When you apply to the university of your choice to study for a PhD, you will initially be accepted as an MPhil student. This is standard practice and of no cause for concern. Though you are officially an MPhil student, the title is largely ignored, as many universities will treat you as a PhD candidate. The only exception to this practice is the PhD upgrade process. Depending on the discipline and the university, the PhD upgrade process is usually completed after 9 to 24 months of study and, if successfully completed, marks the point at which you are formally accepted as a PhD candidate. The reason behind this approach is that it provides the university the opportunity to formally scrutinise the quality of your work and to ensure that you are capable of producing a thesis of the standard required to be awarded the PhD.
The precise timing of the process will depend on when your supervisor believes you are ready and requires the submission of an upgrade report that explains your research, the work you have already done, and the plan you have for future work. The university may require you to submit samples of your work towards the PhD. There may also be an oral examination (viva voce) before the upgrade panel, which will subsequently allow you to upgrade or refer you for a set period followed by a repeat examination. Following a repeat exam, the board may then refuse to allow you to upgrade, although you should be permitted to continue as an MPhil candidate.
The PhD Consultancy can help you navigate all aspects of the PhD upgrade process, including the completion of any written work and practice for the oral examination, or any other presentations you may be required to give. In future articles, we will consider various elements of the upgrade process in more detail.