Difference between MPhil and PhD

Even after completing a post-graduate degree course, many students wish to continue their education and they often wonder about the difference between MPhil and PhD. This confusion arises because both degrees are research-oriented; thus, students find it challenging to decide which one to pursue.

MPhil, short for Master of Philosophy, is a postgraduate research degree. Completion of coursework is also part of the MPhil requirements. International scholarships are available for MPhil and PhD studies, as well as access to funding from the government, i.e., if you are eligible.

The following article will provide a comprehensive overview of the difference between an MPhil and PhD. 

What is an MPhil Degree?

Unlike other degrees, one difference between MPhil and PhD is that an MPhil degree is an advanced academic research degree undertaken at a research-based institution. It involves the completion of a thesis, ranging from 40,000 to 60,000 words. It is often referred to as an intermediate degree between the postgraduate taught master’s and a PhD.

It can take up to two years to finish an MPhil, i.e., one year of coursework and one year of thesis writing. An MPhil candidate has to develop their research based on the work of other scholars as well as find the latest research in the respective field of study.

An external examiner from a different institution and an internal supervisor from the same institution as the candidate will evaluate the thesis, often conducted through a viva-voce (oral examination). Upon passing the viva-voce, the candidate receives the degree of MPhil. During the period of the programme, the candidate must present the results of their research work at an internal seminar before submitting the thesis to the university for examination.

What is a PhD?

The PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, is the highest degree a university can award a candidate who has successfully completed research in a topic or field of knowledge. A PhD graduate can use the title of ‘Dr’ indefinitely. Upon graduation, a PhD holder can work as a lecturer, assistant professor or research assistant at a university or research institute. One key difference between MPhil and PhD is that a PhD involves the completion of a more extensive thesis ranging from 60,000 to 100,000 words.

Another difference between MPhil and PhD is that many universities do not require an applicant to hold a postgraduate degree before getting admitted into an MPhil programme. However, a student who wishes to pursue a PhD must have already acquired a postgraduate qualification. In some rare cases, a candidate may be selected for admission directly to a PhD programme if they obtained a first-class degree in their bachelor’s degree.

Universities do not require a distinction in master’s to get admitted into a PhD programme, but competitive PhD programmes still require a distinction. Before registering for a PhD, the applicant first chooses a university for admission and then, after a year, completes a piece of coursework.

The coursework element is not compulsory in some universities. Two years from the date of completion of coursework, candidates become eligible to submit the thesis.

After completing the PhD thesis, the candidate is expected to give presentations at relevant research committees and then submit a final thesis. An external examiner will then evaluate the thesis. Most universities allow candidates to publish a part of their thesis in a research journal or in a book collection.

Afterwards, the candidate must defend their thesis in the viva-voce in front of a panel of examiners or an examiner if it is in the UK. There is no difference between MPhil and PhD in this case. The candidate is eventually recommended for award of a PhD degree after completing the viva.

Difference between MPhil and PhD 1
Difference between MPhil and PhD

How many supervisors are allocated to a PhD student?

There is little difference between MPhil and PhD concerning supervisor allocation. An MPhil student is assigned one or two supervisors, while a PhD student is assigned at least two supervisors.

It is expected that candidates consult their supervisor about identifying, preparing, and submitting a research synopsis at some stage. There must be a consensus on the research topic between the PhD candidate and supervisors.

What is the difference between MPhil and PhD?

Typically, MPhil is defined as a second master’s degree, usually taken after a taught master’s degree, e.g., an MSc. It aims to provide students with a full understanding of the subject and also provides a platform for advanced research into a PhD.

On the other hand, a PhD is an academic degree programme that can enable graduates to obtain a faculty position, lecture their respective subjects at the university level, or pursue a career in their field.

What is the duration of an MPhil vs PhD?

MPhil is a two-year course, while PhDs require at least three years to complete as a full time student, with additional time depending on whether the viva-voce examiners accept the thesis.

MPhil candidates do not receive a stipend, whereas PhD students receive a scholarship or grant (or fellowship in some cases) as a stipend for conducting research.

Another difference between MPhil and PhD is that research basics are part of the MPhil programme. A PhD programme requires the students to produce their own original research and work on a particular area.

Under the MPhil programme structure, coursework is conducted as well as dissertation work, which is performed under the guidance of a subject matter supervisor. Instead, the PhD programme can include one year of coursework which is not mandatory in many universities, followed by thesis work supervised by a subject matter supervisor.

Difference between MPhil and PhD

Difference between MPhil and PhDMPhilPhD
Duration2 years duration as a full-time student; 3-4 years part-time3-4 years duration as a full-time student; 5-6 years part-time
Fees for international students£13,000 – £19,800 per year£13,000 – £21,000 per year
Scholarships No scholarships or grants are availableThere are scholarships and grants available
Title after graduationNoneDr. or Doctor
Number of supervisors1 or 2 supervisorsAt least two supervisors, one of which may be an ‘associate’ supervisor
Thesis word count40,000 – 60,000 words60,000 – 100,000 words
CourseworkCoursework is compulsory for all MPhil programmesCoursework is compulsory in some PhD programmes
Academic Entry Level (in the UK)Level 7 RQFLevel 8 RQF
Difference between MPhil and PhD

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