Need honest advice: failed my first PhD, leaving with MPhil: Attempt a second try for PhD?


Hi all, I am at a moment in my career where I need all the advice and help I can get to make the better or right decisions. I'll try not go too much into detail about personal issues so just to keep it short.

I am from the UK and started a PhD four years ago at a prestigious university. Many things happened personally (covid, personal bad choices, etc) leading me to be projected to fail the PhD, especially with barely any time remaining. This was fully funded by EPSRC - and I notice they fund most PhD. Now with just a few months left, my supervisor advised going for the easier and realistic option to leave with an MPhil, and offered to give me good reference afterwards too.

My passion and goal since a young age was to achieve a doctorate, so I am obviously pretty distraught about this. I am 27 years old with brief work experiences at good companies; mostly internships. The logical path is to "restart" my life by looking a job in industry, probably entry level. I'm coming to terms with the regret of failing my first PhD and four years gone, but a part of me still has the fire to try pursue a PhD again, and potentially go into academia.

I'm making a post here to receive realistic and sensible advice. My motivation for academia is not a question and I enjoy it very much, because if I could restart or had another opportunity, I would do it again correctly.

1) How likely is it now to get accepted into another PhD programme, since any potential supervisor knows I already attempted once and failed?
2) Will I be able to receive funding from EPSRC again, since they will ask for my history of previous funding, and know I failed and wasted it from their point of view?
3) I am still not sure what an "MPhil" degree qualifies you to work as and what experience I can show with it. My field was in physics.
4) The other and safer solution is to find a job - does having two masters (Engineering & MPhil) give any kind of advantage? And likewise, could this also be an advantage for a PhD application?
5) My job field would be in Comp Sci/ Engineering/Physics field. I believe I have a strong application for an entry level position although I hope for something higher. The salaries for engineers in the UK are very low, when at least compared to the US as an example. At least until you have years of experience from what I've researched so far. I would be restarting if I find a job in industry, but would be better to start "climbing" earlier than later.

Thanks a lot for reading and the advice you can give me. I will have to choose the career path at a crucial point in my life right now, so I want to know how my chances look like or how to make the best out of my situation.


You asked for honest opinion so here goes.

I would suggest that you get a job with industry. You have spent 4 years to get a master and if you spend another 4 to get a PhD, you will end up with 8 years of studies and no work experience, only short internship. It’s hard to get a job like that because you will be overqualified on paper and under qualified in experience. So best get a job now with your master.

If you still insist on getting a PhD, you could try and I reckon it will be hard to get a second full scholarship. There is no point in double masters, it shows you have no idea what you want to study or do with you life. And to survive in academia these days you had better pray for a superb project with awesome supervisor that allows you to publish many papers. If you don’t get this, it’s hard ti stay competitive in academia