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There are a number of milestones along the way to achieving your research degree.

Depending on the award you register for you may be required to undertake the Transfer. This is illustrated in the chart below. Further on, we take you through the whole journey in detail, covering all the important milestones on your journey from registration to award of the degree.

Key student assessment points in the research degree journey by registration route

Students who have registered for the MPhil/PhD and successfully transfer to the PhD award or who are registered for the PhD by Prior Publication will meet the following award criteria:

Produce a body of work that contains a significant and original contribution to knowledge in your chosen subject area, which is sufficiently important to merit publication.

Students who have registered for an MPhil award, or who have registered for the MPhil/PhD and exit at the transfer stage will meet the following award criteria:

Critically investigate and evaluate a topic, demonstrating an understanding of appropriate associated research methods. You will need to show originality in the application of knowledge and problem solving, and also an understanding of how the boundaries of knowledge are advanced through research.

To ensure you are supported throughout your studies there are a number of monitoring points where you will be asked to present your work to reviewers. The guidance notes and relevant forms which relate to each of these can be found in Doctoral Student Handbook and Guidance Notes.

Key timelines for students

 Minimum registrationExpected thesis submission



18 months

24 months


36 months

48 months



24 months

36 months


48 months

72 months

PhD by prior publication*


6 months

12 months

*Solent University staff only

More information about the registration periods

Enrolment and induction for doctoral students take place on a fixed date in October, which is the starting point for the registration period for every student.

In addition to arranging to meet with your supervision team and undertaking the Postgraduate Certificate in Research Methods course (see below), you must attend the induction event where you will receive information about how to plan for the key milestones and processes you will undertake throughout your doctoral student journey.

At the induction you will also receive information about the institutional resources and facilities, student support services, the research culture and a tour of the library. You will also have an opportunity to meet doctoral student representatives who will share their experiences of studying at the University.

You will also get an introduction to the University’s online resources, support services and student representatives

From October 2021, all students starting their postgraduate research studies at Solent will undertake our Postgraduate Certificate in Research Methods (PG Cert) course during their first and second semesters.


Research methods, skills and understanding underpin successful postgraduate research study and degree completion. The aim of this course is to introduce students to the key transferable skill set that they will be expected to fully acquire and apply in the course of their doctoral studies.


This course is designed to equip those starting a PhD with the tools they will need for their studies. It will take students to an understanding of how to identify a viable research question and design a programme of research that will make an original contribution to the literature. In doing so, it enables students to critically review literature, introduces them to a range of methodological approaches, and equips the to professionally communicate their research to specialist and non-specialist audiences. In addition to providing students with the foundation from which to succeed in their doctoral studies, these skills are transferrable to a range of other forums of study and employment.

Aims of the course

The course aims to:

  • Ensure students are prepared for doctoral study and have the knowledge to recognise the requirements for developing an original contribution to knowledge.
  • Foster an understanding of research design, planning and management, and ensure that these skills are transferable to their doctoral studies.
  • Equip students with an appreciation of research methods and approaches (quantitative, qualitative, and practice-based).
  • Ensure students develop and understanding of the planning and skills required to ensure research is impactful and relevant to its intended end users and wider audiences.
  • Encourage engagement with the wider research environment and academic community, both within Solent and more widely.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Identify a viable research question and design a programme of research to produce original knowledge.
  • Undertake a critical review of existing literature and other relevant sources.
  • Professionally communicate their research to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  • Evaluate and identify their own research and training needs to enable them to deliver the research programme.
  • Evaluate their role and impact as researchers on the research progress and its outcomes.
  • Assess research methods/approaches and identify those appropriate to address a specific research question.
  • Demonstrate the willingness and ability to engage with fellow researchers across a range of disciplines within the University and beyond.
  • Embark on the conduct of advanced, independent research and make a contribution to new knowledge.

In addition to the key milestone of transfer from MPhil to PhD, all doctoral students’ progress is monitored annually. These reviews take place in May / June. You will be required to submit evidence of your engagement with supervision and a record of your academic progress, which normally includes a record of work achieved in the previous 12 months, and a plan of work for the next 12 months.

See 'annual monitoring' in the Handbook

If you initially registered for an MPhil with possibility to transfer to PhD and have satisfactorily completed all applicable monitoring requirement to that point, you can apply to transfer to PhD registration.

The transfer is an opportunity to take stock of your achievements to that point and to assess what needs to be done to complete your thesis. The transfer process mirrors the final viva experience of presenting to and receiving feedback from experienced academics who are not part of your supervision team, so this is a valuable opportunity to prepare for your final examination experience.

At this stage you will be presenting a substantial body of work, normally between 10,000-20,000 words or equivalent portfolio. Your goal is to establish that your research has the potential to meet the criteria for a PhD award within the timeframe, outlining the contextual rationale for your research, its aims and objectives. Normally your transfer report will include a critical literature review, defence of your selected methodology, consideration of your findings to that point and an outline of your planned programme of study including a chapter by chapter outline to complete the research within the standard completion period.

 Timeframe for transferring registration to PhD
Full-time 12-18 months
Part-time 24-36 months

See 'transfer' in the Handbook

While you will normally have been writing constantly throughout your programme of study for your supervision team to review and provide feedback on your progress, the term ‘writing-up’ refers to the point at which you have completed your research and are now engaging in the final writing and revision of your thesis before submitting it for examination at the viva.

This stage of the research degree is eligible for reduced fees. Normally, as a student approaches this stage the annual monitoring review panel will recommend that a student applies to ‘write-up’ when their next annual fee payment is due.

Find out more about writing up fees

See 'writing up' in the Handbook

The viva voce is the formal defence of your research before a panel of examiners following the completion of your thesis.

Six months before your expected completion date you should begin discussing with your supervision team who the team will invite to act as external examiner. Following these discussions your supervision team should complete the examination arrangements form and submit it to the doctoral support team as soon as possible so that arrangements for your viva examination can be made.

Once your viva examination panel has been nominated you must not approach your examiners prior to the viva.

When you have completed your thesis you will need to submit it for examination. There are submission formalities which you will need to complete before your thesis is accepted as ready for examination. As at the transfer review you must submit your work electronically via Turnitin and include the report with your thesis. You must submit an electronic copy of your thesis, accompanied by a completed thesis declaration form, within the registration period for your award. You may also be required to provide a hard copy in the format and binding specified in the University’s guidance.

The Graduate School team will make arrangements to forward your thesis to your examiners and will advise you when to attend for your viva examination.

Normally your viva will take place at least two to three months after you have submitted, this is to allow time for your examiners to read and carefully consider the merits of your research.

You can request to have one of your supervisors present at your viva, but they will be there as an observer and cannot contribute to the discussion. It is entirely your choice whether you wish a supervisor to be present.

In addition to yourself and your examiners, your viva will be attended by an independent chair. This is an experienced academic at the university who will be independent of your field of research. They will not examine you but are present to ensure the examination is conducted with due regard to fair play and in compliance with the University’s regulations.

See 'thesis submission and examination' in the Handbook

After the viva the examining panel will make a decision on whether they recommend that you receive the award.

The examiners can recommend one of these outcomes for the PhD viva:

  1. Pass with no corrections 
  2. Pass with minor amendments (to be submitted within 3 months)
  3. Pass with major amendments (to be submitted within 6 months)
  4. Re-examination with major amendments without oral examination (to be submitted within 12 months)
  5. Re-examination with major amendments with oral examination (to be submitted within 12 months)
  6. Award of MPhil subject to amendment of the thesis (within 6 months) Only available for students submitting for the award of PhD
  7. No award

Some of the above outcomes are not available for candidates being examined for the award of MPhil or PhD by Prior Publication. Candidates should refer to the guidance note on submission and Viva in the doctoral student handbook.

Your examination panel may indicate a decision following the viva, but you will receive your formal notification from the Doctoral Support team after the examination panel have completed and submitted a formal report.

Award outcomes

Graduation ceremonies at the University take place in July. Following your award you will be invited to the next scheduled graduation ceremony in your research subject.

Find out more about graduation at Solent

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