I am in the UK - England. I am complaining against my University for having been misadvised in a moment of strong distress and psychological fragility - which is caused by the misbehavior of my University.

The University points to the fact that one article of the Code of Practice states that the responsibility of what has happened is by default on the shoulders of the student, independently on the circumstances. They say this basically: "this is what is written in the article, we don't take into consideration the situation you were in".

My question to you is very general, but I need it to start asking myself the right questions:

  • can exceptional circumstances invalidate one article of a regulation?

Basically the article in question says: "[PGRs are responsible for] Deciding when to submit their thesis (after the minimum period of study and before the end of the maximum period of study specified in Regulations), taking due account of the supervisor’s opinion which is only advisory."

What has happened is that, as my Primary Supervisor was neither replying to my emails nor reading my PhD thesis at all, 10 days before submitting by my proposed submission date (accepted by my supervisor) I was in panic and confused, and I wrote to my Academic Advisor (also Dean of the Department) to understand what to do in this situation. The Academic Advisor responded: "What you have to do is to submit by your deadline!!".

The university has accepted that thesis' feedback was strongly delayed (breach of another article), monitoring has fallen below standard (breach of another article), I submitted many complaints during my PhD time about problems of miscommunication with professors (without anybody addressing the issue), that an issue that I rose 3 months before submitting was a concern that came out during my viva (though not substantial), and that the reply of my Academic Advisor was ambiguous, but they say that the article says that I have to take responsibility on my choice to submit by that date (or, that I have to take responsibility on the act of submitting) - as that was not my maximum submission date.

The fact is that I was in panic and afraid to rise a complaint against my supervisor because of power relations (reference for a future job), as I do believe that the above makes the situation I was in very extraordinary. Not knowing what to do, my Academic Advisor (and Dean of the Department) instead of investigating on the situation and proposing me various options on how to solve the situation, suggested to me to submit my thesis.

  • You might want to edit your question so as to reflect more precisely the language of that article. A default presumption can in many contexts be refuted or stricken on the basis of evidence that contradicts it. In the alternative, "default" could have a connotation of "indisputable". It is impossible to ascertain which sense applies here without first knowing the exact language of that article and possibly other relevant portions of the Code of Practice. – Iñaki Viggers Jan 20 '19 at 13:14
  • Thank you @IñakiViggers, is the above description helpful? – TakeMeToTheMoon Jan 20 '19 at 15:14

I gather that your actual question is whether (1) the article compels the student to commit to his announced date for submission of thesis, or (2) submission can be rescheduled (subject to the hard deadline of "end of the maximum period of study"). The language of the excerpt you reproduce suggests that rescheduling is an option, since it is only in terms of "submitting" a thesis. The language does not reflect that the student's previously announced date is final or a firm deadline.

Thus, the university's interpretation

that the article says that I have to take responsibility on my choice to submit by that date

improperly creates a constraint, unless by "that date" the university means "the end of the maximum period of study".

Since you indicate that

that was not my maximum submission date

there is no need to seek invalidation of that article this time.

Also, applying the language of the article, I would conclude that the Academic Advisor's suggestion [that you submit your thesis sooner] is only advisory. Without knowing about PhD or academic policies, I see no reason why an advisor's opinion should be mandatory or supersede a supervisor's advisory opinion.

The question of whether the university's series of breaches entitles you to an exemption from that article is more complex and would require additional information. Moreover, the conclusions therefrom would be uncertain because of discretionary factors about which it would be pointless to speculate.

  • So I guess the answer is "yes, it could be, but maybe this is not the case", right? My point is that I was in panic due to my main reference that was not providing his service of support and supervision, and on the other side I had a deadline, and I was not put in the condition to make an independent decision due to the extraordinary circumstances. If that was the case, the independence of decision-making of the student might be polluted by the ambiguous suggestion of the Academic Advisor (the university has recognized that the suggestion is formulated in ambiguous terms). Am I correct? – TakeMeToTheMoon Jan 20 '19 at 19:54
  • The Academic Advisor didn't suggest to submit sooner. He suggested to respect my deadline (agreed with my supervisor) regardless of the concern I rose, on which I had no control (my supervisor was not reading my thesis and I was afraid of my lack of supervision in such a decisive moment). – TakeMeToTheMoon Jan 20 '19 at 20:00
  • Also, may I ask you to expand a little your last sentence? I don't understand whether you say it's pointless to speculate here, or in general. – TakeMeToTheMoon Jan 20 '19 at 20:03
  • @LucaDanieli By "sooner" I meant anything prior to "the end of the maximum period of study", since that is the latest deadline the article permits. Since the supervisor's opinion is only advisory (see language in the article), you are entitled to postpone the submission of your thesis to until "the end of the maximum period of study". As for "pointless to speculate", I meant that some articles might give professors/deans/etc. discretion on how or when to weigh factors for deciding whether or not to grant exemptions from that article. – Iñaki Viggers Jan 20 '19 at 20:09
  • Thank you. I understand that I could postpone the submission of my thesis. Thing is: if my supervisor is not doing his job, not supervising me and not responding, should I keep postponing? I agreed with my supervisor about a deadline, and I thought I should respect that deadline. At least, I'd like to discuss about postponing and making a new schedule. Still that is not the point: I asked my Academic Advisor (and Dean of the Department) about the best way to protect myself in that confusing situation, and presented with only one option and been encouraged to submit. This is not advisory. – TakeMeToTheMoon Jan 20 '19 at 21:33

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