Transfer from MPhil to PhD

All new students who register for doctoral study within the College of Humanities are required to register initially as MPhil students, with an expectation that they will be transferred to PhD registration during their second year of study, subject to meeting certain requirements and making satisfactory academic progress.

Requests to transfer from MPhil to PhD are normally considered on the recommendation of your first supervisor, although the PGR Support Team will prompt you and your supervisor at the appropriate time. Normally all requests to transfer should be made during the first term of the second year (the 4th term) of full-time study or the third year (the 7th term) of part-time study. Those who start at other times of the year will have their transfers scheduled as appropriate. 

Students are allowed two possible attempts at transfer to PhD, the period between the first and second attempt should normally be no more than 3 months. A second attempt at the transfer must have taken place by the end of the second year of full-time study or the fourth year of part-time study.

Funded students

Doctoral students in receipt of funding, either from the College of Humanities or a Research Council, for their studies are required to have upgraded to PhD before they enter their final year of funding or their funding will be withdrawn.

All students requesting an upgrade from MPhil to PhD shall be assessed viva voce by at least two members of the University’s academic staff, one of whom will normally be the Discipline Director of Postgraduate Research, although it is expected that the DPGR will delegate this role to another member of staff when a large number os students in that discipline will be going through upgrade. One member of the upgrade panel will be designated as lead, and they will be responsible for organising the upgrade meeting. The panel must be independent of the supervisory team but your lead supervisor should attend the meeting as an observer. To allow you to make any comments you wish to the upgrade panel without your supervisor being present, you shall always be invited to talk with the panel after your supervisor is asked to leave. 

The panel will read in advance of the viva the written work submitted by you and a progress report submitted by your lead supervisor. 

Please note that sitting on your upgrade panel does not normally preclude an academic member of staff from going on to act as your internal examiner. 

The purpose of the transfer process is to assess your progress and ability to complete your PhD programme in a reasonable time frame. The panel will establish whether you have produced work of sufficient quantity and quality to suggest that you can achieve the standard required for a PhD. In particular they will consider if you a) understand the research question(s) b) have an appropriate understanding of the relevant scholarly literature c) have demonstrated capability to conduct the research d) have a realistic research plan and schedule and e) can deliver at PhD level. 

The transfer process is intended to be a ‘formative’ process for you. That is, the transfer panel should aim to use the process to help you develop and improve your thesis and professional skills, rather than simply to sit in judgment. The viva voce is in particular an opportunity for you to experience speaking about and defending your work in front of an academic panel, in preparation for your final viva voce. 

Students are required to submit the following for consideration by the interview panel:

In total, 15-20,000 words should be submitted. This should comprise:

A draft abstract of the thesis (up to 300 words).  This should describe your research in terms that can be understood by a non-specialist.

An extended proposal (5,000 words or above). This should cover the following areas:

 a) Research questions. What are the main issues that your thesis will address? What are the hypotheses that you wish to test? (Note: at this stage you will not necessarily know the answers to all your research questions. Part of the purpose of this exercise is to identify issues thrown up by your research that will need to be addressed in the completed thesis.)

 b) Research context. Which scholars have written on these issues before? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the existing literature? Does it contain errors, omissions, or both? What opportunities are there for your thesis to correct these?

c) Methodology. What resources/evidence are you using in your research? (For example: archival material, web-based material, databases, interviews.) How will these materials help you to address your research questions? Are there any novel aspects to your methods, and is there any particular guidance that you require? Are there any ethical issues arising from your research that still need to be addressed?

Chapter-by-chapter outline of the thesis. This may be in continuous prose, bullet-points, or a combination of the two.

Timetable for completion of the thesis (including any corrections to be made post-viva) within four years from the date of initial registration (seven years part time).

One substantive chapter of Ph.D. standard material (10,000 words or above). 

For students studying on a ‘by practice’ basis please see section 15.5 Transfer from MPhil to PhD for ‘by Practice’ programmes below for details about what you will be required to provide as part your submission to transfer to PhD in place of the substantive chapter.

You will upload these documents to MyPGR, as prompted by the PGR Support Team, at least two weeks before the transfer interview.  These will then be forwarded on to your panel by the PGR Support Team. The PGR Support Team will also request a report on your work from your lead supervisor and they will send this on to your panel in advance of your transfer viva. The lead panel member will contact you within one week of receipt of your upgrade documents, to agree a date for the review meeting. The panel meeting will normally take place within one month of the panel receiving the documents. 


Following the transfer interview, the panel will complete a transfer report form stating their recommendations and submit this to the PGR Support Team. The three possible outcomes at the first attempt are that the candidate be:

  1. Allowed to transfer their registration to PhD
  2. Be allowed to transfer their registration to PhD subject to the completion of the identified corrections and/or amendments by the following date___________* (to be within two months)
  3. That a second attempt at upgrade be allowed (to be within three months). 

If the outcome is a second attempt (C) the form must indicate the conditions to be assessed by the re-sit transfer process and whether a second viva voce is required. An upgrade viva would not normally required for a second attempt at upgrade, however it is at the discretion of the panel should they wish to hold one. A second upgrade viva must be held however if the panel are inclined to recommend that you must remain at MPhil level.  

You will be informed via email, by the PGR Support Team, of the outcome of your transfer interview.  Your supervisor will be copied in on this correspondence. 

If the recommendation is that you pass unconditionally, you will be notified via email of your official transfer to PhD and your lead supervisor will be copied in on this correspondence. Your official student record will also be updated. 

Where a re-sit is required, you will be informed by email by the PGR Support Team and a copy will also be sent to your lead supervisor. 

The three possible outcomes at a second attempt are that the candidate be:

A)     Allowed to transfer their registration to PhD

B)     Be allowed to transfer their registration to PhD subject to the completion of the identified corrections and/or amendments by the following date        *(to be within two months)

C)     Required to remain registered as an MPhil student 

You will be informed via email, by the PGR Support Team, of the outcome of your transfer interview.  Your supervisor will be copied in on this correspondence.