I was a PhD student in a Japanese graduate school until March 2015 when my professor retired. Just before I submitted my thesis and it got rejected by one vote. Indeed there were 30+ voters, of whom only 6 attended my open defense and one of them was a professor who hated my professor. He succeeded in convincing enough people to vote against me. Sadly there are no student council there and the university does not provide any official jury result with the comments about why the thesis got rejected.

Now the situation got worse, some other students of my previous lab also got annoyed by the same professor who now has a majority inside the department. There is also a new rule which forces the candidates to present the thesis to the professors of the department before being able to officially present their thesis to the university. Indeed, the department has to give their agreement before the official submission. Funny thing is that the department where I belonged to is not only controlled by the professor who tries to fail every student who were in my previous lab but also the students are allowed only 30min for the presentation while other departments allow 2h for the same thing. Yes the rules do not forbid that apparently. Since my departure as a student I could stay in the lab of a professor who was a friend of my previous professor and I published another journal paper. However the department rejected my application because the last paper title was too close to another of my paper and feared a re-submission. In the meanwhile I was told very lately to write a totally new chapter in my thesis and even later that i would have to get a publication to go with it. I am now waiting for the results of another journal paper to be able to apply again.

But I am now afraid of applying there again. If the professors of the department are so biased that they will do anything so my application can't go though to the official application and if i do not have any official way to defend myself to higher authorities what are my chances to succeed now ? Some professors are too proud and scared to admit the situation as their own students could start to suffer from it as well.

My thesis is completely written, I have published as main author 4 journal papers (2 regular issues and 2 short issues) and 5 conference papers. And a potential 5th journal paper.

TLDR: Is there a way to not waste all that work and submit my thesis in another university as free candidate or something? I am also afraid to not have the time and resources for another publication in a journal, since i am no longer a student, in case a university absolutely need a paper with one of their professors.

  • 2
    First of all, I think you should discuss with your now-retired advisor to get an idea of what would be possible.
    – SteffX
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 18:02
  • I would also suggest asking the antagonistic professor for advice. It might not be useful or actionable advice, but you could learn what that person's expectations look like, and whether you could possibly conform to them.
    – user14140
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 18:23

2 Answers 2


Since you're well published, idea coming to mind is PhD by publication. Re-purpose as much as you can from your PhD thesis to publish in journals, collections, editions, etc. that would be of an acceptable by a global high-ranking university in your field, and that's the trick done.

Basically, it sounds like your original submission was failed, which is very unique and should reflect poorly on the higher-education institution that failed your submission.

PhD by publication would prove that your research is worth being considered, and you would only need to write an overall introductory paper that demonstrates the significance of your contribution to the field, and how the publications brought together contribute a consistent body of knowledge and expertise to the field.

  • We have that avenue in the UK, but I do not know if it is possible in Japan.
    – Deipatrous
    Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 10:00

Academic politics, it is said, is the most ruthless of all politics, because so little is at stake.

That is generally true.

But it is not good when the prospects of a young person are destroyed as part of petty mind games.

Since you have already published, you can certainly take your business elsewhere. I do not see how you have any other option at this point.

PhD students being victimised by intramural politics also happens in the West, and the remedy is almost always that they go find a supervisor elsewhere, in a different department or a different uni. But it is unlikely to happen to a candidate who is as far along as you are, because the department gets paid by completion and it would be madness to discard a student who is 100% ready to be processed by the graduation system.

It seems to me (and I could well be racist in this regard but I think not) that Japanese academia is quite vicious and status-based, not to mention overly keen on self-destructive madness. Which means that even as you graduate at a different place, the affair may still haunt you.

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