Supervisor blocking studentship contract

posted
09-Sep-18, 01:26
edited about 26 seconds later
Avatar for vladivostok
posted about 2 months ago
Hi everyone,

I would like to get your advice on the current drama I'm going through. I always dreamed of doing a PhD, and this year I decided to chase this dream. I work for a company in the field of engineering, and I came up with a research project relevant to the business. The company supported me and decided to fund my studies. I then managed to win a prestigious (external) fellowship award and got accepted to one of the top universities in the UK. I can say I have been very lucky and very happy to achieve all of that.

My admission is now confirmed, my new flat is set up and ready, my wife changed jobs to follow me. I changed everything in my life in preparation for this new chapter. The university has an office waiting for me. I even have a university e-mail account!

Now, two weeks before I move to the university town, I receive a studentship contract from the university (so my company can sign it and agree on terms of IP and other details). To our surprise, the studentship contract contained an unacceptable clause, forbidding the sponsor to "use the results of this research on any defence-related product".

We called the university and found out that this clause was a demand from the supervisor! The supervisor did not raise this concern with us after over one year of discussions. He has been in multiple meetings with the business and was fully aware (in writing) of our intentions and our portfolio. Now, he says he won't supervise me if this research ever touches a defence-related product, which is totally unacceptable to my sponsoring company since half of their portfolio is for military customers.

The contracts department at the university empathised with my situation and will try to contact my department and explain the problem, to see if a change in supervisor is possible at this stage. But I only have two weeks left, and I have no idea what will happen. What should I do?
posted
09-Sep-18, 01:32
Avatar for vladivostok
posted about 2 months ago
Just a quick disclaimer about the research: my research contains absolutely nothing offensive or related to weapons of any kind. It's a generic research that can be applied to vehicles of any sort, from commercial, to leisure, to industrial, to military vehicles. It's akin to developing a more efficient tyre or windscreen wiper. There is no special reason to ban this for any sector. I also have strong moral restrictions against working with weapons or any sort of lethal technology. This is definitely not the case.
posted
10-Sep-18, 13:11
by eng77
Avatar for eng77
posted about 2 months ago
it is up to every academic research to choose if they are happy to contribute to a particular application or not. For example, if someone is against animal testing, he has the right not to participate in any related research even if was not particularly the testing drugs. The same if the research is against someone one's religious belief and you are not in a position to change his ethical/religious/political view. Your point of view about how the research is not harmfull is irrelevant.
He might have thought deeply about the line of business of the studentship sponsor and then decided to add this clause.
posted
10-Sep-18, 13:22
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 2 months ago
Can you change supervisor? You have external funding and a business support, you have all the cards. Email your current supervisor that this is a deal breaker and that you would look for other supervisors. Then immediately call/email department head explaining your position and ask for recommendations for another supervisor. You have moved made a lot of commitment to stop now over a supervisor.

Also does the supervisor have issues with defense in particular or certain countries?
posted
10-Sep-18, 16:04
edited about 7 seconds later
Avatar for vladivostok
posted about 2 months ago
Hi all,

I agree and I think it's perfectly fine to have moral/ethical restrictions about the research. It's a defence in general issue. I wouldn't have any issues if he had told me about that quite a while ago. We started talking about this project 16 months ago, so there were countless opportunities throughout the whole process to share this objection and let me handle it in due time. Why did he ask the university to put in that clause but never disclosed this restriction to us? We only found out after reading the studentship contract.

The main problem here is timing. The contracts office also agree that his timing has been really poor, and today they sent a message to the department explaining the situation and asking about a possible change of supervisor. Unfortunately they have no power to guarantee my permanence in the course. But it's good to have at least someone there trying to help. My concern is that I'm (supposedly) moving to uni in about 2 weeks and now I don't know if I'll have a supervisor or not. Or even if I should move at all!

Have you ever heard of people changing supervisors after being admitted, but before the course starts? Could someone take me up as their student with just a few weeks notice?
posted
10-Sep-18, 19:57
edited about 1 minute later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
Ignore. Didn't read original message properly.
posted
11-Sep-18, 12:59
edited about 23 seconds later
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 2 months ago
You have funding and industry backing. You hold d cards. Renegotiate with your supervisor to settle this within the next 2 days. Normally they would listen to voice of reason since you are funded. But start looking around for plan B supervisor so that you can immediately approach if your current one refuses to budge. Normally you can change supervisor after you start your Phd but I am unsure in your case since you sign a special contract
posted
11-Sep-18, 16:05
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
This won't help the original poster but for anyone else cobsidering this sort of arrangement, it is vital that you have a full signed contract BEFORE you start quitting jobs, signing tenancy leases etc.

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