I work as an R&D engineer in the Automotive industry. In 2018 My Supervisor(boss) approved my application for a PhD program based on a 5-year distance learning model, with a UK-based University. I subsequently went through the official UK application procedure and was given a non-conditional offer from my university of choice. The planned start date was Feb 1, 2019, with the final submission date being fixed for Feb 1, 2024. The PhD research activity was planned to be the majority of my daily work schedule and would consist of several internal work packages or projects. The goal of the PhD was to establish me as a resident expert in the field of Orthopedics and Ergonomics in Automotive Seating Development. Unfortunately, my supervisor was then fired in November 2018. Shortly afterwards my new supervisor stated he had no funding available and forced me to cancel my PhD program. I was then unable to start in 2019. Now 4 years later, my supervisor is trying to recruit a new Candidate, to pursue a PhD study based on my core Ideas, which would have been central to my research activity. I have actually filed patent applications on several solutions to be evaluated in the proposed new research activity.

Am I being plagiarized here and is my supervisor's activity unethical and/or illegal?

Also, can anybody advise me on what I should do in this situation? Could this be perceived as a breach of contract in my job, as the PhD activity was approved as part of my professional development Plan?

  • 1
    Have you talked to your new supervisor about this? It does sound like a course of action a supervisor that likes to keep their reports happy and productive would not lightly pursue. It may simply be a misunderstanding, with your supervisor assuming you are not interested in this option any more, or thinking that you are so busy with your current responsibilities that a concurrent Ph.D. is simply not realistic. Dec 13, 2023 at 17:05
  • Who is "my supervisor" in the penultimate sentence? Your old boss, your new boss, the academic at the partner university?
    – Arno
    Dec 13, 2023 at 18:49
  • "I have actually filed patent applications" On one hand, get ready to involve lawyers. It will be expensive. On the other hand, your supervisor maybe does not want to involve lawyers. Make a signal to them that you already started working on the PhD topic in the past and you have a couple of patents that are a big part of the development of that PhD. See how receptive they are ...
    – EarlGrey
    Dec 14, 2023 at 11:06
  • Hi Brian. I would be careful and avoid the use of real names in a public forum.
    – The Doctor
    Dec 14, 2023 at 12:22

1 Answer 1


Aggravating: Yes. But I fail to see what about the situation might be illegal or unethical. Your new supervisor might not know the history, of if they do, they may have decided that someone else is the better candidate for this. Just because you once were that better candidate 5 years ago does not mean that you are now -- and that might include that your new supervisor thinks that you already have all the right knowledge and that you are needed in the company.

Of course, all anyone can do with your question is speculate. As was pointed out in the comments, the first step to figure out what your new supervisor's thinking is is to ask them!

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