I am supervising a bachelor thesis and find the respective student attractive. Would it be ethical/acceptable to get into a relationship with the student after the thesis is completed?

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    Suggestion: edit the title to better reflect the temporal relationship here. Is it ethical to have a relationship with a student after completing a role as the student's supervisor? (And the answer is, I'm not sure. But the answer to the question as stated is hell no.) Mar 23, 2017 at 22:42
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    The anticipation of the relationship would already most likely cause trouble. Mar 23, 2017 at 22:43
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    @FredDouglis, yes, I think it's best to put the whole thing out-of-mind "for now", at least. Quite hard to "make it be ok", and many ways to have it go wrong. Mar 23, 2017 at 22:49
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    Unless you are extremely scrupulous, there can easily be many bad side effects, among colleagues, in the relationship, with friends, and so on. If you imagine that this may be "the love of your life", then, commensurately, you'd not want to tarnish the relationship and others' perceptions of it (whether they are right or wrong...). "Squeaky clean" is the U.S. English phrase. Involves waiting and doing nothing in your case, I think. May not deliver the hoped-for outcome. But/and bad compromises leave lasting stigmas... Hard to find a simple, immediate solution, unfortunately. Behave honorably. Mar 23, 2017 at 23:29
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    Your university likely has specific policies regarding this. If you're a TA, then a TA handbook, at least in the US in my experience, will always mention their policies on relationships with undergrads/students. There should be similar policies, if not similar handbooks, for professors etc. Have you looked for them? Mar 24, 2017 at 3:20

3 Answers 3


It is neither ethical nor safe to get into any kind of relationship with a current student. Depending on your institution, it may be prohibited conduct. Brown's rule: "You can lust after girls, or you can lust after boys, but you can never lust after students."

Even former students aren't safe. Some years ago a graduate whose senior project I had supervised showed up in my office and announced that she had come to take me to dinner. We began seeing each other, and then she decided to return to our institution for a master's degree. That resulted in a self-initiated, but very uncomfortable, meeting with dean and VPAA.

  • That discomfort is just part of academic life. // I had to look up VPAA: Vice Provost for Academic Administration. // I wonder why you didn't say, "She decided to return to our institution for a master's degree"? She was an alum -- it was her institution too, I think.... // I hope the dean and vice provost told you that she could do a master's there, and you could continue teaching there, as long as you didn't have any supervisory responsibilities over her work. // Actually, I think your answer would be strengthened by rephrasing this part: "even former students aren't safe." Mar 26, 2017 at 22:28
  • @aparente001 Yes, she was able to take her master's at our institution under exactly the conditions you mention. I've edited my answer to reflect your remarks; thanks!
    – Bob Brown
    Jun 17, 2021 at 16:20

The ethical, and safe, thing to do -- now, actually -- would be to look for another faculty member to pass this thesis supervision responsibility to, because your objectivity has been, or could be seen to be, compromised by your feelings.

I was given some very good advice once by a senior professor: when contemplating a particular action, imagine what it would look like if described in a newspaper headline.

"Emcor Involved in Romantic Relationship with Student S/He Was Providing Direct Thesis Supervision to"

Doesn't look so good. Compare:

"Emcor Hands Off Thesis Supervision to Colleague before Embarking on Romantic Relationship with Student"

Better, no?

This doesn't mean you can't read a draft of the thesis, or that you can't be a sounding board for the work. It just means that you shouldn't be the thesis supervisor.

That's how I see it. However, if you are in any doubt, do check with a department administrator.


It is not ethical nor acceptable for you to do. After the supervision is technically over you still have power over the student, such as through reference letters.

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    Although I am certainly not advocating in favor of such a relationship, I think the specific difficulties you mention are likely to be surmountable. First, this is an undergraduate student, so they may not continue in academia at all. If they do, then in many cases the grad school letters are written before the student actually graduates. Finally, the OP could (and certainly should!) agree not to write any letters for the student. For an undergrad, this could perhaps be detrimental to the academic career, but it would not be catastrophic. Mar 24, 2017 at 0:23
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    You don't, because you obviously do not write reference letters for your partner.
    – Karl
    Mar 24, 2017 at 2:52

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