Sadly I stopped a PhD when halfway through. My Professor left the University, I had some family troubles and lost steam and the University terminated my registration.

I would like to finish this PhD off - the area still has not been researched, and it is likely to be of benefit to the specific groups I was researching.

How do I go about finding a University that allows this? I am Canadian, but was doing my PhD in Europe, where I live.

I am thinking of moving to Wales, so UK is where I am hoping to register to finish the PhD although I would consider any other options if you know of any.

When searching UK University research degree regulations I can't seem to find details of how to bring your project with you....are there specific UK search words I should use to find University regulations about bringing my half finished work with me

Many thanks for any suggestions of how to finish this off.

  • 3
    Finishing the PhD and finishing the research are two different things. Are you willing/able to separate them?
    – Buffy
    Apr 3, 2022 at 11:55
  • Yes, sure. Finishing the research would be doable on my own but really the only place to write it up as a whole is a thesis. Therefore I would love to 'put it all together' by finishing writing my thesis....in which case I want to submit that, have a Viva Voce and graduate with a PhD!
    – TheSarah
    Apr 3, 2022 at 12:21
  • If you had to put off finishing the research for a few years would it still be valuable to the "specific group", or is it time dependent?
    – Buffy
    Apr 3, 2022 at 12:47
  • It isn't time dependent, no one else is researching in my area that I have identified after extensive searching to check.
    – TheSarah
    Apr 3, 2022 at 17:15
  • 1
    Did you try actually "testing the waters", i.e. finding a university department where someone is researching in this specific area and prepare a presentation on your topic for him/her? You have to think of funding even at this stage. So look into UK research council activity on this field. Also consider industries to benefit from it. Good luck.
    – Trunk
    Apr 3, 2022 at 21:43

2 Answers 2


I have no idea if this is possible in UK, but if you take a longer and wider view you can probably find success. However you might have to split your quest into two separate ones. As I noted in a comment, the PhD and the specific research are separate things and can be done independently.

My advice is to prioritize the PhD over the specific research topic at the current time.

The problem with starting a degree and bringing your research with you is that you need to find a compatible advisor as well. This makes the "gate" much narrower. If the research comes with funding then it might work, but putting conditions on an acceptance lessens the chance of success. It is uncommon enough to be a problem.

I think you might have been abused by your original institution, though. If your professor left some accommodation should have been made. The tag is expulsion, but I'm going to assume that termination is a better descriptive. Some programs are time limited, though, again, something should have been done if your professor left. I'm assuming, of course, that you weren't actually expelled for some unethical practice, but just that the clock ran out or you didn't pass some exams due to various issues, whether related or not.

Let me suggest that you first explore getting into a PhD program somewhere. The US might be a more understanding option for you if you can put together a good application. People here change institutions with some regularity and for various reasons. The main issue might be finding letters of recommendation, which are relatively important. Perhaps your old professor would vouch for you. Don't insist on continuing the research you've started, though you can suggest it, but get into a department in a closely aligned field. If you get accepted, perhaps you can work out the research issue, but if you insist on that as a condition, you have fewer chances.

If you complete the doctorate, with a dissertation in that related field, then you will be able to develop a career in which you have a safe space in which to return to the original research. Don't let that topic become a block on getting a degree, however. If the topic is not a "hot" one, as you suggest it isn't, then you are unlikely to get scooped in the meantime and your current situation isn't conducive to completing it in any case. Get to a better place in which you can make your own decisions.

Two additional thoughts, though neither might be possible. Your old professor really owes you something for abandoning you. It's a mistake to bring that up, but in some cases a student will move with the professor to the new institution. Maybe that is worth looking into. You probably need to contact them in any case for a letter.

The second thought is that the original institution probably also owes you and it might be worth exploring whether you can return there. Your situation (family...) has changed, and some things were out of your control at the time.

Alternatively, if the research is more important to you than a degree and career, then you can possibly do the research as an independent researcher and find a publisher. If you can leverage that into a doctoral program admission then you can wind up ok, but I think that is the (much) riskier path.


I'll start by describing two incidents that I saw first-hand. They were both in the U.S.

Incident 1. A PhD student was almost done (had the dissertation 90% ready for defense, finished all coursework and qualifying exams) when he got into an argument with his PhD advisor. The PhD advisor kicked him out of the program. The advisor was widely disliked by everyone in the field and had a reputation for unreasonable behavior. A PhD program in another university (no less reputable) picked up the student, funded him for 1 year that it took him to finish the disseration, did not require him to repeat any coursework or qualifiers. He defended in 1 year. Everybody involved was happy for the chance to make the widely disliked previous PhD advisor look bad.

Incident 2. Another PhD student was even furhter along - was told by his PhD advisor (different one from 1 above and not possessing a reputation of being mean and unreasonable) that he was ready to schedule the defense. So the student took a full-time job in the industry without asking the advisor. The advisor got very angry and kicked the student out of the program. As above, nice people at another university heard about this and approached the student with the offer to try to repeat what was done in 1 above. But the student had a nervious breakdown, resigned the new job, moved to another city, and has not been heard from.

Based on these experiences, I agree with what @Buffy wrote. You should not limit your search for a PhD program to Europe, but definitely consider Canada and U.S., where schools are more likely to be flexible and not necessarily follow rigid procedures than in Europe. If you can re-use some of your prior PhD work in your new attempt, great, but even if you re-use nothing now, you can still publish something later.

  • 1
    Both of these are truly lucky regarding the attitude of the second university. Sadly what happened to student #2 is quite common. What's more, the "bad" supervisors are often quite powerful in the profession (e.g. national research committees, professional body committees, etc) and other narrowly ambitious departments might fear crossing them. I think that since the UK PhD programme runs from 2 years minimum to 6 years maximum (barring illness/pregnancy/etc) that a new PhD programme close to the first one might be safer for both academic acceptance and funding. Then try to finish in 2 years.
    – Trunk
    Apr 4, 2022 at 20:08
  • @Trunk Student 1 knew lots of people in the field and was viewed as much better than an average PhD student. I still feel bad for student 2. Apr 4, 2022 at 20:37

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