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There are a number of milestones along the way to achieving your research degree. Some important milestones are outlined in the chart below. Further on, we take you through the whole journey in detail, covering all the key milestones on your journey from registration to award.

The routes to a research degree

Research project milestones chart

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.

Students who have registered for the MPhil/PhD and successfully transfer to the PhD award or who are registered for the PhD direct 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.

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 PGR guidance.

Key timelines for students

 Minimum registration Standard period of study Maximum registration 
Full-time  18 months  24 months  36 months 
Part-time  36 months  48 months 72 months 
Full-time  24 months  36 months  48 months 
Part-time  48 months  72 months  96 months 
Full-time  24 months  36 months  48 months 
Part-time    72 months  96 months 
PhD by prior publication*
Part-time 6 months   12 months

*Solent University staff only

More information about award periods


Enrolment and induction for doctoral students take place on fixed dates in October and January, which are the starting point for the registration period for every student. 

In addition to arranging to meet with your supervision team, you should attend the induction event where you will receive information about how to plan for the key milestones and processes you will undertake throughout your PGR journey.  

At the induction you will also receive information about the institutional, academic and research environment in which you will be researching and have an opportunity to meet key staff and other doctoral students 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

Project approval

The first milestone on your programme of study will be the project approval. You will be asked to present the aims of your research, including a plan and timeline of the work which will support the achievement of those aims within the standard period of study for which you are registered. You must include an indicative methodology and a preliminary review of the theoretical underpinning of the research. You will also need to complete a consideration of the ethical implications of the research and address any health and safety or risks, including a plan to address these. The project approval is normally around 2,500 words although this may vary according to disciplinary practice. An indicative bibliography should also be appended to the plan of work.  

 Project Approval date 
Full-time  6 months 
Part-time  12 months 
Full-time  6 months 
Part-time  12 months 
PhD by prior publication*
Part-time n/a

See the guidance notes

Download the project approval form

Annual progression and independent review

In addition to the key milestones of project approval and transfer from MPhil to PhD, all doctoral students’ progress is monitored annually. These reviews take place in May / June and comprise two elements 

1. Independent review 

A one to one meeting with an academic member of staff who is independent of your supervision team. This review focuses on your personal student experience. It is an opportunity to discuss any barriers or challenges you feel are affecting you or your research environment.  

2. Progress review 

This is a formal review of your academic progress for the year. It will normally include a write up of your recent work, reference to your methodology and ongoing literature review. It may also be appropriate to include a draft chapter or other substantial pieces of work which contributes to your thesis objectives. The progress review will always require a review of your progress in the last 12 months and a plan of work for the next academic cycle.  

The review panel considers the progress of your registration to the next academic. If the panel have concerns regarding your academic progress they can recommend a probationary period of up to 3 months to meet their requirements before reconsidering their approval of your progression.

See guidance notes 


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

Read the guidance notes

Writing up

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


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 form RD6E 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 all earlier reviews you must submit your work electronically via Turnitin and include the report with your thesis. Your thesis must be bound in hard copy in the format and binding specified in the University’s guidance and it must be accompanied by a completed thesis declaration form and be submitted within the registration period for your award.  

The PGR Support 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 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 guidance notes

Post viva

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. 

  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 

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.  

Find out more

Award and graduation

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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