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More in this section Postgraduate research


Students usually enter in October and are initially registered for the MPhil degree. This registration is normally changed to PhD later in the research programme, after satisfactory progress has been demonstrated by a written report and an oral examination.

Every student has one or more supervisors and an advisor. Supervisors direct the research project and look after the student on a regular basis. The advisor is another academic staff member working in an area more distant from the project, who may be consulted on general matters if/when the need arises, and takes a more pastoral role. The supervisor(s), advisor, and Director of Graduate Studies conduct the annual oral examinations (viva voce) of the student. Other academic members of staff may also attend the viva voce as appropriate.

Three-month report

The student writes a report on his/her first three months (usually October - December) describing the training received to date and plans for the remainder of the academic year. The report is short (one or two pages of A4) and is signed by supervisor and advisor. These reports are received by the Postgraduate Management Committee in January, and discussed.

First Annual Review

The student writes a report (normally of approximately 3000--5000 words) by May, describing the work carried out during the first eight months and how far the objectives set after three months have been met. It also contains the plan for the second year. The student's report is considered at the viva. After the viva the supervisor completes a pro-forma report on the student's progress during the year and gives a copy to the student.

Research colloquium

Every year from the first year the student will give a talk at the Department Research Student Colloquium. This takes place in May/June each year.

Second Annual Review

This is a similar procedure to the First Annual Review and takes place halfway through the second year. The report at this stage should normally include a more substantial technical report which will form the basis of a case for upgrade from MPhil to PhD status. By this stage students are expected to have done a substantial amount of research towards their PhD, and to have a draft table of contents of the PhD with a clear idea of what remains to be done. By this stage, the student is also required to have given a technical talk within the Department, either as a Departmental seminar or (more commonly) within the cakes talks series. As a consequence of this year's viva, the student is recommended to be upgraded from MPhil to PhD or to remain registered for the MPhil (see Upgrade, below).

Third Annual Review

This takes place halfway through the third year, and the student submits a two-page summary of work done in the past year, a statement of what remains to be completed and the time required for each unfinished activity. If the student has not submitted a thesis by the end of the third year then they should have produced a substantial draft.

Writing up year

The writing up year comes after three years full-time or six years part-time study. It is intended to provide additional time where necessary to complete the write-up of the thesis. The College requires all students to submit their thesis by no later than the end of the writing up year (for part-time students, no later than the end of the second writing up year).

Part-time students

The timescale for progression for part-time students is pro-rata with respect to the full-time equivalent. Their initial report is to be completed within six months. The student still submits a 3000-5000 word report every year, and has a viva every year.

Upgrade from MPhil to PhD status

Students are normally considered for transfer from MPhil to PhD status during their second year. The first viva for this purpose must be held within 18 months of start of studies and the deadline is 24 months i.e. the end of their second year (pro rata for part-time students). This transfer of status will require submission of a technical report for an oral examination by a committee consisting of at least the student's supervisor, advisor, and the Director of Graduate Studies.


A standard pro-forma is used for all the Annual Reviews. The signed copies are sent to the Graduate Office of RHUL and copies are given to the student and also kept on file in the Departmental Office.

Student Feedback Questionnaire

Each student is asked to complete an on-line Student Feedback Questionnaire, around the time of the Annual Review. These are anonymous and are used by the department to report to the College on postgraduate management issues.

Training Log

All students maintain a training log which tracks their training needs. A training log form (available from the Doctoral School pages), identifying training needs for the coming year, is completed by the supervisor in discussion with the student at the beginning of each academic year, and reviewed at the annual review.



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