I submitted my dissertation after several years of working. I will have my defense soon, and I reported what I am going to talk in the defense. However, my primary supervisor now refuses to give further advice or comments because he said he had spent a lot of time editing my dissertation. In addition to that, he also asks me to refrain from interacting with my second supervisor because the latter person also spent a lot of time for my doctoral dissertation. I am not on good terms with my primary supervisor. He is fed up with me because it was very hard for him to supervise me. With my second supervisor I am on good terms personally, to the degree that he likes to invite me to have some coffee. However, since it seems that he is reluctant to advise any people, he might want to cut ties with me as well.

My question is, how I should interact wisely with these people, especially after my graduation. I do not need their advice for the moment because I can prepare for the defense by myself. However, I may be going to feel awkward if they will cut academic ties with me. I am not sure what exactly will make me so; however, I think I should not cut the ties because I see that most PhD holders around me still interact with their former supervisors.

For your information, I am an international student from Asia in a European country and going to work at a university in my home country after getting a doctorate. My supervisors are leading scholars in our small field in humanities. So, I will have some opportunities in which my papers will be reviewed by them.

  • I will still have some opportunities in which my papers will be reviewed by them. — Really? In my field, advisor-student relationships are considered serious conflicts of interest for reviewing. I cannot review my ex-PhD students’ papers.
    – JeffE
    May 10, 2019 at 5:56

4 Answers 4


I think it's possible you've been asking for too much help on revisions rather than your supervisors being "difficult" per se.

It doesn't sound like your supervisor fits the standard formula for an uncaring advisor if they've already given you a lot of assistance: it sounds more like they are pushing you to be more independent and have perhaps chosen a strong message when prior gentle messages were not received. Their suggestion for you to not ask your secondary advisor for more help may just be another cue that they are pushing you to be more independent rather than cutting you off completely.

Of course neither of you are necessarily in the wrong here: it may just be that your advisor prefers students be more independent than your preference. If that's the case, but you've still managed to work together up until now and you can produce a suitable thesis for graduation, congratulations: you've overcome something that not all students will overcome.

Unless there is information missing from your question, I don't think you need to worry about losing academic contact. Focus on preparing independently for your defense.


Sounds like their issue is that they don't want to spend more time on your defense. They don't have an issue with talking to you in general. So just prepare your defense without asking for help from the supervisors which don't want to help. After you graduate, feel free to write back as you normally would. Just not about the defense.

Just as a remark, I don't get how your other supervisor wants to help you but your main supervisor doesn't want you to ask his help. Presumably the other guy is a free adult, and can make his own decisions. If he agrees to help you, why would your main supervisor object? It's not taking any of his time, and if your defense is better and makes you more likely to graduate, that's good for him too.


My advice is to concentrate on your defense and on finishing your Ph.D. You don't want to mess that up, want to get the process done and move on (you with your credential and them with you out of their hair). Don't spend time now, debating post-graduation interaction policy. Concentrate on the task at hand. The defense.

Once you are out of the nest, you (and they) can decide how to interact. Nothing stops you from stopping to interact with an advisor that you clashed with or to interact with his colleague (if his colleague wants to). But that will just be a future interaction for whatever it's worth.

Right now, you need to take control of the task at hand get the ball over the goal line. Take some ownership.


I tend to agree that your supervisor is pushing you to finish things up independently. There is nothing wrong with that and can happen, especially when students have been wringing their hands about getting their dissertation "just right". They might be letting you know that you need to finish up and get everything over with. No more edits.

But this is hard to judge without context.

I can tell you, if you had a supervisor who was adversarial, you would definitely know it.

Also, when you finally graduate and your supervisor congratulates you, things will feel very different. The stress of graduating will be gone and you will see clearly again. There is a good chance that you will not feel what you are feeling now when you graduate.

My best advice is just to listen to your supervisor, graduate, and move forward.

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