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ParaParaYukiko's avatar

Is a university responsible for its graduate students' education?

Asked by ParaParaYukiko (6111points) November 4th, 2009

I have heard some stories lately about graduate students getting pretty much “dropped” by their universities when their academic advisers leave for one reason or another. Graduate students seem to depend on their advisers more than undergrads, so if a student’s adviser were to leave their university, it would be a lot more difficult for a grad student to continue their studies.

For example, I know a woman who has been studying for her PhD for three years. Now, her adviser has left and no other faculty members seem to want to take her in. At this point, she may either have to find an adviser at a different university entirely, or she will effectively be kicked out of the school, thus wasting three years of money and effort.

Do universities have an obligation to their grad students to make sure they complete their studies, as long as they pass the proper exams and such? Should a university make sure that when an academic adviser leaves, another will be there to take their place? Or is a graduate student more or less on their own to complete their education in these circumstances?

Maybe this phenomenon is specific to this particular university, but I’ve heard it happens all the time. I would like to know people’s opinions on this topic.

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17 Answers

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Students are responsible for themselves.

fireinthepriory's avatar

I’m surprised your friend don’t follow her adviser to his/her new institution… If her adviser didn’t offer this to her, I assume that he/she wouldn’t have allowed them to continue with them either way, leaving them in the same position. Switching advisers while in the middle of a Ph.D. is extremely difficult and I don’t think any adviser would expect their student to do that lightly. If the student’s relationship with his or her adviser was what it should be, this situation wouldn’t happen.

Also, I don’t know if the university CAN be held accountable. They can’t force a faculty member to take on a new Ph.D. student, so therefore the university doesn’t really have a choice…

poisonedantidote's avatar

no, its up to the student. you cant teach people who dont want to learn no matter how good you are at teaching.

Likeradar's avatar

For the most part, I agree with @RealEyesRealizeRealLies that students, especially those in post-graduate programs, should not have their hands held.
However, if a student is accepted into a program at a school it’s insane that he or she would be dropped because their adviser leaves.
In your friend’s case, was he/she assigned an adviser or was acceptance into the school/program due in large part to the adviser?
I’m in a grad program, and the school has changed my adviser twice, and told me after the fact.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@Likeradar Whoaaaaa, they can do that?? There would be a coup if that happened to any student in my department! I’m in a biology grad program though, so maybe it’s different…

rasputin6xc's avatar

Yes. In this particular situation, the university has an obligation to the student.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@poisonedantidote That isn’t exactly what I meant. My friend is the hardest working person I’ve ever known, but no one seems to want to take her in as a grad student for some strange reason.

@fireinthepriory The option to follow her adviser has come up, yes, but the adviser is moving to a university that is 10 hours away from her home and family, which would be very difficult to deal with.

@Likeradar I’m not exactly sure, but I think she applied to this particular university because of the faculty there, but was assigned to that particular adviser after being accepted.

It just seems to me that if this were to happen to an undergraduate, the university would make much more of an effort to give that student another adviser and help them get their degree. Maybe they consider PhD work not to be as important? I don’t get it.

Likeradar's avatar

@fireinthepriory Yup. The first time I was glad, because my original adviser, who was assigned to me, sucked. I never actually had any contact with the 2nd, and I recently received word of my 3rd.

She was assigned to the adviser and now the school won’t deal with her? I certainly hope she’s raising all sorts of hell.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@Likeradar I’m pressing her to get in touch with the chancellor of the school about this whole deal. It seems that the chancellor is the only person who can/would do anything about it.

nikipedia's avatar

I don’t know, I think this is a risk you take when you become a graduate student. I almost had to leave my program because my adviser ran out of money and there wasn’t anyone else I wanted to/was able to work with. Yes, it’s a terrible situation, but I don’t think there’s anything the University can do. They can’t force someone else to be the adviser; they can’t hire a new faculty member just to advise a student…it’s a bad situation for both sides, but I don’t think it’s up to the school to fix it.

Darwin's avatar

I had to choose an advisor/major professor, and he had to be willing to have me work under his guidance. However, I also had to select two other professors to serve on my committee. If things were to have gone bad with my major professor, then one of the other committee members probably would have stepped in. However, I might have had to change the direction of my research.

This, in fact, did happen to me when I was working on my PhD. Two different professors offered to step in. For the one I liked best I would have had to change my research to Botany. In my case I decided it was not where I wanted to be and I found a good and enjoyable job from which I eventually retired some years later.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Welcome to the real world. People move, positions change, affiliations break down.

Learning to deal with life is the best education any student could possibly get.

Shit happens. Adapt and evolve or die.

higherground's avatar

It takes two hands to clap .

higherground's avatar

In my point of view, a university or even a school is a place where the students are all given seeds, and it is entirely up to us whether we want to grow it (well) or not.

They give us knowledge, but it is up to us to use our brains. Nobody else can do it for you.

hug_of_war's avatar

The problem is in grad school you often decide where to go by who will be your advisor since you ussually have a more speciic interest. At a larger school you may find another faculty with a similar enough interest but I wouldn’t want to have an advisor who was forced to work with me (for years!) and who didn’t have an interest in the work I’m doing.

mattbrowne's avatar

No, the student is responsible.

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