunderstood the reason why science is great!
I know MSc and undergraduate students that work on research projects for 60+ hours/week. If you do not have time to practise your intellectual skills, take your time to think about your experiments, then there is no chance to become an independent scientist who can make a unique contribution to their field..Think about that!!