Changing University after Starting a PhD?

posted
26-Jul-17, 12:08
by ema123
Avatar for ema123
posted about 2 years ago
I started a PhD this year, things weren't quite as expected, there was some misunderstanding between myself and a supervisor which although resolved have affected the relationship I feel and I wasn't sure if the project was right for me once I started this. I didn't get my first choice of the projects I applied for, the one I have is okay but there is still some uncertainty about what I will be doing. I considered leaving and looked into my options. I found a PhD elsewhere that suits my interests very well and the supervisor would like to offer me a place, this is also funded as is my current PhD. Part of me thinks I should stick with what I have, despite the uncertainty and not feeling entirely happy about what I am doing currently. The opportunity that I have now been offered elsewhere suits my interests better, and offers some good opportunities that I currently don't have as it is part of a DTP and hence involves doing a masters year first but I don't mind doing that as it will just add 6 months and would be quite beneficial to me. Just not sure what to do now.
posted
26-Jul-17, 12:50
edited about 22 seconds later
by Hugh
Avatar for Hugh
posted about 2 years ago
I know of someone who changed supervisors and topics within the same department. It does happen.

I think in your situation I would probably trust your instincts and change.
posted
26-Jul-17, 15:55
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 years ago
A friend of mine has just done this (been awarded funding elsewhere and so switched to a different institution) and has no regrets. She said it was a bit awkward telling the old supervisors that she was leaving. Other than that - she is really excited about starting her new project.
posted
26-Jul-17, 15:58
edited about 9 seconds later
by ema123
Avatar for ema123
posted about 2 years ago
I'm finding it difficult to really get into my current PhD and I think its only some emotional attachment keeping me where I am and not wanting to let down my supervisors. The new PhD is in an area I am passionate about and if I had the two to compare initially it would have been an easy choice to go with this second option. I just feel bad about potentially leaving where I am though.
posted
26-Jul-17, 21:35
edited about 5 minutes later
by Pjlu
Avatar for Pjlu
posted about 2 years ago
HI ema, my thoughts are that you need to do what is best for you in this situation. You have not been in this current PhD for very long (just a few months), you have reservations about it and one of the supervisors anyway, this opportunity has arisen and it appears to be more suitable and offer better prospects. If it is the best pathway for you right now, then go for it.

Yes, sticking with things and seeing things through is an important quality for many things in life. However, we all have the right to change our minds and if something better lies ahead, then being flexible and changing our course to access this possibility makes sense.

If you honestly don't mind (seriously) doing the Masters and the extra 6 months, and you see more opportunity for yourself in doing this, then go for it. Your supervisors will understand.

PS: You might want to secure the new position before cancelling the old though: just as in standard job hunting practice.
posted
26-Jul-17, 21:56
edited about 42 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 years ago
Quote From ema123:
I'm finding it difficult to really get into my current PhD and I think its only some emotional attachment keeping me where I am and not wanting to let down my supervisors. The new PhD is in an area I am passionate about and if I had the two to compare initially it would have been an easy choice to go with this second option. I just feel bad about potentially leaving where I am though.


It will (probably) only get worse if you stay where you are when there was an opportunity to go elsewhere and be more fulfilled. It sounds ruthless to leave perhaps, but it really isn't. The more I see of academia, the more I see that those above have little regard for those below when there is nothing in it for themselves (generally...). And so you need to do what is good for you. Your supervisors will get over it after a very short time and find someone else (funding is recyclable if you leave early on). I don't think you would have any regrets about leaving after doing the awkward bit of telling them.

But yes, as Pjlu says... definitely secure the other position before you leave this one or even mention possibly leaving.

Good luck!
posted
24-Aug-17, 20:22
by ema123
Avatar for ema123
posted about 2 years ago
I have now secured another position, there have been a few changes to the opportunity but I still think I will end up being in a better situation if I take this up, as opposed to staying where I am.
Some confusion arose early on as a postdoc with a two year contract, who will become a fourth supervisor for me (as part of their training), is going to be doing the project I thought I would be doing, I will pretty much be assisting them. It is a situation I would prefer not to be in, not sure how common such an arrangement is, I haven't heard of it before, I thought I would be working more individually.
Tudor_Queen was right when they said it would probably get worse where I am. I am just a couple of months in currently, I started in July. Early on, a few weeks in, I started to think about the aim and objectives, had this all written down, the supervisor didn't want to see it then and said I should just be reading. Each time we met he would say I should read an area other than what I had been reading, then in the next meeting he would question me about the area I had been reading into before he said I should look into another area. The other two supervisors would try to catch me out in their questioning, to find gaps in my reading. One thing that is new to me is that there has to be at least two supervisors present to have a meeting, a meeting with a student individually isn't allowed, this has just led to three weeks with no meeting.
posted
24-Aug-17, 20:24
by ema123
Avatar for ema123
posted about 2 years ago
This week I get told I should have my aim and objectives set, was asked to list these with no prior warning, the lead supervisor was very abrupt, said I was being too specific etc, then wanted me to be more specific. He questioned me about the project plan, asked me what steps i will take, i got so far then my answers weren't what he wanted to hear, I didn't know what to say then and he said i should at least say something instead of saying nothing, said I should have my own ideas not expect them to tell me what to do. I have ideas but its hard to share them when made to feel uncomfortable and afraid of the lead supervisor being angry if I say something wrong.
When I have previously talked about ideas I have they just kept narrowing the project scope.Throughout the whole meeting this week the lead supervisor had an angry tone of voice. The other two supervisors barely said anything throughout the meeting, one just moved their leg impatiently throughout and the other just acknowledged they had noting to add. I also feel its too many supervisors, its not helping me, two would be enough. No future meeting is set, just been asked to email the project plan to supervisors for comment.
Its hard to fully explain whats been going on, I find it hard even put into words how I was made to feel in the last supervisory meeting, at one point in the meeting my eyes welled up, I held back the tears, I felt in shock a bit for a time after. This surely isn't normal, I was never spoken to like I have been at UG level anyway. I have also been in employment, worked up to manager level, so I have varied experience.
posted
24-Aug-17, 20:43
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 years ago
Hi Ema123

Are you still considering the new offer you've been made?

Sadly, this kind of behaviour is all too common in academia. Suddenly, hierarchy becomes something very salient and some people really show their character (or lack of it in my view!). So don't take it personally - it isn't you. Many of PGR students get made to feel like they are a waste of time by their supervisors.

As for them narrowing the scope of your project... this is probably a good and necessary thing. They can probably see the bigger picture and how much work will be involved better than you can, and so they are probably trying to help you refine your ideas to something manageable.

Tudor
posted
24-Aug-17, 22:24
edited about 29 seconds later
by ema123
Avatar for ema123
posted about 2 years ago
Still considering the new opportunity, its part of a CDT which isn't in the same area as the PhD project, it was a way for the supervisor to get funding. It will require doing an extra year and training in an area that won't really help me in my PhD, but is still of some interest. Otherwise I am thinking of doing a masters course, in an area I want to go into, and applying again for funded PhDs next year.
posted
25-Aug-17, 10:07
edited a moment later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 years ago
I think you have to decide whether you think you can (and want to) overcome these hurdles or whether you would prefer to go somewhere else. Maybe you could set yourself a limit, say 3 months. And say, if things aren't going better and I'm not enjoying myself more by X time then I will leave. And in the meantime, you could make yourself a list of tips to help yourself get through... e.g., if supervisor x says such a thing, I will respond in such a way (rather than reacting negatively), and in terms of the project some goals as well.

This is how I would deal with this. In fact, I did set myself a limit in the first year of my PhD. First it was 3 months and then I extended it to 1 year. And things really did get better so I am glad I didn't leave. : )
posted
29-Aug-17, 22:32
edited about 12 seconds later
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 2 years ago
It sounds from what you say as if doing the masters either as a stand-alone or as a 1+3 programme might be helpful in building up your experience of research design and thus confidence. If it's funded, don't worry too much about the extra time. Candidates without that can really struggle with defining their PhD project, finding a viable gap in the literature etc and so end up spending longer than they hoped with the upgrade process. It might therefore be a time-saver in the end.

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