Somewhere between 25–50% of candidates don’t complete their PhD. Sometimes not completing a PhD is the rational choice, and having open conversations around it helps stop people feeling isolated and uncertain, I argued in a recent article for the THE.
Supervisors, candidates and universities need to be more open to having conversations about quitting. Why do candidates choose to quit, how many people do so and what happens to them afterwards? It’s almost impossible to get detailed, accurate data about completion rates. People who quit leave the university and, therefore, we often don’t see what they do next. If we don’t talk openly about stopping, people who are considering it feel isolated and uncertain. But it isn’t rare, and supervisors are in a privileged position to recognise the signs early – and then, as appropriate, support their candidates as they successfully navigate away from the PhD.