The School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies takes very seriously the academic development of its research students. This page contains some basic information about:
All research students in SPAIS are assigned two supervisors, either co-supervisors, or a primary and secondary supervisor. The co-supervisors or principal supervisor also act as personal tutor. These roles are described in more detail on the SPAIS PGR Handbook. Both supervisors and MPhil / PhD students share decisions regarding the process of upgrading from MPhil to PhD, reviewing the thesis, and making preparations for the final MPhil or PhD viva. If a student's research changes, it may become desirable to substitute the secondary supervisor for the primary one, or to change one or both supervisors entirely.
The School takes great care to monitor the progress of its research students and to ensure that any problems are quickly identified and resolved. To this end, there are two points in the year when students have a chance to report on their progress as well as on any difficulties, including with supervision.
At the outset of each academic year, all research students meet individually with the Director of MPhil / PhD Research in a brief meeting to discuss their progress and flag up any problems. Later during the academic year, the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law requires research students and supervisors to complete an annual report form, following a progress meeting between supervisors and the student. Students have the opportunity to comment on the supervisors’ assessment of their progress, or on any other aspect of the supervisors’ role.
Students who commenced their study before September 2013 have been initially registered for the MPhil. Those students who wish to proceed to PhD candidature are required to upgrade from MPhil to PhD. Upgrading is not an entitlement and is not always appropriate.
The Faculty requires that the upgrade take place within 21 months of MPhil registration (42 months for part-time students). In consultation with their supervisors, students prepare an upgrade document consisting of a research proposal, and writing sample (usually a thesis chapter), a working bibliography, and any required ethics forms. Two upgrade assessors are chosen in consultation with the supervisors and the Director of MPhil / PhD Research and an oral viva is held to discuss the proposed research. Students successfully upgraded have their registration changed to PhD candidature; students not upgraded can continue to complete the MPhil degree.
From September 2013 all students will be registered directly onto the PhD programme. There will be a formal progress review similar to the current upgrade procedure. Students not progressing sufficiently towards a PhD can be downgraded to MPhil at this point.
MPhil and PhD theses are examined in a viva voce examination by an internal examiner, generally from within the School, and by an external examiner appointed from another academic institution in the UK. To prepare PhD students for their viva, the School offers the opportunity to undertake a mock viva. This is held in the period between the submission of the thesis and the actual viva.