Statement regarding termination of PhD studies case

The University does not normally comment on individual cases where a complaint or grievance has been raised. However, details of a recent case concerning the termination of studies of a PhD student have been made public by other parties and the University wishes to clarify the record in regard to this matter.

We want our students to succeed and give them the support and guidance that gives them the best chance to do so. Any degree, particularly a doctorate, is a mark of academic achievement and therefore requires high academic standards. On occasion, and even with dedicated support, individuals are not able to reach the high academic standards that it is incumbent on us to set as a university. 

The recent case is one of those occasions: an international student had not satisfactorily met the academic requirements of their studies, despite extensive support.  In these situations, an academic decision is made on an individual student’s likelihood to succeed on the basis of their academic progress to date.

A number of accusations have been made regarding the level of support provided to the student by the University.

The student was in receipt of personal support through the University’s Disability Services at a cost of several tens of thousands of pounds, including provision of a sighted guide and sighted reader support, IT equipment, dedicated software and one-to-one training in the use of that software.

The student was provided with an appropriate supervisory team from the outset, with relevant expertise in the subject area of the research proposal.  Changes to this team were made twice: firstly, on the student’s own request, and secondly as a result of a change of focus of the original research proposal.  Supervisors provided extensive commentary and guidance on the student’s work, meeting regularly as a collective team as well as individually with the student.

In view of financial difficulties resulting from the depreciation of the student’s home currency, the University agreed to a revised payment plan for tuition fees.  The student also benefitted from funding from a national trust for students with disabilities.  

The University granted several extensions to study deadlines, in view of some IT challenges experienced by the student, that were quickly resolved by replacing equipment, and also following periods of ill-health. Every encouragement was given to the student to assist them in progressing their academic work.

We are disappointed this has not resulted in a more positive outcome, as we are for any student who does not achieve academic success.  Nonetheless, the University is satisfied that the decision to terminate the student’s studies was made solely on the basis of a lack of academic progress against a background of extensive and dedicated support.

The University regrets that, under immigration rules beyond the University’s control, this means that the student is expected to leave the country. 

The University has an obligation to ensure that academic standards are consistently applied so that the value of a University of Dundee degree is consistently maintained.  It would be wrong to permit a student to continue on a programme when these standards have not been met.

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