Milestone assessments

There are certain milestones that all graduate research students must pass in the course of their postgraduate career, before they may submit a thesis for consideration for the award of the DPhil/MSc(Res). The following paragraphs outline the procedure adopted by the Department of Chemistry, together with some related important information. 

Transfer of status

You will have been admitted as a Probationer Research Student (PRS). Towards the end of your first year your progress will be reviewed and a recommendation will be made to the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division as to whether you should be permitted to transfer to DPhil or MSc(Res) student status.

Our procedure is as follows: 

  1. Both you and your supervisor(s) are obliged to submit quarterly progress reports through the Graduate Supervision Reporting System (GSR). If the reports do not indicate satisfactory progress, you may be called for a formal interview with your Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). 

  2. Assuming satisfactory progress with your research, towards the end of your first year, you will be required to submit a completed form GSO.2.MPLS (see here) and a written report on your research work (details of the required format will be provided in advance). This report should outline your work to date and plans for future research. You should add to the report:

    a) a list of seminars and lectures you have attended (these need not have taken place exclusively in your own laboratory, and should not be restricted narrowly to your own area of research),
    b) details of the skills training that you have carried out (you are required to participate in a minimum of three skills training activities during the first year),
    c) a short (half a page) lay summary.

    You should ensure that your supervisor has a copy of the report. They will be asked to make comments on your work, and for a recommendation as to whether you should be permitted to proceed to DPhil/MSc(Res) status. Chemistry students must also complete the University's online research integrity training (for Natural and Physical Sciences) before applying for transfer of status. The training is available at:

  3. You will be orally examined (usually by staff members of your laboratory) at a time to be arranged, normally in September (for Michaelmas Term starters), although it may be held a different time. You will be expected to be able to demonstrate a sound background knowledge in your field of research, to explain the work you have undertaken so far, and outline your plans for future research. As part of the assessment, you will be expected to give a short presentation on your work.

  4. On the basis of your report, your supervisor’s recommendation, and that of the assessing panel, the Head of Section or DGS will decide whether you will be permitted to transfer to DPhil/MSc(Res) status. You will be informed of the outcome of your assessment in writing. If the recommendation is not favourable, you will be permitted one further application for transfer after a sufficient period of time, normally one term.  Your DGS will give you a clear indication of the areas in which the panel finds your work or background knowledge to be unsatisfactory. You must remedy these deficiencies within the allotted period. The panel that carried out the review will have the authority to recommend either that you should be allowed to transfer to DPhil or MSc(Res) status, or that you would be best advised to withdraw from the course.  If you do not accept the recommendation of the panel then the University’s procedure for the removal of graduate students from the Register, as set out in the Examination Regulations, will be followed.

Confirmation of status

  1. All doctoral students are required to apply for Confirmation of DPhil Status within 9 terms (but no sooner than 6) of their admission as a graduate student (usually PRS) of the University. Students registered for CDT (Centre for Doctoral Training) programmes normally have 10 terms to apply for Confirmation of Status.

    The process enables the student to have an assessment of their work by two assessors, other than the supervisor(s), and this is clearly an important indication that, if the work on the thesis continues to develop satisfactorily, then consideration of submission within the deadline would appear to be reasonable.
    Detailed procedures vary between Sections, but the Confirmation of DPhil Status process will generally involve, in addition to completing a form GSO.14.MPLS (see here) producing a short report on the work carried out to date, along with plans for completing the thesis.

    The specific procedures for appeals against unfavourable outcomes at the Confirmation of Status application stage will be set out by the individual Directors of Graduate Studies.

  2. In addition, during their third year (or fourth year, for CDT students), DPhil students are expected to make a short presentation on their research at a Section's Graduate Symposium, organised in Trinity Term.

  3. All DPhil students are expected to have carried out 6 weeks of skills training activities over years 2 and 3. This can include demonstrating in the teaching labs, getting involved in the department’s outreach activities, or teaching classes, for example.

Thesis submission

DPhil students must submit their thesis by the end of their 12th term (i.e. 4th year) at the latest.

You are advised to read the MPLS thesis submission guidance and the University guidance for Research Examinations before writing your thesis. If you are considering submitting an integrated thesis, you should discuss this with your supervisor and read carefully the guidance on integrated theses on the MPLS page above.

Students who began their research degree in October 2024 or later should note the new thesis length regulations for the DPhil in Chemistry or MSc(Res) in Chemistry, as appropriate. The maximum length (excluding appendices) for a DPhil in Chemistry thesis is 300 pages, and for an MSc(Res) thesis it is 200 pages. Students wishing to submit a longer thesis must get permission from their Director of Graduate Studies.

All research students should note, however, that the page limit is not a target to reach. Depending on the research carried out, it may be entirely appropriate and preferable to submit a shorter thesis. Overly long theses, padded out with unnecessary material or repetition, are a common source of criticism from Examiners. In extreme cases, the Examiners may reject a thesis that is unnecessarily long.

Further information

Further information on the University’s procedures for transfer and confirmation of status can be found on the MPLS Division website, and in the University’s Examination Regulations. If any of the above is unclear, please contact the Graduate Studies team at