I'm a first-year PhD student and I plan to leave my current program in order to transfer to another program next year. If possible I will also ask for a master's degree from the program. I am looking for advice on how to bring up the issue with the graduate director in a manner which doesn't "burn any bridges;" I do not want to leave the salty impression that I am deeply unhappy about their program. Maybe I'm just overthinking the issue.

The approach which I'm considering is to just be honest as possible:

  1. The program does not match my interests well because there is very little presence in my primary field of interest. I have searched thoroughly. I do not yet have an advisor.
  2. Some secondary factors are also marginally involved, for instance I have felt suffocated with the general location and climate, and moreover I would like to move closer to my family.
  3. I've gotten admission to a program which matches my interests and location preferences significantly better, and they will give me credit for the work I've done here.

However, I believe that the issue should be handled delicately and non-bluntly for the reason that my current program has given me quite a bit of flexibility and awards, I finished my exams, and I want them to give me a masters. I don't want to be rude or dismissive of these.

So what would be a good approach?

  • @erfink Well, this is not a question of whether or not I should transfer, it's more of a question of "I've already accepted an offer from a different university and I want to get out of my current one politely."
    – shalop
    Mar 19, 2017 at 9:09
  • Could you please specify which country? The answer clearly depends on this. Mar 19, 2017 at 9:13
  • Absolutely, I agree that your question is not a duplicate of those. I simply found that those couple questions generated some good discussion that may or may not be helpful vis a vis potential difficulties
    – erfink
    Mar 19, 2017 at 9:13

1 Answer 1


This goes the same for those leaving jobs for similar reasons- the more you can explain how there are personal reasons for your transfer and do not emphasize that there are deficits with your current program, a professional academic will understand even if he or she is disappointed.

Remember that not all academics and administrators are always professional and that despite your best efforts he or she might not be understanding. However, being professional and cordial is the best you can do to take the high road.

  • Thank you for your answer. I guess this is fairly obvious but I do not have much experience with these kinds of formalities.
    – shalop
    Mar 20, 2017 at 4:24
  • 2
    Good answer. Definitely use the "moving closer to family" as the primary reason (or perhaps only reason you share with them). // Also, please check what your department's requirements are for earning a Master's, in preparation for the conversation. Mar 20, 2017 at 5:18
  • Glad to help! I actually left my faculty position right after getting tenure for personal reason and used this very advice. I'm still on very good terms with my former director and colleagues. So, it's good advice for now and the future! Best of luck! Mar 26, 2017 at 14:14

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