So here's the situation I find myself in:

  • I've just finished the second year of my PhD (part-time) and have submitted my qualifying report.
  • My two supervisors, and the two independent examiners all resoundingly approved my QR and recommended progression.
  • However, after the first year, I changed my research direction significantly, with the agreement of my supervisor.
  • There's now been a massive internal political drama where one of the research directors is unhappy with the change of direction and is seemingly threatening to overrule the four academics who actually approved my QR. Despite the fact that, by their own admission, my work is exemplary.
  • My secondary supervisor has decided to step down as a result of the drama.
  • I'm entirely self-funded and receive no financial support from the university or any other body including paying them for my tuition.

Thankfully, my supervisor is fighting back against this, but I'm obviously extremely stressed about the situation because this could feasibly result in me not being able to progress and having wasted literally thousands of hours of work.

So my question really boils down to: what options do I have here? Is it feasible that I could just take what I've got and port it over to another institution?

  • Is there any further context to why the research director is so angry at this? This seems like an extremely strong response without other factors at play. Is that sort of approval typically part of the role of a Research Director at your institute? Jul 28, 2023 at 15:06
  • @StephenMcMahon - That I couldn't tell you... My supervisor was under the impression that since I'm self-funded, what I research is entirely a decision for us. Our best guess is it's a liability limiting exercise because there are no "experts" in the approach I've pivoted to at our university, and they're not happy with us just having an external associate supervisor (which we've found) providing that. We also detailed this in our quarterly reports that were submitted ages ago, so we're somewhat puzzled why this wasn't raised then too Jul 28, 2023 at 15:33
  • 1
    Why would that bring them liability?
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 28, 2023 at 16:05
  • Wild Speculation: Is there a chance your research could lead to patents or other monetisation? If there's no there to support that / continue the research after you leave, maybe that's why the diretor is angry.
    – mkennedy
    Jul 29, 2023 at 1:50

1 Answer 1


It isn't an either or decision at this point. You can look around for other opportunities, perhaps with the assistance of some of your supporters while keeping on track and hoping for a good outcome.

It is probably a mistake to get personally involved in the politics, however. Let the professors fight it out. It might even be that the professors themselves are looking for an exit and might drag you along with them to a better situation. It is common enough for a professor who is moving to take one or more doctoral students along and part of their negotiation is to include your acceptance into a new program.

Keep your options open. Look, but don't necessarily jump.

  • Ideally, I don't want to jump (as irritating as the politics is...), I was just wondering if it's even something that happens or if I'd essentially be expected to start from scratch on a new program Jul 28, 2023 at 14:36

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