Applying for PhD Funding - Good masters marks but poor undergrad marks?


Hello all,

I'll cut straight to the point. I am a Master's Student in Modern History at a good uni, currently putting together an application for AHRC PhD funding. My proposal is good, my supervisor is well respected with a history of successfully getting funding, and my two references should be excellent.

I am predicted a distinction at MA Level. My MA marks to date are 70, 74 and 78 (with 70 and above being distinction).

However, my undergrad marks are a different story. I did my undergrad degree in History (BA Hons) at a different uni, standard 3 years degree, graduated in 2006 with a 2:1. My marks are as follows,

1st Year - 58, 58, 40, 40 (passed as resit), 40 (passed as resit), 33 (passed as resit)
2nd Year - 60, 54, 44, 40 (passed as resit), 40 (passed as resit), 40 (passed as resit)
3rd Year - 68 (thesis), 68, 65, 65, 58, 55

As you can see, while I made a dramatic improvement in my final year, the first two years were plagued by poor marks and multiple resits. I had a few problems doing those first two years, but I don't want to make excuses - I was not up to standard.

What I'm after is a honest assessment of my chances here. How much will my poor first and second years at undergrad level count against me? I'm really distressed that all my hard work at MA level will count for nothing thanks to screw-ups made several years ago.

Obviously the PhD application requires submission of all academic marks to date. I have a transcript which shows just my 3rd year marks and 2:1 degree classification - is there any chance I could get away with submitting that along with my MA marks and hope they don't ask for 1st and 2nd year?

All help appreciated.


Looks very familiar and you managed to pull up on your MA unlike myself who struggled with both. For what its worth I honestly do not think you need to worry about your grades. Its your project proposal that becomes the deciding factor. I am ESRC funded (final year) now worrying that my struggle through undergrad and MA study is now reflecting in my inability to retain information, organise thoughts, stay focused and stick to deadlines.

My sup is also well respected and gave a lot of support with my application. I also did my undergrad at a non UK university and just about passed my MA by the skin of my teeth.

Fret Not you need a good project and a clear proposal.

All the best


I'm in a very similar position. I gained a very good distinction at MA level but only a 2:i at Undergraduate, including a resit in the first year. I have had to submit the full transcript and don't really fancy my chances for AHRC funding, but it's always worth having a bash. I've seen the recomendation forms for AHRC funding and they ask for comments on UG degree first (including ranking within the department and average grade), and then comments on MA degree, grade and ranking. If your dissertation mark is high that will count in your favour. You may well stand a very good chance, but it depends on the competition. Good luck, and let us know how you get on


Hey Barz! I think you will probably be okay- after all, you ended up with a 2.1 regardless of your difficulties in the first two years, and a distinction in your masters will demonstrate your capability. I would just submit your overall BA classification and MA marks to date really- if they ask for other marks then I guess you will have to send them, but I would think that they would be satisfied just to see your overall classification for your BA, especially if you send your MA results which clearly indicate that you are working at distinction level. At the end of the day though, you're applying for a PhD with a 2.1 and hopefully a distinction- plenty of people get fully funded PhDs with this sort of academic record, and I even have a friend doing a PhD who got a 2.2 and a pass at MSc level, so I don't think you have too much to worry about. So long as you have a strong proposal and references, and a good MA result, I would think you have a good chance of getting your PhD. Good luck with it, KB


Thanks for the replies everyone, it's re-assuring that others have been in similar situations and prevailed. I just can't help but feel, given how competitive competition for funding is, that my multiple resits and poor marks in year 1 and year 2 puts me at an automatic disadvantage. I think I might follow Keenbean's advice and try to get away with just submitting my 3rd year and MA marks...


I don't mean to sound really negative or anything, because your MA grades are excellent, and it sounds like you have a great supervisor on board to help you. However, I am also in the humanities, and when I started my MA, we were all sat down and told directly that unless you got a 1st at undergraduate level, your chances of AHRC funding for a PHD are pretty much non-existent these days. Sure enough, I don't know any one in my uni (which is a top uni) who got funding for History who did not get a 1st. I do know one girl who got full funding who got a 1st and a merit for her masters however. Obviously a lot of things are taken into consideration, and I think that your topic will play a big part. In history/literature certain research areas are favoured. If you happen to be researching one of those, I'd say you'll be likely to get funding regardless of undergrad grades. Anyway, you can explore a lot of different options for funding so fingers crossed you'll be fine!
Good luck.


Well, my AHRC application form is complete and ready for submission before the deadline this friday. I feel terrible tho - my supervisor, who has been really helpful, wants to see my undergrad marks before he writes my reference tomorrow. He knows I got a 2:1, with 68 in my dissertation, but I haven't mentioned the poor marks and resits in year 1 & year 2 of UG at all. I feel like I've deceived him! I'm gonna try and send a scan of 3rd years mark and degree certificate only, but I am blatantly going to be asked to submit these shitty marks. Fucking gutted.


Good on you for completing! Just thought I would also mention I submitted the same application twice after being refused the first time. A small amount of tweaking the second time around did the job. Point is if for some reason you don't get through first time around make sure not to give up and send it again.

Good Luck