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How to deal with failing a student?

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User

( 3 months ago )


I supervise a student who is working on her bachelor's thesis. The problem is that she has not delivered anything, never asks for any help, and when I offer her some help she claims that she understands and she will work on it. But nothing really happens afterwards. We (me and my supervisor) talked to her multiple times in different 'intervention'-like sessions, with no success. Now it is the end of the semester and she has done no more than 10% of her assigned tasks.

Also, she never delivers what I ask for, even the most basic of things. For example, all students are supposed to hand in their time plan within two weeks of their work, but she has never handed it in, despite my (and my supervisor's) repeated requests. Not only does handing in a time plan help to keep track of one's work, it is also part of our grading scheme. And she knows about that, since we are very transparent about how grading of the thesis works, by giving the students our grading excel sheet before they even sign up for a thesis with us. Nevertheless, she didn't bother handing a time plan in.

All the other students in our institute have their final presentations next week, and even though she knew of it, she was asking for an extension. When I refused that via email (I saw no reason to give her an extension), she just dropped in, claimed that she is not prepared for a final presentation, and that I have to give her an extension and so on. I eventually gave her an extension, because she was extremely stressed and not in normal conditions, was almost breaking into tears, and most importantly made a scene in the institute hall. I played a little tough though, by asking her to give me an exact delivery date within two days.

I have even asked my colleagues and fellow PhD students multiple times if they think there is something wrong with my supervision of her, but they always assured me that there is nothing wrong with that and it's about her personality/character (we have a very transparent culture in our group, so we criticize each other openly). Also, my former students gave positive feedback to my adviser regarding my supervision. I even made my supervisor ask her privately about quality of my supervision, and she gave him positive feedback!

Moreover, she also has an exercise class with me, and she was the only student playing computer games on the lab computer instead of working on her exercise. She knew that I (her thesis supervisor) can see her, but she didn't bother. That, I have to say, was the last nail in the coffin.

Given this background, I already know that she cannot (will not) deliver, no matter how much time I gave her. Thus, she will almost certainly fail her thesis. But on the other hand I feel very bad failing a student in her first big project, especially since if she fails she will probably need to study one more semester to finish her studies.

Now I am struggling with these three options:

  • Wait for two days, and if she doesn't give me an exact delivery date (which she probably won't), just give her a fail grade.
  • Give her an extension for ten days or two weeks, and then grade her based on what she delivers eventually, which most probably is a fail grade anyhow.
  • Give her a longer extension, long enough for her to pass the thesis.

I would be glad if anyone can give me some recommendations on how to deal with this situation.

PS: For all people asking if I was allowed to give her an extension: Of course I was. Otherwise I would have a very good reason for refusing her request. In our university supervisors have lots of freedom in how they want to deal with their students.

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User

( 3 months ago )

Wait for two days, and if she doesn't give me an exact delivery date (which she probably won't), just give her a fail grade.

Given that you already agreed to this extension, this is the only option you have. Do this.

Honestly, you should not even have agreed to this extension. I understand that you were under stress when you agreed to it, but students making a scene will happen more often to you in the future, and at some point you will get inured to it.


I feel very bad failing a student in her first big project, especially since if she fails she probably need to study one more semester to finish her studies.

This seems to be your real question. Unfortunately, there is really no way around this dilemma. If someone persistently does not deliver assignments and refuses all offers of help, failing them is the only option. Anything else will make a mockery of the entire system of higher education. (And be sure that other students will notice.)

Look at it this way: if you pass her, and she gets a degree, what will her employer do with her if she continues this way? They will fire her, and quickly so.


It appears that this students needs some serious help and counselling. It appears like you already did all you could do in this regard. I would recommend that you wait for two days, fail her if she does not hand in the date, and write up an explanation like you did here. Send this explanation to her in writing. Explain that it appears she is not ready to take a course like yours. Direct her to any counselling resources available at your institution. Keep a copy of this explanation for your file, in case she escalates this to your department head/dean/whatever.

Then do not enter into any further discussions with her, unless she retakes your course.

what's your interest


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