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I am at the end of the fifth year of research. My thesis was written last year but my supervisor refused to take in any submissions stating that he is very busy. I followed up from time to time for feedback but that irritated him and he told me to wait till he called me on his own. I have now applied for an extension at the university for another year. In a recent face to face conversation on what is expected of me and how to move things forward, my supervisor says that it will take time for him to begin the review and that Phd depends on mostly my behaviour and not the research work that I have done. I have sought the university's help informally but they say they cannot do anything to help. They say I need to sort it out myself. What should I do?

  • It is a tough problem, but what can we answer? – Maarten Buis Jun 18 at 13:16
  • @anonymous I edited the title, hopefully better capturing your question. But if I have got it wrong, please change. – Flyto Jun 18 at 18:02
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What should I do?

Talk to a departmental academic that you trust and ask for guidance. Hopefully, they'll help you proceed. Otherwise, contact your department head. (You may ask several academics before escalating to the department head.)

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I'm absolutely horrified when hearing stories like this. In Denmark a PhD is nominated to 3 years, although most do a 3 or 6 month extension. But then the thesis must be submitted within this time. Hence, there is a fixed date (already when you start your PhD) for when to hand in your thesis. At the time of handing in, you can of course apply for an extension, but it's you who decide and not the supervisor (if you have a good relationship with him/her, its a joint decision).

For you particular situation, I would (as I can see other also have) recommend that you take action seek advice from other professors or senior staff. Do you have a guidance/counselor or perhaps HR staff at the PhD school? At my university I've had talks with guiding staff at the PhD school (HR people), regarding disagreements with my former supervisor.

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It seems like you're in a tought spot there. I've been through similar. I don't know how it works in your country, but here we're allowed to have a co-supervisor. Since my supervisor was also busy with something else, she's actually the one who came up with the idea of getting myself a co-supervisor.

Maybe that's an approach you could try. respectfully tell your supervisor you understand he's busy with things of his own and that maybe you would both benefit from having someone else reviewing your text and giving you feedback. It would earn you time and remove some of the pressure from him. It is also a good opportunity to make some network and prospect future steps.

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What should I do?

Escalate within the university.

You have finished your thesis, but your supervisor is not reviewing it, and thus you are stalled in your PhD progress and unable to progress. This is not reasonable- reviewing your thesis is part of your advisor's job. So you should escalate.

You might try doing this informally first - as it sounds as though you have already tried - by speaking to people you know and trust in the department. But if this fails you will have to do something formal, by contacting a person in charge of PGR student progression, or a head of department, or similar. Unless there are significant factors that you have not told us about, they are likely to support you, because no department wants students taking extensions when they could be defending and graduating.

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