Advice about complaining about masters supervisor

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cnn27
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Hi all, I'm just looking for some advice. I completed a MA dissertation over the previous academic year as part of a part-time distance-learning MA degree. Throughout the year issues arose with supervision of the dissertation.

I had discussed the structure of my research project with my supervisor and had submitted drafts of my literature review and research design chapter which I received positive feedback for. This supervisor then suddenly quit the university in March

My new supervisor asked to email on all work we had done before. I did do, and asked some questions, as I was unsure about some aspects of my project. I received no reply to this email. -After one month of no reply to various emails/phone-calls, I eventually travelled to the university (from London to Birmingham) simply to try and knock on my supervisor's office door and meet with him that way. I managed to find him,he told me my method of evaluating the project wasn't valid, and said I would need to adapt how I evaluated it. This was despite the original method being suggested by the first supervisor. He did however say the two chapters I had written were fine and in his words 'read well'

-I went off and conducted the project. I emailed him my final chapter 9 days before the submission deadline (which may sound close, but he had said as long as he received it a week before it would be okay). He emailed back straight away saying he would read through it and give feedback the next day. I received no feedback the next day, and my follow-up emails/phone contact were unanswered. I therefore ended up having to submit my theses without getting feedback on the final research analysis chapter. All other students on my course were given feedback.

I got my result last week and it was a pass mark. While I"m glad I passed. and fully accept that the work I submitted may have only been of pass standard, I'm a little annoyed that I didn't get feedback on my final chapter like all other students did, despite my having sent it to him within an agreed deadline. I can't help feeling I would have gotten a higher mark if I had. I'm also annoyed that both the original supervisor and my new one told me the first two chapters 'read well' and gave no further feedback, if they were only pass standard, surely they could have suggested improvements. I also did not get the full five hours supervisor-contact time that we were told we would get.

I'm wondering is there any point complaining to the university about the lack of feedback? Part of me thinks I should complain but another part of me thinks what's the point, they can't change the result now. Has anyone had experience with this? The supervisor is now apparently on leave from the university due to personal problems, and other students he supervised have had issues as well, with some having failed the course.

Tl;dr: Told to change research project 4 months before submitting dissertation, never got feedback on chapter of dissertation which other pupils did. Ended up with pass masters. Is it worth complaining?
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OxFossil
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(Original post by cnn27)
Hi all, I'm just looking for some advice. I completed a MA dissertation over the previous academic year as part of a part-time distance-learning MA degree. Throughout the year issues arose with supervision of the dissertation.

I had discussed the structure of my research project with my supervisor and had submitted drafts of my literature review and research design chapter which I received positive feedback for. This supervisor then suddenly quit the university in March

My new supervisor asked to email on all work we had done before. I did do, and asked some questions, as I was unsure about some aspects of my project. I received no reply to this email. -After one month of no reply to various emails/phone-calls, I eventually travelled to the university (from London to Birmingham) simply to try and knock on my supervisor's office door and meet with him that way. I managed to find him,he told me my method of evaluating the project wasn't valid, and said I would need to adapt how I evaluated it. This was despite the original method being suggested by the first supervisor. He did however say the two chapters I had written were fine and in his words 'read well'

-I went off and conducted the project. I emailed him my final chapter 9 days before the submission deadline (which may sound close, but he had said as long as he received it a week before it would be okay). He emailed back straight away saying he would read through it and give feedback the next day. I received no feedback the next day, and my follow-up emails/phone contact were unanswered. I therefore ended up having to submit my theses without getting feedback on the final research analysis chapter. All other students on my course were given feedback.

I got my result last week and it was a pass mark. While I"m glad I passed. and fully accept that the work I submitted may have only been of pass standard, I'm a little annoyed that I didn't get feedback on my final chapter like all other students did, despite my having sent it to him within an agreed deadline. I can't help feeling I would have gotten a higher mark if I had. I'm also annoyed that both the original supervisor and my new one told me the first two chapters 'read well' and gave no further feedback, if they were only pass standard, surely they could have suggested improvements. I also did not get the full five hours supervisor-contact time that we were told we would get.

I'm wondering is there any point complaining to the university about the lack of feedback? Part of me thinks I should complain but another part of me thinks what's the point, they can't change the result now. Has anyone had experience with this? The supervisor is now apparently on leave from the university due to personal problems, and other students he supervised have had issues as well, with some having failed the course.
What a crummy situation. I have been a supervisor for Masters and PhD dissertations and my experience is that the supervision relationship is probably the cause of most academic problems at this level. From what you say, I'd imagine that there are some aspects of your story that won't cut much ice - for example, a change in supervisor is likely to be seen as normal. The fact that they had different opinions on your work likewise - unless you have a very clear, specific example where you were seriously misdirected by one or the other in a way that unequivocally disadvantaged you (for example, although you are right to be unhappy that you weren't advised to improve the quality of those first chapters, my guess is that you will have trouble unequivocally demonstrating that is was solely their advice on this that caused you to underperform).

However, you do seem to have some evidence that the university did not meet its contractual obligations to you as a student. The combination of failing to provide the agreed number of supervision hours with the failure to provide advice in that final 10 days may mean you have a case. You will need to a) make sure you follow the complaints procedure - this might also say what reparations might be available b) make the claim soon - most universities will have a complaints deadline c) have copious written evidence to back your claims d) have a clear demand - be specific about what you are asking for, rather than just saying you are unhappy e) recruit help from your student union f) be willing to go through a lot of cr*p and maybe still lose the case

Sorry you've had a bad experience. Hope it was worth it anyway.
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cnn27
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Thanks so much for that reply, to be honest, I'm not sure if there's a point in making a complaint, apart from expressing frustration, but I think I will send an email to the course director, stressing the points you highlighted. Thanks for the advice!
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OxFossil
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(Original post by cnn27)
Thanks so much for that reply, to be honest, I'm not sure if there's a point in making a complaint, apart from expressing frustration, but I think I will send an email to the course director, stressing the points you highlighted. Thanks for the advice!
Yes, that would be understandable. Like grievances at work, these things usually cause a huge amount of stress to the person who has been done over and you need to pick your battles well. At least an email will help you get it off your chest. Best of luck anyway.
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Shrey8
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I want to share my experience of a bad supervisor. I was a masters student and landed up with a toxic supervisor. Had to pay the price as well. Here was what happened.My thesis dealt with CFD analysis of heat pipe. Initially, the supervisor seemed to have knowledge of CFD theory and using softwares. Eventually after continuing to work for some weeks, I realised that the supervisor definitely had no knowledge of CFD. I worked quite hard, for 13 hrs a day to get the analysis working. Even after that the supervisor was never convinced with the results. Some of our technical interactions were as follows:1. If a pipe is laid horizontal, gravity is neglected (emails). In CFD it is upto the person to decide whether to neglect gravity or not.2. I had to validate Hagen poisellie equation with CFD data. The dimensions were given by the supervisor. The pipe considered for analysis was small for flow to be completely developed. Hence CFD could not match with analytical. I was blamed for not having proper knowledge to run the software (emails).3. The project required the model to be setup on CFD software. Since I was not getting any help from the guide, I had to do a lot of literature review on how to make the model run on CFD softwares. This went unnoticed by the supervisor.4. In one of the concluding discussions, I received the comment wherein particles of nano scale were getting stuck in conduit of micron scale(email). Micron scale is 1000 times larger than nano scale. Again this was blamed on me to look up correctly.Since my supervisor did not understand the project I had to pay the price. My overall gpa without project was 3.55 which was first class. But after getting B3 in project, this dropped to 3.23. The supervisor till date does not understand the complexity and intricacies involved in the project. After getting A1 in CFD as well as heat transfer, I do not think I could have done anything more to understand this project.I could not get any help in this during the masters. This left a scar on my profile for life. I can only suggest to do a thorough background of the supervisor as well. Though I am not the only one and see a lot of PhD/Masters students face this. The world is big enough to neglect these trivial grades and move ahead.
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