One of my PhD students is going to be asked to withdraw in a couple of weeks.

(8 Posts)
WindyBlows Mon 09-Nov-15 15:59:10

NC. I need some advice please.

I was 'invited' on to the supervision team of an international student when he first started in September 2014. The studentship is paid for by his government. Since then the other two supervisors have left so another two were roped into the team to replace them. So there are now three of us on the supervision team covering various aspects of the research- me the substantive area, a colleague the methodology and another colleague the context (PhD being done about the far east)- but none of us are the original supervisors.

This student really is not good at all. The work just doesn't have the depth needed for postgraduate study and would struggle to scrape a 2:2 at third year undergraduate level actually. He seems to have no idea about theory- this is a Politics PhD- and hasn't engaged with any of the main literature in the area.

As a supervision team we've repeatedly given him feedback and directed him towards literature but this has all fallen on deaf ears to the point where I'm actually very pissed off that I've wasted my time.

In June he had his review meeting where he was turned down from upgrade from MPhil to PhD. Since then we've been working with him to develop the work to get through the second attempt review. However, it won't get through and, TBH, I'm quite glad about it because I feel that I'm banging my head against a brick wall getting through to this guy.

My questions are-
Does anyone have experience of this?
I've heard that international students in particular are likely to kick up a stink about this, complain, lobby, threaten to sue, is this the case in your experience? If so, how do I deal with this?
What are the repercussions of this for me? I'm still on probation and I'm aware it won't look good on my record to have a student asked to withdraw but how serious is this?
Any advice on how to deal with the situation happily received.

fluffikins Mon 09-Nov-15 17:23:28

If I were you I'd just step back and make sure the head of postgrad/PhDs takes care of it all, copy them into all communication and make sure everything you say/do to this student is by the book. It sounds like a better situation to withdraw than to try to support a crap student though where you'll probably end up doing most of their work for them.

WindyBlows Mon 09-Nov-15 18:27:32

Fluffikins Thanks ever so much for your post. I agree, I feel quite relieved at having the opportunity to step back, let go of this project and let others handle the fall out.

We haven't involved the head of postgraduate study yet but I have let her know that we might have a tricky situation coming up.

Since the failed first review attempt, me and the other supervisors have made sure that we're made minutes of our supervision meetings and circulated around to the whole team and the student so we can't be accused of not doing everything possible.

I'm just getting a little bit nervous now as to how I'm going to look out of this.

Jenijena Mon 09-Nov-15 18:46:06

Check the regulations/guidance for termination procedures, so you can advise the student straight after their second upgrade attempt. they may well instantly cease candidature eg enrolment. There will be visa issues - again, having the number of the visa support team is a good idea...

If you have a paper record (email exchanges, documented supervisory meetings which the student has responded to) the complaint will not be upheld. But it's possible they will keep persuing it.

It sounds like you've really tried to keep the student on track, but they've failed to engage. The only criticism possible that I can think of is that taking it to the upgrade panel to identify a failing student is quite a long time but for many institutions regs, it's the only definitive progression point to enable this sort of decision to be made. If in doubt, you will always have an answer to the 'situations you have found difficult' interview question.

If in doubt talk to your friendly local (or central) pgr QA expert or complaints person. They will know the answers. smile

Jenijena Mon 09-Nov-15 18:47:16

Oh and yes, definitely include your head of pgr

WindyBlows Thu 12-Nov-15 10:47:54

Sorry I haven't been on for a while. Many thanks for all your advice and tips.

I agree Jen it is challenging that it's taken this long to ask her to withdraw but the review is the only check point we have and the only place where a decision can be made based on general 'feeling' about the research rather than a specific event or issue iyswim.

I will keep everyone updated smile

MultishirkingAgain Fri 13-Nov-15 22:19:39

I've been in a similar situation as a supervisor. It's unpleasant. But a PhD can't be bought and you and your colleagues are doing the right thing.

Just make sure that you have records IN WRITING if advice given him along the way. Luckily, in the case of my incompetent OS student. I had summarised supervisory advice in writing to him after each supervision, and kept copies.

I have also Externally examined a PhD which had been submitted against the Departmental advice. We failed it.

So your final resort is to let him submit and let the external tell him it's not up to snuff.

Is there a difficulty (ha!) over disrespect for a mere female as supervisor? <irony alert>

Main things: Records in writing. Evidence of regular supervision and clear advice to improve. In writing if possible.

After my experience, when I had done everything right, if I get a whisper of a feeling I might get a disgruntled candidate, everything is in writing as a back up to oral advice in supervisions.

Sadly this is increasingly necessary.

Focusfocus Thu 07-Jan-16 13:15:39

Been there. Very recently.

Document every thing. Every goddamn meeting and interaction so that they don't claim an hour long supervision was "just a chat"

Get HoD on board

Check nobody in member of staff is egging said student on into a litigious mode bitter

Get support on board - have timelines of advice given and not implemented ready in writing

Stay calm.

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