Failed PhD

posted
25-Jan-15, 15:23
by adamA
Avatar for adamA
posted about 4 years ago
I am a full time funded PhD student started 2010 but finally submitted my thesis after 3.5 year which was last year march and had my viva in May. My both supervisor are very knowledgeable in my field and clearly thought I had done enough work until the day of my viva. I was passed with minor correction by the internal examiner and given 12 month resubmission with no second viva by the external. As you know the final decision is depends on the external decision. Therefore, I had to resubmit my thesis within 12 month. However, both examiners in the report after the viva confirmed in writing that they are satisfied with my knowledge and I was able to discuss my work with clarity in the area at the level expected of a PhD award. The major source of the concern is the thesis document itself.

The correction list was not significant and apart from some grammatical and type mistakes, I was asked to include some additional information (such as figures, tables and some basic parametric studies) and explain in details some points which were mentioned in my thesis. It only took me two month to complete all the corrections. After several checks by both supervisors and I, we were happy and agree that the new version of my thesis will satisfy the external. After 5 months from the day of my viva I resubmitted my corrected thesis.

After 3 and half month of waiting, I have now received a decision that I was not prepared for. My supervisors have told me that the internal examiner informed them that external has decided to fail me and recommend an MPhil award which I am not prepared to accept. (The formal report will come through next week). This has to be the worst experience of my life. I think I may have good grounds to show bias and ineligibility on the part of both the internal and external.

For the past few days, I have been doing extensive research on those students who have had a similar issue. I have realised that regardless of how strong your appeal ground can be, it appear a chance of winning the appeal is significantly slim. My hope for winning the appeal is fading as the time goes, however, I am going to do what I can do and spend every penny that I have on legal representative to give it a good fight.

I would very much appreciate if anyone has any experience of a similar situation, especially those who are in their appeal process? Thanks to those who have posted their experiences too. Please do advice if you know a good educational lawyer?
posted
26-Jan-15, 11:58
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 4 years ago
I can't offer any advice I'm afraid, just some sympathy. What a horrible situation. What has your supervisor said?
posted
26-Jan-15, 15:07
edited about 18 seconds later
Avatar for Scrabbler
posted about 4 years ago
My sympathies too - have sent you a PM.
posted
26-Jan-15, 16:56
edited about 11 seconds later
by marasp
Avatar for marasp
posted about 4 years ago
Did you do the corrections according to the examiners want to see? I also received an R&R but did what they asked me to do. It was a terrifying experience but I passed with very minor corrections (basically typos). My sympathies and good luck with your appeal.
posted
27-Jan-15, 09:47
edited about 8 minutes later
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 4 years ago
My sympathies and provided you did exactly what the external examiner wanted (you did do this, didn't you?), what a strange decision?

You can appeal on the grounds that you did exactly what was asked of you, however, be aware that the best outcome you can hope for is re-examination and re-viva by two different examiners.

If you exhaust all forms of internal appeal, there's the University ombudsman.

http://www.oiahe.org.uk/

However, the ombudsman should only be contacted once all other forms of appeal are exhausted. Any appeal would have to be over procedure rather than the result itself and again the best outcome would be re-examination by different examiners.

Ian
posted
27-Jan-15, 11:52
edited about 25 seconds later
by adamA
Avatar for adamA
posted about 4 years ago
I really appreciate all your kind messages.

After along decision with internal yesterday, he admitted that his initial thought was to pass me with minor corrections where the external suggest failed PhD with MPhil award. But unlucky me the internal has no expertise in my field, so he has agreed with the external to fail me.

To answer Marasp and Mackem_beefy questions,

The external fails me because during my viva he asked me to put something in my thesis which was completely wrong. despite I have given him a clear explanation why that can be done and supported my argument with several strong references. He still believe that he is right and my argument and all the references provided are wrong. In addition, both my supervisors who have experience in industry for over 20 years believe he is wrong but unfortunately they cant do anything against the external comment. because one of the most stupid rule of an appeal is that i cant appeal on any ground that dispute the academic judgement.

if we knew that the external was that harsh, we would have updated the thesis as he suggested. So in summery, me, my supervises and several references are wrong but the external is right. but again due to the rule and regulation, university only listen to the external examiners and my future means nothing.

My advise to those who have viva, i wish, you all pass with minor correction but if you were given major, please do your corrections as the examiners wants regardless how stupid their comments are.
posted
27-Jan-15, 14:30
by marasp
Avatar for marasp
posted about 4 years ago
I see. Hopefully you can receive a second chance after you appeal. A second set of examiners will be better in your case. This way the examination will start afresh. I was also asked by the external to add things that were irrelevant to my topic in my revised thesis. I did not argue. I simply did what I were told as I could not afford to do otherwise. The examiner looked pleased. Yet, when I publish I will exclude this part of my thesis from the publication.
posted
27-Jan-15, 14:38
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From marasp:
I see. Hopefully you can receive a second chance after you appeal. A second set of examiners will be better in your case. This way the examination will start afresh. I was also asked by the external to add things that were irrelevant to my topic in my revised thesis. I did not argue. I simply did what I were told as I could not afford to do otherwise. The examiner looked pleased. Yet, when I publish I will exclude this part of my thesis from the publication.


I know how you feel. I knew my supervisor was wrong over a technical aspect of my thesis, but I included it simply to get the thing submitted.

I them found evidence he was wrong later and once I published to journal, I was able to retract his statement.

Ian
posted
25-Jun-15, 12:37
edited about 28 seconds later
by adamA
Avatar for adamA
posted about 4 years ago
when I was told that I will not be awarded a PhD, I was devastated and desperate to find online forum and read stories and get advice from it. Therefore, I have decided to update my story as it process.

I hope no one will fail and need to read my story but in reality the percentage of failed PhD students are above 25% which is shocking. here the update

After a long online research and advise from many professional and barristers, I was told that the chance of my appeal to be approved to be heard by the research Appeal Degree is less 30%. in fact many had advised me not even to appeal because they strongly believed that my appeal will be dismissed.

However, i did not quit and never lost hope, I gathered all the information relating to my viva ( email exchanges, letters and etc) and with the help of educational barrister, I found a procedural irregularities and inadequate assessments during the viva. In my university, there are three ground for appeal 1) procedural irregularities 2) inadequate assessments and evidence of prejudice or bias 3) proof of the candidate was ill during the viva, which I was not

I wrote a comprehensive of 20 pages appeal statement and sent it to the educational barrister. After, changes were mad, the barrister sent the statement back and I finally submitted in March. After three months of waiting, my appeal was approved on both ground ( ground one and two) to be heard by the Research Degree Appeal.

The hearing will be at the end of July. I am now preparing my final defend statement for the judge. However, if the judges dismiss my appeal, i will take it to the independent court and i will take it as far as legally I can.

So my advice, if you find your self in my situation and I hope you don't, please Do not quit and give it a fight. because your future is worth it.

I will be updating you with the outcome of my hearing.

Adam
posted
25-Jun-15, 14:58
edited about 11 minutes later
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 4 years ago
I can't help it but the longer I read in this forum, the more I think that the UK has to be one of the worst places to do a PhD. It sounds completely arbituary. How can you even fail a thesis because of one point of diasagreement? I've never heard of a PhD student that failed his PhD defense even though the supervisors thought it is going to pass and I lived now for longer periods in three different european countries and attended tons of PhD defenses. I should defend my thesis but I should not have to change it according to some examiner. How is that helping me to become an independent (!) researcher that stands up for his research? No problem with criticism but that sounds really odd. I've never heard of that before and it is definitely not practiced in several other european countries. For instance, who is financing me during these 12 months, where I shall do the minor or major corrections (as I understood it is almost impossible to pass without one or the other) ?

You have my full sympathy. Sounds simply horrible and complete unjustified. I hope there'll be a happy end.
posted
25-Jun-15, 15:46
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From Dunham:
For instance, who is financing me during these 12 months, where I shall do the minor or major corrections (as I understood it is almost impossible to pass without one or the other) ?


No-one, of course, that's the fun bit.

I have heard that the viva defenses in other European countries are a bit of a joke though, with 'examiners' not even reading the thesis and it being almost impossible to fail.
posted
25-Jun-15, 16:41
edited about 24 minutes later
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From TreeofLife:
Quote From Dunham:
For instance, who is financing me during these 12 months, where I shall do the minor or major corrections (as I understood it is almost impossible to pass without one or the other) ?


No-one, of course, that's the fun bit.

I have heard that the viva defenses in other European countries are a bit of a joke though, with 'examiners' not even reading the thesis and it being almost impossible to fail.


Well, depends on the country. In Germany it is a bit too easy I have to admit, but of course your examiners read it and question you. In Sweden you get an opponent from a university abroad for the defense and there is also other staff from different departments that questions you. This can take really long, I remember one time where I sat 3.5 h straight in the audience and they were not finished when I left. Personally I think it SHOULD be almost impossible to fail a defense. If your supervisors are not completely incompetent, they will never let you submit something that they are not sure of passing. So basically I have two experienced academics who read the work and helped me to improve it where improvement was needed. How can such a thesis fail (except plagiarism and so on)? It is of course not perfect, but fail??? Who is expecting a PhD student to produce something "better" than a professor? Of course there are also failed PhD students in other countries but usually these were candidates who already knew that it is a close call when submitting. You spent years on that research area so the defense itself should be usually also not the problem. As long as you can defend your work it is also no problem when your opponent sees certain things differently. After all it should be an objective examination of a scientific work. There sometimes is no right or wrong so why the hell should I change something according to the examiner?

It sounds a bit odd to me that this basically means that you get 3 years funding, can expect 4 years until submission and then another unpaid 6 to 12 months for resubmission and in the end fail due to minor disagreements. At least I guess that he did not consider 30% of the thesis as rubbish and completely wrong.

I have to admit that I am a bit scared now as I also applied to some PhD positions in the UK :D
posted
25-Jun-15, 17:20
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 4 years ago
In Italy it's just a presentation and audience questions I think, so not too arduous.

I do agree changing things to the whim of an examiner is pointless.

Most minor corrections, at least in science, are doable within a week but you get a month for them, so this is easily done on evenings and weekends if you are working in the day. Most science students don't get major revisions unless they have a crap supervisor or have not listened to their supervisor (or aren't capable of writing a decent thesis), since experiments are likely to need repeating and examiners know that students won't be funded and won't be able to do them so there's no point in asking them to. Plus, you generally pass after minor or major corrections if you have done as asked.
posted
25-Jun-15, 19:52
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From TreeofLife:
In Italy it's just a presentation and audience questions I think, so not too arduous.

I do agree changing things to the whim of an examiner is pointless.

Most minor corrections, at least in science, are doable within a week but you get a month for them, so this is easily done on evenings and weekends if you are working in the day. Most science students don't get major revisions unless they have a crap supervisor or have not listened to their supervisor (or aren't capable of writing a decent thesis), since experiments are likely to need repeating and examiners know that students won't be funded and won't be able to do them so there's no point in asking them to. Plus, you generally pass after minor or major corrections if you have done as asked.


okay, good to know. That sounds much better.
posted
26-Jun-15, 13:49
edited about 2 seconds later
Avatar for chickpea
posted about 4 years ago
I agree that a PhD should be judged to be either good enough or not, and don't see much point in asking candidates to spend months making changes after the effect, especially when these changes may be nothing to do with good practice and everything to do with the examiners' own opinions.

Adam, that sounds like a horrible and extremely stressful situation, and I hope your appeal goes well. Definitely look after yourself while all that is going on.

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