I was recently accepted by a university as a PhD student. During the whole process, my potential supervisor agreed to supervise me along with some of his colleagues as my co-supervisor. Although, I have been accepted as a PhD student by the university, but I didn't get the scholarship. I a mentally as well as financially prepared for the expenses. But now my supervisor is saying that I should decline the offer. I told him that I can manage my expenses, but in every mail he is giving me some other excuse for not accepting this offer. I am confused now as to what I should do. Since the graduate school has accepted me, now it's up to me whether I should accept or not. But I am not able to understand why my supervisor is not willing to take me.

Any suggestions for what should I do now are highly appreciated.

Thank You.

  • 1
    Presumably your supervisor believes you should get funding. Send them an email explaining you are confused and ask if they can call you or if you they can schedule a video call
    – user2768
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 7:32
  • What are the reasons that he gives for asking you to decline? My thinking is that he may have good personal reasons for not wanting to supervise you anymore, but if the graduate school accepted you, it's your right to accept. However, it may be that he knows that apart from him nobody else is available for supervising your project. So he may know that you put yourself in a difficult position by accepting, because it may not be possible to find qualified supervision. I don't think the issue is that you didn't win the funding, or at least, from my point of view, it shouldn't be. Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 8:26
  • When I first inquired about his reluctance, he said that financially it ay be difficult. I told him that I was mentally as well as financially prepared if I didn't got the scholarship. Then in the next email he said that, the time length of PhD may increase. And I told him that I am aware of that situation as well and I am mentally prepared for that as well. Because I am worried that if I accept the offer, and then when I reach the university he may not entertain me saying that "I already told you to decline the offer". But now its my choice to accept or decline. I am just utterly confused now Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 8:43
  • 2
    Does self-funded mean supporting yourself as a TA, or paying possibly a hundred thousand dollars out of pocket?
    – Well...
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 9:47
  • It's not quite clear to me whether your supervisor is still available for supervising you in case you accept. Have you asked this directly? Even if he says yes (maybe because he has to, but maybe he actually doesn't have to), you may consider that he won't be really happy to have you, which isn't a good start, although occasionally it still can work out. In any case you should find out whether there would be another supervisor available for you in case you accept and the current one doesn't want to do it our treats you badly if he has to take you on. Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 11:04

1 Answer 1


Probably write to that supervisor, asking that if you think you will be busy, then perhaps you can suggest any other colleague.

There can be many reasons which that guy must have shared with you. I am assuming a few instances.

  • First, as pointed out in the comment above, he may be thinking that getting a self-funded Ph.D. is too over-burdening to you (which frankly, it is, because unlike bachelors or Masters degrees, Ph.D. is not only tough, there is no minimum time-limit per se)

  • Secondly, he may be leaving the university or department, or he may have other engagements that do not allow him to supervise you at the moment. In that case, your asking him to direct you to any other colleague of yours would make more sense.

But frankly, I personally think that one should do a PhD on any funded project. A self-funded Ph.D. journey often gets a bit bitter towards the end.

  • I don't think it's the supervisors job to assess in advance whether a potential student whom he doesn't know well personally can handle self-funding or not. Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 8:28
  • @Lewian well, the supervisor's job is to choose a good candidate that has good chances of success, so yes, that is part of their job. Of course, one can argue that their assessment is unfounded, and probably they are not allowed to change their mind if they already agreed to supervise. But assessing candidates' suitability for the position is definitely part of the supervisor's job.
    – wimi
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 8:38
  • 1
    True, but the pure fact that somebody is self-funded doesn't say anything about their suitability, unless the student stated in advance that if they are self-funded they have to work 6h a day to earn the money. That indeed would be a reason to not accept a student, but if there isn't any knowledge like this, I don't see what the funding has to do with the suitability of the student. Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 10:55
  • Now he is saying that because of the current situation, the lab timings are on and off, so there is a possibility that you might not submit the desired results on time. I told him that how can you judge that before even giving me a chance t work!! I think he is just making some lame excuses. Is it okay on my part to directly ask him whether he want to supervise me or not. Because i have invested my 4 months, my energy and time in building this project and now he says that just don;t accept the offer!! I may be on the verge of a mental breakdown because I don't have any alternative. Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 6:33

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