I am a scientist at a pretty reputable institution. I have some simple research ideas that I do not have time to develop myself. From my past career, I am in good contact with some university professors. Is it acceptable to ask them if they are willing to discuss such ideas and eventually open a master thesis project on the topic of which I will be the external supervisor? I think this could be a win-win situation for everybody, at the same time, I wonder if this will be considered rude.

  • The hard part is ensuring a professor does not run off with your ideas. This has happened on many occasions. Further, many professors have their own ideas. For example, I have tens of ideas that I don't have time for. Why would I consider your ideas over mine? Unless.. you are funding them. Aug 18, 2022 at 18:38

1 Answer 1


I don't know what reasons could exist that would make this not ok. In fact, things like this happen all the time already: external research institutes, companies or other kinds of institutions offer master or bachelor thesis positions that students can apply for. And in all cases, the main supervisor is still a professor from a university (as this is required by the universities).

Often, these positons are not even discussed with universities/professors beforehand, but simply created and once a student has been found that is interested in this position, they will bring the topic to their professor(s) to find someone willing to be the supervisor on that topic. As long as the topic is relevant for the studies, has enough substance and novelty to be a Masters/Bachelors thesis subject and fits within the area of expertise of the professor, it is normally never a problem to find a professor willing to supervise.

(I am based in Germany, it could be that things differ in other countries)

  • I don't think this sufficiently emphasizes that a faculty member would still need to be the "supervisor" of record. An external supervisor would hold a secondary place for institutional concerns.
    – Buffy
    Aug 18, 2022 at 19:00
  • "And in all cases, the main supervisor is still a professor from a university (as this is required by the universities)." - not enough?
    – Sursula
    Aug 19, 2022 at 0:59
  • I worried more about the opening of your second paragraph. "not even discussed..."
    – Buffy
    Aug 19, 2022 at 11:01
  • @Buffy "not even discussed .... beforehand". And they aren't - at my institute, we come up with thesis topics, advertise them and then we start looking for the right prof.
    – Sursula
    Aug 19, 2022 at 11:31
  • I would think that is pretty rare, though. Yes?
    – Buffy
    Aug 19, 2022 at 12:52

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