Let's say you had a doctoral student who you were main supervisor for {~advisor) throughout their data collection and most of their write-up, but just before they finished they changed to another main supervisor and you became deputy supervisor (you moved to a new institution in another country and they wanted someone close at hand). Let's say you then counted this student on your CV as supervised to completion as main supervisor because this is 90% true and because these CV points are important for things like promotion. The plan if anyone ever called you out on this would be to just explain the situation as it is and say that 90% of the work felt like it justified the claim. The student is in Sweden (where the regulations say students have the right to supervisor change without even having to make a case) and the supervisor is a Lecturer (~associate prof) at a UK university who wants to make Reader (~full prof) some day. Is this a bad idea? What is likely to go wrong?

  • Why not put something based in the first sentence of the question in the CV? – Patricia Shanahan Oct 12 '18 at 18:57
  • To clarify, are you saying that in your department they give different amounts of credit to different co-advisors? In my department, while there is technically a section about what PhD committees you were chair of, in practice we look just look at the list of students supervised on the CV and don't typically assign different weights to different co-advisors unless we know personally how much that faculty member actually supervised. – Kimball Oct 12 '18 at 22:28
  • 36
    Dude. Do not lie in your CV. – JeffE Oct 13 '18 at 3:44
  • 1
    @Amorphia I think you would be better served to go by the much more widely accepted mapping of Lecturer -> Assistant, Sr. Lecturer -> Associate, Reader -> ?? (usually Professor, but I have also seen Senior Associate Professor), Professor -> Full Professor. If you put the aspect of tenure aside, all other Lecturer job characteristics map more closely to Assistant Professor than to Associate, in my opinion. – xLeitix Oct 13 '18 at 9:05
  • 1
    @xLeitix I wonder when you talk about Lecturer to USA mappings you are more thinking in terms of Swedish lektor? Lektor in Sweden is not exactly like UK Lecturer: in my experience it's more common to not have tenure but be called Lektor in Sweden. I have been that myself in Sweden; but it's not even possible at my UK university (if you don't have tenure you are an associate lecturer known as AL). – Amorphia Oct 13 '18 at 13:24

On a generic CV, I would simply make a section of "Graduate students supervised and co-supervised", and include this student. In this context it wouldn't be necessary to go into detail about whether the supervision was "to completion".

But for something like a promotion dossier, where you're asked to tick boxes, I would go to whoever is responsible for overseeing the evaluation process (department head, promotion committee chair, etc), explain the situation, and ask what you should do. If at all possible, get an answer in writing. Then, when you fill out the form, attach a note saying something like:

One student was supervised by me for about 90% of their thesis work (stages X, Y, Z), and then changed supervisors for the last 10%; I am officially listed as their deputy supervisor. I spoke with Department Head Smith on October 24, 2018, and she advised that it was appropriate to include this student as "supervised to completion".

If Smith says "no, don't count it", then you attach a similar note saying "Smith said not to include this student, but I believe that this is a similar accomplishment to supervising a student to completion".

Since academic achievement is generally self-reported and "honor system", this means that any attempt to "cheat" is seen as a serious ethical offense. If someone on the evaluation committee is hostile to you, they could use something like this as ammunition to wreck your entire promotion case. ("Candidate says supervised to completion, but student's dissertation shows someone else as supervisor. Clear-cut fraud.") So that's what could go wrong. But if you disclose the situation, and get someone else to pre-approve the way you're filling the form, you eliminate the possibility; maybe it won't be counted in your favor, but at least you can't be accused of fraud.

  • 1
    If doesn't actually say to completion on list, then there might instead be coming questions of how many on the list did actually finish. – mathreadler Oct 13 '18 at 4:12
  • 4
    “I am officially listed as their deputy supervisor“ that kinda makes it sound like they changed because of you, but because you moved. Maybe something less defensive is appropriate. – DonQuiKong Oct 13 '18 at 14:57
  • @DonQuiKong: Okay, so add "then I left the institution and so they changed supervisors". – Nate Eldredge Oct 13 '18 at 15:41

The fact that you ask, makes me think that you believe it would be at least a bit wrong. Anything that looks like dishonesty in an academic's statements or record can be very serious.

I suggest two things. One is to be completely honest about it as you have been here. But the other is to talk to the student in question and perhaps get a statement/recommendation from him/her about your helpfulness. A recommendation from a student for a professor might be a very powerful statement to a hiring committee.

  • Thanks for the suggestions. My univ administration runs very much on the box ticking model. Applying for promotion will involve ticking a box for x students or x+1. I don’t personally feel it’s wrong because x+1 is closest to the truth. But I don’t know if someone else might think it’s wrong. Maybe I could tick x+1 and put an asterisk with an explanation. Hmm... – Amorphia Oct 12 '18 at 19:41
  • @Amorphia Are they expecting these boxes to be checked at their institution, or for your whole career? I.e. would you treat it differently if this student graduated while you were still at the earlier institution? – Bryan Krause Oct 12 '18 at 21:03

What could go wrong:

  1. You might not be given a chance to explain it.
  2. Once someone realizes you fudged this detail a little, it might call all of the other details in your cv into question.

tl;dr: Just check the binding regulations.

You're asking the wrong people. Some of us think it's bad, some of us don't. In some universities the criteria are this way, in some - that way.

So just open the administrative/academic/promotion-related regulations for your university or department, and see what it says: What exactly is supposed to count for promotions? If the wording is not entirely clear, consult the head of your department.

Now, you might be wondering "Ah, but what if he tells me to change my CV, while in fact the promotion committee would have never looked into it?"

Well, maybe. But:

  1. It's unethical to do so.
  2. The expectation of benefit/damage over both cases is not high enough for this to be appealing even if you have no ethical scruples (or if you think the promotion process is otherwise unfair).

having said all of the above I must also tell you that: Look, you didn't supervise that PhD to completion. What can I say? You just didn't. You had planned to do it; you would have done it, had the circumstances allowed it; you put in most of the effort towards it - sure. But at the end of the day, that's not what happened.

  • 1
    There's an assumption here you probably haven't realised you've made, that turns out to be false. "Could have" supervised to completion; actually I can't. Although we had a productive working relationship (one good published paper and the student is close to finished overall) they dump me last minute because they think it will be better for them to have a supervisor close to home for the final steps. They are probably wrong about this because the new supervisor is much less familiar with the work. I regard this as a stupid betrayal and am not pleased but there is nothing I can do. – Amorphia Oct 13 '18 at 13:12
  • @Amorphia: Sorry, I meant "could have, had it not been for the circumstances". I'll remove that part. – einpoklum Oct 13 '18 at 17:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.