I opted for a PhD at the same university where I did a two years master’s (I'm an international student). The master’s level was remarkable, but the PhD isn't that good. It feels like an extended version of the same master's. Since I’m not receiving the training I expected or being exposed to the challenging problems that could put me at the forefront of my field, I have certainty I must leave this PhD for the well-being of my career. I have talked to the students' counselor, voiced my concern about the prospect of my training to my direct supervisor, asked authorization to reshape my project (no professor has experience in the theoretical direction I want to take it) or to go abroad as visiting student in another institution (my funding is very strict in terms of leaving for extended periods) and reached the conclusion that the possibilities of improvement are slim. Nonetheless, I have tried to keep the tension low and not sound menacing ("either you let me do this or I'm out").
I’ve identified other PhDs (or even jobs) in which I could achieve goals more in line with my expectations. But there is a problem. All my relevant academic network was built during the masters and is therefore in the same department I’m planning to abandon. Although they've addressed my concerns in an attentive manner and encouraged me to continue, I'm sure they won’t be happy to let me go and some may even take my decision as an insult to the department and a PhD program the university is very proud of. But I heavily depend on them too. I’ll need their letters of recommendation to apply to graduate school elsewhere or get a job. Has anyone secured a letter of recommendation from a supervisor you parted midway your PhD? How to voice this type of decisions in a non-confrontational way? How to deflect the conflict and leave the PhD without shooting myself on the foot?
Full-disclaimer: I’m not angry, lonely, depressed, burned-out, in debt, amid a fight with faculty, etc. I’m just dissatisfied with the quality of my PhD, which, true be told, could be very good for other students; it’s just that I already got this training during my master’s!