My supervisor has been ignoring me for months

posted
06-Jan-13, 14:54
edited about 17 seconds later
Avatar for blueeyed_girl
posted about 7 years ago
Long story short, I am in my 6th year of PhD part time (my final year). I have a tiny bit of data analysis left but mostly need to write it all up.

My supervisor is going through a divorce and used that as an excuse to not come to work much in recent months. I was patient and understanding of his situation. He has slowed down his supervision a bit, although still responded to my e-mails and had meetings with me (although less frequent than before).

This brings me to a month ago. I send him a chapter draft to read and he didn't respond to that email at all. Then 2 weeks after that, I sent him another e-mail to let me know when he will be able to read my chapter - no response. This was all very unlike him. I sent him a third e-mail just wishing him and his family happy new year - no response. I am now getting really annoyed. I feel like my PhD is not moving forward because of him and he doesn't even have decency to respond (which is very unlike him). I decided to text him on the phone (in an off case that e-mail isn't working). I basically told him that I haven't heard from him in a while and to let me know if he still wants to supervise or if not, to let me know ASAP so that I can find other arrangements. This is via text, I got a "read" receipt 5 hours ago and NO RESPONSE.

At this point I dunno what to do. I suspect that he doesn't want to or can't supervise me anymore - it's possible he got another job. STILL, I feel that I need to be told. I resent that I am losing precious time because he doesn't have the balls to tell me :(

1. What should my next move be?
2. If he indeed leaves and doesn't want me to follow him, what happens to me in terms of supervision at this late stage?
posted
06-Jan-13, 15:09
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 7 years ago
A lot of people take annual leave over Christmas and the New Year. I'd give it a few more days before jumping to conclusions that he's left the university. If he's got undergraduate teaching it's also a peak time of year for piles of marking.
posted
06-Jan-13, 15:14
edited a moment later
Avatar for blueeyed_girl
posted about 7 years ago
He actually told me that he is not taking any annual leave this year - and he is the type to promptly responds to e-mails even on annual leave (he has done it every year so far). He also sets up "away till" message when you e-mail him and he is away. I never got "away" message now....Something is wrong here.
posted
06-Jan-13, 18:21
Avatar for Natassia
posted about 7 years ago
Do you have a second supervisor who you can contact, or the director of postgraduate studies (or similar)? Yes you might be hassling him a bit, but he should have responded to you in the first place.
posted
06-Jan-13, 19:30
edited about 5 seconds later
by Utopi
Avatar for Utopi
posted about 7 years ago
Make an appointment with the Director of Graduate Studies in your department. Let the Director know the progress of your work and tell him/her about the situation with your supervisor not responding to your emails or texts. Ask the Director what the next steps are that you should take. You need to keep your priorities on your own work and completion, without having the burden of catering to a professor who is overly focused on personal issues.

Good luck!
posted
06-Jan-13, 19:48
Avatar for LarryDavid
posted about 7 years ago
Supervisors have lives outside of uni too. Don't judge too early. Maybe something is up. Simply follow your whatever procedures your department recommends discretely. don't start questioning his balls just yet.
posted
06-Jan-13, 19:53
Avatar for blueeyed_girl
posted about 7 years ago
I know I may be hassling him but a whole month is crucial towards the end. If he only responded with one sentence "I am busy now but will look into it mid-January" -which is the type of thing he did in the past.
posted
06-Jan-13, 20:00
Avatar for LarryDavid
posted about 7 years ago
...which would seem to suggest (from the outside at least) that there is something happening that is affecting his professional behaviour. Just follow procedures discretely is my advice.
posted
06-Jan-13, 20:18
edited about 9 seconds later
Avatar for blueeyed_girl
posted about 7 years ago
Well I am not a mind reader. He should have put up an away message which takes 2 seconds and what he always did before.

I had every right to look for response before taking other steps which I will now do.
posted
07-Jan-13, 06:00
edited about 24 seconds later
Avatar for blueeyed_girl
posted about 7 years ago
Also, guys - I know some of you think I am being impatient. I have worked closely with this guy for 5 years. I know his patterns. The only time he ignores anything is when he has bad news. He is extremely conflict avoidant.

Let;s say that he can't supervise anymore. How hard is getting someone new at this stage? I mean will it be a huge setback time wise? I also dread to think how few people really know anything about the field I am doing my PhD in. It seems like insurmountable task right now.
posted
07-Jan-13, 12:45
edited a moment later
Avatar for HazyJane
posted about 7 years ago
If you know your supervisor's behaviour that well, and this is very atypical for him, then the chances are that he is maybe dealing with something very serious outside of work. Yes, this is a massive inconvenience for you, but you are not the only one of his responsibilities. Ideally he would be delegating, but life doesn't always afford us the chance to stay on top of everything when times are tough.

I echo advice above - leave him well alone, seek practical advice and raise your concerns via other channels, and don't develop resentment towards someone who may be having a very difficult time right now. I appreciate your frustration, but you should explore other avenues for getting advice on this from your university.
posted
08-Jan-13, 08:50
Avatar for saturn_liu
posted about 7 years ago
just do by yourself. i enroll in a PHD program for 3 year in CHINA mainland. my tutor is a hardworking man. He is busy all the day. I think if the tutor give you some key idea on your work . i think it is enough. your classmates also can help u sometime.
posted
08-Jan-13, 10:47
edited about 25 seconds later
by vthebee
Avatar for vthebee
posted about 7 years ago
Do you have a second supervisor who you could talk to and ask would he be able to help? Also speak to your school if you are worried (when I started my PhD I had problems with my supervisor and I approached my school about it and they were able to help me). Try and tell the school that you are having trouble getting into contact with your supervisor and as it is at such a crucial stage to your PhD you are worried about it. I wouldn't ask them for a new supervisor with your first contact, wait and see what they say. Hopefully your supervisor will get in touch soon, I know how very very frustrating it is!
posted
09-Jan-13, 13:44
Avatar for puccagrannie
posted about 7 years ago
Leeds after my MA in education. But there's only one indian supervisor saying i'm overqualify to apply and they don't give out funding at that time. So i need to give up in some point. And then later on,I do a p-t job for my tuition fees but end up in bad people run business to deceive student wages and i met a wrong man and had a daughter unfortunatley. Two yrs later then i do a p-t open university degree with art and humanity subject and then i saved a bit of money after 6-7 yrs to reapply MA and Phd again in Huddersfield in P-time. I finished my MA again so i have two BA and two MA due to some illogical and lazy supervisor and only looking for money from poor students in some point. The same MA and phd supervisor saying we have different faith background which is not the same research topic so he can't supervised me . So I haven't got the money to relocate somewhere else so I can only write another topic (even i don't want to) but have to adjust so that i can finish my Phd to get a paid job. That is about two yrs ago. But when the new government come, voluntary redundancy, retirement and staffs changing so fast suddenly. Then my supervisor start ignore me to reply my e-mail when i need a bit help for my proposal and phd thesis. (That supervisor is going to retire actually but he didn't tell.) I did approach another about 50'syrs old head of department also supervisor. But I spoke to him but he gave me a topic that cause a lot of money to finish in overseas and he had not promise any funding at all. I keep writing and e-mail the old supervisor but only after few months and he had already retire and left the post. I have no idea what to do.
posted
09-Jan-13, 13:47
edited about 9 seconds later
Avatar for puccagrannie
posted about 7 years ago
Then the department had a new grey hair female p-t supervisor with similar research background. I heard she was left out of jobs from the other university that's why she move on to another one. But she don't like to respond with e-mail and she don't like to discuss or help with acadmic writing issue in the office. And she always deal with overseas project and i don't know what is the meaning of value of the experience of older supervisor towards a mid-30s yrs old parent researcher can do. I feel they don't value and enough ethic to promote academic works towards all type of doctorate students. I feel very disappointed in Uk certain supervisors in some point. They shouldn't deal with personal stuffs or ignore students in some points. They only wasting some researchers life time or leaving them jobless by not finish their phd in the right time to get a paid works. That's really unjustice and unethical.
I'm still struggling a lot of stuffs and pray from my church all the time for miracle but feeling quite a left out all the time. I looking for relocate some other university but finance and funding is the most obstacle towards me as a mother with a teenage daughter. I feel if i had a better supervisor or i might be a good paid academic already.
Bless good luck to all Phd students with different backgrounds and i hope everyone will acheive their phd in the right time with a better paid job. Bless.

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