I defended my thesis last year and was granted MS degree. After that my advisor pressurized me to work more with him and write papers. I refused after some time and my relationship with him became sour. Can this cause any problem in the future such as thesis being taken away. Note that there is no dishonesty in my thesis at all, but there are some weak areas.

  • 6
    If the thesis has been officially examined, signed by the committee and the paperwork submitted to the administration on the university, it cannot be taken away, nor your supervisor would try something that vindictive.
    – Alexandros
    Dec 3, 2014 at 20:32
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    What possibly needs to be asked here is: How have you come to be afraid of your degree being revoked? If your adviser has threatened you with revocation of your degree if you don't work with him, there is a word for that: blackmail.
    – Compass
    Dec 3, 2014 at 21:54
  • @Compass Good point. And there's an appropriate action for that: a formal complaint to the head of department, or perhaps the chancellor's office.
    – Moriarty
    Dec 3, 2014 at 23:16
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    "but there are some weak areas" - there are two kinds of thesis. A perfect thesis, and a finished thesis.
    – Moriarty
    Dec 3, 2014 at 23:19
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    @Moriarty: That's for sure! I set out to prove something was true for values of n > 1 and settled for proving it to be true for n =2.
    – Bob Brown
    Dec 4, 2014 at 5:01

2 Answers 2


Once a degree has been conferred, it is exceedingly difficult to retract at without clear evidence of misconduct. Having a souring of relations with your advisor definitely does not rise to the level where you should have to worry about your degree being revoked. It is definitely worth mending your relationship with your former advisor just on professional grounds, but the "safety" of your degree shouldn't be one of them.

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    If the OP has moved on to another research group or an industry job, it seems a bit out of line for his former advisor to pressure him to continue work (and hold a grudge when the OP won't). If the advisor is being clearly unreasonable, and if a polite discussion doesn't solve the issue, then mending that relationship might be more effort that it's worth.
    – Moriarty
    Dec 3, 2014 at 20:46
  • I agree with both points here. Academia is small and people talk (see other comment) -- one (but certainly not the main) reason why integrity is so important. So it depends on what the OP wants to do in the future and the kind of person the adviser is. Personally, I would ignore the "sourness" and just focus on the (non-interpersonal) reasons why the collaboration did not work out (e.g., time, other interests). Stating that it's not the person might be a way to avoid a continued grudge. Dec 15, 2014 at 17:44

As Aeismail already said, you would have to have commited some serious misconduct for your degree to be revoked (at least in any reasonable academic and legal system). And even then, the proceedings for doing so will cost your supervisor quite some time and effort.

Most importantly, however, it’s almost impossible for your supervisor to revoke your thesis without shooting himself in the foot:

  • If there is any lack of quality in your thesis, the reviewers should have noticed. And the main reviewer usually is your supervisor.
  • Misconducts that are not directly obvious from the finished thesis such as plagiarism, rigged data or employing a ghostwriter are much more difficult to perform under proper supervision. Thus making a corresponding accusation against you will almost certainly lead to allegations of improper supervision against your supervisor.
  • Revoking your thesis causes some noise that also reaches potential future students of your supervisor, moreover if you stir that noise up and have good arguments against the revocation. These students will think twice about choosing your supervisor as a supervisor, which will almost certainly not make up for the damage of a few papers not written by you. It may very well destroy his workgroup.

Finally, these points would also apply to a second reviewer to some extent, which gives that person good reasons to work against allegations against your thesis.

  • Some advisers might be willing to go this far (not only accepting a shot in the foot, but taking off the whole leg). But that would take much more than just a "sour" relationship. It requires the kind of conflict where a person does not care anymore about own losses or future well-being (way past mediation). Can happen but is highly unlikely. If the adviser really holds a grudge he might try to damage your future career in other ways. Academic disciplines are usually small and people talk. If you ever continue to work with the topic a good professional relationship can be helpful. Dec 15, 2014 at 17:38

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