“PGR Students Owe a Debt”

PGR students believe they owe a debt to their supervisors / lab heads and must, therefore, devote time to their supervisor’s projects at the expense of their own research and wellbeing.

Sometimes PGR students can feel obligated to their supervisor, lab head or principal investigator and believe they owe them a debt. Of course, this is often a natural and human response. You may feel grateful that your supervisor accepted you as a PGR candidate or that they have been very supportive of you and your research. This does not, however, mean that you should sacrifice your own wellbeing or degree to support their work.

PGR students are not indentured labour. It is not ok for anyone to expect or to push you to work on their project for free. The point of you being in university is to get a research Masters or a PhD. This is the work to which you have committed yourself. You are not obliged to take on additional work that does not form part of your research, other than work for which you have a paid contract (e.g. for teaching).

Of course, there may be opportunities to participate in other research that you want to take up. The research may be exciting or may help you build skills or your CV. This is fine, as long as it doesn’t impact negatively on you or your own research. The key point being that this is your choice and something you can freely decide to take on or decline.

If you feel that you are being pushed to take on extra work that is having a negative effect, raise this with your supervisor and be clear that it is not something that you can do. If this does not resolve the situation, speak to your Student Union or Guild and raise the issue through the processes at your university. It may help if a number of you can raise the issue together.

This will not prevent you from completing your research degree successfully or from having a career in academia.

Your wellbeing is important and you are entitled to expect that your university will support you to maintain your health and progress on your own research project. No one is entitled to place additional burdens on you – no matter how much they believe that this is just how things work. 

Prioritise your wellbeing and your research and be confident that this is justified and that you are right to do so.