Applying for a new PhD after having to leave of old one?

posted
04-Sep-18, 21:02
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for classwaugh
posted about 1 month ago
Hi all. I could do with some advice. Until recently I was a PhD student. However, I’ve now had to leave my course. Everything was going fine until I had a falling out with a senior academic. I had taken time off for mental health reasons after being diagnosed with PTSD, and this academic questioned my reasons for taking time off. Around this time, a lot of personal, confidential information I had disclosed to the school about my health was leaked around the department. I started to receive harassing messages left on my office desk, and my supervisors, who had until then being extremely supportive, turned hostile, and started accusing me of faking my mental health issues (this is in spite of the fact that I had disclosed to them, and I was not majorly behind in my work). It got to the point where I became scared to go to the department. I launched a complaint against the senior academic, but I was told that the University could take months to pursue it. I complained to my head of school, who said he wasn’t able to act to prevent the hostility. The hostility continued, and my mental health suffered, so I felt I had no choice but to quit.

I want to continue my research at another University, and I’ve got the grades and publications to get onto another course, as well as knowing other supervisors in my field. However, I don’t know how to explain the fact that I got a year and a half into a course and then left – I never went to the police about the harassment (I’ve been harassed before and found the police useless) – and I can’t get any references from my school to explain what happened. I don’t want any future course to just think I gave up…does anyone have any advice or similar experience?
posted
05-Sep-18, 09:29
edited about 28 seconds later
by eng77
Avatar for eng77
posted about 1 month ago
Hi. I am sorry for what you have been through. I think the best way to try to apply and contact supervisors. When it comes to an interview, you may explain that you had a health condition (without details) and you had to stop for a while. I agree that leaving a PhD is draw in applying for a new one but there is still a chance.
Another approach is to search for an RA role (if you have a Master) or work for a year outside academia and then decide what to do. By then they would ask more about your job rather than your incomplete PhD.
posted
05-Sep-18, 10:06
Avatar for notsurewhattodonow
posted about 1 month ago
Give your MH as the only reason, no need to mention the other stuff. Then prove you are now stable. They can't discriminate against disability. Go for it, and believe in yourself.
posted
05-Sep-18, 15:09
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 month ago
Quote From notsurewhattodonow:
Give your MH as the only reason, no need to mention the other stuff. Then prove you are now stable. They can't discriminate against disability. Go for it, and believe in yourself.


I would strongly recommend you do NOT follow this advice.
Telling any prospective employer that you have any sort of mental health problem is potentially disastrous for your career. You absolutely can and will be discriminated against in my opinion.
posted
05-Sep-18, 15:12
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 month ago
You could say that you decided the particular research path you were following turned out not to be of interest to you and that after 18 months you realised it wouldn't bear fruit.
You would need to prepare for some tough questions but this is a better approach I think.
posted
05-Sep-18, 15:36
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 1 month ago
There isn't a good answer to the question. The minute you mention harassment things get messy, so I would avoid saying too many details. Be vague and don't trash anyone's' reputation even if it is true. Somehow victims come out worse in cases like this.

However you have publications which is good and established research project. Play to your strengths and if ever asked pivot the answer towards your success or future plans. You can't avoid the question but in an interview you can make it sound like you have moved on. You will proejcet an aura of condfidence that there wasn't an issue. In interviews issues like this are about first impressions; be confident, don't be to evasive but don't linger on topic.

I would recommend contacting your old supervisor/ department and try and get a good reference. Say things have changed and that you want to move on and would like a reference about your work. If you can get a reference about your work it is a positive and avoids talking about why you left or them lying about your relationship. It will look very good if you have some reference from them.

On the actual answer for why you left. Go with something like what pm133 said. Or that after so many years of uni+ masters without a break had caused burnout and you now refound your passion. Or say that there were a multitude of issues going on and that you weren't informed that you could take a suspension of studies for health reasons.

Quitting a PhD is a massive red flag for any application. I feel so sorry that you were put in this position. I can only wish you goodluck
posted
06-Sep-18, 05:19
edited about 3 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 month ago
rewt is right, there really is no magic solution to this. I would say though that Unfortunately, talking about burnout isn't going to be helpful for the same reason I gave earlier. Anything related to health, mental or otherwise, is going to be a massive problem I'm afraid.

It really isn't fair but I'm afraid this seems to be the way of things.
posted
06-Sep-18, 08:24
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 month ago
Quote From pm133:
Quote From notsurewhattodonow:
Give your MH as the only reason, no need to mention the other stuff. Then prove you are now stable. They can't discriminate against disability. Go for it, and believe in yourself.


I would strongly recommend you do NOT follow this advice.
Telling any prospective employer that you have any sort of mental health problem is potentially disastrous for your career. You absolutely can and will be discriminated against in my opinion.


Sadly this is true. They can't by law (at least I don't think) but they can in practice. I think the advice you've got on this thread is really good. I think the main thing is to have the past firmly behind you - get comfortable with the narrative you decide to share (e.g., about new found passion) and just go for it. Also I wouldn't put all eggs in one basket - apply for a few (I give that same advice to anyone who is applying for PhD funding - it just makes sense).

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