Who to put down as academic references if I am trying to switch PhD's during first year?


Currently 6 months into a PhD into an institution and have seen a PhD opportunity elsewhere that seems pretty aligned with my interests.

Who do I put as academic references? I don't want to put my current PhD supervisor as then he will know I am applying for other opportunities.


Of course, you can put any other academic references, likely your master's or undergrad's supervisor. However, it isn't an easy decision, but if you think that is a good decision go for it.


Hi YorkFuller

I have a friend who about 6 months in left her PhD and started a new one elsewhere. Because she had a relatively good relationship with her supervisors, and was open and honest about her situation, they supported her in terms of references. The rest is history. She is so much happier in her new PhD and it was the best thing she could have done.

I really do think that honesty and open-ness is needed in a situation like this. Just be honest with your supervisors about why you are thinking of leaving and applying elsewhere (honest with tact of course - even if there have been other issues, focus the conversation solely on the match between project and your interests). They will actually be able to "recycle" your funding, so it actually isn't such a loss for them. Having a student who doesn't really want to be there and isn't being as productive as they could be is a bigger loss.

Of course there is the issue that you might not want them to know you are applying in case you don't get it. In which case presumably you'd want to stay where you are? Well, I still think honesty is the best option here. You could talk about changing your project if it came to that... and maybe inviting one of the other PhD supervisors as a co-supervisor.

If all the above is just horrifying then I'd suggest asking your undergrad people (academic advisor etc). After all, the new uni will not know that you have actually started a PhD elsewhere and there is no need to tell them unless you want to. Six months is very early in.