What do I do now?


I started my PhD (Social Sciences) full time in September 2018 with a full scholarship. This is something I have wanted to do for years. However, due to a change in circumstances I have had to make the decision to go part time, this followed a lot of discussion with my family and I went and saw the Head of Department to discuss my options and the impact this could have on my funding (none) and the HoD was supportive of this and understood my wish to be prepared before discussing with my supervisors.

When I met with my supervisors and told them of my decision I tried to explain my reasons and explained that I would be taking my time to find the right part time role that fits alongside my PhD and that I feel this will help me to concentrate and be more productive. Unfortunately their reaction was less than supportive and since then communication has been via email, they've made clear they're not happy with my decision and took almost a month to give feedback to a document I had sent through, and only after I chased them a few times to ask for feedback, with many of my emails going unanswered and unacknowledged. This last month has made me seriously question whether I want to continue to work with them or continue this PhD but I don't think I can transfer to another institution, can I?

Before this I was already struggling a bit with one supervisor who is the expert in the field and I felt at times I wanted time to find my way myself, not have it dropped in front of me and told this is what you must do but I stuck it out. I've worked so hard since I started last year and I really don't want this time to have been wasted, I want to finish my PhD but if I can't continue where I am, what do I do? (changing supervisors at the institution isn't really an option). Advice appreciated.

Avatar for rewt

If you really want to finish the PhD, buckle down and do good work. Your relationship with your supervisors has broken down and repairing that will be difficult. If you are internally funded or funded through your supervisors grants, moving university/supervisors isn't an option. So you need to start producing work independently and get feedback form other sources. Go to internal or small conferences or talk with other lecturers. Show some commitment and hard work and your supervisors might be more helpful.


You could switch to another institution (if you have research council funding you can take it with you). But you would need to know who you would work with - and have had a conversation with them about everything, why you want to work with them etc, and have their support.

How are things now going in the current situation? It seems your supervisors are angry because they don't like either the decision to go part time or perhaps how you took that decision without asking for their advice etc. So I think if I wanted to try and mend things here, I would ask to meet with them and say it was important. Then I would just apologise if I had caused any upset by my decision / through not consulting them. And say that I want to move forward now with this PhD and outline any barriers to that (e.g., not being able to meet etc). Then the ball is in their court. I should think that would clear the air. Some people might disagree about the apologising part. It depends on whether you think you have offended them and want to fix that. It's certainly something you could try anyway as it seems things aren't great at present.

Hope things have improved since your last post. Tudor.

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy


Once relationships with supervisors break down, they are very difficult to repair and the seeds of mistrust are sown. This happened to me at post-doc for reasons I've discussed elsewhere. Briefly, I was hired because someone else turned down the position and they needed someone quickly to lift workload off the primary investigator. My skills didn't quite match their requirements and by the time the contract ended, I was glad to go and they were glad to see the back of me.

It seems you have had to take a part time job alongside your PhD; you're not explicit here. This raises a number of questions.

1) Does you switching to part-time mean funding for the PhD will be partly (loss of bursary only) or fully (busary plus fees) withdrawn and will the part-time job cover (or more than cover) this?

2) Do you believe you can recover the relationship with your supervisors? It seem you've already answered this and from my own experience, this seems unlikely. That said, Tudor Queen speaks wisely here, so try her approach before giving a final answer to this question.

3) If you move to another University, can you take the funding with you? I ask as normally funding is obtained by the University for the project so this suggests not.


Would withdrawing from the PhD to sort out your personal situation and finances be an option? My take is you could then work full time for a few years and get some money behind you by saving.

If/when you feel ready for another go, you could apply to another University in better financial/personal shape than you are now. Given my own experiences, I don't know if I'd be able to continue with supervisors for another two or three years whom I no longer trusted. One year was bad enough.


I disagree with you as obtaining a PhD under supervisors you know longer trust will be that much harder even if you knuckle down as you suggest.