At most universities, all postgraduate researchers are initially registered on the Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree. Not until they have completed approximately nine months’ full-time study (or equivalent for part-time) and been through a formal process known as progression will they be upgraded to the PhD. Having recently been through my progression, I thought it would be useful in this entry to share some of my top tips to survive:
As soon as possible after starting your studies, find and familiarise yourself with your university’s guidelines for progression. At some institutions, students are provided with these when they enrol but, if not, they’re typically not too hard to source. In most cases, you will be expected to provide a short written report evidencing a clear project proposal, research question, and a clear plan for the remaining work as well as information on training, etc. completed during your first year. If you do this properly, it can help you to feel much more confident about your aims and what you are doing moving forward.
Ask as many people as you can for advice. For instance, go to fellow PhD students who have been through progression before you and talk to them about their experiences. You should also make full use of your supervisory team. While you can learn a lot about progression from your university’s formal guidelines as discussed above, I found that some of the most useful hints and tips came from more informal discussions so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask!
Arrive in Good Time
On the day of your progression panel, be sure to arrive in good time. I arrived on campus roughly an hour before I had to be so that I was able to have a coffee, eat something and just generally gather my thoughts before everything got underway. This really helped to calm my nerves, which brings me to my final point…
While there is no doubt that progression is a nerve-wracking experience, try not to worry too much. As I saw it, I’m unlikely to be given another opportunity before my viva to have an extended discussion with a group of experts in my field about my work – not including meetings with my supervisory team of course! This being so, I really tried to make the most of my time with my panel and took from it everything that I possibly could.
I hope that this has provided some useful advice for those of you who are due to progress in the future and good luck!