I started my PhD last year in November. I've now heard of an incredibly attractive program that is just starting this autumn, with insanely good working condition (the salary is basically twice as high as my current salary and there are also nice internship options, which my program completely lacks.) My PhD advisor actually also participates in the program as an advisor. Thematically it is very close to what I am working on currently. I'm not unhappy with my current position or working environment.

Is it advisable to talk to my advisor about applying for this program? Of course, it is not very likely that I would even be admitted to the program, but it is so attractive, that not applying seems stupid. For different reasons, even though my advisor also participates in the program, I would not be able to apply for a position supervised by him.

I would have definitely applied for this program, had it existed last year. Also, when I started my PhD I did have the clear intention of finishing it, so some possibly related questions do not apply here.

  • 3
    So a conversation with your advisor starting with something like 'Hey, whats up with this new program I've heard you are involved in?' is out of the question?
    – Jon Custer
    May 7, 2018 at 18:02
  • If you apply there could be a like a 50% chance they accept you. If you don't apply, there would be like a 100% chance that they won't accept you. Consider doing what's in your best interest.
    – xyz123
    May 8, 2018 at 5:47
  • I don't see how this is an ethics issue. Unless you're worried your advisor might behave unethically upon learning about your desire to apply and either sabotage it, or hold your attempt against you later if you failed to get in. Those are the dangers we can't really judge the individual for you. However if you start by telling your advisor you are currently happy, but that the double pay and other opportunities are too tempting to pass up, it may go well. May 8, 2018 at 16:09

3 Answers 3


Just talk to your advisor. Since he participates in the program, he will know if you are qualified to apply and stand a chance of getting the position. He will probably also be able to tell you if the two of you will be able to continue working together – after all, it's far from unheard of that a PhD student has a nominal advisor for administrative reasons but a "real" co-advisor who is responsible for the day-to-day research.

In any case, it seems completely unlikely that you would get the position without support from your current advisor. If anything, it's probably that you will need letters of recommendations, and an application without a good letter from your current advisor is an application that is headed for the trashcan.

Just go see him in person – I would avoid email – and start a conversation with "I heard about this new PhD program with much better conditions than the one I have, do you think I could get into it and still continue working with you?". Then see where it takes you. Maybe your advisor knows a reason that would prevent you from applying altogether and you are fretting over nothing. Or on the contrary you are the perfect applicant and you will start earning twice your current salary in a few months. Until you talk with him, you don't know.


I have some sympathy for your situation - my PhD programme had x5 Wellcome Trust funded students, plus me as the single MRC funded PhD student on 1/2 their stipend. In my case, one of the other students decided to leave the programme early on, however that did not mean that I got access to their higher funding.

Just a couple of things to be aware of in your situation when talking to your supervisor (I'm based in the UK and did my PhD in Genomics):

1) Depending on the policies of your funding body and the timing of when you drop out of the programme your failure to complete your PhD could be recorded and could negatively impact your supervisor's access to grants from that source for future PhD students. I know situations where late or non-submission of a thesis has had a greater impact on the supervisor's prospects than the student's - PIs/departments don't want a black mark on their record jeopardising future funding.

2) Depending on your funding situation any unspent pot of money allocated for your PhD might be lost to your department/supervisor should you drop out (not to mention that a year's worth of expenses has already been consumed).


First off make sure you have some solid research about that program, I've seen tons of friends jump ship from Masters of Engineering to MBA Business, only for them to call me crying about how terrible the program and job opportunities are.

Second, you best get solid networking connections, a prof is an okay start but knowing the dean of program is better.

Third, find out which companies/organizations are the big sponsors of the program and network with the people who are board members.

Fourth, find out and get to know the people who are doing the acceptance of applicants. Might take a few phone calls and emails, but use some social engineering (legal ways only, don't do anything illegal). And then network with them.

Fifth, join the Uni club associated with that program. And network with the people in that program.

  • 3
    Recommending that someone date the dean's kids is such horrible advice that I don't even know where to begin.
    – aeismail
    May 10, 2018 at 6:15

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