Background: My supervisor wants to quit my supervision due to reasons beyond his control. He suggested few colleagues to replace him. My only concern is that I be asked to switch my current research direction to meet that of my potential new supervisor. I have spent considerable amount of reading and review, designing simualtors and coming up with new ideas and I don't want to restart all over. I found a co-supervisor who is closely related to my field and agreed on supervision (He is not affiliated with my university anymore though), but still need a main supervisor.

Question: Am I obliged to restart over and lose all my reserach?

  • 14
    Seems like a good question to ask your potential new supervisors. The one that answers "No, keep doing what you're doing" seems like the right choice, if you're far along.
    – Joe
    Jul 25, 2014 at 19:47
  • 13
    This will entirely depend on your new advisor. His field, his familiarity with your research up to this point, his comfort level with your topic, and his overall demeanor are all factors in this, and no one here can really advise you what he'll say. I've seen it go both ways.
    – eykanal
    Jul 25, 2014 at 19:48
  • If you've done a good job so far and have prepared a nice summary of your work, I bet you could convince the suggested replacements to let you carry on along those lines (assuming they're still qualified to supervise). Perhaps you can suggest a few tweaks based on their expertise, while keeping your main research orientation as-is.
    – Teusz
    Jul 25, 2014 at 20:50
  • I would say too, you are not obliged (from the stand of the law). But the circumstances could be so, that you will be forced.
    – Evgeniy
    Aug 11, 2014 at 13:38
  • To get better help I suggest you tell us the country and the field. In my field and country, you would not be forced to anything as long as you make it clear at the start of the new supervision what you plan to do.
    – PatrickT
    Mar 3, 2021 at 8:48

3 Answers 3


The few times I've seen this happen, usually the new advisor in your home department is willing to let one continue on with the same research project. Beware that you'll have less support from your advisor than you might have had otherwise, but if you have strong people in the field outside your university, as it sounds like you do, then you should be ok. Another thing to beware is that your advisor's letter of recommendation is going to be crucial if you apply for postdocs or other academic positions down the line. Having your advisor not really know your field, or understand your work in depth is likely going to lead to a much shallower, less effective letter simply because your new advisor won't be able to speak with the same degree of knowledge about what exactly your contribution is.

So, you're going to have to weight these two potential cons against the cost in time and effort of simply starting over from scratch with a new advisor.


It's really simple:

If your supervisor can no longer supervise you, you can continue the same work with another (willing) supervisor.

I suppose there are some corner cases where this would not be possible (e.g. only old supervisor had the relevant equipment, or the research heavily depended on his/her involvement). But these things are not uncommon. And while the university/deparmtent may or may not help you find another advisor, they will certainly not be against it.

Caveat: I have not actually verified this is the case in many universities, this is a local experience + common sense answer.


You are not obligated to start over. Talk to your provost or ombudsman if there isn't an immediate/good replacement. Your school has some obligation to fulfill it`s end of the bargain.

By telling your situation to them, they might be able to help the existing professor stay, or at least suggest the right direction for you to pursue.

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