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I am writing this message here for my friend who is... having some of the most stressful months of his life as I can see.

The story from the beginning, my friend is studying in a university in germany and started his master thesis in a company with supervision from a professor. First few weeks were fine until he tried to contact the professor where he didn't get replies from him, after contacting the university he was told he should be trying to go to the professor office if its anything urgent, however since the professor and the university was in another city a few hours away and it wasn't anything urgent he didn't think much of it.

Fast forward to one or two months into his master thesis, as he planned to go to his office as it was getting abit problematic, covid happened and no professors were in the university as such.

He completed both his thesis for the company as per the requirements and finished the thesis papers, which he submitted to the professor and asked him for details on the defence and such, but he didn't get any response.

There was a suspicion there are some issues with the professor but it wasn't clear what's up since his university wasn't helping, and since he had no more classes and was doing his thesis in another city he decided to stay there as he waited for any update.

A few months later, his thesis just came up as "failed", he tried contacting the professor but to no avail, almost a year without a single reply. He then emailed basically everyone he could, and the only reply he got was that the examination officer will contact the professor to see what's up.

That was almost three weeks ago, and he went yet again today in person to question on my suggestion, where the examination officer basically gave him the equivalent of a shrug in terms of what can be done.

Since both me and him are not from the country, we have very limited visas where unless and until we graduate we are limited in terms of work alongside with total duration of studies. And the visa office has been giving him trouble for some of the details (why is he a student in city A but living in student B while he doesn't have an active thesis in city A going on right now? Why did his degree take this long but not resolved yet?) Massive stress and psychological issues that causes him to seek professional help and then, all he gets was nothing.

The officer finished with talking about if he had no time that they can promise it "doesn't happen again", but our thoughts were how this 'promise', especially not on paper means nothing. And he already spent almost 7 months working on this thesis without anything in return.

It is a bit unclear, and neither me or him have any idea of what to do at this point. He tried to reach for someone higher up but none such as the Dean is at the university at this point due to covid.

I really appreciate any ideas, as almost anything at this moment is appreciated. Can the university just... ignore him and waste his work Herr and have him forced to do another thesis because his professor didn't bother to reply to emails, open his thesis or schedule a defence? (Since its clear it was a fail due to nothing delivered..).

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    What is the official procedure at this university for starting and completing a Master's thesis under someone's supervision? At my university, there are forms to formalize the student-supervisor relation at the start of the process, and to evaluate the thesis at the end of the process. Which of such forms exist at this university, and what do they stipulate? Do you have any evidence that this professor is supervising your friend? The more you have, the better. Oct 19 at 14:27
  • @Wetenschaap I will ask him regarding the forms, but I do know he did sign documents regarding starting it with said professor, and the university is aware he is doing it with X professor. I will call him for those details however now. Oct 19 at 15:11
  • "You register using the form for registration of the masters thesis. In that form you add in the details about the thesis in the form of a small description, the details of the professor, the details of the student obviously and if it is with a company then the details of the company, and the supervisor in the company, submission is online, and as soon as the professor confirms it, a physical copy is to be submitted as well. There are no more forms." Oct 19 at 15:18
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    That sounds promising. However, "as soon as the professor confirms it" sounds like an important clause here. Does your friend have written evidence of this confirmation by the professor? If you want to succeed, it is important that you can compile an airtight package of documentation, which is why I'm asking: the closer you can show that your friend did everything to the letter of the regulations, the better your chances. Oct 19 at 16:11
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    No, that's fine. But the sentence you quote reads as if the professor also needs to confirm the form for initial registration of the master thesis, so that's what I'm asking. Anyhoo, I'm compiling a longer answer right now. Oct 19 at 16:25
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Given the extra information you provided in the comments, it looks as if your friend did everything right, and was prudent enough to keep traces of documentation to support his story. That will come in very handy. Now, your friend should start compiling a file of documentation regarding the process.

Collect the following things:

  • the registration form;
  • the written evidence of the confirmation by the professor;
  • all written communication between the student and the professor (including sent and received emails).

Then, write a summary. Your friend will want to point out that the initial project proposal was agreed by all parties, that your friend submitted a thesis at date x (refer here to a specific communication documented elsewhere in the file), and that with this submission your friend fulfilled all deliverables over which your friend had full control. Point out that the only missing aspects are the ones for which action by the professor was necessary (scheduling a defense, performing corrections on the thesis), but that messages y, z, and alpha on dates beta, gamma, and delta to the professor went unanswered (again, refer to specific communication in the file, wherever possible).

Your friend will want to send this message to the dean (using an official channel in Germany; notice that email typically is not considered an official form of communication within this country). Your friend must point out that he does not want any special treatment: he just wants to be treated fairly. However, at the moment, the treatment is far from fair: solely due to the lack of action by the professor, your friend runs into visa trouble. Surely the dean does not want this to happen to students who are not to blame for the administrative problems they find themselves in.

Success is not guaranteed, but the clearer your friend makes and documents his case, the more difficult it will be for the dean to ignore. Good luck.

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  • Thank you, I've forwarded the answer and will update when there are changes Oct 19 at 16:29
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    If your friend ends up finding that the dean is a dead end as well, there is always the final option to hire a lawyer. Having all of the dates, documents, etc., collected and in one place is a really good starting point for a lawyer to work with. The university may choose to ignore an (understandably) disgruntled student, but it cannot afford to ignore a lawyer threatening a lawsuit, especially if the lawyer comes armed with good arguments. Oct 19 at 21:06
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    Yeah, @WolfgangBangerth has a point that the gathered material would give your friend a good legal basis to move forward, in case this is required. Oct 19 at 21:55
  • Noted. My friend has sent in some things now and I will wait and see for a reply Oct 20 at 10:29

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