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Background: I was offered a PhD position by the advisor of my current masters thesis and also by the corresponding professor at the local university. Now that i thought more thoroughly about pursuing an academic career i want to apply to a different university to gain experience abroad (eg. Switzerland).

Obviously my advisor and the professor are interested in my work, is there any chance they will support me with a letter of recommendation? Or more generally if the professor likes your work, why would he or she support you to apply somewhere else?

Edit: To expand on the answers, will i risk my chance of PhD at the local university just by asking for a recommendation (e.g. EPFL seems quite competetive)?

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  • Of course you might risk your chances at home, if you wait too long for EPFL to take you, and your prof hires someone else for the project you wanted. But otherwise? Universities are not huffy teenagers. ;-) If your prof wants you, other staff and administration will only reject you because of formalities. Grades or due date of application. – Karl Sep 19 '16 at 23:31
  • If they refuse to write you a letter you probably don't want to do a PhD with them anyway – Flexo Sep 20 '16 at 7:39
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Yes. There is a good chance that they will support you by writing a letter. This happens frequently.

More generally, they will probably support you when it doesn't seem to immediately and directly benefit them, because everyone benefits from a supportive and connected community. People moving between institutions is almost always considered to be a good thing. Even if they lose a good student now, the community is what brings most good students; you and your future advisors will likely recommend your current advisors to students at your new institution(s), for example.

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    Indeed. Unless the advisor is of questionable ethics (which is fortunately not as often the case as the frequency of questions on SE seem to indicate - it's not representative), they will typically provide you with a strong letter of recommendation if they would have hired you themselves. But, trust your instinct, nevertheless. – Captain Emacs Sep 19 '16 at 20:17
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    I’d be shocked to hear of an advisor who wasn’t willing to support a student in this situation. It would be a big breach of professional ethics — an abuse of their power over the student. – PLL Sep 19 '16 at 20:19
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    @PLL It is fortunately not the default, but bad things do happen, though; therefore my caveat at the end of the comment. – Captain Emacs Sep 19 '16 at 21:19
  • It makes them look good if you go out into the world and do well. Besides do you REALLY think you are the first student they will have written such a letter for? Not everyone acts out of pure selfishness only ;-D – CommaToast Sep 20 '16 at 4:43

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