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How to 'Divorce' Your Supervisor

Here are some tips for dealing with supervisory changes

Coming to the decision to 'divorce' your supervisor is a challenging one. But it's a common experience for PhD students. There are ample valid reasons for wanting to call it quits with your current supervisor. And in turn, any supervisor can also resign their supervisorship. The tough part is knowing when to make that call and how to go about it.

The Thesis Whisperer has some great advice, from experience, for navigating the delicate task of a supervisor divorce here.

At the MGA, we've seen countless PhD students come to us with this dilemma. Here are some of our tips.

#1: Reflect on your reasoning

Be sure to take some time to think about your specific reasons for wanting to change supervisors. This awareness will help you to communicate your needs effectively going forward.

#2: Practice open communication

If you feel comfortable doing so, initiate an honest and open conversation with your current supervisor. You may find that they are unaware of your concerns and may be willing to address them collaboratively.

#3: Reach out to your peers

As we said, this isn't uncommon. You should speak to your fellow PhD students who have naviagted similar situations to glean their insights. 

#4: Do your research

If you want to change supervisors, see who's out there. Try to identify potential new candidates based on your research interests. Investigate their track record, communication style, as well as the general dynamic of their research group to ensure that it's the right fit for you. 

#5: Understand the University's policies and procedures

Monash has a process for changing supervisors. It's important that you understand how this all works. You can learn about this here.

#6: Consult the HDR coordinator of your department

Schedule a meeting with the appropriate contact to voice your concerns and seek guidance on initiating the process.

#7: Be professional

Remember to maintain your professionalism as you navigate this process. We understand that in situations like these, emotions can run high. However, it's extremely important to remain professional and avoid unnecessary, negative comments. Try instead to emphasise the positive aspects of a potential change.

#8: Be open to compromise

When you're having discussions with your current supervisor, make sure you hear them out too. They may be willing and able to explore potential solutions to your concerns. Don't jump the gun too quickly - consider their proposal. 

#9: Get in touch with an MGA advocate

Last but not least, contact the MGA advocacy service! Our advocates have guided hundreds of PhD students through this exact situation. Even if you're just having doubts, don't hesitate to reach out. The earlier, the better. 

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If you are unsure about anything else to do with your research journey, don’t hesitate to touch base with us at


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