PhD application while doing a masters

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dwn99
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Hi!! After lurking on TSR for 5+ years I've finally made an account as I have a genuine question that everyone seems to be answering differently.

I finished an LLB at a top UK university with great international branding. I got a mid 2.1 in spite of the mess corona created. I went on to a rival university (no I did not go to oxbridge) that is within the top 10 unis globally and has an equal international reputation for my LLM. I've been on my LLM course for a little over a month now. When I applied to said LLM course I mentioned that I wanted to do a PhD in a particular area of law comparing the law within the UK to my home jurisdiction. I've written a research proposal that meets the requirements of my LLM university's PhD program and have arranged to speak with a supervisor. I also plan on applying to my former university and universities within the area of similar stature.

This is where things get complicated- most universities ask for a certain LLM grade implying that you need to have finished your LLM. The university I am currently at does not explicitly state this. Yesterday, I emailed one of my favourite Professors from my former university letting them know that I still intended on completing a PhD and attached my CV+Research Plan asking them for both feedback and a reference if possible (I got a first in their module). They replied advising me that I should focus on my LLM and take next year off to teach or work before applying for a PhD. I obviously respect their opinion greatly and they didn’t say that they wouldn’t be my reference however because of my external funding + visa requirements I can’t take the year off and any work experience that would be beneficial for my PhD involves me going back to my home jurisdiction which I simply can’t do for residency requirements. Also, teaching at a UK university is simply not possible to my understanding given that I do not have a doctorate.


I think that my main question is- is it really that impossible for a current LLM student to get a PhD acceptance? Please note that my current LLM is ‘accelerated’ meaning I’ll be done by June 2021 instead of September/October 2021.
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0le
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I don't know what LLM means but most PhD's that I've come across require a masters and at least a 2:1. You may be able to apply using an "expected grade" if you don't yet have a masters, as long you will graduate at the end of the current academic year but as I said, it may vary depending on the university.
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by dwn99)
Hi!! After lurking on TSR for 5+ years I've finally made an account as I have a genuine question that everyone seems to be answering differently.

I finished an LLB at a top UK university with great international branding. I got a mid 2.1 in spite of the mess corona created. I went on to a rival university (no I did not go to oxbridge) that is within the top 10 unis globally and has an equal international reputation for my LLM. I've been on my LLM course for a little over a month now. When I applied to said LLM course I mentioned that I wanted to do a PhD in a particular area of law comparing the law within the UK to my home jurisdiction. I've written a research proposal that meets the requirements of my LLM university's PhD program and have arranged to speak with a supervisor. I also plan on applying to my former university and universities within the area of similar stature.

This is where things get complicated- most universities ask for a certain LLM grade implying that you need to have finished your LLM. The university I am currently at does not explicitly state this. Yesterday, I emailed one of my favourite Professors from my former university letting them know that I still intended on completing a PhD and attached my CV+Research Plan asking them for both feedback and a reference if possible (I got a first in their module). They replied advising me that I should focus on my LLM and take next year off to teach or work before applying for a PhD. I obviously respect their opinion greatly and they didn’t say that they wouldn’t be my reference however because of my external funding + visa requirements I can’t take the year off and any work experience that would be beneficial for my PhD involves me going back to my home jurisdiction which I simply can’t do for residency requirements. Also, teaching at a UK university is simply not possible to my understanding given that I do not have a doctorate.


I think that my main question is- is it really that impossible for a current LLM student to get a PhD acceptance? Please note that my current LLM is ‘accelerated’ meaning I’ll be done by June 2021 instead of September/October 2021.
Funding for PhDs has become so hard/competitive to achieve that there is a substantial advantage to have completed any Masters level work before making a PhD application. This is because you have a full set of marks, including a final grade, and equally importantly, your referees can comment much more comprehensively on your academic development and your approach and success on the dissertation, which are key components of the progression to PhD work. This all makes you much stronger in the competition to funding. More and more departments seem to be advocating this 'year out' approach.

So your first option is to look more closely at what is possible in taking a year's break, what are your visa requirements, could you do any useful legal work etc. If you really can't then you are in a sticky situation, because while they will likely support an application, you are unlikely to be competitive for funding.

Then you have to ask yourself, if you didn't get funding this year, would you reapply the following year? If so, you would HAVE to find a resolution to the extra year situation - so why not save everyone the trouble and resolve the year out issue.
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dwn99
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(Original post by threeportdrift)
Funding for PhDs has become so hard/competitive to achieve that there is a substantial advantage to have completed any Masters level work before making a PhD application. This is because you have a full set of marks, including a final grade, and equally importantly, your referees can comment much more comprehensively on your academic development and your approach and success on the dissertation, which are key components of the progression to PhD work. This all makes you much stronger in the competition to funding. More and more departments seem to be advocating this 'year out' approach.

So your first option is to look more closely at what is possible in taking a year's break, what are your visa requirements, could you do any useful legal work etc. If you really can't then you are in a sticky situation, because while they will likely support an application, you are unlikely to be competitive for funding.

Then you have to ask yourself, if you didn't get funding this year, would you reapply the following year? If so, you would HAVE to find a resolution to the extra year situation - so why not save everyone the trouble and resolve the year out issue.
Thank you for your response!

Basically my current LLM (masters) finishes in June meaning that when the new academic year begins I won't have any prior commitments and would have already received my final result.

Currently, I have funding through my nationality (my government will sponsor me regardless of what I get at the masters level) but this funding would be more difficult to re-secure if I were to take a year out. In that case I would have to privately fund my PhD which isn't an issue but I prefer government funding if possible. In terms teaching/working if I took the year out I would have to go to my home jurisdiction for it to be beneficial and that makes my residency in the UK difficult.

So given this unusual set of circumstances if I applied with a mid 2.1 (no dissertation as an undergrad) from a 'prestigious university' with an on-going LLM at a similar university and specifically mention that it will be privately funded when they ask would I have a shot?

I spoke to a Dr at my former university and they said you should seriously take a year off but they had no idea it was 9 month LLM or the difficulties I may encounter in taking a year out. I spoke to a Prof at my current university and they said they would be happy to supervise but advised that previous students they believed in who had obtained a 1st and had amazing references still weren't accepted. Mind you the website states a good 2.1 as an undergraduate with a preference for an LLM.

It really is just a horrible situation where I can’t control my age or the fact that my LLM finishes earlier than most, which doesn’t cut into the next year meaning I can technically do a PhD. If I finished in October/December like most universities I wouldn’t be in this situation as I would have been forced to take the year out so it wouldn’t feel like a wasted year and with the few months post December I could have gone to work/teach in my home jurisdiction without jeopardizing my residency requirements.
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by dwn99)
Thank you for your response!

Basically my current LLM (masters) finishes in June meaning that when the new academic year begins I won't have any prior commitments and would have already received my final result.

Currently, I have funding through my nationality (my government will sponsor me regardless of what I get at the masters level) but this funding would be more difficult to re-secure if I were to take a year out. In that case I would have to privately fund my PhD which isn't an issue but I prefer government funding if possible. In terms teaching/working if I took the year out I would have to go to my home jurisdiction for it to be beneficial and that makes my residency in the UK difficult.

So given this unusual set of circumstances if I applied with a mid 2.1 (no dissertation as an undergrad) from a 'prestigious university' with an on-going LLM at a similar university and specifically mention that it will be privately funded when they ask would I have a shot?

I spoke to a Dr at my former university and they said you should seriously take a year off but they had no idea it was 9 month LLM or the difficulties I may encounter in taking a year out. I spoke to a Prof at my current university and they said they would be happy to supervise but advised that previous students they believed in who had obtained a 1st and had amazing references still weren't accepted. Mind you the website states a good 2.1 as an undergraduate with a preference for an LLM.

It really is just a horrible situation where I can’t control my age or the fact that my LLM finishes earlier than most, which doesn’t cut into the next year meaning I can technically do a PhD. If I finished in October/December like most universities I wouldn’t be in this situation as I would have been forced to take the year out so it wouldn’t feel like a wasted year and with the few months post December I could have gone to work/teach in my home jurisdiction without jeopardizing my residency requirements.
The timing between degrees is pretty standard, and not the issue. Your problems seem to stem from not being able to delay your govt funding for a year. You could always NOT do anything useful in the gap year.

I'm afraid your Supervisor is right, you risk not being competitive by applying with just 1 term under your belt at Masters level. You can try it and see though.
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Helloworld_95
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To clarify, you already have funding from your government for the PhD, right?

If that's the case I would be very surprised if you couldn't get a PhD. The difficulty is in funding a PhD, not getting one, particularly if you're proposing the topic yourself rather than competing for a particular project. Although with the proviso that you can find a supervisor who is willing to accept your topic and being predicted at least merit for your LLM.
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