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PhD Years 3 and 4


By the beginning of the third year, many PhD students will have a clear idea about the direction of their thesis. Some may have already made significant in-roads into the thesis, for example, by drafting a few chapters. Whatever the situation, students should be thinking about their progress and what they have left to do to complete their thesis. Setting clear achieveable milestones with your supervsior to help you monitor your progress will help you to produce your thesis in a timely fashion.

As for earlier years, you are encouraged to further develop your skills as part of your training. If you have not already presented your work at a formal or informal gathering, then you should do so as this is helpful preparation for your viva and any future career.

Draft Thesis

The normal expectation is that a PhD will be completed within 3.5 years. Given the nature of mathematical research, some students will take a shorter time period, others longer. The University will extend a student's registration beyond 4 years only under exceptional circumstances. If you do not expect to submit before the end of your funded period or you are self-reliant for funding you will also need to have considered how you will support yourself for the duration of your studies.

To help you to complete the thesis in a timely fashion, third year PhD students must submit a draft of their thesis to the supervisor and 2 copies to the Postgraduate Co-ordinator at the end of week 8 of Term 1. It is noted that not many students will be in a position to submit a near to complete draft thesis by this stage. What you do submit should be a matter of discussion between you and your supervisor. However at a minimium one would expect a detailed thesis plan and significant progress in the writing of one or two chapters. The plan should demonstrate that you have carefully considered the contents and structure of the thesis and already have (close to) sufficient material (including original research) for the thesis. Such a plan should contain:

  • a list of the chapter (and lower-level) headings, with a description of the content of the chapters where not included
  • a rough indication of the number of pages for each section/chapter
  • progress made towards each chapter/section e.g. 60% of chapter complete (and included in draft), published in conference proceedings, analysis/results complete, more analysis required
  • indication of how long each section/chapter will take i.e. a schedule of work with milestones
  • expected submission date

As for previous years, it may also be appropriate to add information about any courses taken, texts read, reading groups, seminars and conferences attended.


All PhD students will meet a member of staff to discuss the draft/detailed thesis plan as appropriate. The member of staff will be chosen by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the supervisor. The meeting will normally take place by week 5 of Term 2 and feedback will follow within a short period. The meeting will additionally help to develop links between the student and a member of staff other than the supervisor.

In some cases, where further information is required to establish the level of progress of a student, s/he may be required to undergo an oral examination, normally conducted by the supervisor and the Director for Graduate Studies. The outcome of the oral examination will be reported to the PhD Progress Board. As in the earlier years continued registration on the PhD is subject to satisfactory progress.


Students are expected to submit their thesis in around 3.5 years which reflects the length of funding available for many of the funded students. The department makes every effort to ensure that students submit within this time-frame. In particular, the procedures described for year 3 PhD students will also apply to year 4 students who have not yet submitted a PhD thesis. Extensions beyond four years of registration will only be given by the University in exceptional circumstances (e.g. medical).