I was admitted to the PhD program at the beginning of the Fall semester and I chose this particular school because my current adviser was my first choice. My admission letter states that they will fund me for the duration of my studies.

Now my adviser tells me the funding source he applied for to cover my stipend and tuition did not pan out and he wants me change my adviser to a different professor.

I do not want to change advisers. As I said, I chose my current adviser over several other good choices. Can I refuse his attempts to make me switch advisers?


FYI, the school traditionally covers funding where external grants are lacking.

  • 5
    If you can get some other source of funding, and your current advisor is OK with that, they you can presumably stay. But if not, it would seem like you will have to switch.
    – Buzz
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 19:47
  • 17
    At the end of the day, an advising relationship is only by mutual consent; if he doesn't want to be your advisor, that's his decision. So ultimately you cannot "refuse". Of course, you might still be able to negotiate. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 19:54
  • 5
    There are two questions at stake here: (1) will the current adviser fund your tuition and stipend, and (2) will the adviser supervise your research (and if applicable, give you access to their lab). The reasoning your adviser gave you covers question 1, but if you can get funding from the department, say, by teaching, then it's possible that the answer to question 2 might still be yes. It's also possible that the adviser does not wish to supervise you, even it doesn't cost them any funding (it still costs them in time and other resources). In that case, you will need to find a new adviser.
    – Kallus
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 20:11
  • 1
    I'm assuming that you're in a STEM field? If you want to stay with your current advisor, I'd be up-front and transparently honest with him. You are dedicated to his research, you are interested in working with him, and is there a way you could make that work? At many schools, a TA-ship will pay your tuition and support. You might offer to TA while applying to graduate fellowships to cover your tuition and stipend.
    – NMJD
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 20:35
  • 3
    You say the school traditionally provides funding when PIs lack external grants; it is true that at many institutions, the department can provide funding to help out PIs who have fallen on hard times. However, if your PI is not in a good relationship with the chair or dean in control of those funds, or if your PI has used departmental funds to cover a lot of expenses lately and/or not recently demonstrated a commitment to obtaining outside funding, those funds might not be available to him.
    – NMJD
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 20:38

1 Answer 1


Have a frank discussion with your advisor and stress that you really would prefer to stay with him/her. Then, explore funding opportunities you can apply for together. Be proactive about the situation. The advisor will be excited about the potential for more external (or internal, if available) funding, and the process of writing the application may bring about new lines of research that you then share in common. At the very least, this will buy you some time, since it sounds like the school will cover you anyway, at least for a while. Even if the funding doesn't come through, your determination will be clear, and what you lay out in your application may be sufficient to convince your advisor to keep you on. If he/she is ready to push you off to a different advisor, it may be that he/she does not have sufficient stake in your work. If you can fix that, the rest may fall into line.

  • 1
    In this frank discussion it is important to establish whether the PI used the funding situation only as an excuse! I have seen cases in which "sorry, the funding fell through" actually meant "I don't want to be your advisor because I don't hold you in high enough esteem to invest my time and resources into supervising you". If that is the case, you probably have nothing to gain from finding external funding. (Note, that I am not condoning this behavior. I'm just pointing out that it's a fact of life: just like in dating, academics sometimes lie in order to "soften" a rejection.) Good luck! Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 20:51
  • @user2705196 Your comment should be spliced into the answer. Important point! Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 21:14
  • @CaptainEmacs - I was kind of alluding to that actually, the hope being that taking the initiative might change PI's mind.
    – HEITZ
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 22:09
  • @HEITZ Yes, you are right, it's there, but a bit implicit and can be missed (I did, on first reading). The comment is a bit more explicit, and I think being explicit here may be more helpful to the OP. Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 10:44

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