MRes after MSc ???


I am about to complete an MSc in a life-sciences subject. All my grades are high and I expect to graduate with a distinction. I have been offered a funded PhD at this institution, starting right after I complete my MSc.

However, whilst intrested in the PhD and liking the surroundings here, there is another institution elsewhere which is leading the field in my discipline. It has many more research groups and is a much larger centre. This second uni offers an MRes in my discipline - similar to the MSc in that it has some taught elements, but the majority of the course duration is spent on research projects, the subject of each being picked by the student. Ideally, I would have got onto a PhD at the second uni, but applied too late to win funding.

My potential PhD supervisor from my current uni, however, has warned me not to undertake an MRes after an MSc, claiming that it would be bad for my CV.

Because of his warning, I am now beginning to question if the MRes was a good idea. I had imagined that I would start the MRes and then use that to get onto a PhD at the second uni, but now I'm wondering if there's much point.

Has anyone got any similar experience or advice?


Well that's not my experience but I know a bit about such courses.
1) I disagree with your supervisor: a MRes usually counts as a first year of a PhD and so if you do well in an MRes you start your thesis immediately. Master of Science is different from a Master in Research: whether it looks bad on your CV or not depends on your goal if your goal is a PhD then no it doesn't look bad. In fact some universities (LSE for example) would not allow you to start a PhD in Economics without having an MRes even if you have a distinction in the MSc course.
2) Again, if PhD is your goal and the 2nd university is leading the field then I'd go with that university.
3) Does your uni directly register students who do well in the MRes to the PhD?



I don't know if the uni which offers the MRes will subsequently directly register me for a PhD, but I imagine that I'll have the option. By that stage I would have an MSc and an MRes, both from Russell Group unis, so I can't see a funding body denying me immediate entry onto a PhD.

PhD is my eventual goal and I didn't think that the MRes would put me at a disadvantage - why would it? Also, I had heard of the fact that many funders obligate candidates to complete an MRes before starting an PhD anyway.

It's all a bit annoying because I need that supervisor to write me a reference but, because he knows that I'm looking elsewhere, the PhD offer he made is timed and expires soon. So, I have to refuse the PhD before being 100% sure that I've succeeded in getting on the MRes.


Congrats, Vilhelm. You got one offer in your hands.

I think you should think twice before you make a final decision. You had better double-check with your second university whether you can really upgrade yourself for the PhD candidature after the first or second year of your MRes and under what circumstances can you do so? Is it difficult and competitive?

You mentioned that the second university is leading the field in your discipline with a large center of different research groups. What about your supervisor of the first university and the first university itself? Is it as prestigious as your second university? Is the supervisor as famous and experienced as your potential one of the second university?

I personally think that a distinguished supervisor is more important than a prestigious university (not the top 5 or 10, I mean) because some renowned scholars are not working in famous universities like Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London, etc. I do not know which field you are in. But this is the case in my field. If you have a distinguished supervisor, why not do your PhD with him/her?

Of course, doing an MRes will not put you at a disadvantage on your CV because taught and research master programs are totally different things. Unlike taught masters, MRes gives you more substantial research training or even teaching experience, which is useful for novice researchers to prepare themselves to conduct large-scale, independent and high quality research like most scholars do. But you will most likely need to spend another one to two years (I don't know how long your MRes is!!!) before you start to do a PhD. Is it worthwhile to do so? (because you have a funded PhD offer now!!!).

I hope my info helps.

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

Is the above MRes with transfer to PhD if you do well enough at the 1 year / 18 month point?

If so, then that's normal procedure at a lot of Unis. and I wouldn't worry too much. Go for the MRes with transfer to PhD at the leading institution if that is what you want to do.

If it is just an MRes without transfer, then I would look at the funded PhD at your own Uni. first before making a hasty decision. Having two masters on your CV close together makes you look like a professional or continuous student. I overhead a conversation during my own PhD that my supervisor was in the business of turning down applications from people he considered in this category.



I agree with many of these points.
MRes lets you do your piloting for a future PhD which is great as it gives you space to think and trial.
Be warned, not everyone gets uplifted from MRes (There's always the possibility you could do worse in your MRes than your MSc and loose out on a Phd place to other students as has happened at my institution)

Bigger school doesn't mean better teaching. You may find yourself lost in a big crow and actually get more individual attention in a smaller setting.

You have funding offered now which means you would be 12 months ahead in your research; a lot can change in 12 months. Your novel ideas and original contribution to knowledge now might not be in 12 months time and you risk having to change your research proposal.

However, if the other uni does have a lot more to offer do follow the advice of checking out if they will uplift and what extra you would get from supervision there.

Well done and good luck.


Thanks for the advice - good points raised, only some of which I had previously considered.

I do think that the MRes can complement, rather than clash with, an MSc. As I said on my personal statement, the extra experience garnered from further self-guided research should help me to maximise my time when I do eventually undertake a PhD.

However, whilst the MRes is only one year long, I had thought that it was a slight risk. As mentioned, my performance at the more-prestigious institution may not be quite so stellar and thus, as a net, it might take the shine off me, as it were. But there are two facts in mitigation against this: I will start applying for PhDs in the winter of this year, before I receive the majority of my MRes marks and, secondly, already holding an MSc in this area, I should do quite well!

Whilst I understand the professional student point, my undergrad was completed 4 years ago and in the interim I worked in a totally different industry. Hence, I would definitely benefit from extra training and tuition, whereas a recent undergrad might not. I hope that that would be noticed and accepted.

However, "One in the hand is better than two in the bush", as they say, so maybe I had better stick with my PhD. But the reason that I want to go elsewhere is that working at the leading centre for my subject (a biotech derivative) is simply the stuff that dreams are made of. So, if you have the chance to follow your dreams, surely you must take it!?


Vilhelm, only you know what is the right decision for you and if working with the other group is truly your dream then go for it but accept the risks :D


Hi Vilhelm, is the MRes funded? If you are planning to self-fund this and then the subsequent PhD then you will have problems but if you are looking for funding then there is no guarenttes that you will get a PhD at the institution after completing your MRes. If it is a field you are really interested in and want to work in then I would strongly consider the PhD you have been offered now. On the other hand if you are not 100% sure if this is what you want to work on then maybe the year of research will benifit you but remember this will not guarentee you a funded PhD at this institution unless it is advertised as such.



If it helps, I completed an MSc in a specific part of psychology followed by a MSc in research methods (similar to an MRes) at UCL. I self funded both of my MScs. Both MScs compliment each other really well, first one provides stage 1 in a professional training pathway and the second included detailed research methods training to support future professional training (and/or a PhD). I then obtained a PhD scholarship (+3 esrc scholarship) and obtained my first postdoc post immediately after PhD graduation. I'm now completing stage 2 professional training following from the stage 1 MSc training (and using skills from PhD etc to support my professional training).

In my experience, possessing multiple MScs seemed to improve my prospects rather than tarnish it!

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

Wilhelm, I think you have your heart set and your mind made up on working for the MRes research group at the other Uni. regardless of whether or not there's the certainty of a PhD after the MRes. For me to consider this route ahead of the funded PhD at your current Uni., this group would have to offer something really special. Just make sure when you start the MRes, you look identifying a suitable project this second group has to offer. You may wish to enquire what they are looking at as regards potential projects a year hence as they'll be looking to start applying for funding in the near future.

To follow up on Pineapple30's remarks, I also have two MScs prior to my PhD though with a gap of five years in the real world between the second masters and PhD. In my case, I can't really say if two masters helped or hindered. The first masters (Computing) I have never used - I honestly thought due to ill health I was going to fail it, hence I started the second masters. The second masters (Quality, supplementing my Materials Engineering first degree) proved to be of more value as regards experimental methods and statistical analysis.

I will comment, however, that there were one or two real world interviews where my qualifications were negatively queried (i.e. professional student - which I never considered myself as, overqualified, will be off somewhere better at the first opportunity). So there is that possibility, but it all depends upon the person and why they have obtained those qualifications.

Hope that helps,



Thanks Wowzers, Charlie, Pineapple and Ian. The other group, Imperial, is leading in this discipline with many many more research groups than my current Uni's 2, so it does have lots more to offer.... But I emailed them today and they did confirm that a PhD there is not a sure thing, funding not being so easily available. So it's not an easy decision, by any means.

It seems that an MRes on top of an MSc is not a negative thing, but it could be viewed as such. I don't mind the professional student criticism as I worked in London before my current MSc for 3 years, so when I need to knuckle down, commit and earn, I can do it and prove that I can do it. Having said all that, I am 28 in august so keen to get on with things (and to be paid to study, rather than the opposite.)

Buuut, the rabbit hole has got a little deeper because I now have an interview tomorrow for a funded 4-year MRes and PhD at Oxford! That would of course be the best of both worlds, so hopefully it goes well. However, that adds another complication because tomorrow is also the day by which I must respond to the PhD here! I am thinking to accept the PhD offer from here, it would be daft not to, but do the interview anyway. The only issue is that the prof here who has offered me the PhD has also been my MSc project supervisor. Therefore, I would want him to be a referee for any applications that I make. He has not yet uploaded his reference for my application to the MRes and I have not completed the Ox formal application form. So, if I do accept the PhD here, I could not then ask him to act as a referee for the Ox app and he won't complete the reference for the MRes, I presume. Tough! Therefore, I'll need other referess who perhaps don't know me so well...