What to do in case when PhD advisor rejects everytime (by his own choice) a request for reference letter for a possible post doc position? Majority of decent post doc positons requires PhD advisor's reference letter.

In the industry, a company cannot dare to hold the experience letter for an employee. But in academia, the situation is not the same. In such a scenario what is a possible solution? Is it that till the time he is ready to provide a reference letter I have to wait? or is there some way out of this?

  • Did you ask him why?
    – 299792458
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 16:50
  • @299792458 He doesn't want students pursue research outside the country (be it any university). That is what he says. He just is exercising his power of choice and playing games.
    – prashanth
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 17:18
  • Does he explain his reasoning?
    – 299792458
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 3:14
  • @299792458 Not at all.
    – prashanth
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 20:07

1 Answer 1


I do not know your exact field but in most fields you could put someone else from the same lab (e.g. a senior postdoc you worked with) stating that this person was the day-to-day supervisor and the official supervisor is too busy.

But apart from this way out you should also clarify why your supervisor does not want to write the letter. No time? Different scientific opinion on some of your results? He thinks you are not good enough for academia (sounds mean but some supervisors have that opinion on some of their students)? You could become a competition as you know key results from the lab? For each of these points solutions can be found but I would need more details ...

  • Thank you for the suggestion. But unfortunately, there were no senior researchers working in the lab at that time and I was working on a new topic which the lab hasn't worked on. The reason that the advisor state is that he does not support students to pursue research outside country, be it any lab (which is absurd). There is no difference in opinions and he specifically thinks i will be a good fit in academia (thats what he says). There is no competition whatsoever to the best of my knowledge as I did my PhD 3 years back.
    – prashanth
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 16:33
  • In that case, is it wise to inform the university of this and request them to allow me to provide reference from other suitable point of contacts?
    – prashanth
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 16:34
  • What do you mean by "pursue research outside country"? Telling from your user name I would assume that you are from India? So he does not want people to leave India at all? Maybe he just does not want to loose a good researcher in his lab?
    – lordy
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 9:19
  • its right that I am India. There is nothing like loosing a researcher as I had left the lab 3 years ago when I was done with my PhD. The reason that he provides is the one that you mention "does not want people to leave India at all". But is it ethically right for him to say this?
    – prashanth
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 20:10
  • This is indeed very strange and honestly I have never heard this before. If there is no reasoning with him then the only way around this is to provide other references (this will possibly not be that much of a problem as you left the lab 3 years ago)
    – lordy
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 8:48

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