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The Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) is a postgraduate research degree. It is a lesser degree than the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), greater than (or sometimes equal to) the Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.), and is usually of greater scope than the Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees. An M.Phil. is generally considered equivalent to the French dipl├┤me d'├ętudes approfondies (or DEA) or the Spanish Diploma de Estudios Avanzados (also DEA).

In most cases it is thesis-only, and is generally regarded as a senior or second masters degree. In some instances the degree may be awarded to graduate students after completing several years of original research, but before the defense of a dissertation, or as a substitute for a Ph.D. thesis that is a marginal fail. In some cases it can serve as a provisional enrollment for the Ph.D.

In the United States

American universities award the M.Phil under certain circumstances. At those universities, the degree is awarded to Ph.D. candidates when they complete their required coursework and qualifying examinations, but before the defense of a doctoral dissertation. This status is also called A.B.D., or All But Dissertation (colloquially, "All But Done") and sometimes may include the defense of a thesis proposal.

Many Ph.D. candidates at these universities view the M.Phil. as a formality and elect not to receive it in order to avoid the paperwork and costs involved. However, some programs do not offer an en route M.A. or M.S., so the M.Phil. is the first opportunity to receive a degree between the Bachelor's and Ph.D. Some colleges and universities, such as the College of the Atlanticmarker, Columbia University and the University of Utahmarker, offer a standalone M.Phil. degree in various fields.

In the United Kingdom

In most UK universities, the M.Phil. typically requires two years of full-time study and the submission of a thesis comprising a body of original research undertaken by the candidate. It is common for students admitted into a Ph.D. (or D.Phil.) program to be initially registered for the degree of M.Phil., and then to transfer onto the Ph.D. upon successful completion of the first (or sometimes the second) year of study: this will often involve the submission of a short report or dissertation by the student, and possibly an oral examination or presentation. In addition, most universities allow examiners to recommend award of an M.Phil. if a candidate's thesis is deemed not to be of the requisite standard for a Ph.D. Nevertheless, many students do register for an M.Phil. with no intention of upgrading to a Ph.D., either due to personal circumstances or due to their chosen research project having insufficient scope for a Ph.D.

At the University of Oxfordmarker, the M.Phil. is a two-year master's degree. The M.Phil. requires both a lengthy thesis and more examinations than a one-year Masters degree (usually M.Sc., M.St. or M.Litt.).

The University of Cambridgemarker offers the M.Phil. as a one- or two-year taught degree. This is to distinguish it from the Oxfordmarker/Cambridgemarker/Trinity Dublinmarker M.A. degree to which B.A. graduates usually proceed after a certain period of time and no further study (since the seventeenth century). The Cambridge equivalents of the two-year research M.Phil. are the M.Sc. (in scientific subjects) and the M.Litt. (in arts and humanities subjects).

The ancient Scottish Universities, who for historical reasons award the degree of M.A. upon completion of four-year first degrees in arts and humanities subjects, differ in their use of M.Phil. or M.Litt. for postgraduate research degrees, but are slowly standardizing to the M.Phil. as a research degree and the M.Litt. as a taught degree.

In the Netherlands

In the Netherlandsmarker the M.Phil. is a special research degree and only awarded by selected departments of a university (mostly in the fields of Arts, Social Sciences, Archaeology, Philosophy and Theology). Admission to these programmes is highly selective and primarily aimed at those students opting for an academic career. After finishing these programs, students normally enroll for a Ph.D. program. The Dutch Department of Education, Culture and Science has decided not to recognize the MPhil degree. Accordingly, some Dutch universities have decided to continue the grant the MPhil degree but also offer a legally recognized degree such as MA or MSc to those who receive the MPhil degree.

In Finland

In Finland, the regular (first) Master's degree filosofian maisteri translates to "Master of Philosophy". However, the term "philosophy" is to be understood to the maximum extent, because this is the name of the basic Master's degree in all natural sciences and humanities. It does not imply a specialization in theoretical philosophy or even other than introductory studies. In fact, most of the students majoring in philosophy get a degree with a different name (Master of Sociology or Politics). These degrees are regular Master's degrees, not special "higher" degrees (cf. Licentiate and Doctor of Philosophy).

See also


  2. University of Cambridge Ordinances, chapter VII
  3. De MPhil graad wordt niet meer verleend, Leiden University.

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