I've just started a 2nd year of a PhD student at a UK 'Russel Group' uni - something I had dreamt about for ~decade. Half of my funding comes from a lab, half is from UKRI. Really naive, I know, but I honestly thought when I took the offer (vs another one I had which was with a uni department) that it would still function a lot like a normal PhD. However I feel treated like an employee, and am given very little freedom within the research. This is apparant, relatively, when I talk to my friends at my Uni who aren't connected with a lab; heck I even think during my UG research internships I had more freedom ...
Worst of all though is that I don't feel I am gaining any valuable skills. The work is pretty easy; so far has not been all that different to what one of the year-in-industry students did here, which says it all. It's not impactful - hard to see how this would attract publication journals and its audiences. Crucially, there are research groups I'd love to work with for Post-Doc, but I cannot see that being feasible with the work I have been assigned (and there is no scope, despite asking repeatedly, to bend my PhD to incorperate the relevant skills and techniques). So, yeah, not very happy :(
What is weird is I am a research assistant in an unrelated field within the Uni (I do it around my PhD). I am really enjoying that, and have great supervisors. They're nice, supportive, and try to work around my interests and skillskets. Basically I get the PhD 'experience' from them, not from my PhD. They've told me they've enjoyed working with me and want to offer me a 1 year contract (so far, it's just been a summer project). I'm going to be an author in a review paper that isn't even my own field, before I publish in my own. So, maybe you can see why I want to apply to the MSc + PhD programme they offer. But could there even be funding for the PhD half if I already began a PhD? I know academia has very funny old fashioned views on kind of stuff?
The only other alternative is to accept I'm not going to be be viable to compete in the academic field that I'm interested in, scale back on my efforts in my PhD and take side projects (such as the RA) more seriously to build up a skillset that makes me more attractive in the "real world". But that doesn't sit right with me :/ If I can't switch out into a different field, : the options while continuing this PhD are summarised in the following decision matrix