Toxic supervisor delaying graduation


Hi everyone,

I am a final (?!) year PhD student but my supervisor is delaying my graduation indefinitely. Years ago now I got offered an amazing opportunity to do my perfect PhD, with a seemingly nice supervisor, in a school where the environment felt hostile and unwelcoming to outsiders (it is: it is a small, prestigious - and to be honest, rascist/xenophobic - institute that likes to train and fund their own - i, in their minds, was a foreigner 'forced' on them via an external scholarship that was attached to studentship). I decided to push past this, since most of the PhD was abroad for fieldwork. This was juuuuuust about ok up until the pandemic, despite numerous toxic episodes (think: blocking the payment of my scholarship several times so I nearly ended up homeless, attempting to fire me for minor paperwork issues beyond my control, etc). Unfortunately, during the pandemic, I fell behind, due to massive financial and family stresses and the fact my supervisor pushed me to take on additional work as well (yes, I should have refused this and I did resist it in my first year, but during the pandemic my mental health and judgement were not optimal).

Anyway, I managed to finish the thesis, albeit pretty late overall yet still within the deadline for the academic year, with several papers ready to be published. Months prior, my supervisor stopped responding to messages. Mind you, they have been almost entirely absent during the phd, and i've mostly self-supervised, so i wasnt initially surprised. However, some months later, their messages started to take an unpleasant tone, about how i was such a disappointment to them (I share their disappointment in the delay, but I've already communicated to them that during the pandemic I was surviving off student food banks and had to dedicate myself to finding financial means - to which they have responded that I have 'mental problems'). Now they have refused to read the thesis for months but agreed to let me defend. I should add it's a thesis by publication so it is not a big time committment to read either. However, they keep extending the date of possible defense more and more. It is now clear they not only dislike me (which is fine, in itself), but feel personally slighted in someway and are trying to 'punish' me, by cutting me out of projects i worked on without giving me any credit and badmouthing me to colleagues. I dont know what to do at this stage, because they are essentially a narcasstic bully (collective opinion, not simply my own): i'm one of the very few students of theirs who hasnt already quit. I know its very late, but could I rope in a co-supervisor? Submit my work for a phd by prior publication somewhere else? I feel like they could keep me here indefinitely and carry on trashing my reputation, and maybe more importantly, impacting my mental health.


Sorry you are going through so much challenges, Eve1234

Make sure you document everything they did, including time and date. If they are as bad as you say, they could be trying to pull your project(s) from under you and giving it to someone else. So make sure you record everything going as far back as you can on all the mistreatments/absence etc.

Might be too late to get a co-supervisor. Do you have a postgrad coordinator? Let him/her know the situation. Put in place step by step what needs to be done so you can graduate. Seek you student union for advice if you have one. Finish and get the hell out


Thanks Tru. I dont think we have a postgrad coordinator but I think getting in touch with the student unions is a good idea, if i can nail down a defense date then as you say it´s just a question of getting out asap.