This is not my directly personal situation, but that of a family member who is to start a Master’s program (natural science), in Canada. You are, as a rule of thumb, admitted with your advisors specified on the offer of admission.

Their primary advisor (with whom I happen to have professional ties) has abruptly resigned from the university to take an administrative position elsewhere. For them, it is a great career move. However, this advisor is contractually unable to start new projects in January, so they have dropped the family member as a student. The secondary advisor appears to have done the same because they lack expertise in half of the project area. The primary advisor further says that the project is cancelled; the project was in collaboration with a government body which would have provided funding.

From what I’ve gathered so far, it might be possible to get the collaboration going if another prof would be supervising but it looks like a Hail Mary option. The department that Master’s was to be done in is very small and the profs have fairly different areas of expertise. Going with a different advisor and project would mean (a) finding funding in three weeks (b) a radical shift in research area and (c) finding a prof who can take on an extra student.

This opportunity arose slightly in part from my ties to the original primary advisor. I would be able to advise my family member during the Master’s based on my expertise in the field (this is the field of expertise that the original secondary adviser lacks, whereas I have a Ph.D. in the broad topic) but a formal supervision, aside from my not having any formal link to the university, is completely out of the question! So, if a prof could be found that would be comfortable with such an arrangement where I informally assist my family member with the parts that the adviser (original secondary or otherwise) is shaky on, that could be an option. And precisely for this reason everything seems like a Hail Mary!

As it stands so right now, my family member is being completely screwed over by the original primary advisor out of the money and an education. I have in addition advised my family member to go see the university’s ombudsman to see what they think or advise. Otherwise, I myself am out of ideas, because the options I can think of so far are long-shot Hail Marys.

What else can be done here?

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