Currently I have reached the final stage of my Ph.D study in Germany. Nevertheless, I want to find a new supervisor within the same university or in other German university for Ph.D defense, is this possible?

Long story short, due to the fact that my current supervisor could provide hardly any technical advice nor funding support for my PhD project in the last 2-3 years, the relationship between us became unpleasant and I seldom communicate with him (what can I expect?). Few months ago he told me that he would cancel the duty of supervision because of poor communication, but I can still defense my thesis under his name. I guess the actual reason why he was mad because I was not giving him the source codes of my work (literally for free).

Now my Ph.D thesis is almost finished (time mainly spent on numerical solvers programming based on open-source codes), and I want to find some professor who could at least give me some advice for my final work, and finish my Ph.D defense within 3-6 months. Assuming my future supervisor would agree with this (potentially continue working with him/her after the defense), but does this violate some regulations for Ph.D degree which requires someone staying in the university for a minimum period of time (e.g. enrolled semesters).

closed as off-topic by Brian Borchers, user3209815, Mark, Coder, Jeff Dec 25 '17 at 14:17

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  • "The answer to this question strongly depends on individual factors such as a certain person’s preferences, a given institution’s regulations, the exact contents of your work or your personal values. Thus only someone familiar can answer this question and it cannot be generalised to apply to others. (See this discussion for more info.)" – Brian Borchers, user3209815, Mark, Coder, Jeff
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  • Were you giving him your source code before he stopped supporting you? – aeismail Dec 25 '17 at 2:14
  • I handed in some source codes and several reports to my supervisor. After my scholarship expired (outside of the university) I asked for financial support but he said he had no money. Since then things get ugly. – KOF Dec 25 '17 at 3:15
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    "I guess the actual reason why he was mad because I was not giving him the source codes of my work (literally for free)." If I were judging your thesis, I would never approve it unless all the relevant source code was included. In my opinion you are in the wrong and you should do as your supervisor asks. If it's secret, it is not scientific. – Anonymous Physicist Dec 25 '17 at 3:35
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    @KOF you’re not doing commercial software but studying for a degree. How can we know that the implementation is not hard coded to show better results in benchmarks or with a few bugs? If it is not open it isn’t science indeed. – Zenon Dec 25 '17 at 10:50
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    You need to ask the head of your "Promotionsausschuss" because it all depends on the rules at your institution and on the interpretation of these rules by the people in charge. There is no general answer, even if localized to Germany. – Dirk Dec 25 '17 at 18:01

This is doable if the topic of your thesis is hot. In this case, take a look at your competitors in the technical sense and, erm, the academic enemies of your PhD advisor! Ask them (if they are professors) or their senior advisors (if not). You might need to change the country, though. You might have to find funding, and this is the hardest part - the best of luck with that.

If the topic is cold (very established, perhaps already industrial-level, with books written on it, and without much progress in the recent years), I'd say stay with your current advisor - you could spend more time on searching for a new place rather than on properly finishing. In this case, you could tell your advisor that you would give him the codes only after your defence and after you publish on them.

As for the regulations, you need to check with the new department when moving. Some require that you declare with your signature that you've never started the graduation process elsewhere. Find out the exact wording (e.g. "noch keinen Antrag auf Promotion gestellt") and check whether you satisfy this requirement in the formal sense.

Also check that you don't run over the time allocated for graduating. Some universities require you to spend at most 7 years on your PhD. (Don't ask me when they start counting and how do they count exactly - check this yourself please.)

Personally, I am not aware of any other restrictions in Germany which would be relevant for you (but I cannot exclude their existence, either).

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    You also have to be concerned with "residency" requirements, no? Most schools usually require you to be registered for some period of time to avoid exactly this kind of situation. – aeismail Dec 25 '17 at 2:13
  • @aeismail Personally, I'm not aware of that. But, of course, I've not seen most of the German universities. Regulations may differ, and I don't wish to exclude the possibility that I've missed some requirement relevant for the case of the OP. – Leon Meier Dec 25 '17 at 2:31
  • @Leon Meier The topic is very general (3-phase flow: gas-liquid interaction with non-spherical particles) in multiple fields of science, and is pretty active in recent years. I implemented some state-of-art algorithms and proposed some novel methods in my thesis. So I imagine some professes in different fields might be interested with my work. – KOF Dec 25 '17 at 2:49
  • @KOF Congrats; you have some chance! – Leon Meier Dec 25 '17 at 2:52
  • @LeonMeier Is there any limitation for a PhD student that he/she has to finish this thesis within a period of time (not employed to the university). In my case, I switched to a totally new topic in the 3rd year (enrolled) due to some technical issue, does it count into my current PhD work? – KOF Dec 25 '17 at 3:24

Most universities that I'm familiar with require an enrollment period of at least one year for doctoral students. Many additionally stipulate that this be an "on-campus" residency—that is, you can't be working offsite for a company or at another school.

So you definitely need to check the regulations of anyone who would agree in principle to such a deal.

However, it is also worth considering the possibility that such a situation is one that a lot of faculty members would be reluctant to agree to participate in. Part of the reason for this is optics: they don't want to be seen as having "poached" another professor's graduate student, even if the reasons for doing so were benevolent. They may agree to a "co-supervision" situation instead, since that doesn't quite come across as badly.

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    ... and, at least for some universities, you have to make sure that you have not officially started the graduation process elsewhere ... – Leon Meier Dec 25 '17 at 2:33
  • @aeismail In my case, my current supervisor is actually not my official supervisor anymore, because he has cancelled his duty of supervision (in fact, zero input for my PhD thesis). So I thought I am free to switch supervisor as I want. Another option for me is to find another willing professor in other department of the same university. – KOF Dec 25 '17 at 2:37
  • @ Leon Meier, I am holding the Ph.D thesis and results at my hand, unless I find someone who is willing to coach me. i.e., I didn't submit my PhD draft to the university. – KOF Dec 25 '17 at 2:39
  • @KOF I see. For the matters I touched in my answer, it is irrelevant whether your results are only in your laptop or publicly available with proper attribution to you. – Leon Meier Dec 25 '17 at 2:44
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    @KOF: Don’t try to sugarcoat things. Tell them honestly what you’re looking for and why you think this is the best way to do it. If they’re reluctant, don’t force the issue. Otherwise you’ll just start a new negative feedback loop. – aeismail Dec 25 '17 at 14:17

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