Hellish Viva -awarded MPhil


Well, I don't normally post, I'm a lurker, however need to vent to the like-minded.

I had my Viva today after I was told unofficially I was likely to be mauled. The examiners were very preofessional and their comments constructive, but one of them told me that my thesis was essentially "mission impossible" - I'm attached to a bigger project so it was somewhat prescribed.

The verdict was that the corrections were too major for me to attempt (and frankly at this stage I'm not sure I possess the inclination or the energy after an extremely difficult PhD which required learning a 2nd language from scratch within the 3 years and dealing with some major sup issues)

So I've been awarded an MPhil, and am not sure whether to be relieved or devastated. I'd always wanted a career in academia and this will obviously put the kybosh on that.

so the question is, does anyone in a similar situation have any advice, does this Mphil essentially exclude me from academia full stop? Is there anyway of upgrading to a doctorate in the future? I never foresaw this outcome so am completely in the dark.

What a cr*p day.


That sounds awful. From what you've said i.e. learning a language from scratch and being attached to a bigger project, they were using you as a cheap Postdoc.

Have you got emails or comments on reports that you have received from your supervisor(s) over that last three years as evidence of inadequate supervision? I would have a few days off and then considering appealing. Speak to Academic Support at your university.

I have my viva on Monday and I can feel the anxiety gradually building up.


Hi Nicola,

My stomach flipped and sank when I read your post- because according to my supervisor, there is a possibility I could end up with an MPhil in my forthcoming viva. Basically I need to give one hell of a defence if I'm to stand a chance and I need to argue for the opportunity of a resubmission. What's even more worrying is my PhD was also part of a bigger project!

I'm so sorry, sounds like an awful situation and is the stuff of pure nightmares for all PhD candidates- and something that is a real reality for me.

What I wanted to say is take some time off and relax from this whole process and if you can, seek advice from your supervisors or university advice etc on next steps.

Take it easy

P x

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

======= Date Modified 20 Jan 2011 20:47:01 =======
I personally wouldn't and just couldn't give up after all the effort put in. Tell your supervisor you intend to take a break of a few months but also appeal aganst the decision. You are entitled to know what extra work you will need to do to bring the document up to PhD standard.

You can then decide whether or not you wish to undertake this extra work, though bear in mind you'll have to do it in your own time if otherwise employed. You will probably get a given period to do the corrections in, probably six months or a year and by the sounds of it face a repeat viva.

A repeat viva is not such a bad thing as you know what to face now, however, be prepared (less likely now you know what to face) to have the same outcome and that the extra work may be for nothing.

As regards upgrading later, you have two options. You can either do a new PhD, which I would leave for a while until you recover mentally from the current attempt. Another method is PhD via published work whilst you pursue a lower level career in research (Research Assistant rather than Research Associate), which will take some time to achieve and will most likely mean any papers needing to be compiled into a new thesis for viva.

However, for now I would take a holiday and get as far away from the situation as possible. Get your head straight first.

One positive outcome that you can put on your CV, however, is you now know a second language!!! :-)


That's rotten news and I'm really sorry to hear about the outcome. I second the comments of Gingersnaps and Mackem. Given the amount of work you've done, it's more deserving than an MPhil and I think you should appeal, doing whatever work is required to, in the subjective opinions, bring it up to standard. Best wishes.


I agree with the advice to take a bit of a break/holiday, then decide whether to appeal. It sounds as though you'd have grounds.

But good luck whatever you decide.

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

Quote From walminskipeasucker:

That's rotten news and I'm really sorry to hear about the outcome. I second the comments of Gingersnaps and [b]Mackem[/b]. Given the amount of work you've done, it's more deserving than an MPhil and I think you should appeal, doing whatever work is required to, in the subjective opinions, bring it up to standard. Best wishes.

Beefy (which I'm not actually weightwise - old Internet joke) or Ian I prefer!!! (up)


======= Date Modified 21 Jan 2011 14:27:24 =======
============= Edited by a Moderator =============
*spam- deleted*


Thanks for all your comments folks.

In terms of corrections, I said I wanted to make a go of doing what they saw as necessary but was told that the corrections they would require would essentially result in a completely different thesis and that it was too high risk a strategy for me to undertake them only to be placed in the same position again.

They also indicated that they're launching an enquiry about my supervision; but that's not going to change the result.

Am going to explore options about still getting a Doctorate, some how, some way....
I just feel that an MPhil essentially ends any chance of working in academia, and that was always the goal:-(


======= Date Modified 21 Jan 2011 11:29:01 =======
I'm really sorry again Nichola. My heart really goes out to you. Sounds like the ultimate nightmare for PhD candidates (and probably the supervisory team as well!) Reading your post kept me awake the whole night worrying that I may be in the same boat in a few months time! :(

If you decide to appeal, I really hope you have some luck with it and also collect as much advice as possible. I can appreciate how difficult it must be right now, but please take a break from it all!

Thinking of you x


What an absolute nightmare, can't really add anymore than has been said .. take some time out but its the "mission impossible" comment that would get to me. And, on the face of it, gives you good grounds for the argument.

i very much admire the fighting spirit that i get from your post.. sounds to me like you'll find a way.

All the very best, Chuff


Two thoughts: while it's still fresh, write down as much as you can remember of their comments particularly regarding the impossibility of the topic. I hope for your sake that the examiners will have the guts to write a report that actually queries the supervision and viability of the topic, but in case they don't, your own notes would be helpful. I'd also collect together any annual progress reports or upgrade reports - any evidence basically that you were never warned that there were problems with the thesis. Then you need to read both the appeals and complaints procedures for your university - the more meticulously you follow these the better. Does your students union have any sort of advice centre - someone independent, who knows the system, might be helpful at this point to have a look at everything for you.
My gut feeling based on what you have written here, is that you may have difficulty successfully appealing this decision. A MPhil is after all a legitimate decision for the examiners to come to and you say the viva was professional and their criticisms constructive. You have to appeal usually on grounds of an improper examination or bias etc and it sounds like you might not have it. Usually, you cannot challenge the academic judgment of the examiners (but check the procedures). What I do think you have, again just on what you've written here, is a potentially very good basis for a complaint against the university and so a potential case for compensation for lost earnings etc.


Hi Nichola, although I can totally understand people's comments about having a break you may find there is a time limit on putting in a complaint. It might be worth indicating in writing that you are considering a complaint. Having gone through a uni complaints' proceedures (and in the end went to the OIA) you need to make sure you have very strong evidence that supervision was inadequate. You can not complain about an academic decision.


Thanks for all your comments....

Really, I accept the judgement of the examiners, but what has really irked me is that there was no prior indication that this just wasn't viable - all the upgrades and progress reports were accepted without problem; I am very angry with my superviosr for putting me in this positon, which has essentially screwed up all my life plans. Not least, the fact that I was made to look so bad in front of two very eminent examiners.

I'm interested in the comments about pursuing a complaint; because that is the crux, I want to rant about the ridiculousness, not necessarily appeal the examination which was fair and sound.

I can't quite believe this has happened. sometimes I feel accepting and others I am literally just devastated and feel like a complete failure, despite positive comments and eveidence to the contrary.

It's probably one of the worst things that's happened to me. Tried to explain it to my family that it's kind of like getting a B and not an A; and I only accept As



I had my viva today and passed with major corrections, which was dissapointing. I argued as best I could with both examiners and hate them both at the moment. I was tempted, and still am, to leave with an MPhil because I am sick and tired of thinking about my f&*%ing thesis.

I would still advise you to appeal as yours was due to inadequate supervision.