Upgrade MPhil to PhD

Upgrade Panel

The decision on whether to upgrade students from M. Phil. to PhD status or be advised to withdraw, is explicitly governed by UCL regulations. The principal purposes of the upgrade procedure are to ascertain whether the Student can:

a) communicate their research in writing and orally,

b) ‘defend’ their research programme,

c) be aware of their subject area and related fields.

The upgrade procedure is a key element of monitoring. It is intended to highlight any deficiencies and provide an opportunity to amend them. In order to be upgraded, the Student has to meet with their Upgrade Panel (UP). The Thesis Committee (TC) can also be the Upgrade Panel (UP). Under UCL Doctoral School rules, the Primary Supervisor should provide input via a written upgrade report on the Student’s work,  which must be submitted in advance of the upgrade viva to the Upgrade Panel and the Student. The Primary Supervisor cannot be a member of the UP.

In GEE, the UP can have the same composition as the student’s TC but the department reserves the right to draft in additional academic staff to take part in the upgrade evaluation and ensure sufficient objectivity in the decision.

Upgrade Meeting

PhD Students are required to submit a formal report to the UP. For details see Biosciences Programme Booklet_MPhil/PhD 2015-16 (.pdf) and also: Guidelines for Upgrade from MPhil to PhD (.pdf) , Guidelines for upgrade (web)

Also, the Student must give a formal presentation (~15 mins.) to the UP at the upgrade meeting.

There are two upgrade opportunities: a first attempt at 9-14 months (the student should ideally submit their report by 12 months at the latest so giving time to organise the UG meeting) and, if the student fails the first attempt, the second between 18-24 months for full-time students. The period between the first and second attempt should normally be no more than 6 months.

A Student who fails the first upgrade will be given a set of goals to be achieved by the second upgrade. A Student that fails the second upgrade will only be able to submit their work as an MPhil.

Note that the great majority of Students are upgraded without any significant problems, at the first opportunity.


The UP has the lead responsibility for whether to upgrade a Student. The decision will take account of the Student’s upgrade report, oral presentation, viva and an upgrade report from the Primary Supervisor. The written recommendation of the UP will be communicated to the Student, Primary Supervisor and Departmental Graduate Tutor. To this effect, once the upgrade has been completed satisfactorily, the UP members should  fill out the Panel Upgrade Report obtain the Graduate Tutor’s signature and provide a hard copy to the Post Graduate Administrator. The Student must also upload an electronic version of this form on their E-Log.


If there is a serious disagreement between the UP and the Primary Supervisor that cannot be resolved by the Departmental Graduate Tutor, the case will be referred to the Faculty Graduate Tutor for Research Degrees. Similarly, if a Student rejects the decision of the UP, the matter will be referred to the Departmental Graduate Tutor and if necessary to the Faculty Graduate Tutor for Research Degrees.

Page last modified on 11 feb 16 10:45