urgent help needed: forced gradute with a MPhil but not PhD


Hi all I am new here, and sorry for such a long message, I deperately need help. I'm doing my PhD study in one of the top business schools in the UK, I'm in my year four and things are going really bad. My superviors have been taking turns to take on maternity leaves since my year one, I only got one supervior during year two, got a new one in year three. Lots of changesa because of that. My project scope changed as well because I couldn't guarantee organisaitonal access for data collection. As such, my methodology had to change from survey data collection to experiments. During my year three, it was agreed that I had to narrow down my research scope and use prolific & experiement data for my study in order to complete my phd. I got good gades in all the past annual assessments despites the changes. Yet I knew that I had to apply for one year extension durting my year three because of all the changes. Things suddenly got changed in my year four review a few months ago. I was told my project scope was not enough for a phd and that my data was mainly from prolific study that were not good enough. I failed in that assessment and was suggested to get a Mphil instead. However, the programme director would accept the one year extension application if I could finish my whole thesis's lit review, methodology, and one qualitative paper in three months. I did so a few days ago, on top of that, I integrated an additional dataset in my qualitative paper and also collected the data for my second paper already, I aim to finish the second paper in the coming 3 months. I will have another assessment meeting next week, and just had a catch up meeting with my superviors. From what they 'concluded', I made significant progress but they still didn't think the current scope and work are enough for a phd and that I may need to consider a Mphil. I was shocked. The scope was narrowed down as per the supervisors and panel mebers' suggestions because it was too complicated, and I met the requirement and showed significant progress. What is 'enough' and what is 'not enough' then? I'm lost and it hurts my soul to envision myself of not getting it. I decided to do a phd because the professors and superviosrs in my master uni used to tell me how much potential I have gotriing my first year of phd I also got a paper presentation award in a academic conference. All of a sudden, I was told I ha no potential and my project is NOT ENOUGH for a phd. I find it extremely unfair to me that my performance was almost 'framed' as per their will, especially the new supervisor assigned to me in my year three. What should I do? I'm so devastated currently.

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Hi aktuphd,

I am sorry no one has replied earlier, posts over the weekend are a bit funny for new members.

That sounds unfair and unjustified. What they are asking of you at this stage is uncalled for and not the basis for termination. If your projects was good enough at the 3 year review why is it suddenly not enough now? However, I am going to be honest appeals can be difficult if you do not have some academic support. What do your current and former supervisors think or any other members of faculty? You need to talk with them about your universities internal appeal system and they should give you advice. You can also talk with the students union or an independent member of faculty for advice. I would generally say that you need to get as much evidence saying the panel was wrong (politely "did not fully consider") and present it to the right person.

Hopefully other people can give you better advice


I don't know why they have allowed you to get as far as this without stopping you.
When this happens, I have a hard time believing that it's anyone but the university to blame.

That's not to say that an appeal will help.

I am a little confused about a few things though. Firstly, I don't know why you brought up maternity leave. This shouldn't have mattered and I think you are using that to excuse a lack of progress on your part.
Secondly, unless I have misread your post, you don't appear to have any journal publications after 4 years. That is a concern. Even with disruption you should have something by now. If you don't, I think any appeal is going to be very difficult.
Thirdly, you are talking about your performance being related to "their will". This is a massive red flag. A PhD student should not be talking this way. You seem upset at them downgrading you despite doing what they asked you to do. You are not there to do what they direct you to do. You are supposed to be an independent researcher at this stage, coming up with your own ideas with sufficient quality and quantity to earn your PhD. I think you need to step back and think whether this description fits what has happened to you.

I might be wrong but I have seen this story before and what you have posted is concerning as regards your independence of working. You might need to accept that maybe they have a point about the MPhil.

So my strong advice here is to take a step back. Try and remove the emotion if you can. Then be brutally honest about your own performance. Then ask yourself whether they genuinely have a point about the MPhil.


OK so you can ask to speak with them about it and ask what you can do to make it worth a PhD. If they are not willing to support you to do that then you can appeal once it is a formal decision.

If you don't agree and feel that there were issues and you can make a good argument, then appealing might work. But on the other hand, even if the appeal were successful, it might not be a very good situation to be in (to have supervisors who you know don't actually support you or believe in you).

I think I would want to remove myself from the situation as quickly as possible by completing the MPhil and having that award under my belt. There are people who have done an MPhil in one place and then gone on to do a PhD somewhere else. You can still pursue a new PhD after having got an MPhil, so it isn't the end of the world in that sense (although I am sure it feels like it is now). I hope this helps.


Hi everyone, thank you very much for your advice and comments! A quick update about my situation, I had another panel review, I submitted more works than what I was asked to, my works did impress the panel members and I defended my work well in the meeting, they withdrew their initial decision and they told me I was the only successful case so far. I will be given a 1-year extension to complete me PhD. It was a very emotional day when I posted my initial post, I didn't get caught up by my emotions that long tho, work is work, the only option I had was to drive the best result and get prepared to defend my work well in the meeting.

@pm133, I didn't get pregnant :) both my superivors took turn to take maternity leaves every year, so I have been having different superviors in each year, that implies lots of changes and adaptation in terms of collaborations. I'm not sure about how other universities in the U.K. are managing their PhD students, my uni doesn't set expectations that the PhDs need to have works published before graduation, it's different from the system in the U.S. But it is something to plan and work on in the last PhD year, i.e. that is what I am trying to speed up.

I do agree with you Tudor_Queen, I was prepared to accept this fact and planned to complete the MPhil asap. Moving on was my solution. I also do not think the appeal route would work. At least I didn't know any successful case in my university. I'm happy about the turnaround and things are finally under control.

One thing I didn't mention was that I had depression as I lost my father two years ago, the only thing I regret is that I didn't look into this matter properly and get professional help earlier. I finally did starting from a few months ago, my learning agility and work ability have been improving since then. To anyone who is reading this post and having similar situation like mine, please do get professional help, I thought I could manage it on my own, my repeated failures at work proved not...


Congratulations! That's great news!!! You must feel so relieved.


Thank you very much! Yes it is a big relief! :) I can finally stay focused on pushing forward my progress without worrying thousands what if questions!


I'm so happy for you.