Decieved by my PhD supervisor.

06-Aug-19, 11:28
edited about 7 seconds later
Avatar for anon789987
posted about 10 months ago
I am looking for advice on how to address my situation!

I am about to end the first year of my PhD and things haven't exactly been going smoothly. During the interview we were told of the ambitious new research group that we were the first wave of and how we were going to be doing lots of innovative research that also involved working with external organisations including governmental bodies.

We were also told that we would have necessary licenses in place by the time we started. Now a year in its been delayed til probably Christmas but I don't really believe it will happen by then. Our research cluster hasn't even got a name and my supervisor is too busy to assist us in trying to give ourselves a name. This license was key to my fieldwork plans and I've had to change and adapt my project at least 4 times around this already. I have finally got the ball rolling and found ways around the license but as soon as I request funds for field equipment my supervisor keeps putting off the question and trying to change the project. We have 3k each per year as our research budget.

So I make a formal request tagging in my secondary supervisor and the response is that the deadline passed last week. My supervisor has pushed the project to be cost free for the department and when I haven't held that line because I know the funds are there he has withheld the date of the roll over so I don't get the money.

The reason? He recently became head of department and has been told they need to make 21 mil in budget cuts. He admitted to me that he doesnt think my project will suffer without these funds. Thing is my project looks nothing like the one I applied for because he has molded it into something that is becoming less interesting to me by the day. If I put a complaint in (I'm pretty sure what he has done is against uni policy) I am going against the guy with the links to contacts for my project, he has made himself a lynch pin I can't really work around so to moan is to damage our relationship further even though its evident he doesn't respect my opinion enough to be honest with me, I haven't yet done anything untowards that could damage our relationship.

Any advice on how to handle this? I feel like its a bit of a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario.
06-Aug-19, 15:22
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 10 months ago
I can understand why you feel upset, but this might not be intentional deception but rather an unfortunate series of events that has engulfed your department. Licences are unpredictable and sometimes regulations change or you get a picky assessor, and with the best will in the world things can go wrong. Also your supervisor might have known generally that the university / faculty was in financial trouble but not the extent to which your department was going to be cut. University leaders keep such matters very close to their chests.
It sounds like he's had to scale back ambition for the group to adapt to the new reality and that includes moulding your project into something that's doable in the circumstances. You have to decide whether it's worth continuing with or whether you want to cut your losses and apply elsewhere.
On the money, if your supervisor is HoD and has to cut 21 million from the department, those are massive cuts. He's probably looking at major redundancies which will gut research groups. He can't in those circumstances be seen to favour his own group for funding particularly if objectively as he's told you, he thinks your project can be done without the funding, when others perhaps cannot. It's absolutely reasonable of you to decide this isn't what was offered and walk away, but I think you are being a bit unfair in your assessment of someone who's probably living through a nightmare right now.
06-Aug-19, 16:44
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 10 months ago
Ouch that sounds like a bad situation. Though I don't think it is all your supervisors fault but more the circumstances. Very few PhD projects stays the same as their original with several redrafts/change of focus/panic change, being normal. Again licenses are pain to get but I thought you generally need a research plan/scope to get one which you can't do until the student starts. So expecting it ready is a big stretch. What I am saying is that those complaints are typical and I wouldn't blame your supervisor.

Though if he has to cut 21 million, £3,000 seems trivial to me. If you really need the equipment do the trial with the current stuff and show him the results. If they are bad you might get it but if it is good, you have good data. You would be surprised what old equipment can do if you learn how to use it properly.

Have you also checked about alternative funding sources? There are usually travel grants available that can help with conferences, and your supervisor could help with them (he is head of department).

The project may have changed away from what you like but can you change it further? My project has changed significantly due to equipment issues and I changed the focus towards what I liked. You could probably edge the project towards what you want to do. As long as it is achievable and the data is publishable, he would probably agree.
07-Aug-19, 09:37
Avatar for anon789987
posted about 10 months ago
Maybe I am being a little harsh, it is hard to tell from my side. Of course to sell a PhD you have to sell the university as well but covering over major cracks like that seems underhanded. The license procedure is out of his hands on one level, but on another he needs to send in a revision to get it going which has been on his desk for months now because he is very busy with his new position as head of department. I feel his new career step has really had detriments to mine and our clusters capabilities as he basically gave up on setting it up when he took his new position. I get that, you have to look out for yourself, but you can't let people flounder in uncertainty. I guess this post also serves as a rant point but honesty is always the best practice and telling me of budget and funding issues is definitely something that should have been clarified when and where possible not just let the budget roll over for the year and to keep that hidden from the cluster. I'm aware his actions might be because he is being held to secrecy by other higher powers, and that this should be aimed at them in that case, but I know that others students and staff in the cluster are very unimpressed and it's not just me (maybe giving me greater self justification on the matter than I am entitled to?)


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