Advice needed should I downgrde my PhD to an MPhil?


Hi Everyone
I am a UK 3rd year PhD student and due mainly to COVID-19 my main study which was in clinics is significantly behind (6-12 months) with recruitment still being effected so the delay could become longer as this study was going to make up the majority of my thesis (2 Papers)and the university is only giving 3 month extensions my supervisory team are suggesting I seriously think about downgrading my PhD to an MPhil as it will be risky to carry on and fail the PhD and then get an MPhil but I wanted to get other opinions and advice on what will happen if I do this as I have been funded for this PhD.
Am I liable for the cost of the PhD so far?
Will the stipend I've been receiving be stripped away if I downgrade?
How will this affect my job prospects?
Thanks for taking the time to read this and hope to hear from you

Avatar for rewt

Hi pippy71,

I have never heard of a university reclaiming bursary because someone downgraded. I highly doubt that they will charge you for it or ask you to repay any money. So don't worry about that.
Downgrading to an MPhil will be judged by how you sell it to other people. As not every PhD is perfect and sometimes circumstances are outside your control. If you can explain what happened it won't be seen as a negative on your CV. Although an MPhil is less prestigious than a PhD and it may not be as useful during your career. Hopefully other people on this forum can give you first hand advice.


I agree with rewt. Passing your PhD or downgrade or even fail is not relevant to funding. It only happens with some students funded by external governments and their funding contract includes this.
Now the important part. From the perspective of someone who spent sometime doing a PhD and did not complete, selling the story has to be clever. One option is to tell your real story which is already good enough. You might also indicate that it needed two more years to complete and without funding it is not possible. You might also want to say that your intention was MPhil from the beginning but I would not recommend this.
If you go outside academia, it should not be a problem but in academia PhD is mandatory. If you still interested in academia, look for RA role which does not require a PhD and as an employee you might be entitled to do a PhD tuition free at the same time. It is not common but it is not rare.


I would go one step further and say *if* you're interested in an academic role (lecturer or RA), seriously contemplate completing.

You can absolutely get an entry-level post there, but if you have aspirations, it will hold you back a bit to 'only' have an MPhil, and close some doors. Not necessarily completely or permanently by any means; you could look towards a faculty management role, or getting a PhD at a later date by portfolio, but in general you'll still end up doing the work but in more difficult/distracted circumstances.

I'd agree outside academia, it's much less relevant (in fact, borderline irrelevant). It's unlikely to hold you back there; so if that's what you plan to do, it will not only save you money, but also give you a year in industry that you'd otherwise have missed.

I wouldn't take from forums whether and to what extent you're financially liable; read the contract/studentship agreement. Probably not, but it's entirely possible for a funder to create a contract where you would be (btw, you should *always* read stuff you sign - not knowing the answer at this point is not a situation you want to be in. You are of course not the only student to fail to read their studentship agreement and contract but you, and all students, really - *really* - should do so, and politely contest at the get-go any suspect clauses!).