should I go for an MPhil rather than PhD??


I would love any advice people feel they can give as I am really confused.

I am in the second year of my MPhil and preparing to upgrade to PhD. However, I am seriously considering not applying for transfer and submitting an MPhil for a number of reasons. I think mainly I entered the PhD naively, and as I always enjoyed academia thought, great, 3 years more why not?!? I was offered a funded PhD literally out of the blue and took it on board knowing deep down I found the topic really dull (1st mistake). The the funders all left their various organisations and the prof who set up the PhD and was my supervior retired 3 months in when the department I was in disbanded.

I have now been in a new dept for 1 year and a team of supervisors has been cobbled together but none of them are even mildly interested in my PhD topic (so that makes all of us). I also am increasingly realising that a phd is rarely completed in 3 years and can go on and on and if i am bored to tears with the topic now this is going to be awful. In addition, I no longer wish to work in academia in any long term sense (would happily work at a lower level as I do enjoy research but do not want to be a lecturer/proffessor long term).

On a personal level, I have recently thought that I would like to have kids, but at a very very bestc ase scenario i would be 34 when I finish my PhD and would have no money etc so could not go straight ahead and have a kid and I worry that by working for a few years I would be risking my chances.

But I also like to finish things I have started and am concerned that people would see an MPhil as a cop out. Of coirse I am scared of PhD failure and can't be 100% sure I am not just having doubts at this stahe through a fear I won't pass. So far my supervisors have said that my work is good but when you get your work back with just a few spelling corrections and the odd remark you know it hasn't been read very well.

But now I am even worried about how hard an MPhil will be to get. Does anyone know if an MPhil viva is much easier than a PhD one? The grad office told me that very few people take the MPhil - they either quit or go to PhD which I thought was strange. Surely it is easier (not easy but easier) to get an MPhil than a PhD and surely there are people who want to leave with something if not the grand prize.

Meeting my supervisor tomorrow to potentially discuss this - she doesn't know that yet! Any advice though would be really well appreciated.

Laura x


======= Date Modified 20 Nov 2011 16:18:37 =======
Hi Laura,

You seem to have a good idea of pros and cons of each. I'm not too sure why people would quit altogether rather than aim for an MPhil, but you certainly wouldn't be seen as a cop out for taking that. For example, in the future you won't need to explain that you were doing a PhD but decided to stop at an MPhil; some people do set to get an MPhil in the first place. (I have a taught M. Phil -I radically changed direction- although I never even think to distinguish that on my C.V, now that I think of it!)

If you are not passionate about your topic and if you do not need a PhD for the future, than I think I would go for the M. Phil, if in your position. Jabaru posted a thread describing his/her M.A. by research viva here, you may find that useful:

Good luck tomorrow, hopefully your supervisor will have some good advice for you. :)


Hello Lixatron

I think everything in your post points to you quitting the PhD and taking the MPhil. Not being interested in the topic to begin with is a recipe for disaster. A PhD is hard enough when you ARE interested in the topic! Without that interest to fuel you, you will have a horrible, miserable time! I think all the other circumstances surrounding your MPhil / PhD are not in your favour. If you have decided you do not want to stay in academia then a PhD will not be a necessity and will only cause you unnecessary stress (Please note, I’m not saying a PhD counts for nothing outside academia, just that you don’t NEED it).

In academic circles I think there is a bit of a stigma about just going for an MPhil. It is synonymous with a failed PhD Its wrong! But that’s the way it is. In other sectors outside of academia (I’m not sure what your subject area is so I can’t comment on specific types of job available to you) it is less of an issue. In most non-academic sectors it is experience rather than qualifications that count. So if you are sure about not staying in academia, I don’t think taking the MPhil will look bad at all. I would recommend thinking about what area of work you do want to go into and that will give you more of an idea about what you should aim for.

About the viva, there is no viva for an MPhil, there is just an examination of the thesis. At my university that is the case, but I can’t say if that is the standard.

I hope this helps.


Thanks for that guys! so far everyone I have spoken to tells me to stick with the Phd despite outlining my reasons for not wanting to as i have above. Nice to see that based on the facts i have posted my reasoning is not totally flawed.
also thanks for the link about MPhil viva - sadly i do need to have one at my university although it can't be as bad as phd one as the stakes as not so high. yes i also do not understand why people would walk away rather than take the mphil but maybe they leave well before they get to that stage.
I'll see what my supervisor says tomorrow and repost - she will do everything she can to make me stick at phd probably so may have a fight on my hands!
Thanks again, Laura x


Dear Laura,

Thank you for sharing your experience. So what did you decide at the end and how did it go?

Best wishes,