Problems with PhD

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Problems with PhD

Research degrees require high levels of student autonomy and self-direction. That said, students undertaking a PhD or another research degree should receive appropriate support and supervision. They should have access to the right equipment, research facilities and help during the process of writing up their thesis. At the end of the process, they should expect a fair Viva Voce examination.

These are minimum expectations for PhD candidates, but all too often, these are not met. Problems of omission and error can occur, particularly concerning supervision. When supervision issues arise, they can become significant, ultimately leading to a candidate withdrawing from their research.

While most PhD issues can be resolved internally, some cannot. If the relationship between the student and the university breaks down, then legal support can help the candidate negotiate their way through these challenging circumstances.

We can provide expert advice on PhD problems and disputes, including:

  • Problems with PhD supervisors
  • Issues with PhD materials
  • An unfair Viva Voce

We offer a fixed fee initial consultation with our team to discuss your needs and see how we can help. We then charge for our services on a fixed fee basis, providing certainty over the costs involved.

Types of PhD problems and disputes with which our team can assist

Problems with PhD supervisors

A supervision relationship should ideally be supportive and healthy. A good relationship can make a significant difference to the overall PhD experience and the quality of the research that’s undertaken. A productive working relationship between a student and supervisor can mean the difference between completing the study or not. A solid relationship depends on good communication, and if any issues arise, they need to be relayed to a supervisor.

Establishing a strong working relationship takes effort on both sides, but if problems develop despite the best efforts of the student, it can be unsettling and disruptive.

Some of the most common issues that occur with a supervisor are:

  • Poor communication
  • Poor or non-existent feedback
  • Failure to represent the student adequately at a panel meeting
  • Taking extended breaks or holidays, particularly at key points in the research process.
  • Attempting to lead the student in research directions beyond the scope of their original proposal

Our education law consultants can provide independent, confidential advice on whether you may have grounds for challenging your supervisor’s conduct and/or level of support. We can help to make sure you have appropriate supervision for your research and that you can get the best result possible from your PhD.

Issues with PhD materials

As well as problems arising between a student and supervisor, issues can occur with materials. A student may not receive adequate materials from the university, or a supervisor may not follow through on a promise to provide materials vital to the student’s research.

We can advise on the steps you can take to ensure you receive appropriate materials promptly and that any repeated issues are properly challenged, so there is no long term impact on your PhD.

Unfair Viva Voce

Ideally, a Viva Voce should represent the culmination of the research process. They should be conducted professionally and fairly, with any criticism of a thesis underpinned by strong subject knowledge. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and prejudices or irrelevant criticism can blight the process.

Our educational law experts can provide impartial advice on whether you may have been treated unfairly in your Viva and what you can do to make sure this is addressed and you do not lose out as a result.

Our PhD problems legal advice fees

We offer a brief free initial phone consultation with our experts. If we believe we can help, we will then carry out a more in-depth fixed fee consultation.

Should you wish to proceed, we will provide a realistic cost estimate for dealing with your matter. Any billable work carried out will always be agreed upon with you in advance, giving you complete certainty and transparency over the costs involved.

The exact cost of our services will depend on the nature of your problem, including the amount of time and level of expertise needed to support you effectively. We will be happy to discuss this with you when you contact our team.

For more information on our education law pricing, please get in touch.

Get personal support and advice for PhD problems and disputes

If you would like to know more about how we can help you with your education law enquiry, please contact our education law senior legal administrator, Rachael, on 01895 207230 or by email on


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