HELP ME PLEASE Supervisor a nightmare

posted
27-Oct-12, 22:19
edited about 18 seconds later
by Chelsea
Avatar for Chelsea
posted about 6 years ago
Hello everyone, I aplogise for writing a long one.

I started my PhD (part time) end of September 2012 and have met with my 1st Supervisor 3 times since I started. The problem is:

1) In my first meeting he was not interested at all in my proposal, just put it aside and said "a proposal can be changed at anytime", he seemed keen on getting me to change my research area. Basically he told me all about his PhD journey in this first meeting, and nothing else regarding my research was discussed.

2) In the second meeting he told me to go and think about the area I want to research, again I reiterated that I was keen on my research area (health service mgt) and again I explained my research, what and how I wanted to carry out the research. He insisted I go and have a think about the area I wanted to research. I was advised to go and read on a specific area which is one of his interests. I was told to apply this area to my research. The thing is his research area has nothing to do with my research area at all.

3) Third meeting he said he is writing a journal paper and wants me to write the paper too. Thats when I realised thats the reason he was trying to get me to change my research focus. He then said he is applying for some funding (grant) for the university, showed me the paperwork he is supposed to do and ASKED me to write one and a half pages of the project proposal for him. Literally he wants me to cover all his work for him. Furthermore he has been asking me for contacts and introductions in my industry.

I travel a couple of hours each way to get to uni, and I feel like I have made all these journeys to uni and meetings for nothing, as nothing has come out of it, no discussion about my research at all, but being coerced to go into another area and total disregard for my research. I am self funding.

On the other hand I met my second supervisor once, we discussed my research and said he was very happy with my proposal and happy that I knew what I wanted to do. He approved of my research proposal but the only thing is my 1st supervisor is the one who has a final say it seems. Furthermore my research is qualitative and my second supervisor specialises in qualitative research WHILE the 1st supervisor specialises in quantitative.

Can someone please help me. Why is my 1st supervisor trying to get me to do his funding proposals, why does he want me to move away from my research area to his. Why was I given a 1st supervisor who specialises in quantitative when my research is qualitative. He doesn't seem to understand much about qualitative research, observations, interviews etc. He is only interested in quantitative methods.

What can I do. I would be very grateful for any assistance as I feel so discouraged and I dont know how to deal with this. It also turns out that I am the first student this lecturer (1st Supervisor) has supervised as he recently got his PhD, am wondering why he is doing this to me.
Please help.
Chelsea
posted
28-Oct-12, 10:27
edited about 18 seconds later
by Delta
Avatar for Delta
posted about 6 years ago
If you are self-funding, could you not get your 2nd supervisor to become your 1st supervisor? Reading your post I have to say if I was self-funding I know I would be alarmed at how things are going and would try to nip it in the bud. Could you not even seek to do your PhD at another university? I say this because you are bringing money to a university.

Supervisors can make or break a PhD and so do what you think is right.
posted
28-Oct-12, 11:02
edited about 17 seconds later
by Chelsea
Avatar for Chelsea
posted about 6 years ago
Delta

Thankyou so much for the response. I was thinking of requesting for a different supervisor based on the above facts, but I don't know what impact that would have on my future in the department.

Coincidentally I received an acceptance letter from another uni that I had previously applied to and they would like me to start on 1st November. The offer is in a department that is related directly to my research and both supervisors are familiar with my research area (there is also a research group in that area), which seems ideal. The only disadvantage is that it is 7 hours away from where I live. I have children, so I would have to think of relocating at some point if I were to take up that offer. My husband however has been quite supportive and is willing to move.

I would be interested in your thoughts regarding the first option of changing supervisors, do you think that would have a negative impact in the future??? I would appreciate anyone else's thoughts on this, I know most of you have got a lot of experience in this area, please share your thoughts.

Thanks again

Chelsea
posted
28-Oct-12, 11:21
by Delta
Avatar for Delta
posted about 6 years ago
If you requested a different supervisor, within the same department, I can't see what problems there would be for the department or the university (aside from some additional paperwork). You're self-funding and so you've more rights to call the shots (try to remember this). Just be tactful in how you deal with your current main supervisor.

As regards the other offer, you may not necessarily have to move. If it's lab based you will have to move but otherwise could you not work from home? Perhaps you could discuss this with staff at the other university before you make your decision. I didn't move for my PhD but worked from home and just went to the university about 9 or 10 times throughout.

It's better you change your mind now than much further down the line. What is your gut instinct telling you? At most, your main supervisor will be annoyed but three years down the line you'll have been supervised by someone else who knows your work and they'll be the one who you'll be looking to for a reference.

posted
28-Oct-12, 13:16
edited about 25 seconds later
Avatar for DrJeckyll
posted about 6 years ago
I don't know if you should move away from your area of interest- this is really up to you.

I can say, however, that if you decide to stay with your current supervisor, working on his funded project will actually be great for you. You will have money for equipment, fieldwork expenses etc that you wouldn't have otherwise being self-funded. He will care more about your work, because he will depend on you.

Good luck with your decision.
posted
28-Oct-12, 13:17
edited about 16 seconds later
by Chelsea
Avatar for Chelsea
posted about 6 years ago
Thankyou Delta, thank God for this forum. Reading your response brought clarity, as it seemed my mind was so clouded with all thats gone on and I couldn't think clearly.

My gut instinct tells me to change departments. I have seen two potential supervisors in another department. Is it within my rights to request for a change in department??? This is still within line of my research, as my research was a cross between management and information. I am thinking of requesting to be moved to the school of information studies. However I don't know if this is something one can do.

Taking up the other uni offer seems good, but I wonder if I fear travelling all that way and get let down again.

I am so grateful for this forum. Thankyou again.

Regards

Chelsea
posted
28-Oct-12, 13:44
by Chelsea
Avatar for Chelsea
posted about 6 years ago
Thankyou for the reply Dr Jeckyl.

The project that my Supervisor is requesting funding for has nothing to do with me. He is hoping to apply and get funding for the university. There is no guarantee that I will be funded. He has not mentioned this. It seems at the moment he is preoccupied with wanting me to get him well connected in the industry, write his journal paper and make a business case for his project. Is it reasonable for one to have done completely nothing in just over a months duration of having started the PhD. I am paying for my PhD and as mentioned earlier, I feel its not worth travelling a 2 way journey each way to uni only to cover my supervisor's work. For him to tell me that I have a long time to complete my PhD is taking the mick. I expect to get my money's worth and get better supervision. He will not even consider discussing my research, each time I do, he interupts and brings in his research interests. I thought this was my PhD not my second job (to do his research).

Morally I think its wrong for him to expect me to do his work, i.e make a case for why he/the uni should get funding, thats why he is getting paid.

I know of other students who started at the same time as me, who have already started working on their introduction and literature reviews. They have set targets with their supervisors and are busy with their research now. In the mean time I am being told to go and read up on my supervisors area of interest (which by the way has nothing to do with my research). Apart from all this there is a language issue - I struggle to understand his english. He has a strong accent. What is one to do???? By the way I am not English and am not against anyone who is not, but this is affecting my studies.

My MSc supervisor did not have the same research interests as me per se but he was able to supervise me especially regarding the application of research. I would have thought this would somehow be the same. Why employ people when they cant supervise students or speak decent english.

Sorry if I sound unreasonable. It seems this has been a waste of my time and money. How do I deal with this tactfully??
posted
28-Oct-12, 18:10
edited about 19 seconds later
by tt_dan
Avatar for tt_dan
posted about 6 years ago
======= Date Modified 28 Oct 2012 18:11:48 =======
Quote From delta:
You're self-funding and so you've more rights to call the shots (try to remember this).


Really? What are our rights?

This is one of the main reasons I'm hesitant to sign anything e.g. a contract; I want the research to be handled with what I think it should go, and of course, the supervisors can give advise, not, "I WANT IT TO DO IT THIS WAY BECAUSE I SAY SO!".


OP, I'm very sorry that you're going through a difficult time. You mentioned that the inability to speak decent English; I presume this is the supervisor; where is he from?

posted
28-Oct-12, 18:41
edited about 9 seconds later
by Delta
Avatar for Delta
posted about 6 years ago
Sorry, I meant more *right* to call the shots.

posted
28-Oct-12, 19:16
edited about 20 seconds later
by Chelsea
Avatar for Chelsea
posted about 6 years ago
He is Indian. While I have Indian friends, been taught at uni before and worked with many Indian people, my supervisor's accent is very strong and I realy struggle to understand him because of the language issues.

Our meetings take so long because of this language issue. Not sure how one can cope for 4-5 years.

As I said before, I myself am not english so its not anything to do with race.
posted
28-Oct-12, 20:53
edited about 12 seconds later
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 6 years ago
Could I ask something? Why does your supervisor think your research proposal is not viable? If he's mentioned ethical approval or patient access then I would start listening hard. I know of two PhD projects where I work that have collapsed recently because the NHS would not give permission for patient access for qualitative work. Both ended up have to do quantitative analysis on anonymised patient data instead. Anecdotally I've heard from colleagues that access is easier to get as part of a larger funded project with academics on board than it is as a lone student. Just possibly you're misinterpreting well-meaning attempts to help as exploitation.

I would also add a large caveat to the general notion that self-funders call the shots as consumers. You're paying for expert advice on your project. It seems potentially rather self-defeating to reject that advice to me at least.
posted
28-Oct-12, 21:12
by Delta
Avatar for Delta
posted about 6 years ago
======= Date Modified 28 Oct 2012 21:14:15 =======
Actually Bewildered, if someone is paying for something they should expect to get what they have signed up for and are paying for and academia should be no different. Unless I've picked something up wrong, the academic agreed to act as a supervisor (having seen a proposal or such) and is now attempting to change the topic to one that better suits him. If someone is funded it is often because there is a project that needs doing by an academic or department and so very often a funded PhD student has less control over the design or topic of the PhD but that's understandable.



Quote From bewildered:

I would also add a large caveat to the general notion that self-funders call the shots as consumers. You're paying for expert advice on your project. It seems potentially rather self-defeating to reject that advice to me at least.

posted
28-Oct-12, 21:55
edited about 9 seconds later
by Chelsea
Avatar for Chelsea
posted about 6 years ago
Hello Bewildered

My supervisor did not mention that its not viable. He did not even look at it, in the first meeting he just said to me "proposals can be changed anytime". Since then he keeps hammering that:-

1) I have plenty of industry experience that can be used for a journal paper that he is currently working on and he wants the paper completed by December.

2) I should read on his subject area interest so I can use this in my research - I see this as deviating from my initial research.

My research is in health technology management (strategy). I will be dealing with managers in the NHS. I will not be dealing with service users (patients) during my research.

He has been asking me to introduce him to my colleagues in the NHS to partner with him on 2 other projects he is seeking funding for. I have no problem with this, but surely I am attending these meetings for supervison not for interogation of my colleagues, industry, contacts, discussion of his projects etc. He has even asked me to do his proposal for him and hand it in by Tuesday. I get the impression he is under pressure to perform his duties and is trying to offload his work on me. In any case I have met with him 3 times in just over a month. All my other PhD colleagues meet their supervisor once a month. I would not have an issue meeting with him if he wanted to discuss my research. I couldn't believe it when he gave me a bundle of his paperwork to go and read and do a business case write up for him and e-mail it to him by Tuesday. He said he reckons I have more experience and have more to offer in the business case. SURELY this is not what I signed up for.

I am now exhausted trying to think of all the possible reasons why he would do this. I am stressed and feel my research has not even been given a chance. The more I think about it, I keep thinking this is abuse of his power as a supervisor as he is dictating more than guiding and supervising. Could it be that men from certain cultures feel they must dominate females??? Surely this dictatorial behaviour has no place in an academic setting.



posted
29-Oct-12, 00:11
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From delta:

======= Date Modified 28 Oct 2012 21:14:15 =======
Actually Bewildered, if someone is paying for something they should expect to get what they have signed up for and are paying for and academia should be no different. Unless I've picked something up wrong, the academic agreed to act as a supervisor (having seen a proposal or such) and is now attempting to change the topic to one that better suits him. If someone is funded it is often because there is a project that needs doing by an academic or department and so very often a funded PhD student has less control over the design or topic of the PhD but that's understandable.



Quote From bewildered:

I would also add a large caveat to the general notion that self-funders call the shots as consumers. You're paying for expert advice on your project. It seems potentially rather self-defeating to reject that advice to me at least.



Have you any idea how problematic the vast majority of proposals are from even really good students? Frankly it's been a massive eyeopener for me, since I started getting asked to look at applications with a view to supervising them. If an applicant isn't applying for funding, there's often no opportunity to work with them to make the topic feasible - our application system makes it impossible and I know at some universities (oxford and cambridge for examples in my subject) applicants are forbidden to contact prospective supervisors. You have to say yes or no based on whether you think the supporting documentation suggests the person has the ability or reject everyone not applying for funding. It's hardly surprising the proposals aren't great when you think about the process of writing and rewriting that funding applicants go through for the research councils where you define your own project. I applied for ESRC funding and it took three months of intensive work on the proposal before it was deemed good enough to enter the competition, but this gave me a headstart over my self-funded fellow students, who had to start off with that process when they enrolled. Very few proposals remain the same or even that close to the original version. I suppose the true spirit of the consumer knows best, means a supervisor should let the student waste their tuition fees finding out what they'd proposed wasn't feasible, but it doesn't strike me as very ethical (particularly given universities have increasingly strict upper limits on how long someone can be registered for).

In the OP's case, that's why I asked whether the issue was access or ethics because these are good examples of things applicants very rarely have enough knowledge about to make sensible decisions in proposals, and it often comes as a terrible shock to practitioners embarking on PhDs, when they discover their employer won't give them access. Medical doctors are apparently a nightmare on this front according to our annual ethics training session the other week. It appears in this case to be a very strange set-up though - I just wanted to check that there wasn't some horrendous misunderstanding going on.
posted
29-Oct-12, 00:32
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From Chelsea:

Hello Bewildered

My supervisor did not mention that its not viable. He did not even look at it, in the first meeting he just said to me "proposals can be changed anytime". Since then he keeps hammering that:-

1) I have plenty of industry experience that can be used for a journal paper that he is currently working on and he wants the paper completed by December.

2) I should read on his subject area interest so I can use this in my research - I see this as deviating from my initial research.

My research is in health technology management (strategy). I will be dealing with managers in the NHS. I will not be dealing with service users (patients) during my research.

He has been asking me to introduce him to my colleagues in the NHS to partner with him on 2 other projects he is seeking funding for. I have no problem with this, but surely I am attending these meetings for supervison not for interogation of my colleagues, industry, contacts, discussion of his projects etc. He has even asked me to do his proposal for him and hand it in by Tuesday. I get the impression he is under pressure to perform his duties and is trying to offload his work on me. In any case I have met with him 3 times in just over a month. All my other PhD colleagues meet their supervisor once a month. I would not have an issue meeting with him if he wanted to discuss my research. I couldn't believe it when he gave me a bundle of his paperwork to go and read and do a business case write up for him and e-mail it to him by Tuesday. He said he reckons I have more experience and have more to offer in the business case. SURELY this is not what I signed up for.

I am now exhausted trying to think of all the possible reasons why he would do this. I am stressed and feel my research has not even been given a chance. The more I think about it, I keep thinking this is abuse of his power as a supervisor as he is dictating more than guiding and supervising. Could it be that men from certain cultures feel they must dominate females??? Surely this dictatorial behaviour has no place in an academic setting.




I would suggest that you tell him no you cannot write a business case for him, and make an appointment to see whoever is in charge of graduate research students in your School or to speak by phone if that's easier. Explain the situation and see if you can swap to your second supervisor, who appears from your posts to be unproblematic. I think perhaps due to the communications problems you describe, you are possibly over-reacting to some things e.g. most students would be really keen to contribute to an article this early or to potentially get some funding, but writing a business case for a grant seems unreasonable by any standard. Similarly, if the research interests and methods are as poor a match as you suggest, the second supervisor may well be a better fit (bear in mind you are unlikely to ever get the perfect supervisor and staying reasonably local means you at least have the opportunity to attend research seminars and training, which your long distance option would largely preclude).

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