I'm halfway through my PhD studying abroad and due to a series of problems with my current advisor and the way the university is handling these issues my mental health has been affected and I'd like to move my current research elsewhere. My question is that if my situation here doesn't improve, can I take my current progress and continue in another institution without starting over?

So far I haven't published anything and the only work submitted was as part of my internal evaluation, It's worth noting that I'm being funded.

Thanks in advance

  • 1
    This probably heavily depends on the regulations of the funding body.
    – erc
    Oct 24, 2022 at 10:20
  • 2
    You have not specified where you are doing your PhD. For example, in Australia, under RTP scholarship, it is not possible to quit your PhD program to do it at another institution while being benefitted from the same scholarship.
    – Neuchâtel
    Oct 24, 2022 at 11:47

2 Answers 2


You have two issues to overcome here: securing a new spot (mostly contingent on the ability to find funding, it is usually fairly competitive) and making sure you do not break any rules taking your research with you.

I am a bit surprised Buffy did not mention that, perhaps due to the background: many - especially experimental - fields do not take too lightly to people quitting the lab and bringing their research with them. In some cases, it causes a relatively high-profile drama.

An obvious example would be data collected during an expedition or a field trip: you might be the one doing the work there, but a lot of lab's resources go into greasing the wheels. People quit relatively often, but there might be an expectation of them to turn the research over for someone else to work on it in that case, so that the lab still gets a return on the investment.

If your field is like that - and ultimately your contract terms determine what you can and can not do - you should be negotiating it with your current advisor. You do not want your actions to be perceived as inconsiderate or even treacherous, the word spreads like fire and it will bring you down.

On the other hand, it does not mean you should yield to abusive conditions. Do consider whether you are truly taking only your own work with you. Instructions/education received during your PhD program are also fine, of course - the advisor was compensated for it and if they had different expectations of you, it is their problem, not yours.

  • You are right. We mathematicians seldom have such "ownership" issues over our research.
    – Buffy
    Oct 24, 2022 at 16:00
  • I guess you need an upvote.
    – Buffy
    Oct 24, 2022 at 16:08

I'm guessing this will be very difficult unless you make compromises. Perhaps lots of compromises.

Certainly you can change institutions, provided you get accepted. That is the least of the problems, I'd guess.

Taking your research with you rather than starting over, however, depends on finding a supervisor at the new institution who is willing to advise you on this topic. That might be harder, depending on how "mainstream" your research is.

Taking the funding along may be harder still. It depends on lots of things, including the willingness of the current institution (since they charge overhead against most grants) and the funding agency. This might be the hardest part of all.

You might, however, be able to get some alternative funding, depending on your field.

But, also consider that you can work on mental health issues through a professional, perhaps at your current institution. That should be a first priority in any case. If you can manage that, the simplest option might just be to stay and finish.

But, depending on the mental health issue, starting over might not be the worst option.

  • I kept contact with an older supervisor that is researching a related field, so switching should be possible giving up on my current funding. My main issue would be if there's a clause forbidding me to use any materials developed during my first PhD. Thanks a lot for the suggestion, I'm already seeing a professional regarding my health.
    – Lavnir
    Oct 24, 2022 at 14:03
  • It depends on the contracts you signed if such a clause exists. Oct 24, 2022 at 14:36

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