I am currently a year-three postgraduate student and aimming for a PhD (in my country 4 year for a PhD, and it's allowed to quit and gain master degree).

Although with fine results in the first three semesters (with publications), I got sick and had to live in hospital for almost one year. My health condiction is still not very good and needs more time for treatment. At least for now I find it's dim for my coming PhD thesis defense (not enough time & publications).

Because too much time was wasted in my early PhD studying, I plan to quit PhD (replaced by a master degree) and reapply for another PhD (like in US with similar research direction).

Is this moral? Will this quit bring some bad effect for my new application? And will this hurt my relationship with my current supervisor (I have'nt talk with him of my thoughts)?

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    Being hospitalized for a year (or otherwise being unable to make progress for forgivable reasons) is typically reason enough to delay a defense. Is there a reason you cannot do this?
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 3:08
  • Indeed. If for some reason you did not officially suspend your studies during your hospitalisation, you can sometimes suspend them retrospectively. We did that for one of my phd students just recently. They now have an extra year to catch up abd complete their phd. Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 8:33
  • No time is wasted if it used for learning! In any case, I know a handful of people who delayed their defense for a variety of reasons, up to two or three years! So its likely that the best thing you can do is just finish this PhD, even if its late. You already have publications, so you must be doing something rigth, I think you are on a good track to get it done. If being 1 year on a hospital is your only reason to quit, I suggest you do not. Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 9:36

3 Answers 3


There are no ethical concerns here. It is fine to quit and reapply. Given a medical history it is unlikely that you will suffer academic consequences. So, relax on that score.

However there are two things you should also consider.

First, you have an advisor who has views about your likely success. Work with them now so that you have an accurate picture of your probable success in your current program. You seem to think the future is dim there, but it may be overly pessimistic. They may be able to work with you on a good completion.

Second, if your health issues are continuing, you will need to convince a new program that you can be a success there in spite of them. If they come back to affect your performance you could wind up in the same place, but a worse situation, in a few years.

If the medical condition is actually caused or affected by stress, then you should, in addition, find ways to deal with that issue.


Is this moral? Will this quit bring some bad effect for my new application? And will this hurt my relationship with my current supervisor (I have'nt talk with him of my thoughts)?

It is moral. It won't bring any bad effects to your new application*. It should not hurt your relations with your supervisor.

*You should explain expilicitly that you had to be hospitilized for a year to explain the gap in your academic past. PhD applications usually have a specific textbox that you can mention these kinds of issues. At the very least you can mention this in your statement of purpose.


It is immoral. By moral, I used a philosophical definition from Stanford/Plato. My moral values differ from yours because of diverse background and upbringing. I don't know where you are from or how dropping out is perceived in your institution or society. So, take my justification with a grain of salt.

I consider exhausting resources (time and money) without substantial contribution in the field or addition to one's learning is negligence to the academic community. That said, by the time you complete the application and matriculate in the new program, you would have finished preparing to defend your dissertation. Nobody can predict for certain of anyone's failure/success in a PhD defense. Alas, having a good relationship with an advisor who can vouch on your behalf may help, at least at institutions that I know.

No, it probably will not have a "bad effect for [the] new application." Quitting a PhD program will not necessarily predict that you won't complete the next program.

The impact of your quitting the current program on your relationship with the current supervisor will depend on how current supervisor and your relationship was and has been. It's subjective. You won't get an answer unless you speak to them, honestly.

  • 2
    Can you elaborate on why you think it is immoral? The rest of your answer does not seem to deal with morality at all.
    – wimi
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 18:36

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