Overturn decision to downgrade to an MPhil


Dear all,

Last year I attended my annual review and the decision was made to downgrade me from a PhD to an MPhil. At the time, I was severely, suicidally depressed, and four weeks before my review I took a massive overdose - I knew what the outcome would be, but had no confidence to assert myself. I was in despair. For two years prior to this review I had been physically unwell and was taking maintenance courses of antibiotics, and also had to have an operation. This of course, had a detrimental effect on my mental wellbeing. My supervisor knew of my physical health difficulties, and that I'd suffered with depression, but didn't seem to comprehend the effect it was having on my work. Back then, I wasn't well enough to even consider appealing, all I wanted to do was spend every day in bed. Nowadays, I am much better and continuing with my MPhil research. I have a review meeting in October, and I'm hoping to (be brave enough) ask to be upgraded to a PhD. Do you think the review panel would allow this?

Thank you in advance for your comments.


Sorry to hear about your experience and that's great that you are much better.

I don't see what they wouldn't upgrade you if your work is progressing well enough. There's certainly no harm in asking.


Thank you for your reply TreeofLife. You are right - there's no harm in asking, although I don't know of anyone else in a similar situation so unsure whether this is a possibility.


Hopefully someone else on here has heard of a similar situation. Does anyone know?


I think it might depend on what the rationale for downgrading you was - I think you might have more hope of reversing a decision based on non-progress, if you can now show acceptable progress, than a decision that the project itself was not PhD-worthy for example. I also think that the support of your supervisory team, and maybe whoever is in charge of PhD students in your department would be important i.e. I wouldn't just spring the question out of the blue at the review meeting but test the waters first and see what they think.


PS Here at least it would be the dean of faculty, not just the review panel, who has to agree the upgrade.


The reason for the downgrade was lack of progress, so there is at least some hope. Thanks very much for your reply - I'll keep working extra hard, discuss my plan with my supervisor, and hope that the decision can be overturned.


I was hoping for more advice, since my situation has gone from bad to worse.

Almost a year ago, my supervisor decided to move home (300 miles away) and work part-time (I am also part-time). On three occasions I had sent her work for feedback, but had no reply for two-three months - which of course caused me great anxiety. I have recently moved from home (after two years of physical and mental health problems) to the area close to university, in order to engage more with research activities, attend workshops and conferences, and ultimately gain support from others. I presented some work last week at the university and had some fantastic feedback.

After my latest review, I was told that I had a month to finish drafting an article for publication. I sent this draft to my supervisor and gave her just over a week for feedback. She sent this to me two weeks after the deadline ,and I now have four days to make amendments. This isn't enough time! I cannot live like this - not hearing from my supervisor for months, and then suddenly having to cancel work commitments (I have already been sacked from my NHS job due to cancelling shifts last minute), family visiting etc at last minute. If I don't submit on time, it is likely I will be thrown off the course.

I intended to ask my second supervisor to become my primary, but she is on sabbatical for the summer and I hope to submit before Christmas.

Has anyone else had similar experiences?

Thank you for advance for your comments.


It is quite common for supervisors to be slow with feedback. It may be that a week's deadline was simply not enough time due to the many others demands that your supervisor probably has placed on her.

Who is giving you these strict deadlines for article submission? Most deadlines are pretty flexible in academia.

Often you just have to accept that you don't get the feedback you want when you want it. Could you ask a colleague to look through things for you?


Thank you for your reply. The first deadline was made by the review panel, and the second made by my supervisor.

In future, I think I will have to ask a colleague to look over my work.

Thanks again TreeofLife.

Avatar for DrCorinne

I agree with TreeofLife and I would add that this is a pretty common situation. Some supervisors are very hands on, but many are not. There is a lot of pressure on academics nowadays to deliver on different fronts and there is only so much that anyone can do.

It is hard for a student and understandably disheartening at times. However, the nature of a PhD is different from an undergraduate or taught PG degree and requires a high degree of independence. You are effectively project managing your research and of course all sorts of problems can come your way: personal, health, family etc.

So, the challenge, it is to learn to navigate through these problems and achieve your objectives in the most effective and least damaging/ problematic way. Sometimes it will require to negotiate a deadline, some other times to ask colleagues for help or take full responsibility and get on with something without support.

It may sound scary, but actually, if you think about it, it is very empowering.


Did you get your upgrade in the end?


Thank you DrCorinne for your reply. I agree, but as you said it can be disheartening.

In reply to timefortea - the upgrade is dependent on finishing drafting this chapter for publication, which is already late so probably won't happen!