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The PhD upgrade and why you should not worry

Undertaking a PhD is a significant commitment, both in time and money. It is, therefore, only natural for a doctoral candidate to be concerned about the various hurdles that he or she must jump in completing a PhD. Following acceptance by the chosen university, the first major hurdle is the PhD upgrade or transfer process. The PhD upgrade is an internal examination designed to allow the university a formal opportunity to confirm your suitability as a PhD candidate and must be successfully completed to allow you to transfer from your initial registration as an MPhil candidate, to a full-fledged PhD candidate.

The upgrade process takes place usually between nine and eighteen months after starting the research project. By this stage, you will have put in a substantial amount of time, effort and emotion into your research. Because of this, the upgrade process can loom large and become a source of immense stress. It is easy to think of the possibility of failing and not being allowed to continue. It should, however, be remembered that your department and your university will want you to successfully complete the process. The aim is not to prevent transfer, but to ensure that you will be capable of achieving the quality of work necessary to be awarded a PhD. While it has a summative aspect, the emphasis is formative. Thus, only candidates who fall far short of the standard will be denied the upgrade.

Those candidates who fall short of the standard required will be given feedback and support to enable them to successfully complete the process at the second attempt. This should not be seen as a failure, or even as detrimental to one’s studies. On the contrary, the process should be seen as formative, providing useful guidance on the standard and endeavour required to successfully complete the PhD. It should, if approached as a formative exercise, put you in a stronger position to successfully complete your studies. It is a process to be embraced rather than one to get overly stressed about. Furthermore, successful transfer is the norm and it is rare (about 1-2%) for candidates to fall at this hurdle.

If you need help or support with your thesis, including the upgrade process, the PhD Consultancy has a wide range of experts who can provide assistance.

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