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PhD: How bad is "bad enough" when it comes to termination-related decision?

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Hi all!

I applied for PhDs and I got an offer from my first choice research centre.

My problem lies in the fact that I had a painful PhD experience in the past and I am scared that I will experience the same things.

I would like to ask the users of the forum at what point you personally feel that "I quit" is justified.

In the past I embarked for a PhD at the University that I was doing my MSc at the time, self-funded.

After a few months in the program I was shocked to find out that a student who was offering other types of services to a member of the staff had got the scholarship that I had applied for the year before and that the majority of the research students are customers rather than colleagues with no chances to get experience from the "A class" research of the department. Sadly, I got to see how A class research is produced, from now on I will be very sceptical on what I read in academic journals.

I had serious problems with my supervisor who did not have the knowledge or the interest to collaborate with my research. I was advised to cut down my research topic to an extremely small-scale project and out of my main research question. The website of the one of my supervisors mentioned some areas of expertise, which turned out to be attendance in seminar some years ago, with no experience or interest (and perhaps even knowledge) to teach me. When I tried to change supervisor and stay at the same University, I met some researchers, however, the moment I was mentioning the name of my current supervisor they were loosing all interest in my research. I still wonder why this was happening. He had agreed in me trying to find a new supervisor.

It was not an easy process to terminate my PhD. After I informed them about my decision, I had a meeting with both of them during which I insisted that I would like to follow my hunch in my initial proposal and I received a laugh (yes, they laughed at my face) and advice: that I will not be able to be accepted by another University because my first degree is not related to my area of research (although my research experience and MSc are) and because "who will accept someone who has stopped her phd?"

Similar behaviour is directed (still) to some other students who after the clear bullying some decided to stay (the University has high ranking), and some left for other Universities for the same reasons as me. This happens to students who are not willing to reduce or change their research project (one of them had funding from her country for a specific research topic which she was advised to change almost completely to match theirs, of course they told her this after she was in the PhD and not during admissions). I wonder why they accept this large number of research students if they are not willing to accept and support the inevitable diversity of the research topics. Are externally-funded research students such a good profit for the Universities? Even if their research does not get published in the end?

Anyway. The worst was that after the humiliating experiences I had to ask him for references for my phd applications. He told me that he will provide them to me but he will give them directly to the admissions and not to me. So, I have no idea what was written in them...

I do not feel proud for asking for reference letters after all these. I really wanted to inform the Faculty about the situation at the specific department but if I did I would not have a reference that confirmed my background needed for my PhD.

A PhD student who was tempted to leave the Uni (but stayed) was asking me the other day if I have told to my future supervisors about the real reasons behind my termination... considering the fact that he is very good friend with two tutors, I suspect that they worry what is going to get out.

Now my problem is that I am terrified that I will experience the same things at the new University.

At the moment speaking I have respect for my future supervisors and I am happy that they have already worked in this topic, so it is not likely for me to have unpleasant surprises on the area of research. They asked me whether I am willing to adapt my specific research topic to their research and I am perfectly fine with this!

My friends (who stayed at the old University) are telling me not to worry, that no University is as bad as that one and that even if they have a few problems they will not have as many problems as that University, but still, I am soooo scared.

I will be self-funded because I missed the deadline for the scholarship. I keep thinking that if in one or two years I experience similar things, I will have actually paid a second time for a corrupted department and institution.

Please, tell me from your experience. How bad is bad-enough-you-should-quit?

At that university I felt that I was not appreciated as a professional and a human being and that I would not get publishable research (if I had agreed to change my research topic) or academia-related work experience.

Also, my new supervisors have mentioned what is usually offered to their phd students. Great things that if half of them are true I will be very satisfied!

However (unfortunatelly, there are many "however"), the same happened before I started my previous phd, of course they turned out not true. I did not even get a desk to work on, only the scholarship students get one!!!

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