I was recruited by an advisor who retired midway during my PhD but agreed to keep on advising me with the help of a co-advisor. This co-advisor quit one month ago. I am currently without a main advisor.

I was on a funded three years PhD program with a low stipend in a foreign country but did not finish on time. In order to meet basic requirements, I needed two published papers and one international experience at a conference. I asked for an extension of my PhD program, which was granted, that guaranteed my visa.

Currently I have one paper officially approved for publication this month, one international experience and a paper in an R&R stage (deadline is April 8th).

The deadline to meet these basic requirements as well as finish writing the thesis manuscript appears to be the end of June if I want to obtain my PhD without asking for a third extension of enrollment.

Regarding the second article currently being reviewed, I agreed with my advisors that they would provide thorough feedback on the statistical analysis because this is not my specialty. However, when it was time to give this thorough feedback, my retired advisor did a poor job (dragging it out, extremely vague feedback, only about the form and not the content etc.). She told me that I did not have the level to write it and that I should give up on this journal. But she would not give me the reasons. So I submitted it and received the feedback from reviewers. Regarding statistical analysis, I requested her thorough feedback to strengthen my research. As a consequence, my advisor asked me to withdraw this article and submit another unwritten paper to a different journal, which would completely make me miss the deadlines to pass my defense in a timely manner. Another thing that she told me is that since I will miss the deadline, I should withdraw from the program, which would cancel my student visa and force me to apply as a free PhD candidate from my home country if I do not find a job to sponsor my visa here. I asked her why would I do that, if I can ask for another semester extension per the university's rules. She told me that after two extensions, I am "un-welcomed".

So I have several issues now.

  1. Find a new advisor. Both former and retired advisors have been unable to convince anyone to take me as their student. I had no idea about what was happening because I was told right before the former main advisor quit.

  2. I do not trust my retired Co-advisor anymore. I do not understand her reasoning behind the options she presents as the only ones available. Her feedbacks have always been of poor quality. It feels like she mis-represented her capacities in statistics and tried to blame it on me. I don't know what is her "interpretation" and what is the reality. I don't know if that has more to do with her inability to give thorough feedback on statistics (which she finally admitted a few days ago), and she does all this to basically avoid responsibilities and make me (the problem) disappear to my home country. Nor do I know why she does not support me obtaining my diploma as fast as possible like we agreed at the very beginning of my PhD.

  3. I don't know if it is feasible to meet the deadlines I have mentioned.

How would you advise me to proceed?

  • 2
    one thing that striked me "She told me that I did not have the level to write it and that I should give up on this journal." There are two possible things here, the first that she is very poor on statitstics, the second that you are very poor on statistics. Both can be true, so although she is unhelpful, it is up to you to gear up and improve the statistics, either by finding a good fellow PhD helping you (a road that may bring you pain and sufference, or joy and friendship) OR going for a lower tier journal (cynical way, no pain no joy just get the paper out)
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Mar 14 at 11:45
  • @EarlGrey Yes. I considered that. Maybe I overestimated my capacities. But she seems to have misrepresented hers. But there are many things that she says that do not make sense. So I reached out to acquiaintances (such as mathematicians and professors) and asked them for a honest outlook. They agreed to help. So I have been studying stats, and simply modifying point after point every element that was written on the review. She tells me that this journal is strict. But if my draft was that bad, why did they review it and not rejected from the get go ? They sent me 4 pages of thorough feedback. Commented Mar 14 at 12:49
  • Although I have seen it before, it's unprofessional for retiring faculty to abandon students this way. (I've also seen the mess it makes when the "retirement" is because of death.) Commented Mar 14 at 17:32

2 Answers 2


I believe the the institution owes you some accommodation since none of your issues are your own fault. I would speak with someone in authority, such as a department head or dean about how they can provide whatever is needed for you to finish.

The visa is a different problem, but it might be possible for you to finish the degree even if you can't stay in the country and do it remotely. You seem to be close enough to fulfilling the requirements that this might be possible. You might have to return briefly for a defense, but that might be arranged with a short term "visitors" visa rather than one that depends on employment. Even a remote defense isn't impossible these days.

  • I agree. I would consider the supervisor quitting an issue the institution should fix, too.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Mar 14 at 18:50

First of all, stress not because this is not your fault in the prevailing circumstances. It is the poor management of your supervisor who did not inform you about her future plans well in advance so that you could find another supervisor and modify your research topic. Secondly, believe it or not, my case partially overlaps with yours, so I can understand your pain and frustration. What I did was to talk to both my department administration and the student organization in my school, who fights for the students rights. I seek professional advice from the relevant people who know the university rules and regulations very well.

Did you talk to research advisor, academic ombudsman, (vice) dean or similar person in your department? In my case, the department is taking the responsibility for successful completion and defense provided all other requirements are fulfilled from my side. In case, your department is not very cooperative, find some counselor, academic lawyer, or powerful student organizations who are professionals in handling such cases with iron fist.

You might apparently feel things are not going in favor. We in this forum can just give your general suggestions. But you literally need to talk to relevant people in your university to come up with a mutually agreeable solution. I hope the situation would not be as grim as it sounds.

All the best!

  • 13
    It is a fine answer apart from the first sentence: while not OP's fault, this situation is a completely understandable source of stress and should not be taken lightly. Commented Mar 13 at 17:12

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