Soas apologises for long-running PhD supervision failures

Student left unable to complete doctorate is offered compensation

April 2, 2018

A research student has been offered compensation after a university failed to provide supervision to enable him to complete his PhD.

The politics student, who has asked not to be named, remains in a dispute with Soas, University of London, aimed at securing the supervision that he needs to finish his degree.

The case stretches back to 2015, when the student was forced to interrupt his studies in the spring term after falling ill while conducting overseas fieldwork in the second year of his PhD.

The student said that Soas failed to register his absence or to cancel his visa sponsorship and then failed to re-enrol him as expected the following year.

The student finally returned from medical leave in October 2016 and a new supervisor was assigned. However, he said, he had only one supervision meeting between his return and April 2017.

This prompted him to complain to Soas, with the investigation report concluding in August 2017 that “the accumulation of failures in this case has led to avoidable delays, inconvenience, and stress for the complainant”.

The report recommended intervention by a senior member of staff “to ensure that everything is in place for successful completion of the thesis, and to provide ongoing oversight of progress”, and the award of £2,000 compensation.

However, the student said that Soas again failed to provide proper supervision, leading to a further complaint, which was partially upheld in February this year.

A panel concluded that “Soas had failed to provide suitable supervision to enable the complainant to complete his degree”, and increased the amount of compensation offered to £5,000.

The panel said that an “appropriate supervisory arrangement must be provided as swiftly as possible”.

However, the student said, he has still not been assigned a new supervisor. He told Times Higher Education that the case had taken a “huge emotional and financial toll” on his life, leaving him in a “constant state of anxiety”.

A Soas spokesman said: “We deeply regret that in dealing with some of the complaints we were not as swift as we should have been, and the school apologises for the delays in the process.

“As things stand now, we are actively seeking to find a resolution…to bring these matters to a mutually satisfactory conclusion. This case has distinct and individual features, and we will continue to look at how best to deal with [these] complaints.”

The spokesman added that Soas’ director, Baroness Amos, was initiating a review to examine the lessons to be learned by the school.

sophie.inge@timeshighereducation.com

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