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I am an international student in one of the top universities in Canada. The graduate admission in Canadian university is a little bit different from other countries; if you want to pursue Phd, you have to have a Master first, and Msc program here is usually admitted with funding (everything paid by supervisor). Currently I am second year of a Computer Science program and going to get my Msc degree within the next six months.

The problem is that before I came here, I told my supervisor I will do a PhD with him. After I came here and dig more into the area, I found out that I am not very interested in his current research. Additionally, my supervisor is not really giving me much support, the funding for the project is actually paid by another PI not in CS. My supervisor is a full professor and does not care much about what research his students are doing, he really enjoy his life a lot (often leaving the office very early). I think what he wants is just to produce some phd students to show he is still active (I can see this because every meeting he seems to talk about phd stuff, and he is kind of really pushing me into phd because he only has one phd student right now, two student in total including me).

Because of this, I want to leave with only a Master degree. The process is that before you finish your Master, you have to fill a form to indicate whether you want to continue Phd with current supervisor or not. This form has to be signed by the supervisor before you graduate with Masters. I think if I directly tell my supervisor I am not doing phd, he will be mad at me and prevent my getting Master degree.

So, should I get admitted in the phd program first and then quit later, or just leave now? If I do the former, I can search for a job first and then tell him I am not interested in academia career anymore. How can I leave with Master degree peacefully?

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    High, and welcome to Academia.SE! I'm afraid I'm having some trouble understanding your question. Can you please try to organize it a bit more clearly? – jakebeal Aug 19 '15 at 16:29
  • Could you clarify whether there is a separate admissions process for the PhD program, or are you automatically admitted and/or enrolled if you indicate a desire to continue on the form? – Pete L. Clark Aug 19 '15 at 16:39
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    I tried to clean it up, leaving as much of the original text as I could to keep the flavor. – eykanal Aug 19 '15 at 16:44
  • Thanks a lot for helping me to organize the words more clear. And response to Pete L. Clark's question: Yes, I will be automatically admitted in the PhD program with current supervisor if I indicate a desire to continue on the form. If I don't want to continue, I also need to indicate this in the form. And the supervisor has to sign it in either situation. – user38808 Aug 20 '15 at 18:14
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Some thoughts:

  1. Don't decide what you want to do with your life on the basis of not annoying your current supervisor. If you really want to stop at an MSc then do that, but if you really want to do a PhD with a different supervisor then see if you can do that. Or you might decide you prefer the freedom of a supervisor that doesn't much mind what you do.

  2. Your supervisor is a professional. There's a chance they'll be really nasty, but it's more likely they will behave properly and sign the form, even if that isn't what they personally want.

  3. Lying is not a good path in Canada (well, not for most people at least).

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    I'd say: Lying is not a good path in Academia, and neither is in any environment that cares about ethics. You simply shouldn't lie. – yo' Aug 20 '15 at 7:44
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    @yo' I don't have enough experience of the whole world to rule out the option that there's somewhere where lying currently helps people. It would be better if that wasn't the case, but I don't think the world is perfect. That place might be closer to home than you'd like to think. – Jessica B Aug 20 '15 at 7:58
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Have a conversation with your superviser. Having an unfounded fear that "he will be mad at me and prevent my getting Master degree" is not a good basis to make decisions.

I'm saying this because:

  • Faculty are people too. We know that students' interests and plans in life change.

  • What would your faculty adviser stand to gain by preventing you from getting a Master's degree? In all likelihood, this would simply yield a lot of follow-up work for your adviser, without any extra gain.

  • You use the implicit assumption that faculty members are vengeful and mean ill. I think that there is little empirical evidence for that to be true, but it is also generally a poor strategy in life to expect negative attitudes from anyone unless you have concrete evidence to the contrary. If you treat people as if they were evil, they will treat you negatively. If you treat them as if they are partners in your journey through life, they will treat you as a partner.

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This is a question for the director of graduate studies in your department, or your department chair.

Administration might advise you to wait with the form, or put a white lie on the form. They will probably appreciate your letting them know your plans in advance.

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