This question is in part related to this question and this one. In my case, I’m part of a double-degree Master’s programme¹, and am having a lot of difficulties at my German exit university. There are two coordinators/supervisors:

  1. one that handles more of the organizational aspects of studies (recommends courses, seminars, internships, thesis topics, etc.);
  2. one that takes care of all matters concerning thesis work.

Both have been incredibly unprofessional; because of the first, I was the only student who:

  • was not paid for his contributions while working on the thesis, the others enrolled at the same university and company (we have to develop our thesis project in an “outside” company)
  • due to some bogus reason, which was not made entirely clear, had to retake a seminar while working on the thesis even though it has been passed. The main issue was that I had to commute from the company to the university in order to participate in it.

Other aspects include:

  • I have to deal with inconveniences such as being called to the coordinator’s office for meetings scheduled by him, that he would not show up at (this can become incredibly infuriating after a while). When contacted, he mentioned that he was on a trip for two weeks.

  • Extreme favoritism towards other students. There were students who did not finish their thesis, but “graduated” nevertheless.

  • Very, very high unresponsiveness to e-mail messages (I always keep them short and to the point – usually between 5 and 10 sentences).

  • Toxic attitude; when confronted with the situation, the coordinator mentioned that he doesn’t care. I stated that, because of him and his thesis recommendation I had lost little over 23000$ (the amount that the other students earned during the more than one year period of study/thesis work at the company) and a few months of my time. He again mentioned that he doesn’t care.

What would be the most preferable course of action to take?

¹ The first year of my Master’s studies is spent at one university while the second at another. The second university is the one at which I’m working on my thesis. The double degree means that I will get a degree from both universities, when I graduate at my current university.

  • How long was the seminar? Hours? Days? Weeks? Months?
    – Nobody
    Mar 18, 2016 at 11:19
  • 2 hours a week for 6 months. Also, it required one to go through a number of papers each week and write one at the end.
    – Sebi
    Mar 18, 2016 at 11:20
  • 2
    Which country was that in? If you pay for your degree, you can be expected to receive a reasonable service and a reputable university should be able to provide recourse mechanisms. Unless, of course, you happen to be at "Dump University" (add an "r" at a suitable location). Mar 18, 2016 at 11:30
  • Germany. I could not find any suitable recourse mechanism. Most require involvement in local laws which I'm very unfamiliar with (and I cannot afford a lawyer).
    – Sebi
    Mar 18, 2016 at 12:03
  • 2
    Ah, Germany. Well, I am almost tempted to say, ask for the money back that you paid to the university, i.e. probably none, unless you are in a private one. I do not see many options for you under these circumstances; German universities try to keep a very high degree of autonomy for the profs which, if you are in a good group, is fantastic (anglo-saxon universities have lots of red tape stifling autonomy), unfortunately, there is no lower bound limiting how bad it can get, either. You have the bad luck being in a bad group. Keep your head down and get through it ASAP. Mar 18, 2016 at 13:22

2 Answers 2


In my limited experience this is the BS many have to deal with in academia, which is the main reason why doing a PhD made me change my mind about working in academia.

Universities are a place where bureaucracy thrives, however this can be to your advantage, when it comes to complaints procedures, which are taken very seriously (usually).

Find out the university's official complaint procedure (usually two stages, first stage is dealt by the school and if issues continue you may raise it to university level, at which point the supervisor, if at fault, will be dealt with in a biblical format ;).)

Make an official complaint, provide all of the evidence required (including emails unanswered), and it should be dealt with withing a couple of months.

  • 1
    This is a reasonable answer, but -1 for "it should be dealt with within a couple of months", which sounds like an unrealistic prediction that would set OP's expectations up for a possible disappointment.
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 19, 2016 at 2:52
  • Sorry, this is the timeline published on my university's complaint forms only, you are correct. Mar 21, 2016 at 17:04

Without further details, I see essentially three courses of action:

  1. Talk to your student union (Fachschaft). They are much more familiar with your circumstances and should know the organisational structures and know where written rules were broken. They can escalate things for you (and keep you anonymous as far as possible) or at least give you better advice than we can.

  2. Escalate your situation to someone superior to your supervisor or coordinator – which would probably either be a superior program coordinator, a department head (Fachgruppenvorsitzender) or dean (Dekan).

  3. extreme favoritism towards other students. There were students who did not finish their thesis, but "graduated" nevertheless

    If this part is true, it can likely be blown up on its own. If somebody graduated and no proper thesis can be found, this is very bad for whoever graduated them. An investigation of such cases alone might lead to your supervisor and coordinator being much more careful about what they do.

In all cases, be aware of the possibility that taking action might lead to repercussions. In particular, the superiors of those people may be equally unconcerned about these issues. The student union should be more safe and the first you should contact anyway.

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