Initially you are registered for the MPhil degree. If you wish to proceed to a PhD, your registration needs to be changed accordingly. The purpose of the upgrade is to assess progress and the ability to complete the PhD programme in the required time frame. For full-time students the upgrade to PhD occurs within 12-18 months from the start of your MPhil (in most cases that means an upgrade during the first or second term of year two). Part-time students, whose programme of study is typically five years, should upgrade within 20-30 months of their study, usually during the first or second term of the third year.
You have two possible attempts at upgrade. The period between first and second attempt should usually be no more than 6 months for full-time students and no more than 10 months for part-time students. You should have met both Supervisors during the term before upgrading. You should not use the upgrade meeting as an opportunity for a tutorial from your Subsidiary Supervisor. If you are transferring from other Universities and Departments, you are expected in normal circumstances to undertake the upgrading procedures regardless of whether you were upgraded in another institution.
Entering the upgrade procedure is conditional on completing the Graduate School’s Research Student Log and appropriate participation in the Skills training programme, including the Department’s Research Training Seminar (RTS) and seminars at the IHR, the ICS or other relevant institutions.
In advance of the upgrade procedure, the Principal Supervisor has to submit to the Graduate Tutor a formal report on your work, which is forwarded to the student and the upgrade panel.
The upgrade panel is appointed and chaired by the Graduate Tutor and includes the Second Supervisor and one other expert. The Principal Supervisor participates in the upgrade procedures as an observer.
The upgrade procedure has three elements: the submission of written work to the upgrade panel; a 20 minute oral presentation to the RTS, followed by discussion; and an interview with the upgrade panel.
1. The submission of written work to the upgrade committee
This must include:
- A short statement describing the project as a whole
- An outline of the chapters of the thesis
- A substantial piece of written work based on primary research and historiography (usually a chapter of about 10,000 words)
- A bibliography of essential primary and select secondary sources
- A timetable for completion
Lots of people choose to present the project outline and chapter description as a single document. That can work very well. One way to think of the outline is as a short draft (5-10 pages) of the introduction to the thesis as a whole. The introductory chapter typically consists of several sections (not necessarily in exactly this order):
a. a short statement of the research question and its importance;
b. a historiographical discussion of previous research on the topic and period, explaining what the key issues and debates have been, and the strengths and weaknesses of the various ‘schools’ of thought;
c. an explanation of the methodological principles underlying the thesis, and how they differ from and/or build on previous historians’ work;
d. the types of ancient sources used in the thesis, and their evidential strengths and weaknesses;
e. a synopsis of the thesis as a whole, explaining how the chapters fit together to construct an argument. So, if you aim to write 1-2 pages on each of these topics, you will have a robust project outline, which can also, when the time comes, serve as the basis for the introductory chapter of your thesis.
All the above must be approved by your Principal Supervisor prior to submission, and four copies delivered to the Graduate Programmes Administrator, at least one week before the RTS presentation.
2. 20 minute oral presentation to the Research Training Seminar
All members of the upgrade panel should normally attend this presentation. You are expected to follow a predefined scheme and answer a set of specific questions, in a 20 minute presentation:
a. What is the thesis about? This must make sense to historians working on different periods or in other history sub-disciplines. Prepare a 150 word summary. Ensure you explain the time frame, geographical scope and main research questions.
b. Why does this subject matter? How does the thesis relate to existing historiography and how does it contribute to current debate? Will it be of interest beyond the academy?
c. What key sources are you using?
d. What are your methods of analysis?
e. Provide one example from the material on which you have worked
You must discuss your presentation with your Principal Supervisor before you prepare it and you must inform the Graduate Programmes Administrator at least one week in advance if you need technical assistance. Please prepare a handout with your name, the title of the thesis, the main points of your presentation, important dates and names, essential bibliography etc. Maps are useful for many subjects.
Following the presentation and discussion, the upgrade panel will decide whether the presentation was satisfactory. If so, you may proceed to stage 3. If not, you may be required to fulfil conditions such as a satisfactory completion of a presentation skills course, or written submission of a revised presentation by a precise date, before you can proceed to stage 3. If you do not meet the prescribed deadline and there are no extenuating circumstances, you may continue to work towards an MPhil. If you have complied with the conditions, but your performance is still not satisfactory, you may make one further attempt, or continue to work towards an MPhil.
3. An interview with the upgrade panel
You will meet the upgrade panel to discuss your written work, normally within 2 weeks of the RTS seminar presentation. The upgrade panel will give supportive advice in order to help you complete your thesis successfully. At the end of this meeting, the committee will agree one of the following options:
Option 1 – you are recommended for upgrade to PhD status
Option 2 – you are referred to a specific date for a second attempt, and you have to resubmit written work as specified by the panel and pass a second interview
Option 3 – you are referred to a specific date for a second attempt, and you have to resubmit written work as specified by the panel, which it will assess without the need for a second interview
The panel will inform you of their decision at the end of the meeting. The Graduate Tutor will compile a short report, which is kept in your file.
For Options 2 or 3, the second attempt must normally take place within six months (for full-time students), or ten months (for part-time students).
If you do not meet the prescribed deadline and there are no extenuating circumstances, you may continue to work towards an MPhil. If you have complied with the conditions, but your performance is still not satisfactory, you may make one further attempt, or continue to work towards an MPhil.
You may appeal on procedural grounds, but not against the committee’s academic judgement. See this webpage for details of the appeal procedure.