Information about UK PhDs?

In summary, many universities in the UK do not require a 1st class degree to do a PhD, but some do. Most universities don't care about your grades, but some do. It will also depend on the DTC you are applying to.
  • #1

Could anyone tell me what the situation in the UK is like for getting a PhD with a 2nd class degree?:
-Do any decent universities even consider people with 2:2s?
-Do very competetive universities (like Imperial, Cambridge, etc.) even consider people with 2:1s?
-Does getting a 2:1 rather than a 1st significantly disadvantage you when applying for PhDs, or is there a fairly even mix of 2:1 students and 1st students doing PhDs?

Thanks for any information.
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  • #2

I cannot speak for other universities, but my university (which isn't especially highly ranked) requires a 1st class degree in order to do a PhD. May I ask why you're asking this?
  • #3
I’m asking because I hope to do a PhD in the future (even though it’s a while away at the moment) and have been getting mixed messages on the requirements. I also know there are at least a few PhD students with 2:1s at my university, but I don’t know how common it is, and how much weight is given to exams as opposed to extracurriculars etc. My exam performance is very unpredictable and I have no idea what sort of grade I’ll graduate with, so I’m trying to work out what my chances are.
  • #4
It depends. Some universities have rules that state that they can only accept PhD students with a 1st class degree.
However, there are also universities with no formal requirements at all.
It will also depend on whether you will be applying to an EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre or as a "regular" PhD student, if it is the latter is it really up to the potential supervisor whether or not he/she thinks it is important. Most researchers don't care too much about your grades (I am not even sure I looked at the grades the last time I hired a PhD student) as long as you have showed an aptitude for what you will be doing, this can be done by e.g. doing a good MSc project, a good recommendation from the supervisor of that project will usually be far more important than your grades.
  • #5
Sorry, I meant to come back and edit my post before now, but I didn't have the time. I'd recommend contacting the department/co-ordinator of postgraduate studies (or equivalent) at the university you want to apply to. If you explain that you are a future prospective applicant they may be able to give you some general guidelines as to what they look out for, however for most universities very general information can be found on their website. If you currently have a personal tutor or advisor then you can arrange an appointment to see them to discuss your future options, based on predicted/current grades. You should also be using your personal tutor as an advisor on what modules to take during your remaining year(s) as an undergraduate and during your Master's degree. On this note, you may find that your university offers smaller project-style modules that can be completed during your Bachelor's degree. This may give you some insight into what you want to do for your Master's project(s) and give a taste of what its like to work more independently from your tutors.

Do you have an average grade for your degree so far?
  • #6
Lizzie, the idea that grades are something that just sort of happen to you and that you have no real control over will get in the way of your getting a doctorate. You need to take ownership of your grades, and the sooner you do this, the better. (And, as a side benefit, you won't have the problem of a 2nd anymore, since it will be a 1st)
  • #7
I'll echo what Vanadium 50 said.

I am speaking from experience here. This is advice I should have taken when it was given to me.

Instead, I spent more time procrastinating, doubting myself, and wondering what I could do in the event such and such happened.

That energy would have been best spent on actual studying.

All it takes is doing the work.

If you have issues with exam taking, take the time to learn to address them.

Best of luck.

And on that note, I will leave. I have much studying to do myself.
  • #8
It may be better for you to do a 1 year taught master's and get a distinction in that. Then you can apply for PhD's.
  • #9
Hercuflea said:
It may be better for you to do a 1 year taught master's and get a distinction in that. Then you can apply for PhD's.

That depends, some of the new DTCs have integrated US style programs where the first year is the MSc year. Hence, one should carefully research the various options.
Also,nite that the PhD system in the UK is currently extremely confusing due to the new DTCs and things are changing very quickly.
  • #10
Thank you for all the advice. I haven’t got an average grade, and my performance so far has been very varied across my courses. It is useful to know that research experience/performance at Master’s level is valued as much as grades, though.

Vanadium and Mepris: Yes, I am aware that hard work is really important, and I will certainly try to improve my grades. I study a lot already, but for my next exams I am going to practice doing papers very fast so that I will have time in the exam to check my answers several times for mistakes. It’s not that I want to settle for worse grades, it’s just that I was wondering how important grades are, given that I’d heard lots of different/contradictory things from different people.

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