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Quitting PhD

Hmm... So you are essentially stuck, funding and project aspect wise in this university.

If you wish to continue:
1) Identify another experienced researcher(s) as your co-supervisor. At least you will have a go to person to discuss data.
2) Ask your supervisor to send you for some relevant training somewhere.

You have three options, if you decide to cut your loss:

1) Finish up as a master WITHIN the 2 year period, not the ridiculous 4 years which is the norm in the group you are in.

2) Start looking at other universities and applying for relevant projects. Since you are in the country, you have the opportunity to look around and meet potential supervisors rather than just emailing them. Find those with funds or at least happy to support your application for scholarship. Do not quit until you have something else to go to. FindAPhD.com, internationalscholarships.com and JASON database are good websites to search.

3) Withdrawing candidacy. This is the absolute last choice. If you feel that your PhD will not give you the training you need, losing one year is nothing. Some have lost 4-6 years or more due to complete lack of supervision.

Only you know what is best for you. I wish you well.

Need ventilating..Clock is ticking towards failure and shame with my PhD

Hi, heinasirkka,

You said that you "receive no guidance, and have pressure put on you to build a huge and complex experimental setup from scratch. Two senior PhDs entitled to supervise you just ignored you and officially said that they don't want to help." No offence, but you need to take major action if you want to cross the finishing line.

1) Get another co-supervisor. Identify a senior and experienced researcher with the expertise to help you. This person may know the machine or may be able to sit down with you to listen to your PhD plans, to see if you are going down the right route. No point working hard on the wrong things. Amongst the 3 actions I listed here, this is by far the most important. You may worry about rocking the boat and angering your supervisor. However, what point is a good relationship with your supervisor if you fail your phd.

2) Get counselling. Speak to someone who is able to listen to you vent. You need to get it out of your system. Or you will break down.

3) Contact machine manufacturer/ application specialist. Can you get help from the manufacturer/ application specialist to get the machine to work? They are normally very helpful. For all you know, you may need to change a part of the machine which has broken down. Or maybe the settings were incorrect.

You may feel that you don't dare to deal with such stuff, especially no. 1. However, if you do nothing, your status will not change, and indeed you may fail your PhD as you posted on your title. By the sounds of it, you really have nothing to lose if you take actions.

I wish you courage and all the best.

Quitting PhD

Hi, SmilingHippo,

Your director of PhD program should not have informed your supervisor that you met her. There is supposed to be confidentiality.

To completely have no support during your PhD is a disaster. Your supervisor is supposed to supervise, not redirect you to the technician under the excuse of being busy. Without a PhD supervisor's guidance, it is extremely difficult to obtain a PhD since you will be stressed, doing a lot of trial and errors and wasting lots of time. You will also be at a disadvantage compared to other students under good supervisors who will have more publications and hence, better chance at securing future postdoc funding. It is unethical that they are asking you to do all the field operations and other unrelated jobs, on your minimal pay. And there is nothing wrong wanting to visit your family back home.

You have done what you can to speak to your supervisors about your concerns. Since they will not change their attitude, can you change project completely? It is so difficult for international students to secure a PhD project funding, so please do not let go if you can. Losing one year is better than losing the entire PhD. The funding is normally tied to the student. You should be able to take your fund to where you wanna go. Can you identify another good supervisor and project? Perhaps at another institute within the same uni? Switching supervisors and projects are so common these days because bad supervisors are also unfortunately so common.

Cannot afford PhD

Hi, samaylett,

I empathize with your situation. A few suggestions:

Unable to attend interview physically: Is Skype interview not an option? Did you ask for a possible travel cost reimbursement? You will be very surprised at what you can get if you are brave enough to ask.

Finance: This one is tricky. But, have you talked to your supervisor about this? Could you ask for a part time RA role in your group or within the uni? How about tutoring or other casual role in the uni? My friend got through her entire PhD (self sponsored) by working as a part time RA to pay for her tuition fees and as a tutor to get some money for her living allowance. It was really tough for her, but she made it. Another friend worked as a cleaner and restaurant waitress to supplement her cost of living.

These are just some of my suggestions. Good luck.


Hi, random_6772.

So they told you that even if you win a complaint, the University is likely to have their hands tied by RCUK rules? "Likely" is not "surely".

By the way, you have to understated that whenever PhD students have big problems, the uni tends to close ranks and protect its staff aka your supervisor. Seen it happen many times, even to myself. But guess what, even when they (a couple of very, very high ranking people of the university) told me to let go of my case because my supervisor did nothing wrong (despite the mountains of hard evidences), I persevered on and eventually won my case completely. And I got my PhD award later. In your case, the uni has to admit fault that your supervisor was not supervising. That is why they would prefer that you fail than them having to admit fault. Understand the underlining reasons for them not helping.

Go and seek advice from your students union and postgrad coordinator. Be warned, that as you lodge the complain, you may see the ugliest side of the uni to sidetrack you and prevent your from lodging (aka uni self defense mechanism). Another word of advice, collect and organise your documentations to prove your case. Be thorough in your documentation and stay calm in the face of adversity. Don't walk away from your PhD without even trying to fight. You have nothing to lose.

Toughen up, and fight for what you feel is right for you. Act FAST. I wish you the very best.

STEM teaching positions without research

Hi, impasse,

I completely agree with TreeofLife. Tutoring is a great way to teach and you can set how many subjects and therefore how many tutoring sessions you will have. You can always negotiate with the head of subject.

Besides that, I do think that you should consider the Associate Lecture role. You can give it a try and if it does not suit, leave later. Better having tried than never at all.

Good luck.

Jobless after a PhD

Hi, piya29in,

I think the question is, what is your long term goal? You mentioned setting up a plant tissue culture laboratory and doing postdoc fellowships. Are you wanting to stay in academia or set up your own company? They are very different career paths. Any do you want to do biomedic or plant science? Please make up your mind.

If you are really looking for post doc position, then NETWORKING is key. It means contacting Professors before they have funds so that they may remember you when they do have funds. My former colleagues got their post doc position sometimes up to a year before they start the position. Can your previous supervisors not recommend you to do a postdoc at his/her collaborator's lab? You probably got shortlisted because you do have the skills but lost to someone who has more experience and who is known to the professor. If you have never networked, I suggest that you start doing that now. You are going to need it.

Second Master's degree or PhD?

Hi, JJ_13,

I would ask that you sit down and consider what your aim in life is and importantly where you want to be.

1) If you want to be in South Africa and in academia, then please just continue on in your current project.
2) If you intend to leave and perhaps stay in another country, then you may wish to consider the masters as it gives you international experience which you can leverage in future to apply for jobs elsewhere or another PhD program. If you want to stay in Sweden, this may give you a chance at that too.
3) If your PhD in South Africa is highly recognised world wide and you want to leave for a different country one day, you may also do so after finishing your PhD.

No one knows your circumstances or your career and life aspirations. Decide what is best for yourself. Take care.


Hi, random_6772

I agree totally with bewildered. Talk to your postgraduate coordinator or Students Union on how to lodge a formal complaint. Do it ASAP. You have nothing to lose anyway. If you do not get an extension, you will be forced to fail. So give it your best shot and complain and fight for your extension on the basis on poor supervision. You no longer have to worry about future relationship with your supervisor, because a) if he ignored you during your PhD, he will ignore your future request for reference letter and b) what use is a relationship if you fail your PhD.

Fight on! Good luck!

Quitting PhD

Hi, SmilingHippo,

Considering that you are only in your first year, would you be willing to consider changing to a new project and supervisor who is more suitable for you? Clearly a hands-off supervisor who may have little experience with international students is not working well for you.

Do speak to your postgraduate coordinator (there is one in every school) to identify potential new supervisors for you. I do not believe you cannot change supervisors. You are not the first student with compatibility issue with the supervisor and wanting to change. You could also speak to people outside your group and even those from different schools, as long as they are working on the area you are interested in. Talk to their students and technicians as well to know the supervisors true colours. You do not want to leave a bad supervisor for another who is just as bad or worse.

Calm down and reassess your situation and options. Good luck.

What to do after a successful appeal?

I think you should be allowed to make amendments to your thesis before you resubmit. Check with your postgrad coordinator and appeals panel. You may wish to improve it significantly before resubmitting, to prevent a repeat of your previous situation.

Did you previously sign a form to confirm who your panel of reviewers are? In my uni, usually supervisors select the panel members and then students sign a form saying they agree with the selection. Is this the same for your uni? You should be able to select your panel of reviewers. Perhaps you could put forward a list of 3-5 and the university will then select 2-3 from the list. Choose carefully.

What to do after a successful appeal?

Hi, BeHappy,

I agree with TreeofLife that changing supervisors will not help you now. Since your supervisor did not comment/help you before your submission and actually supported your previous examiners' no award, I do not think he will help you now. Besides, he probably knew the examiners, and that is why he did not really support you challenging their decision.

So, think deeply who your new examiners could be. Do you know of any independent senior researcher who knows your field? Propose to your university and see if they accept them. I would also suggest that you talk to your postgrad coordinator about getting support to go through this and your future corrections. From here on, I think you are going without your supervisor, not that he helped you anyway before this.

Good luck.

Examiner Disagreement

A BIG congratulations to Dr faded07. I am extremely happy for you. You have fought until the very end and won. All the best to you in your future career and may things be smooth sailing from now on.

Thinking of changing supervisors...

hi, Tudor_Queen,

It depends on what changes you want to your supervisory team. IF your PhD is going in a new direction which your supervisors have no interest/expertise in, then adding new supervisor(s) in the new field may be the way forward. Bear in mind to be very diplomatic when asking for it. I have seen relationships fails because the original supervisors took it as an insult to their knowledge and ability.

If your PhD has been going through many rabbit holes and dead ends, and you feel that your supervisors are lacking interest or not giving you any/sufficient feedback due to lack of knowledge/expertise, changing supervisors may be the way forward. If the project you are on is the supervisors', then you may have to change project as well. Changing of supervisor and project would be recomended only when you are in the early stages of your PhD. Eg. First 1-2 years in a 3-4 year PhD. If you are past that and feel that there is not much hope in finishing with a good PhD, perhaps go for a masters, then do another PhD. Academic career post PhD is quite competitive and you can only apply for fellowships within limited time after your PhD. So, if you finish with no/little paper, this unfortunately makes you less competitive for fellowships. Try to give yourself the best fighting chance, if you want to be in academia.

Think deeply about what is best for you. All the best.

Examiner Disagreement

Just hang in there. Stay calm and continue ticking along. You are so near and things seem to be going in the right direction. Good luck