I have recently been offered a place on a Ph.D. program at a certain university abroad. However, before, during, and after my application, my potential supervisor has generally been unresponsive to my emails. For example, when he expressed his interest in supervising me, it took him about four months to give me the go-signal to submit my application to the program. His excuse for his late reply was that he had been on leave for personal reasons. After I submitted my application, I sent him several emails about the Ph.D. program and my research proposal, but he has yet to respond to any. When I received an offer of admission from the University, two months after I submitted my application, I informed him about this offer through email. I also sent him another email asking him if he wanted to meet with me online regarding my research proposal. Again, he has not responded to my new emails. I do not know what to do next, because we have not had any formal meetings yet.

My question is: Is it advisable to pursue my Ph.D. study at this university with him as my supervisor?

  • 2
    How long have you waited for the most recent emails? Not responding to e-mails in a reasonable amount of time, provided that your e-mails are short and quick to respond to, would be a red flag for me. If your e-mails are paragraphs long, you might not get a response.
    – Mehta
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 17:41
  • 5
    Have you been able to (informally) talk with his other (former) PhD students about their experiences? Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 9:10
  • 1
    In my case I had to wait quite long between preliminary mails. Than my PhD was almost perfect as well the supervisor was. They can be selecting candidates or securing money or just thinking a bit.
    – Alchimista
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 9:14
  • 3
    You need more information. Ask former students. Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 10:37
  • supervisors are human beings. Perhaps yours have personal problems (e.g. a dying mother, a sick child...). This could explain lack of response to e-mails Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 19:49

2 Answers 2


This depends on you and how you prefer to work and how able you are to carry on alone. Some people thrive on that. Others find it impossible.

Of course, the delays might just be explained by the fact that there has been on commitment yet on either side. They may respond differently once you get a formal relationship.

In some cases it is possible to correspond with other graduate students working under this professor to see if you could expect anything different from what you've seen so far. Do that if you can find a channel to do so. A former student might give you a more accurate assessment, actually.

But there are some warning signs. Don't ignore them unless you are capable of carrying on alone.

  • 3
    +1 for your second ¶; I am much less responsive/responsible about communicating with students who I haven't accepted yet than about dealing with my actual students. But caution is warranted.
    – Ben Bolker
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 17:13

As another person responded long response times by a potential supervisor are a red flag . However, in my experience as a supervisor your comment about your potential supervisor using the 'excuse' of being on leave for personal reasons is equally a red flag; about you! Staff are entitled to leave and are not required to check emails etc. At my uni (Australia) personal leave is for medical or compassionate reasons. So here, this person would have been sick or caring for a sick person. That's not an 'excuse' that's a reason. My advice is you should assess communication timeframes objectively, while also reflecting on how you are constructing this situation.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .