What is an MPhil?

Ben Maples  · Dec 19th 2023  · 5 min

Looking to get stuck into your studies with an undergrad and a postgrad rolled into one?? The MPhil is the perfect course for you to take!


While an MPhil may not turn you into a modern-day version of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates (no, not the footballer) or Confucius, it will give you a fantastic degree in some of the best subjects that universities can offer.

An MPhil will also massively improve your student CV as well, and make you an even more desirable candidate for employers.

University MPhil

What is an MPhil?

The MPhil stands for Master of Philosophy. The MPhil is an advanced postgraduate degree, which is a mixture of both taught subjects and researched subjects that conclude with a monitored thesis project.

Generally, the MPhil is used as a way of gaining entrance to a normal PhD programme. The MPhil degree is considered a research degree, like an MRes degree.

As this is a research-based degree, does that mean that only Russell Group universities offer the MPhil? The Russell Group of Universities are a collection of research-based universities. Despite this, they are not the only universities in the UK that can offer an MPhil degree for students.

That isn’t to say that Russell Group Universities don’t offer them! Most universities in the UK, as long as they offer postgraduate study, will likely offer the MPhil as a degree type. You’ll need to check the individual universities to see which will offer you this path.

What subjects can I study in the MPhil?

The MPhil is unique in that it is rewarded in all academic subjects. Although a lot of postgraduate research programmes offer this, it also suffers from the drawback of not having the discipline in the title.

There are different types of MPhils as well, which are occasionally offered in Arts and Humanities subjects. The MPhil is a somewhat general postgraduate degree and can support anyone in any academic discipline.

An MPhil is not just for Philosophy, despite its name. While you can study an MPhil Philosophy, you can also look for an MPhil in Law, MPhil Management, MPhil Economics or even MPhil Finance.

Uni MPhil

What is the difference between an MPhil and a PhD?

The MPhil is a Master of Philosophy, a research degree that focuses on possibly gaining entry to a PhD in the future and is relevant in all subject areas.

A PhD is the highest degree honour that a university can offer. While a PhD has elements of research, it’s mainly a theoretical degree. A PhD is a Doctorate degree awarded by universities and means that people can now refer to themselves as ‘Doctor’ within their research field. An MPhil is a two-year course (sometimes three). The MPhil is seen as the opening to a further PhD degree and is seen as a great way to gain entry to a better qualification.

How long does an MPhil take?

In the UK, a MPhil is usually two years, when it is studied as a full degree. If studied part-time, it can take four or five years.

MPhil vs MSc: what’s the difference?

The MSc is a theoretical degree, whereas the MPhil is research-based. While both are postgraduate degrees and both are generally studied after a bachelor’s degree, the MPhil and the MSc are both separate in other respects.

For instance, the MSc is a Master of Science. This is a course that covers mainly scientific studies, engineering and medicine, among others. Meanwhile, the MPhil itself covers a number of different academic disciplines.

How much is the MPhil?

The MPhil is typically around £5,000 for a full-time degree and around £3,000 for a part-time degree. Although, prices depend on where you're studying.

There is, however, funding available for those who require it. Various bursaries, grants and scholarships are available for students.

What countries offer the MPhil?

Unfortunately, the MPhil is not very well represented throughout the world. The MPhil is most common in the UK, as doctoral study is research-based and is a great pathway into a PhD, as a result, other countries do not offer the MPhil.

That being said, countries like New Zealand and Australia also offer degrees for students as well. American universities do not offer an MPhil degree, they offer a PhD, however, their students transfer to the final stage of the programme, which is called ABD (which stands for All But Dissertation).


What is MPhil Cambridge?

An MPhil is a little different at the University of Cambridge. At Cambridge, the MPhil is a degree that is studied between nine and twelve months, whereas the MPhil by Research degree is studied all year round. They both still work in the same way as a normal MPhil, in that they serve as an entry point to full PhDs and introduce you to research skills and specialist knowledge.

What is unusual, however, is that the Cambridge MPhil must be made to continue into a PhD. Oxbridge has a tendency to do things a little differently from other universities, so a supervisor must also be identified before you can study for your PhD.

What level is the MPhil?

In most universities, an MPhil is seen as a Masters-level degree. The UK National Qualifications Framework (NQF) identifies a general MPhil as being a Level 7 qualification, which is similar to an MA, MSc or an MRes.

The MPhil is a great degree to study if you’re looking to go on and study a PhD at university. It is also a great way to expand your knowledge in a certain subject.While many go onto a PhD, lots of students don’t and instead use the MPhil as a way of showcase their knowledge on their CV.

How old do you have to be to study an MPhil?

The age isn’t important when studying an MPhil. The barrier to studying an MPhil degree is that students must have an undergraduate degree before they can study it.

With this in mind, you will likely be22 to 23 before you can start studying your MPhil. This will mean that students will need to be mature students when they study the degree, but the actual age is not a requirement when applying, just that you have an undergraduate degree.

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