Navigating the Academic Seas: A Scientific Exploration of PhD Attrition and Support Structures

“This scientific blog authored by a doctoral researcher delves into the odyssey that is the pursuit of a PhD, dissecting the myriad factors that influence the ultimate destination—whether it be triumphant completion or an abandoned endeavor. Written in the format most aligned to a researcher i.e. a scientific article, this exploration aims to unravel the complexities of the doctoral journey.”

Abstract: Undertaking a PhD journey mirrors navigating uncharted waters, where challenges and uncertainties abound. This article scientifically probes the complexities of PhD attrition and underscores the pivotal role of support systems, akin to guiding stars, in ensuring academic success.


Embarking on the arduous journey of pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is akin to setting sail on an uncharted sea, where the promise of discovery is tempered by the looming specter of uncertainty. In this voyage of intellectual exploration, aspiring scholars navigate through the turbulent waters of academic rigor, propelled by the winds of ambition and guided by the stars of knowledge. Yet, amidst the allure of scholarly achievement lies the stark reality of attrition—a formidable adversary that threatens to thwart even the most steadfast of academic voyagers.

This scientific exploration endeavors to delve into the intricate dynamics of PhD attrition, illuminating the multifaceted factors that contribute to the departure of aspiring scholars from the shores of academia. Beyond mere statistical analysis, this examination seeks to unravel the underlying complexities of attrition, offering insights into the nuanced interplay of personal, academic, and institutional forces that shape the trajectory of doctoral study.

Understanding PhD Attrition: PhD attrition emerges as a significant challenge, with nearly 50% of aspiring scholars abandoning their doctoral pursuits. This paper elucidates the multifaceted factors contributing to attrition, emphasizing the need for a nuanced understanding beyond conventional notions of failure.

Challenges Faced by Doctoral Candidates:
In the academic seas, doctoral candidates find themselves at the helm of the ship, navigating turbulent waters alone. The relentless passage of time tests scholars’ resolve and perseverance as they grapple with the demands of research, writing, and scholarly inquiry. Academic scrutiny, self-doubt, and the relentless pursuit of perfectionism create waves of uncertainty, threatening to capsize even the most steadfast academic voyager. Moreover, the absence of robust support systems exacerbates these challenges, leaving scholars adrift in a sea of solitude. As they confront the vast expanse of academia, doctoral candidates must chart their course with courage and determination, facing the challenges of the journey head-on while seeking refuge in the guiding lights of supportive structures.

The Supporting Framework:

  1. The Supportive Supervisor:
    • As the seasoned navigator, the supportive supervisor guides scholars through academic waters, offering counsel and encouragement.
    • Providing invaluable guidance, constructive feedback, and unwavering support, supervisors steer scholars toward success.
  2. Peers and Colleagues:
    • In solidarity, peers and colleagues offer companionship and support, bolstering scholars amidst adversity.
    • Through shared experiences, scholars forge bonds of resilience and collective strength.

The Imperative of Self-Care: Self-care emerges as a crucial component. Scholars must replenish their reserves to weather the storms of doctoral study. Embracing self-care fosters resilience and fortitude, essential for academic success.

Conclusion: In navigating the academic seas, scholars must harness the guiding lights of supportive structures. By embracing supportive supervisors, fostering camaraderie with peers, and prioritizing self-care, scholars chart a course toward academic success amidst the turbulent waters of doctoral study.


  1. Bowen, W. G., & Rudenstine, N. L. (1992). In Pursuit of the PhD. Princeton University Press.
  2. Lovitts, B. E. (2001). Leaving the Ivory Tower: The Causes and Consequences of Departure from Doctoral Study. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  3. Nerad, M., & Miller, D. S. (1996). Increasing Student Completion Rates in Higher Education: An Annotated Bibliography and Literature Review. ERIC.
  4. Walker, G. E., Golde, C. M., Jones, L., Bueschel, A. C., & Hutchings, P. (2008). The Formation of Scholars: Rethinking Doctoral Education for the Twenty-First Century. Jossey-Bass.

By Chayan Bishayee

Chayan Bishayee is ESR10 and his research project is titled “Laser sealing of polymer microfluidic chips for bioapplications”.