21

I have a nightmare adviser, who is also the head of the Department. The problems are:

  1. he has too many students,
  2. never reads my chapters,
  3. he is trying his best to sabotage TA or RA opportunities that are my only source of funding,
  4. he discourages me from attending conferences, and
  5. refuses to introduce me to anyone in his network.

The worst thing is that I am an international student in the social sciences in Germany where professors have too much power, and there is no system of redress.

I have a second supervisor from another university, but he does not want to get involved as he is not the primary adviser.

I am three years into the program and have a nearly completed thesis. Without his comments on my chapters, I fear that I will end up with a lower grade (PhDs are graded here) which marks an end to my academic career. I was the top student in the Masters program and that is why I was offered a fully funded PhD. My adviser was very happy with me until I spoke to him about trying for a job in Germany or in Europe. Since then he is distant because I think he expected me to go back to my Third World country and create links for him.

  • What can I do?
  • Should I drop this PhD and apply for another one in the US or Canada? (I am not sure he will give me a recommendation)
  • Should I complete this PhD in a multi-disciplinary field (Global Studies/Global Integration) and start another one in a related discipline such as Political Science or Geography or another traditional discipline, in Canada or the US?
  • Should I apply for post docs and hope he will give me a recommendation?

Any other ideas. Please help. I am severely depressed.

  • 5
    While there are potentially a number of questions in there, it currently reads like a rant. It is clear that @rpsf is having a hard time, maybe if the question (and title) were cleaned up we could provide useful answers. – StrongBad Jul 23 '12 at 9:18
  • 5
    The OP does have a question about life as a graduate student which is very much on-topic - see faq. And he is asking advice as what to do. The title merely reflects his own feeling - a little emotional but understandable. I am wondering why he cannot approach the dean. – scaaahu Jul 23 '12 at 9:41
  • 1
    I never had to use it, but in Belgium there is a "Ph. D. committee" that meets annually with the advisor and the student to discuss progress and potential issues (of course, you shouldn't wait for the meeting if the issue is as serious as it is in your case). Isn't there something similar in Germany that you could rely on? – Anthony Labarre Jul 23 '12 at 10:05
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    Good luck dear. I can relate to you completely. I have a supervisor who does not see me in months. I wrote three papers and emailed it to them since he does not see me personally (though we are in the same university, he does not reply to my emails when i ask him for an appointment and if i jump into his office he bluntly tells me that he is busy) He has not read my papers and has not submitted any of them [while i am restricted that i cannot submit my paper myself he says he will do it.. when i ask him when will you? he says..i will when i get the time.. it has been a year now of this routine – user6298 Mar 9 '13 at 8:03
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    @user6298 What? How are you not allowed to submit a paper on your own? – user13107 Mar 9 '13 at 10:31
12

My 2 cents :

  1. Graduate as soon as possible, The fact that this is with high or low grades is not relevant here
  2. Apply for a postdoc position in a place where PhDs are not graded (France for instance)
  3. Publish the (very good) stuff that you intentionally kept hidden until your graduation

After step 3 your record will be clean, and all this "hell stuff" will be far from you. To obtain a position in academy, the only thing that matters is the quality of your research (that can be seen in the papers) and of your teaching (for that you requires references), nobody will care about what happen during your PhD.

  • "To obtain a position in academy, the only thing that matters is the quality of your research (that can be seen in the papers) and of your teaching " is utopian nonsense. Much more matters, including advisor rec letters. However, steps 1-3 might nonetheless be good advice. – AJK Feb 19 '17 at 1:43
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    @AJK A letter from the advisor is maybe useful to obtain a postdoc, but for a position it's no longer the case ; either the person and her (good) work are known, or she will not have the position. I'll add that if one applies at a place where the letter is more important than the results, then maybe one should think twice about applying at that place. – Sylvain Peyronnet Feb 21 '17 at 20:46
8

I am three years into the program and have a nearly completed thesis. Without his comments on my chapters, I fear that I will end up with a lower grade (PhDs are graded here) which marks an end to my academic career.

You won't miss anything. Trust me.

I was the top student in the Masters program and that is why I was offered a fully funded PhD. My adviser was very happy with me until I spoke to him about trying for a job in Germany or in Europe. Since then he is distant because I think he expected me to go back to my Third World country and create links for him.

Which third world country ?

What can I do? Should I drop this PhD and apply for another one in the US or Canada?

No. You are too far in the thing to pull out. Complete it, get the money and the title, and then reconsider your path. Career is not something you pursue, it's something that happens. There's nothing wrong with it, and academia is not that paradise so that you will miss it.

Any other ideas. Please help. I am severely depressed.

If you are depressed as in depression, seek medical help. If you are in a bad mood, just finish and look for something else. Life is more than that.

7

Do you only have a single supervisor? In Sweden, we always have at least a primary and a secondary supervisor. I know some people where the primary supervisor has little time, and the secondary supervisor(s) actually spend a lot more time in helping out. If it's for publishing a paper, you could offer co-authorship to other faculty if they can contribute to helping/advising on the paper.

  • I have another supervisor from a different university but he does not want to get involved as I am not his primary student. My supervisor is head of the Department and I fear that going above his head will mean that he will refuse to allow me to stay which would mean returning home with nothing. – rpsf Jul 23 '12 at 10:20
  • 5
    If the primary supervisor has insufficient time, it should be the moment that the secondary supervisor can get involved. If neither can, I would discuss with relevant people if it's possible to get an additional secondary supervisor. I suppose your primary supervisor acknowledges not having enough time, so that should be a pretty strong rationale. – gerrit Jul 23 '12 at 12:01
5

First, I have questions for you.

Your (1): "he has too many students." Why would you be bothered? Is it because he is too busy to pay attention to you? If so, why (3) (sabotage)?

Your (4) and (5): "he discourages me from attending conferences", and "refuses to introduce me to anyone in his network." Can you talk to your secondary adviser to help you? Do you really need your primary adviser to introduce you to people? Do you need his approval to attend conferences?

Your (3) "he is trying his best to sabotage TA or RA opportunities that are my only source of funding" is a problem. You need funding to support your study. I am not familiar with German. Can you find a job somewhere to support yourself? Would it have to be TA or RA?

Your true problem is (2) "never reads my chapters." You need him to finish your dissertation. For that, you need to talk to him.

I do believe there are some serious misunderstandings between you and your adviser. Generally speaking, a student and his adviser are on the same side. Do you believe he would be proud of your failure? I would like to tell you this, if you fail, he fails, too.

I would urge you to have a sincere talk to him. Tell him what you want to achieve. Tell him what you'll do and where you will be after you get your PhD is really your own decision. Ask what he thinks of you and what kind of problems he thinks you are having so that you can improve yourself. Maybe he thinks you have not done research in depth enough so your chapters are not ready yet. So on and so forth. Once you two can have an open talk and clear up the misunderstandings, it will be a happy ending.

  • 1
    Someone with many students is successful at applying and getting grants, but that's not guaranteed that is a decent manager. It is certainly one of his business if this translates into poor training and management. – Stefano Borini Jul 24 '12 at 11:45
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    @StefanoBorini, indeed, this is one of my questions for OP. If the adviser has lot of grants, why OP is having trouble with funding? I think there is a problem between the two, not the issue of too many students. – scaaahu Jul 24 '12 at 11:57
  • First of all, thank you so much Artem for the excellent editing. – rpsf Jul 24 '12 at 13:01
  • Thank you so much Artem for the excellent editing. Yes, my advisor has a lot of grants, and students, of which he favors some. I was in that group, including a prestigious exchange program that he proposed my name for. However, after I discussed my plans, he has turned distant and cold. Earlier, he would reply to my e mail the same day, and return my chapters within a week. After I told him my plans, the problems started. I cannot take a job beyond my field according to German laws if I want to stay on. I cannot go back I want to talk to him but he refuses appointments claiming lack of time. – rpsf Jul 24 '12 at 13:09
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    @rpsf, Sometimes student-adviser relationship is like marriage. Outsiders can only understand a little. Sorry about intrusion of your privacy. As you're well aware of, you might still need his recommendation if you want to go anywhere else. I will stop here and let others who know better help you. Good luck! – scaaahu Jul 26 '12 at 12:34

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