I’d just like to know your opinion on this issue (whether you think it is ethical or not).

The point is, for three years, I was a straight A-student. But towards the final year, I simply started to burn out, but then I didn’t know how to handle the situation and my mental and physical health deteriorated.

As a result, I got an F. At our university, if you get an unsatisfactory mark (F) you have to take summer classes. Even though it was the final year, students were still allowed to take them.

I didn’t consider taking a leave of absence since the reason is not considered serious enough in my country.

Then I thought about taking a year off by withdrawing. But I was recommended to stay since a few years of my studies were financed.

This year, the rules were changed and now, as it is the final year, those who got unsatisfactory marks are expelled. So was I. In my country, however, one is allowed to be enrolled in the college again, retake some classes and get a diploma. And this doesn’t prevent you from getting into grad school.

So the question is, do I still have a moral right to become a professor at another university?

I think that if I’m going to pursue Master’s degree in another university and (on condition that my performance is great) this university is interested in having me as an academic, I should be transparent about this fact.

Or do you think that it is better for me not to pursue academic career at all? Would a student like that have a chance in your country?

Update: I was eventually given the opportunity to withdraw (since the documents are yet to be signed) and enrol in the same university next year. Thank you everyone for your answers!

  • 1
    I don't know how the legal situation is in your country, but in some countries it might be illegal to expel a student based on a regulation that was changed during the course of the studies. You might want to involve a lawyer. Mar 17, 2021 at 8:37
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    There are many issues here. One is law that can change so abruptly. The other is that the legal system in your country is not widely known. Is it possible that with an expulsion in your CV you cannot enroll anymore in a university (something like in the application form they ask if you were expelled from any uni of the country)? then it is better if you withdraw. Can you withdraw, then enroll in a different course and recover some of the old exams/credits?
    – EarlGrey
    Mar 17, 2021 at 14:58
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    Ah then it's a no brainer: what it matters is the final goal (the diploma) not the way you took to get it there (as long as it is legal, I mean, without cheating&so on). As other said, a good professor is a person that was always successful, but an excellent professor is the one that failed sometime: there is a lot to learn from failing, too.
    – EarlGrey
    Mar 17, 2021 at 15:54
  • 3
    You should not edit (remove) the question after you get answers - particularly when you have accepted an answer . Leave it up for others who come to visit with a similar question. Thanks folks here by voting and by leaving comments. Mar 17, 2021 at 18:35
  • I did leave comments, but then I thought that the question felt somewhat private and I made it public. Didn’t know that it’s impossible to delete posts here. I see the point, though, I will edit the question, but with less details
    – Sufjan
    Mar 17, 2021 at 20:26

2 Answers 2


Yes, you can become a professor. Your expulsion (for unsatisfactory marks) seems equivalent to failing your degree. Failing a degree doesn't preclude becoming professor. But you'll (likely) need a degree to become one. (The definition of professor varies between countries.)

From comments:

[is] failing a degree...dishonourable...something [to] be ashamed of?

Failure isn't shameful nor disgraceful: A professor who hasn't failed, hasn't challenged themselves enough.

Do you think, as a professor, you have the right to keep it to yourself or be transparent?

In the immediate future, universities and employers will want to know why you dropped out, failed, were excluded, however you want to phrase it. Just be honest. Explain your situation. You were burning out, deteriorating mentally and physically, these aren't shameful/disgraceful events.

A professor (depending on definition) probably need never mention distant failures: In the future, historic details (even failing a degree) become irrelevant.

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    @Sufjan: That depends on the culture you’re living in. Where I’m from, if you earn a professorship through a good Ph.D. and good research, any failure in the past doesn’t matter, instead can be used as a humorous anecdote. Mar 16, 2021 at 14:44
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    I agree that it is possible, but it is a difficult, uphill, road to get there, and you need to perform differently than in the past to make the climb.
    – Buffy
    Mar 16, 2021 at 14:48
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    This all might have been true 30 years ago but it's probably not true today (I'd never ever have gotten into grad school with the competition that incoming students have today). In the immediate future there's no chance and tracking is so strong now that also in the far future there's no chance (unless you're related to someone important and can nepotism your way in).
    – user133933
    Mar 16, 2021 at 14:52

Voevodsky is an (rare) example showing that this is possible. From the Wikipedia article:

Voevodsky attended Moscow State University for a while, but was forced to leave without a diploma for refusing to attend classes and failing academically

He then graduated from Harvard, received a Fields medal, and was a Professor in Princeton.

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    +1 I wonder whether Voevodsky mentioned being kicked out when accepting his Fields Medal
    – user2768
    Mar 17, 2021 at 7:50
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    @user2768, Well, in his interview he sort of attributes his expulsion to his own vibrant lifestyle of that time, so it's unlikely he had much grudge to his former university. Mar 18, 2021 at 4:06
  • @rg_software I didn't intend to suggest he had a grudge, more that he might mention it in a humorous self-deprecating way
    – user2768
    Mar 18, 2021 at 9:17

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