Options For ABD Students Wanting To Complete PhD

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by RJSPILLERE, Apr 30, 2010.


    RJSPILLERE New Member

    I was recently told that I would not be granted an extension to complete my PhD, despite that fact that I am ABD and have written the dissertation (~400 pages), which admittedly requires some revisions. This is because of the new, tough stance the school I was attending (in Boston) has adopted.

    My dissertation deals with the WTO and its effect on social justice. I wrote it while enrolled in a program known as Law, Policy, and Society (an interdisciplinary program).

    With the above in mind, I am writing to ask if anyone is aware of what options are available to me. I am looking for accredited universities (in the US or outside) willing to consider the work I've done and, if satisfactory, award me a PhD.

    I would appreciate any and all help that is offered.

    Thank you.
  2. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    I'd be surprised if you find a US university that will go along with your plan. Mostly they want the work done under their (virtual) roof. Maybe the folks at PhinisheD can help.

  3. AUTiger00

    AUTiger00 New Member

    Is there anyway to challenge their decision or take it to the university's ombudsman? Having come so far in the program I have to assume you could make a case for the extension. Could the issue be settled through mediation?
    Feel free not to answer, but are you at NEU? I only ask because I live in Boston as well and know they have a Law, Policy and Government program.
  4. major56

    major56 Active Member

  5. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    That's insanity... how can you go that far and have them refuse to give you a degree? It's like ordering from a restaurant, paying your bill upfront, sitting around for an hour only to be told that you will not be receiving your food after all. OR, getting on a plane from Chicago to Florida, disbording and being told that you have just arrived back in Chicago. Only worse, because the expense of time is even greater by ten thousand fold.

    How can a school get away with such nonsense? I will add this to the list of reasons why I will *clears throat*


    go for a Doctorate.
  6. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    Please pardon the metaphor:

    Most doctoral students are able to maintain a high GPA average, to include a 4.0, up until the dissertation stage comes into play -- and then the rigor begins. The fact is that anywhere from 50% to 70% of all doctoral candidates hit an impassable brick wall during the dissertation phase. That is exactly why the doctorate has the mystique that it does. It's ugly for those who hit the insurmountable brick wall and it's prestigious for those who barely manage to crawl over it. Either way, it's an ugly process for all, to include those who make it. The mystique is unlikely to be demystified.
  7. novemberdude

    novemberdude New Member

    Of course you will have to contact various universities to find out their actual policies. As John Bear points out on this board from time to time, there are rules, and there are exceptions to the rules.

    Having said that, most universities are not in the habit of awarding doctorates unless you have been enrolled with that university and supervised by faculty with that university for a period of time.

    At the same time you concede that your thesis requires revisions. And it weighs in at around 400 pages. This is about the right length for a pure research doctorate from an English university. So if I were you I'd start shopping it to the English schools. Plan A would be to get them to accept it with minor revisions and grant the doctorate. That might be optimistic. Plan B would be to get them to take yo uas some sort of transfer student and finish in 18-24 months with substantial revisions, which might be more realistic. Plan C is see if you can do substantial revisions but spread it over a longer period to make the school feel better. Plan D could potentially be considered academically dishonest, but it would be to go with a research proposal based on what you've written and feed them the dissertation piecemeal, not letting them know that it was already written. The only reason I bring this up is that some schools have regulations against accepting work/research done prior to your registration with them.

    I would suggest approaching appropriate supervisors within the universities and seeing what their reactions are like, and gauge it from there.

    The downside is that English research doctorates for foreign students are not particulary inexpensive, particularly if you have to make visits. I had done the calculation on it at one point and if memory serves for a full PhD you'd be looking at something like US$40,000, possibly more. If you can get them to run with a shorter program it will be less of course.

    The South African Universities might be a less expensive option, but I really don't know much about that area so others would b better equipped to give advice there.

    Final note is that I graduated from Northumbria university. It would be worth contacting them about your project, they have the largest law faculty in the North East of England so can supervise a wide range of subjects assuming a law faculty would be the best in which to base your research). I know that they have a pretty progressive attitude toward distance learning. The willingness to accept a pure DL doctoral student might be influenced by the supervisor, but I had someone willing to do it for me. Unfortunately it is not a well known school, nor particularly highly ranked. Given the choice you would certainly be better off graduating from an Edinburgh or a LSE or about 30 other UK universities, I suggest Northumbria only because I know they have shown a willingness to be accommodating in the past. A number of other English schools I contacted told me flat out no, or required a minimum of 4 months residency, or other deal breaking criteria.

    Best of luck, I hope you are able to resolve things with your present university, that would be your best route.
  8. Shawn Ambrose

    Shawn Ambrose New Member

    I'm assuming that you are at the 7 year mark, correct me if I am wrong.

    If the diss is done and needs revision, you need to exhaust every remedy at your school for reconsideration. Is your chair in your corner or not? If so, have the chair fight for you.

    You need to take your appeal to the highest level in the school, because as other posters on the board have pointed out, the likelihood of you transferring your dissertation somewhere else is remote.

    Good luck.

  9. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator

    You said it! My chair just dropped and I had to scrabble to find a committee member to replace him as chair and a new commitee member to add. This is after I submitted several versions of my final to the chair and made the changes he recommended. Now do not get me wrong, he had a good reason to drop so I do not blame him. He used to respond within 24 hours to everything and the new chair is a little slower...when he responds I can better judge his response time...7 days and counting...

    The point - it is hard and a test of nerves.
  10. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    I consider it academically dishonest that a person could spend several years of his life going for a doctorate and never have the chance to finish it. Unless I had to flat-out lie about it, my conscience wouldn't bother me about doing this.

    Seeing people scarfing down dozens upon dozens of hot dogs doesn't add to the mystique of the Nathan's contest, nor does seeing deserving people fail due to a school's policy of perpetuating it's own importance add to its mystique for me. A doctorate shouldn't be easy by any means, and if one proves to be incapable of creating a worthy piece of research, then of course, they should fail. But that one could complete the entire coursework, have a dissertation ready (revisions or not) and walk away COMPLETELY empty-handed is an absolute joke of the unfunny sort. No consolation prize? No second chances? No uproar? Right...

    I fully expect many of you to think that I feel this way simply because I am not of the academic world (in fact, the vice versa is true). Some of you may chuckle at what you perceive to be my ignorance on matters doctoral. However, and I absolutely mean this exactly as stated, literally, and without reservation: if you disagree with me on this point, you have been brainwashed.
  11. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator

    Never have a chance...sounds like they had years to finish it.

    Two things:
    1) If there is a timeline to complete the program and you are not done...you are not done and it is over. Rules are in place for reasons. Harsh but true.

    2) Do you accept this as the "whole truth" from someone that has posted twice? Not saying more posts make someone more honest but come on. And "...have written the dissertation..." does not mean any part of it has been accepted. I was ABD when the Concept Paper was accepted but that is very far from the end.
  12. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    1) No, some rules are not there for a reason, and some rules are not there for any good reason.

    "Harsh but true."

    I'm not crying on behalf of anyone. If one decides to go for a doctorate, such one has none to blame but himself if all of his work goes down the toilet. Afterall, no one forced him to do it. It's like a pedestrian who gets hit by a car going in the wrong direction on the highway. The driver was in the wrong, but what the heck was the pedestrian doing there anyway?! So you become human road kill. Harsh but true.

    2) Not at all, I was answering the hypothetical possibility that his story is completely true. It wouldn't be the first time in history that it happened.

    This sounds like more and more hot dogs being shoved down the throat. This thread is making me want to vomit.
  13. LadyExecutive

    LadyExecutive Member

    I wouldn't give up. I simply would not give up, regardless of what rules are in place. I would exhaust every avenue. I would contact foreign 'accredited' schools; specifically in Africa, England and Australia. I would beg and borrow and do whatever I have to. The degree may not be a Harvard level degree but it would be better than what you have now. I'd contact department heads and program chairs, and presidents of smaller schools or less notable schools, explain my plight and pray. I lick stamps, send emails to no end and then pray some more. I'll do a quick search and see what I can find.

    Don't give up!
  14. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator

    I conpletely agree. I would also know what the timeline was when I started the program. If you are coming to the end, speed it up!
  15. consultco

    consultco New Member

  16. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    The same thing happened to me e.g. one-by-one I slowly lost ALL of my committee members for various reasons -- and then I had to find new committee members to replace them. It's very difficult to find a committee member who will jump in mid-stream into a dissertation that is halfway complete. If I could know in the beginning what I know now, I would have never pursued a dissertation. However, it would have been impossible to extinguish the hope and bullheaded determination that I had in the beginning. I'm glad that the 500 pound vicious flesh eating gorilla is off my back!!! :eek:
  17. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    The process you're describing is called "PhD by publication". In this process, you publish a certain number of articles in journals acceptable to the university, and on completion are awarded a PhD. A number of schools in the UK will consider this, although I believe that Scotland's University of Stirling is the friendliest toward the process.

    So, if you believe that your research is good enough that you can get it published in academic journals, this may be the best way for you to make lemonade out of this particular lemon.

    Of course, a doctorate from a British university is expensive. You could try South African universities as well, which would be a lot cheaper, but they're notoriously unresponsive.

    Good luck,

  18. novemberdude

    novemberdude New Member

    This is a really good point. I also know that Middlesex offers a doctorate (possibly a DProf) through publication.
  19. Stanislav

    Stanislav Well-Known Member

    You're right that "dissertation written" does not mean that it is acceptable. Even the page count means nothing. Nevertheless, if a student is in a full-time doctoral program, wrote 400 pages and it is all without academic merit, this is probably adviser's fault. If it DOES have merit and the committee is failing it on technicalities, not allowing the revisions to be done, that it is hugely unfair. I was allowed to remedy faults in my work (and it was substantially shorter than 400 pages).
  20. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    I think that Saybrook's innovative program has since been discontinued. I know of another school that was working on an ABD program, but the accreditor (SACS) has a requirement that at least 50% of a grad program's units must be done at the awarding school.

    If someone could come up with a viable ABD completion program, there would be a huge market for it.

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