UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


Upgrade and Annual Review Procedures

GOS ICH Regulations for Upgrade of Research Degree Students from MPhil to PhD

The following regulations are based on those given by UCL in the Code of Practice for Graduate Research Degrees with additional department-specific requirements.

Initially PhD students are registered for the MPhil degree. If they wish to proceed to a PhD, their registration must be changed accordingly. The purpose of the upgrade is to assess that the student is on the right track and that they are progressing with the ability to complete their PhD programme within the expected timeframe. At this stage, students are expected to have preliminary results and should be able to demonstrate their plan for the future progress of their project.

GOS ICH Regulations for MDRes Annual Reviews

It is an GOS ICH requirement for MD(Res) students to have an Annual Review which should take place between 9 and 12 months after the start of registration and should follow broadly the same format as that for the MPhil to PhD described below.  The purpose of the Annual Review is to ensure that the student is on the right track, and that they are progressing with the ability to complete their MDRes programme within the expected timeframe.  Once the Annual Review has taken place, the supervisor need only complete the GOS ICH-UCL MDRes Annual Review Panel Report form (see below) which should be submitted to the GOS ICH Research Degrees Office for approval by a member of the Postgraduate Team.

The MPhil to PhD Upgrade Procedure:

1.      Criteria for Upgrade

1.1    A student should be upgraded to PhD status if he or she meets the following criteria:

i.      Commitment to pursuing research at UCL leading to the PhD degree;

ii.     Satisfactory progress in the work so far;

iii.   Ability to formulate a viable hypothesis or research question that could be completed within the normal time frame of the PhD programme;

iv. Satisfactory technical and generic skills development (students funded by UCL approved funding bodies, such as the Research Councils, must meet the specific requirements stipulated by those bodies);

v.  Formulation of a viable plan for the work;

vi. Completion of the appropriate sections of the Research Student Log;

vii. English Language proficiency, both written and spoken.

It is expected that the student's upgrade report and oral presentation, in conjunction with the upgrade viva (see 2.3.1, 2.3.2 and 2.3.3 below), will demonstrate that these criteria have been met. In addition to the above criteria, the student must meet any other Departmental or Faculty requirements.

2.       Process of Upgrade

2.1    Management and Oversight

The overall management and oversight of the upgrade process is the responsibility of the Departmental Graduate Tutor. The Departmental Graduate Tutor will approve the proposed Upgrade Panel by signing the Upgrade Proposal Form. The Departmental Graduate Tutor will also confirm that the Research Student Log has been completed and that there has been appropriate participation in the Skills Development Programme, before the upgrade process is initiated.

2.2    Time Frame

UCL Research Degree Regulations state that for full-time students upgrade cannot be done before the end of the first year of registration. For full-time students there should be two possible attempts at upgrade; the first between 9 and 18 months and, if the student fails at the first attempt, the second between 18 and 24 months. The period between the first and second attempt should normally be no more than 6 months.

For part-time students who are working full-time on their projects, the above time frame will apply. For part-time students who are working part-time on their projects and  whose programme of study is typically 5 years, the first attempt at upgrade should take place between 15 and 30 months and, if the student fails at the first attempt, the second between 30 and 40 months. The period between the first and second attempt should normally be no more than 10 months.

It is expected that most students will successfully upgrade on the first attempt. Two attempts only will be permitted.

2.3     Components of Upgrade

The Student must complete the Upgrade Proposal Form which should be signed by the Primary Supervisor and then submitted to the GOS ICH Research Degrees Office no later than four weeks prior to the viva taking place.

The Primary Supervisor must submit a half to one page summary report on the student's progress, to the members of the Upgrade Panel and the Student prior to the viva, and then to the GOS ICH Research Degrees Office with the Upgrade Panel Report Form once the upgrade viva has taken place. NB: The Supervisor's progress report is not confidential and should be made available to the student before the viva.  The Student will also receive a copy of the Supervisor’s report and the Upgrade Panel Report form when they are submitted to UCL Registry by the ICH Research Degrees Office.  It is assumed that supervisors will have discussed any issues with their student prior to the report being written.  Supervisors may also discuss issues separately with the Departmental Graduate Tutor (Research).

The main upgrade assessment is comprised of 3 mandatory components, which are as follows:

(i)  The Upgrade Report

The Upgrade Report should be drafted by the student in consultation with the Primary Supervisor and the Secondary Supervisor. In the report, the student should present:

  • Background information
  • The research question
  • A brief discussion of preliminary results, data gathered or methodologies developed to that point
  • A clear outline of their future research plan

It is recommended that the report should be between 6000 and 10000 words (excluding figure legends and references) and that preferably only 2-3 weeks should be used for writing the report.

The student should ensure that they are familiar with the significance of Plagiarism and they must run their upgrade report through our specific Turnitin Upgrade Report Test.  This allows them to test for unintentional signs of plagiarism. The Student should then present the Turnitin results to the members of the Upgrade Panel together with their written Upgrade Report.

NB: The issue of self-plagiarism can arise if a student has published works during their degree.  However, the upgrade report is not considered something that can be self-plagiarised, since it is not published in any publically-accessible form (hence you must use the correct 'Turnitin Upgrade Report Test').  Students may therefore use their own text from their own upgrade report, in their final thesis. Students will need to be enrolled on the FPHS Research Student Information Moodle site to be able to access the 'Turnitin Upgrade Report Test'.  PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS TEST WILL BE RESET REGULARLY, AND DOCUMENTS WILL NOT BE RETAINED.

(ii)   Oral Presentation

An oral presentation of the student's research, should be given to their research section or a wider audience, including members of the upgrade panel, possibly as part of a Section or Research & Teaching Department seminar series. This will include background information, data gathered so far and future plans. It is recommended that it should last at least 25 minutes, with adequate time for questions from the floor. The purpose of the presentation is to probe the presentation/communication skills of the student and their ability to discuss and defend their work from the floor.

(iii)  The Upgrade Viva

The purpose of the viva is to ascertain, in conjunction with the student's upgrade report and presentation that the above criteria (see 1.1, above) have been met.

The upgrade panel should consist of the student's Secondary Supervisor who will normally chair the panel.  If, however, the Secondary Supervisor is the academic lead on the project, then an academic member of the GOS ICH Postgraduate Team should be asked to chair the panel.  The Primary Supervisor may attend the viva as an Observer only, unless the student has specifically indicated otherwise on the form (see above).  At least one other academic (with no formal link to the project) should act as the external examiner(s), and should normally be from outside the student's section.

In accordance with UCL regulations, the Primary Supervisor must submit a report on the student's progress to the Upgrade Panel and the student in advance of the viva, regardless of attendance at the viva. Supervisors should bear in mind that any academic who is chosen to sit on the upgrade panel will be ineligible to act as an examiner for the subsequent PhD examination.

These above three components will be considered collectively by the upgrade panel.

The Departmental Graduate Tutor has final jurisdiction over the membership of the proposed Panel, its constitution and any subsequent disagreements between Panel Members. If primary supervisors attend the viva, they do so as observers only, not as formal panel members and they should not sign off on the upgrade form as a panel member.

3.     Outcomes:

3.1   Students may either upgrade on the first attempt or, if unsuccessful, be referred for a second attempt within the time frame described above. Students who fail on the first attempt must be given specific written criteria to meet for the second attempt. In some cases, a student may be referred to resubmit the written work only, without the need for a second oral assessment.

It is essential that it is made very clear to students at the outset of the process about the potential outcomes of the process, including the specific criteria to be met after a first failed attempt and the potential outcomes of failure at the second attempt. The following are the potential outcomes of the upgrade process:

Potential outcomes of first attempt:

i)  Student is recommended for upgrade to PhD status;

ii) Student is referred to a specific date, with specific criteria to meet, for a second attempt without the need for a second viva;

iii) Student is referred to a specific date, with specific criteria to meet, for a second attempt with the need for a second viva.

Potential outcomes of second attempt:

i) Student is recommended for upgrade to PhD status;

ii) Student is not recommended for upgrade and remains registered for the MPhil.

It should be made clear that a second failed attempt at upgrade will mean that the student will remain registered with MPhil status. This may lead to the submission of a thesis for the MPhil which must be done in accordance with the UCL Research Degree Regulations. It is not the role of the Upgrade Panel to determine, at that stage, if the student's work is appropriate for submission for the MPhil degree.

It is also not the role of the Upgrade Panel to consider action to de-register students who are deemed academically insufficient. Evidence from the upgrade process, however, may be used in subsequent Academic Insufficiency proceedings implemented by the Faculty.

4.    Upon completion, the completed GSO ICH-UCL MPhil to PhD Upgrade Form should be signed and submitted by the Chair of the Upgrade Panel to the Departmental Graduate Tutor for signature, and should include a copy of the Primary Supervisor’s progress report. Copies of the form will be made in the GOS ICH Research Degrees Office and sent to the Student, Supervisors, Head of Section and UCL Registry.

The student may request further oral feedback from the Panel.

5.   The main differences in the above process for MDRes students are as follows:

  • There is a specific Annual Review Proposal form which needs to be completed and returned, together with a primary supervisor pre-annual review progress report, to the GOS ICH Research Degrees Office at least 2 weeks prior to the annual review taking place.
  • The GOS ICH-UCL Annual Review Report form needs to be completed at the end and submitted to the GOS ICH Research Degrees Office only (not to UCL)
  • The Annual Review should be completed close to the 12-month point, given the shorter degree period for MDRes students

MPhil to PhD Forms:

MDRes Annual Review Forms: