English Department Upgrading from MPhil to PhD The Upgrade

English Department
Upgrading from MPhil to PhD
The Upgrade Review occurs as part of the process of evaluating your progress during your time as a
research student. The Upgrade takes place within 9 to 18 months of your registration (or pro rata for
part-time students) and is considered a formal review, which will usually include your primary and
secondary supervisors plus another member of the department. The key principle for upgrading is
that the student is deemed to be on course to produce research of the required standard within the
permitted timescale. Beyond that, the upgrade meeting often provides an important moment for
students to discuss broadly the shape of their project and often very helpful advice, practical and
otherwise, is a useful result of the meeting.
You should plan to upgrade at the end of your first year and discuss this with your supervisor well in
advance. Some projects may require you to upgrade slightly later, but this can be discussed with
your supervisors and be part of your planning.
There are three possible outcomes for the upgrade review:
1) upgrade the student effective immediately
2) defer the decision for a defined period, subject to the student meeting conditions for
upgrade set by the review panel. This usually means redrafting, revising of some sort,
although it can mean more extensive research and rewriting.
3) a refusal to upgrade the student’s registration. Full reasons will be given in writing for the
The English Department requires you to submit the following portfolio:
* an abstract of about 250 words
* an outline of the chapters of your thesis
* around 10,000 words of writing intended for inclusion in your thesis – likely, work you’ve
done on a single chapter. A critical review of literature can be appended, beyond the 10,000 words.
* a timetable for completion – helpful for mapping out the future, and it might include
significant conferences you plan to attend, work as a GTA, periods away doing archival research, or
anything significant that you ought to factor into your progress over the next couple of years
The Upgrade Review is run akin to the viva, in that you will have two readers who do not know your
work closely discussing your portfolio with you. While your supervisor will be present, s/he will not
lead the upgrade discussion but will helpfully take notes of important things discussed. There is a
College form that needs to be completed documenting the outcome of the process and you will
usually receive a report from the upgraders.
Who organizes the Upgrade Review?
Your will discuss with your supervisor when it is appropriate for you to submit your work for
upgrading. It is up to your supervisor, not you, to arrange for readers for the upgrade. College
regulations require you to have upgraded within 9-18 months after your registration, though in most
cases, the upgrade takes place around the 9 to 12 month period.
What are upgraders ‘looking for’?
Upgraders simply wish to see a student who is working well at doctoral level and can demonstrate
that s/he has the skills required to complete the PhD on time. No two doctoral projects are exactly
alike, but there are core skills you need to be able to demonstrate: scholarship; a sensible
methodology; the ability to sustain an extended argument; etc. All of these are things that you will
have discussed in some form with your supervisor, so there’s nothing to fear!
What if I fail?
You don’t ‘pass’ or ‘fail’, as such. The most likely outcomes are that you will either be upgraded
immediately as a result of the upgrade review, OR, that you will be asked to revise some part of your
portfolio, within a specified time period, before the upgrade is approved. In rare occasions, upgrader
reviews can recommend immediate withdrawal, but this is extremely rare.
May I appeal a decision?
Students cannot appeal the decision of the first upgrade review. If the upgrade panel, which includes
your supervisor, agrees that revisions are required, then you are expected to undertake them. If at
some point in the process you are recommended for withdrawal, then you have the right to appeal
according to College regulations.
What about part-time students?
Everything applies equally to part-time students, except the timing for upgrade. The deadline for
upgrading for part-time students is 36 months instead of 18 months, and students should start the
upgrade process between 18 and 24 months.