Phd application and academic references help/advice


Hi all. Advice much appreciated. Do you actually have to have your MA marks back, i.e pass, merit, distinction, before applying for Phd? My dissertation is in (supervisor is happy with it) I get grade at Easter to graduate summer 2013 instead of 2014 after completing early.

I'm applying for Phd for Sept/Oct 13 but having trouble getting my course lead to do a reference, despite asking since Oct and the deadline is nearing. Course lead also says to wait until MA grade confirmation before Phd application, but surely people apply whilst still on their MA don't they?

This person also says it will be unlikely I'll get on a Phd at this Russel group uni anyway (I got distinction last year with my supervisor commenting my writing is at a level suitable for academic journal and I hope to be there or there abouts with my dissertation also, fingers crossed! Plus I've over 10 years industry related experience)

They have also not answered any requests when I've asked where else they suggest I apply then e.g their academic contacts. I have no idea if I am being given good advice by this other more senior tutor? My supervisor did their reference ages ago so it's this last one causing all the hold up. I don't want to get too pushy as this person second marks my dissertation.



It could depend on your field of study but I know that in Humanities (in my experience anyway) it's not a requirement to have your MA finished before applying for a PhD. The more of it you have completed the better though, and even if you're only awaiting the outcome of your dissertation other candidates with a completed MA will be preferred over you. As far as funding goes you'll most likely be out of contention without a completed (and high-scoring) MA in the bag.

Like I said, this is true for Humanities, but your industry experience could well make up for an incomplete MA.


Go ahead and apply. You might be given a conditional offer, you might lose out to people with completed Masters, but there's nothing to say that you can't apply, so long as you'd be available and finished the Masters by any specified start date.


May not be relevant, but is there no-one else you could ask for the second reference e.g. who knew you from an undergrad degree? Since you have one reference related to your MA it wouldn't be likely to appear that you are hiding bad news if you get a second reference from another source.

If all else fails, would put in the application and note that your second referee would prefer to send a reference on request once your MA marks arrive at Easter. Then at least you've done all you can.


Thanks for the advice people. Yes it is a humanities field. Clupea, after reading your message I have contacted the PhD uni and they are happy with the first ref and will now consider my application while waiting for an alternative reference from my employer as my job is directly related to the field of study. Phew, panic over. :-)


Second question. Following all this advice I have contacted the potential supervisor directly and have been invited in for 'a chat' with the Professor and one of their colleagues. Those of you that have been through the process, is this likely to be like an interview type thing or do you have 'a chat' and then get invited for formal interview if they think they can work with you. The uni are currently considering my application. Any tips/advice for the day. Thanks


I would treat it as both an interview and a chat. There will be a big possibility that this chat will develop into an interview. I would advise knowing your stuff for that day. Think up an answer for why you want to do a PhD. This was one of the first things my now supervisor asked me when I walked through his door for a "chat".