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Being recommended to withdraw from PhD

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Hi there,

I just wanted to collect more facts that there is unjust treatment when a PhD student is being recommended by his department to withdraw even before he writes his first comprehensive exams due to low GPAs or other reasons.

I would like to encourage your reply in this thread if you have heard any cases like this in a Canadian or American graduate program.

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I think it will be hard to answer your question without more information. I know graduate students who were put on probation--though not asked to withdraw--before comps. In that case it seemed fair. What makes you think the circumstances are unjust? Please explain.

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I agree with the others, we need more information to make a sound opinion.

I have heard of students approaching their comp defense and their advisors suggest that they don't go through it- not sure if this would eventually end in a withdraw, I guess it would depend on your comp format. It is not common, but not unheard of, that supervisors will direct their students not to complete a milestone (e.g., defense) because they do not think their student is ready. I think it's rather a nice thing- they don't want you to go out and just be pulled apart when they know you're not ready.

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In some departments/programs at Canadian schools, PhD students have an annual "checkup". Sometimes this is a written progress report submitted independently by the supervisor and the student. Often it involves a formal meeting between the student and their committee, where the student's research progress and other factors such as GPA, courses completed, etc. are considered. After the meeting, the committee decides whether or not the student can continue on their next year. Since some programs don't have comps until Year 3, it would be possible for a student to have negative outcomes from their first two "annual checkups" and be asked to withdraw before comps even take place.

In addition, some programs will ask a student to withdraw if they fail a course (or two, or any core course etc.).

For example, in Physics programs in Canada, we take courses throughout the entire PhD program. So, if after two years, it becomes clear that the student's track record isn't going to allow them to finish in the time limit (i.e. not taking/passing the required core courses), they might be asked to withdraw before they take their comps.

In yet another situation, the PhD student can be "fired", if, for example, they are caught doing something they weren't supposed to. Sometimes this results in expulsion too, but other times, it just means a withdrawal of all financial support (hence "fired"), which often is a way of forcing students to withdraw.

Your post implies that there is some unfair treatment going on, but like others said, I don't think there isn't enough information for us to say anything that could be helpful? I don't think that every case where a PhD student is asked to withdraw before they do their comps is necessarily unfair.

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