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Transfer of Status Instructions

Transfer of Status from Probationary Research Student to DPhil or MSc(R) status.

Every graduate student undertaking a research degree in Engineering Science is given the status of a Probationary Research Student (PRS), either at the very start of their course or after the training year in a Centre for Doctoral Training. Only after a successful assessment of your progress during the probationary period is your status formally upgraded that that of a DPhil or MSc(R) candidate.

The assessment of your progress is made by your Supervisory Committee, made up of two members of Faculty with knowledge of your area, along with your supervisor(s) as a non-voting member(s). During your first year, you will receive an e-mail from the Graduate Studies Administrator informing you of who is on your Supervisory Committee.

1. Outline of the Transfer process

At month 11 you are required to submit written material, ahead of making a brief research presentation to the Committee (which will be open to other Faculty members), and attending an oral examination.

The written submission must describe the work carried out in your first 9 or so months of research, place your completed and proposed work in context by reviewing the literature, and provide a plan of the work to be undertaken up to submission of your thesis. The detailed requirements are given later. Your presentation (15min) should set your research theme in context, describe the design and execution of completed work, and motivate the next phase of your research. In the interview (45-60min) you will be asked a variety of technical questions arising from your written submission, and be probed on your future

When successful, you complete the University's GSO.2 form, in which you detail the postgraduate training you have undertaken and intend to undertake. This is signed off by your supervisor, your College's Tutor for Graduates, and, finally, the Director of Graduate Studies.

2. Assessment Criteria

Through the written submission, presentation and oral examination you must demonstrate your ability to carry out work leading to the MSc(R) or DPhil. You will need to show that you have:

  • The academic and other abilities necessary to carry out original research of high quality.
  •  Suitable background knowledge gained through critical study of the literature.
  • A research topic likely to lead to a satisfactory thesis within the overall time limits of 24 months for an MSc(R), 42 months for the DPhil, and 36 months for the DPhil if you have spent a training year in a CDT.
  • Access to the necessary physical resources for your research. Your supervisor will share responsibility for this.


3. Detail


3.1 Times and seasons

The written submission must be ready not later than 11 months after commencing as a PRS. For the majority of students who start in Michaelmas Term, the submission deadline is 1st September, but for Hilary and Trinity Term starters the deadlines are 1st December and 1st April respectively. Extensions of time are granted only in exceptional circumstances and with the agreement of your Supervisory Committee.

3.2 Format of the written work

There are two permitted modes of presenting your written submission. The “Paper” mode involves presenting your year's work in the form of a scientific paper. It is perhaps the better choice if you have a body of experimental or theoretical results. The “Report” mode involves writing a research report, which might be preferred if the bulk of your work has been dominated by apparatus design and build or by a indepth review of literature. Your supervisor will advise you on your choice.

3.2.1 Research Paper Mode

The written submission comprises (1) a research paper, (2) a literature review and proposal. They are combined into a single document.

In part (1), the research paper describes your work from the first year. It may be an already published paper, or one submitted for review ― but most likely will be an account of your work from the first year put together in a scholarly fashion. The paper should have all the usual elements: a title, abstract, introduction and review of relevant work; several sections describing research output; a conclusions section; and a bibliography. The paper should not exceed 10 A4 pages, including all diagrams and bibliography, when set in 10pt Times New Roman in a single spaced, double column format, with page margins of 20mm all round. Latex style files and an example Word formatted document are available for download from the Department's intranet.

Part (2) is a critical review of the literature sufficient to set your existing and proposed work in context, followed by your research proposal. The proposal is a key element: the content, time required, and risk involved in your proposed research must be fully thought through. For a DPhil, the proposal should contain detail of the work planned for the next 9 months, and well-considered ideas for the following 21 months leading to submission no later than month 42. For a CDT DPhil, the times are 9 months and 15 months, leading to submission at month 48. For an MSc(R) candidate, the plan must show detail of the next 9 months leading to submission at month 24. These figures assume you have left 3 months for writing up,
either interleaved with work, or at the end. You must provide a risk assessment identifying critical points or uncertainties, and indicate how you will manage these.

The review and proposal is limited to 15 A4 pages, set in 12pt New Times Roman, double spaced with 20mm margins all round.

Note: You may well find that there is some overlap between the literature review in the two parts. Do not be overly concerned by this. Cross-referencing between the two parts is perfectly acceptable.

3.2.2 Report Mode

This involves preparing a single report, again written in a scholarly manner in several chapters. The report should contain an abstract, introduction, literature review, chapters describing work undertaken, and overall conclusion. (The substantive differences from the Paper mode are that the review of literature is unified, and that the format might make it easier to describe equipment build. The report gives an opportunity to write a literature review or equipment chapter that can be included in your final thesis.) The literature review and research conclusions should motivate your research proposal in the last chapter. Your proposal is again of key importance, and it should include the level of detail already described for the Paper mode. The entire report should not exceed 50 A4 pages when set in 12pt Times New Roman, double spaced, with 20mm margins all round.

3.2.3 Both Modes

There is no longer a requirement to list in your submission the lectures, seminars, and other training events you have attended in your time as a PRS. These are to be written onto your GSO.2 form.

4. How to submit your written work

A single pdf document should be attached to an email and sent to by the start of month 11. Your submission will be inspected for compliance with the requirements before being forwarded to your committee.

5. Outcomes

Most often the written work, presentation and performance in the oral examination are found to satisfy the Department's criteria, and you then go on to complete and submit a GSO.2 form to request permission of your College and the University to change status. Separate instructions will be provided.

However it is not uncommon for a Committee to ask for minor adjustments to be made to your written work or, more often, the plan. Your Committee will provide a short time for their completion, and then you will continue to submit a GSO.2 form.

If you do not satisfy the criteria, this is reported to the Director of Graduate Studies and the MPLS Graduate School, and the best way forward for you considered and discussed with you. If aiming to take a DPhil, you may instead be advised to research for an MSc; or you may, after major revision, resubmit your work within 3 months for a second and final attempt to transfer.