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Graduate School of Life Sciences

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MPhil (Research) Student

This page provides information for students undertaking a MPhil by research thesis.  The research MPhil degree essentially follows the format of the PhD but compressed into a single year (and hence has no probationary element).  MPhil degrees are not intended to be a probationary year for 3-year PhD study.

Progress Monitoring

Each term supervisors submit a progress report on each student on to the Cambridge Graduate Student Reporting System (CPSRS) which is part of the University's student information system CamSIS.  Reports are read by the relevant Director of Graduate Education before being submitted to the Degree Committee and Student Registry.  Students can view progress reports via their self service account. Either the Degree Committee or the Student Registry may investigate further if a supervisor has indicated issues with a student's progress.  You are advised to raise any issues that you may be having at an early stage so that these can be resolved. 

Appointment of examiners for the MPhil

About two months before you are due to submit your MPhil dissertation for examination, you will need to apply for the appointment of examiners.   Please download the appropriate Intention to Submit form from this website and submit it together with a copy of your dissertation summary to the appropriate Degree Committee office, following the instructions on the form. Click for a link to the form for students in the Faculty of Biology and in the Faculties of Clinical Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.  The Degree Committee will then set in motion the process of appointment by asking your Head of Department to make nominations; he or she may consult your supervisor at this point. The summary is used to inform the Head of Department and potential examiners about the content of your work.


Students must submit their dissertation for examination within the maximum period of their study.  For full-time students this is within 12 months from the initial date of registration (taking into account any periods of authorised intermission).

  • Students admitted in Michaelmas term must submit by end of the following August
  • Students admitted in Lent term must submit by the end of the following Michaelmas term
  • Students admitted in Easter term must submit by the end of the following Lent term. 

Your Programme Administrator will advise on your final submission date at the start of your course. Students who are unable to meet their submission deadline must apply to extend their registration date, otherwise they will be removed from the Register of Graduate Students until ready to submit.   

Information on the required format of dissertations can be found on the Student Registry website.  The PhD format applies to the MPhil except for word length - the word limit for the research MPhil is 20,000 words. 

You are required to submit 2 copies of your soft-bound MPhil dissertation directly to the Degree Committee Office no later than midday on the last weekday before the above dates.  You are asked to include a ‘certificate of submission’ form which is a signed declaration of word length, title, and contact details. Click here for a link to the form. 

Examination and Award

The Degree Committee sends the copies to the appointed examiners. You will be contacted in due course by the Internal Examiner whose responsibility it is to arrange the date and location of the viva examination. Information about the viva examinations can be found on the Student Registry website (the PhD information applies to the research MPhil).

Following the viva, the examiners each submit an independent report (written prior to the viva) and a joint report (written after the viva) to the Degree Committee.  The joint report will make a recommendation on whether an award should be granted, and whether corrections to the thesis are required.  The Degree Committee will review the reports and and come to a decision on the award of the degree.  A letter confirming the outcome will then be sent to the student from the Degree Committee.

Please note that copies of MPhil dissertations are not required to be deposited in the University Library. You therefore do not need to submit a hardbound version after corrections (if any) have been made. The two soft-bound copies used in the examination will be returned to you. 

Transferring to PhD

Students who wish to transfer to PhD during their MPhil year, without taking the MPhil examinations, must complete a request to change registration form.   The request is referred to the supervisor/Department to approve or otherwise by completing their section of the form.  The request is then submitted to Degree Committee and finally the Board of Graduate Studies.   

The supervisor/Department should review a project proposal and confirm to the Degree Committee that the project is achievable within the time frame to complete – that is within the 4 years from the student’s date of admission for the MPhil.  The student should attach financial confirmation to the transfer request form.

 Following transfer, students are registered as probationary PhD in their first year and subsequently undertake the ‘normal’ registration exercise in the Department.  The first year assessment would normally be undertaken at the anniversary of their start date – but the DC can, if they wish agree a later date & this should be indicated on the application form to ensure the BGS advise the student when advising on the outcome of their application.

 If students transfer having completed their MPhil exams but before their award is approved  the process is as above but the Degree Committee can at this stage agree to register the student for the PhD as completion of the MPhil can be taken as sufficient to stand in place of the ‘normal’ first year registration exercise.

Overseas students should note that there may be ATAS and visa implications and they may need to apply for a new ATAS certificate.

Welcome to the Graduate School of Life Sciences

We are the largest centre for research and professional training in the Life Sciences in the UK, offering a very special experience to a community of around 2000 graduate students across departments within the School of the Biological Sciences, School of Clinical Medicine and eleven University Partner Institutes in the Cambridge area.

Every year some of the world's brightest and most determined students are attracted by the opportunity to carry out research projects with renowned scientists in a vibrant, multidisciplinary environment at one of the world's most respected research-led universities.

The School co-ordinates funding opportunities within the Life Sciences for their postgraduate education, as well as ensuring students receive the highest quality supervision and training.