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Can you downgrade to an MPhil on a funded PhD?


User: b41832 - 16 April 2021 19:49

I wondered if anyone knew if you can choose to downgrade to an MPhil on an AHRC funded PhD? I am increasingly feeling that PhD life is not for me and this seemed like a good option (I’m halfway through my second year so I’ve still done a lot of work). However, I wondered if because it’s a funded PhD it might be an ‘all or nothing’ situation- or perhaps that choosing to downgrade could mean I can no longer be funded for the duration of completing the MPhil.

On a more general level, is there is usually a timeframe if you choose to downgrade? I think that an MPhil is usually 2 years so would that mean I have to complete the MPhil within 2 years of when I began my PhD?

Thanks in advance to anyone who has any ideas about this. I know I need to ask my university and the AHRC (couldn’t find anything in the training grant contract or online) but wanted to see if anyone else had any experience before I float this as something I’m considering to anyone on an official level.

User: rewt - 19 April 2021 12:52

I haven't went through the process myself but you are right to wait before telling someone else in your university. Depending on your supervisor they might be sympathetic or completely cut you off. You might also find that your supervisor will try to convince you to stay by what ever means necessary. Ideally you would talk your supervisor for advice and not tell the university until you made an official decision. As long as you say you are planning to finish you are PhD and only considering downgrading, they shouldn't be able to remove your funding. However, I have no idea about funding time frames.

From my limited experience, people that have downgraded and submitted a dissertation for an MPhil have all received it. I do not believe that standards are exceptionally high or require substantial amounts of data, though this is my limited experience. I think you might be surprised how much you effort is required the MPhil.

User: abababa - 20 April 2021 00:00

You're in the right space to consider MPhil if you've decided academia isn't for you and you want to go into industry. In academia, it doesn't carry the weight of a PhD (often being perceived, unfairly, as a 'failed' PhD), and would hold you back.

For a move to industry, it equips you with a much better argument ('I decided I was really more interested in the practical application of the work, so converted to MPhil') than a flat withdrawal, because it gives something tangible as a product of 2 years' work.

AHRC, or UKRC specifically; it's generally not an issue for you, it's an issue for the institution. As they get UKRC funding, and the REF/RAE assesses them again PhD completions - they'll (top-down) want you to complete. It's better for them if your funded PhD results in an 'objective' success (a PhD). This doesn't mean it's better for you. And I think any decent supervisor would support a student they know, over top-down league table chasing.

Completing an MPhil typically requires a dissertation completed, but that's held to a lower standard than a PhD. When an MPhil is awarded instead of a PhD this standard can be very low - examiners have been faced with the decision that 3 years work deserves something, or absolutely nothing (hence the 'failed PhD' status). It's incredibly hard to write in generic terms what's expected of an MPhil prior to that, but practical experience leads me to suggest it's along the lines of an 'ok' Masters dissertation.

In general, for someone on a PhD programme who's thinking of a life outside academia - just apply, and quit the PhD if an opportunity you want is offered. It's easy to argue 'I'm a PhD student, but interested in opportunities to apply my knowledge'; and it's a position of strength rather than unemployment with bits of paper. Until you have an offer it seems worthwhile to continue the PhD, especially if you'd still get the stipend.





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