School of Mathematical Sciences

Assessment and progression

NB. This page provides a summary of the assessment and progression framework. For full and definitive information, please refer to the SMS PhD Handbook 2017-18 [PDF 1,546KB] (hereafter referred to as the 'Guide').


Research is unlike other activities that most new students will have been involved with before. Even a brilliant history of passing examinations on taught programmes is not a guarantee of success in research. It is better for all concerned - not least you as the student - that we identify those few students who are not cut out for research earlier rather than later. Partly for this reason, we review of your progress during your first year of study, and at the end of each subsequent year of your programme.

You will be allocated two supervisors. Your principal supervisor is allocated when you commence your studies and has responsibility for your academic progress during your research programme. Your second supervisor will be allocated within a month of your arrival and will normally act as a mentor, and as a deputy for when your principal supervisor is away. The second supervisor’s responsibility usually includes being an assessor for your annual reviews (see below) and may sometimes extend to joint academic supervision. Ideally you should meet with your principal supervisor on a weekly basis. It is your responsibility to be proactive in organising contact with your supervisor to discuss your research.

Throughout your research programme it will be important for you to be aware of Queen Mary’s current research degree programme regulations and policies, including policies on plagiarism(link is external).

Annual Review

NB. Throughout this section all timings are given for a full-time student on the degree in question. The timings will be modified appropriately for part-time students.

During the first three years your progress is reviewed annually. After three years your reviews will place every six months until you transfer to writing-up status. Each review is centred on an interview between you and your two appointed assessors. One of the assessors (usually your second supervisor) is the principal assessor and is responsible for ensuring the review is carried out efficiently. Assessors are proposed by the supervisor during the first year of study, the choice being ratified by the Director of Postgraduate Research Studies. As far as possible, your assessors will remain unchanged over the entire period of your studies.

The common format for reviews is as follows. The specifics of the review vary from year to year.

  1. At least one week in advance of the review meeting, you and your supervisor send separate written reports to your assessors. You will also send an up to date print-out of your Activity Record from the Skills Database to your assessors. Your supervisor's report will always be a short (~1 page) overview of your progress. Your report will vary in length and content according to the year.
  2. The review meeting consists of an interview of up to one hour. You are asked to explain your research to your assessors and demonstrate this where necessary upon a whiteboard. Your assessors will ask you questions about your research and in particular explore your background knowledge of your field.
  3. Within one week of the review meeting, your assessors complete a report form on your progress and deposit this and the other reports with the Postgraduate Research Programmes Officer.
  4. After the review meeting, the Director of Postgraduate Research Studies will determine any actions that may be required. This might include transfers of registration, remedial action, or ad-hoc intermediate reviews.  Following the approval of the Director of Postgraduate Research Studies, the Postgraduate Research Programmes Officer will ensure copies of the assessors’ report are sent to you and your supervisor. This report will contain recommendations of registration status, e.g., transfer to writing up status, if appropriate.

Details of what to expect from each annual review can be found in the Guide.

Preparing to Submit your Thesis

Writing-up Status

Writing-up status lasts for one year only, whether a student is full or part time, and a student can transfer to writing-up status at any point after completion of the minimum registration period (2 years full-time, 4 years part-time). For further information, guidance and to download a copy of the transfer to writing-up form please visit: is external).

MPhil/PhD Examination Entry

The important thing to note is that the official procedures for examination entry, including the appointment of PhD (or MPhil) Examiners, take a considerable time. Therefore, students and supervisors must prepare in advance.

A minimum of three to four months before you expect to submit your PhD thesis you and your supervisor must nominate examiners to read the thesis and conduct the viva voce examination. There are two examiners, one who is external to the Universityof London and one who is internal to the University of London. The examiners must not have personal or professional connections with you or your supervisor.

To nominate your chosen examiners and enter yourself for examination you must complete and submit a PhD examination entry form.

Further information regarding these processes and thesis submission can be found in the Guide.

Templates for PhD Theses / Annual Reviews

Students who require a LaTeX template for their thesis are advised to adapt this template created by E. Nalson, a former QMUL PhD student. Note that the thesis template may require modifications to meet current Queen Mary standards. Please check the Research Degrees Office thesis requirements(link is external) to find out more..