Postgraduate Research Essentials: research degree planning, progress and monitoring

Updated on 8 November 2023

How long your research degree might take, Thesis Monitoring Committees, Upgrade Review and re-matriculation

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Duration of research degree

Each research degree has a normal period of registration and a maximum period of registration. These periods of registration are counted from the date of your first matriculation. Full details can be found in the Degree Regulations and Chapter 6.1 of the Research Degree Quality Code.

Extensions to the maximum period may be granted under exceptional circumstances by the appropriate School Board on the recommendation of the supervisor(s).

PhD length:

  • For a ‘three year’ full-time PhD programme, the normal period is three years and the maximum period is four years.  When taken part-time the normal period is five years and the maximum period is six years.
  • For a ‘four year’ full-time PhD programme, the normal period is four years and the maximum period is five years.
  • For a ‘five year’ clinical PhD programme (offered in the School of Dentistry), the normal period is five years and the maximum period is six years.

Professional Doctoral length: for a Professional Doctorate, the normal period is four years and the maximum period is six years.

Research Masters degree length: for a full-time Research Masters degree, the normal period is one year and the maximum period is two years. For a part-time Research Masters degree, the normal period is two years and the maximum period is three years.

MPhil length: for a full-time MPhil, the normal period is two years and the maximum period is three years. For a part-time MPhil, the normal period is four years and the maximum period is five years.

Thesis Monitoring Committees

Your Thesis Monitoring Committee (TMC) helps to make sure that you are on track with your degree, that you have the support you need to make good progress, and that you have the opportunity to discuss any concerns with independent academic staff.

Your TMC will include yourself and at least two members of academic staff who are not your supervisor. Supervisors do not normally attend these meetings but may attend some or all of the meeting if required, entirely at the Committee’s discretion and with your consent.

You will meet at least twice a year if you are full-time and at least once a year if you are part-time, up until the point where you submit your thesis.

Your School will let you know about the arrangements for your TMC and tell you what you need to do to prepare. You would normally be asked to submit a progress report and be given the opportunity to submit materials to your TMC in confidence (without your supervisor receiving a copy). Your School may have additional requirements, which will be communicated to you ahead of time.

Your TMC meetings will be used to:

  1. look at your progress
  2. identify targets and goals to complete before your next TMC meeting
  3. explore readiness to progress to the next research degree milestone, such as upgrade review, intention to submit, viva etc
  4. confidentially discuss any concerns you have about matters impacting on your progress, including but not limited to: your supervision and relationship with your supervisors, your training, the facilities and resources available to you, and any personal circumstances that you would like to raise
  5. agree any follow-up to any concerns that you have

After the meeting, you and your supervisor will receive a written record/report of your TMC meeting, including agreed action points and any advice or recommendations made by the Committee. Any confidential matters that you have not agreed to disclose to your supervisor will be recorded separately. Your School will maintain a record of all your TMC meetings.

Upgrade Review (Transfer of Ordinance)

When you first join the University as a postgraduate researcher, you are not formally admitted to the University to study for a specific degree, but are enrolled as a general ‘research student’.  This is similar to a probationary period.

In order to be admitted formally to study for a named doctoral or MPhil degree, you must undergo a progress review and gain approval to upgrade. This review process is called the Upgrade Review. You may also hear it referred to as ‘Transfer of Ordinance’ or just ‘Transfer’.

Masters by Research degrees do not have an Upgrade Review, although your degree programme may include a separate review process partway through your degree.

The timing of your Upgrade Review depends on the length of your research degree if taken full-time:

  • Two- or three-year programme full-time: normally around 9-12 months after your start date
  • Four- or five-year programme full-time: varies depending on your programme; enquire with your School
  • If you are taking your programme part-time, your Upgrade Review will be at the equivalent stage to those on the relevant full-time programme

You should receive instructions from your School early in your research degree that lay out the School’s process and expectations for your Upgrade Review. The School will also make the practical arrangements for your Upgrade Review meeting and submit the necessary paperwork to Registry after a decision has been made.

In order to pass the Upgrade Review, as a minimum all postgraduate researchers must:

  • write a substantial written report or otherwise demonstrate a relevant body of work
  • give a satisfactory presentation at an appropriate forum of peers
  • gain approval to progress from the main supervisor(s) and from the Dean of School and/or the Thesis Monitoring Committee
  • complete the Research Integrity online training course and, for those who began their research degrees after 1 August 2021, the Equality and Diversity online training course and the Information Security Awareness Training online course, plus any compulsory training requirements set by the School. For more information on the online training courses, please see the ‘mandatory induction training’ section of our new starter tasks guide.
  • satisfy any additional requirements set by their School (as long as the School informed them of the requirement when they started their research degree)

You are advised to plan your schedule in such a way that you meet all the requirements in good time before your Upgrade Review, for example by completing your induction training early in your research degree rather than waiting until the time of your Upgrade Review.

Following the Upgrade Review, the panel will make a decision on whether you have made satisfactory progress to Upgrade.

If satisfactory progress has not been made, your main supervisor(s) can recommend that the Upgrade be delayed for a fixed period, or that you are registered for a lower award than originally intended (e.g. MPhil instead of PhD). If your progress is significantly unsatisfactory, they can recommend that your registration be terminated.

You may be able to appeal a decision made by the School at your Upgrade Review under the Postgraduate Appeals Procedure.

Re-matriculation (annual progress review)

At the start of each academic year, you will need to re-matriculate online using eVision. This will take place during Matriculation Week (early September), regardless of when you originally started your research degree.

You will only be able to re-matriculate if your School has confirmed that you have made satisfactory progress and demonstrated engagement with your research degree programme, on a broadly defined pass-proceed basis. Your School sets the criteria for this.

If your Thesis Monitoring Committee and/or your main supervisor(s) have reservations about your ability to complete your degree, they must make a recommendation to your School’s Dean that either:

  1. you are permitted to proceed to the next year, subject to certain conditions being satisfied
  2. your studies should be terminated due to unsatisfactory progress or failure to meet previously agreed conditions

You may be able to appeal a decision made by the School under the Postgraduate Appeals Procedure.


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