Problems with supervisors are common among doctoral students. A doctoral student who wishes to do so is entitled to change supervisor, but this may entail practical problems with his or her research.

If a conflict occurs between a doctoral student and a supervisor, the doctoral student should request a meeting with the supervisor. If the meeting doesn’t lead to anything constructive, the doctoral student should contact the head of school, dean or someone else responsible for third-cycle education. The union, students’ union, doctoral student ombudsman and student health services can also provide advice. If there are serious problems it is important to act as soon as possible so that the student’s studies do not suffer.

Right to change supervisor

It is important to know that the department or higher education institution is obliged to help. According to the Higher Education Ordinance, a doctoral student has the right to change supervisor if he or she requests this.

Unfortunately, this often results in significant practical problems. There may not be another suitable supervisor in the subject, or the research may have progressed so far that it is difficult for a new person to take over. This is particularly difficult for doctoral students who are participating in a project that is run by the supervisor. In the worst case, the doctoral student may be forced to change the subject of his or her thesis.

Romantic relationships

Sometimes a doctoral student and a supervisor become involved in a romantic relationship. In this case it is vital that the supervisor immediately resigns from the supervisory role and organises a replacement. Naturally, the doctoral student can take the initiative to the change, but responsibility for this lies primarily with the supervisor.

Even if the romantic relationship is based on equality, the roles of the doctoral student and supervisor are not. It is almost always the doctoral student who suffers if the relationship ends. It is therefore important that the doctoral student builds up a network and has assistant supervisors and other assessors, so that he or she is not entirely dependent on one person.

Page last updated 2015-07-02