UCL Department of Economics


The Upgrade

The upgrade seminar is a formal assessment, which takes place as a viva conducted by an examining panel that assess a written report and your defence of it. This means that you are expected to be able to explain and justify your research as they have set out in the report in response to questions by the panel.

The regulations for the upgrade process can be found in the - Academic Regulations for Research Degree Students – Section One.

The criteria for the upgrade decision are specified in the Upgrade Guidelines.  

The upgrade panel normally usually the second supervisor, who chairs the viva, plus at least two other academics. If the second supervisor cannot be present at the viva, the graduate tutor will appoint a substitute with sufficient knowledge on the specific research area in consultation with the second supervisor.

The first supervisor normally attends as an observer and may participate in discussion if invited, but is not part of the panel. 

Supervisors and students should familiarise themselves with the guidelines and reporting procedures. An outline of the process is:

  • Supervisors and students agree pathway to upgrade.
  • Student submits a report to panel in advance.
  • Supervisor submits a short progress report to the student and panel before the viva takes place. 
  • Viva takes place. The panel consults and then decides if :
  1. student has passed;
  2. that to pass the student must meet specified criteria by a given date, with a further viva;
  3. that to pass the student meet specified criteria by a given date, without a further viva;
  4. that the panel will confer further before informing the student of their decision, which should take place as soon as possible; or,
  5. that the student has not passed and the reasons for this.

If passed the panel chair completes the below Uprade panel form: 


The Upgrade Report will then be circulated to all participants and retained in the student’s departmental file.

If the upgrade is not passed, a second attempt is permitted within a specified time frame (see the Upgrade Guidelines for details). If this is not passed, the student cannot proceed to a PhD and remains registered for an MPhil degree.