If I have an MSc degree, does undergraduate GPA really matter for PhD application?

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nkho228
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I am from Hong Kong and have got three MSc offers from UK universities. I am also now planning to apply for PhD in Politics at Oxford, LSE or other relatively renowned UK universities(ideally) after graduation from my future grad school in UK.
I then would like to ask if my undergraduate GPA really matters for PhD applications at these well-known universities. My undergraduate GPA is just 3.24/4 which marginally meets the minimum requirement stipulated by these universities. If undergraduate GPA matters for PhD applications at these universities, can I do better in my master's degree in UK in terms of academic result in order to compensate for my awful undergraduate GPA?
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LadyMondagreen
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(Original post by nkho228)
I am from Hong Kong and have got three MSc offers from UK universities. I am also now planning to apply for PhD in Politics at Oxford, LSE or other relatively renowned UK universities(ideally) after graduation from my future grad school in UK.
I then would like to ask if my undergraduate GPA really matters for PhD applications at these well-known universities. My undergraduate GPA is just 3.24/4 which marginally meets the minimum requirement stipulated by these universities. If undergraduate GPA matters for PhD applications at these universities, can I do better in my master's degree in UK in terms of academic result in order to compensate for my awful undergraduate GPA?
I'm not sure about the policies of these individual universities, but in general most universities considering a student for a PhD will place most weight on the most recent/advanced qualification. For example, if someone had a third class Batchelor's/undergrad degree but had then gone on to pass their Master's with distinction, they would place more weight on the latter because it shows what the student is capable of *now*, and it's more advanced than the BA/UG anyway which means it's showing different and higher level skills which will be more relevant to PhD level study. So I can't say for absolutely sure that a bad GPA score will have NO effect on PhD applications to those unis, I think it's likely that great scores and an overall distinction at MA level would be taken more seriously. I don't have an undergrad degree - but I got a distinction in my MA and was top-scoring student in my cohort, and I got offers of a place and a full studentship at two universities.

Give your MA your everything and stay hopeful. Good luck!
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nkho228
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(Original post by LadyMondagreen)
I'm not sure about the policies of these individual universities, but in general most universities considering a student for a PhD will place most weight on the most recent/advanced qualification. For example, if someone had a third class Batchelor's/undergrad degree but had then gone on to pass their Master's with distinction, they would place more weight on the latter because it shows what the student is capable of *now*, and it's more advanced than the BA/UG anyway which means it's showing different and higher level skills which will be more relevant to PhD level study. So I can't say for absolutely sure that a bad GPA score will have NO effect on PhD applications to those unis, I think it's likely that great scores and an overall distinction at MA level would be taken more seriously. I don't have an undergrad degree - but I got a distinction in my MA and was top-scoring student in my cohort, and I got offers of a place and a full studentship at two universities.

Give your MA your everything and stay hopeful. Good luck!
Thank you so much for you answer! I will do my best for my future MSc.
May I also know if, from your perspective, personal statements, CV, research proposals and reference letters are more important than undergraduate GPA in terms of PhD applications? I think academic result will not be so important as long as academic result meets the minimum requirements. What do you think?
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LadyMondagreen
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(Original post by nkho228)
Thank you so much for you answer! I will do my best for my future MSc.
May I also know if, from your perspective, personal statements, CV, research proposals and reference letters are more important than undergraduate GPA in terms of PhD applications? I think academic result will not be so important as long as academic result meets the minimum requirements. What do you think?
Well, remember - I'm only a PhD candidate, so I've never been in a position to make these decisions, and this is just the impression I've received at my interviews and during discussions with potential supervisors. Take it with a pinch of salt. But from my perspective, a really amazing PhD thesis and a distinction at MA level, plus great references (but with a not-so-good undergrad result) would probably be viewed more favourably than someone with a first at UG level but a less impressive thesis proposal and MA results/references. It follows my reasoning above: these things speak to what you can do *now*, rather than what you could do a couple of years ago at undergrad level. So you still have everything to strive and hope for
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artful_lounger
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The main thing is causes problems for is funding, as many funding sources will stipulate a minimum grade/classification requirement for the first degree, which for the funding bodies isn't necessarily something that can be ameliorated by an excellent masters etc. While the admitting university may well be happy to accept you, it may make it harder to get funding with a lower result on your undergrad course - because just being admitted to a PhD does not mean you have funding for it, in the UK (the funding is a separately assessed in most cases here).

If you are able to self-fund the PhD then it is less of a problem, although be aware in academia (especially in STEM subjects) there is a stigma surrounding self-funded PhDs; part of this is practical, because it's the first major source of funding you apply to in your academic career, and applying to funding (grants, fellowships etc) is an important part of being an academic. So some may have the perspective if you can't get a funded PhD, you shouldn't be doing a PhD at all. This is slightly less prevalent in "arts" (i.e. humanities, arts, and some social sciences) subjects due to how little funding there is in the first place for those subjects.
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LadyMondagreen
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
The main thing is causes problems for is funding, as many funding sources will stipulate a minimum grade/classification requirement for the first degree, which for the funding bodies isn't necessarily something that can be ameliorated by an excellent masters etc. While the admitting university may well be happy to accept you, it may make it harder to get funding with a lower result on your undergrad course - because just being admitted to a PhD does not mean you have funding for it, in the UK (the funding is a separately assessed in most cases here).

If you are able to self-fund the PhD then it is less of a problem, although be aware in academia (especially in STEM subjects) there is a stigma surrounding self-funded PhDs; part of this is practical, because it's the first major source of funding you apply to in your academic career, and applying to funding (grants, fellowships etc) is an important part of being an academic. So some may have the perspective if you can't get a funded PhD, you shouldn't be doing a PhD at all. This is slightly less prevalent in "arts" (i.e. humanities, arts, and some social sciences) subjects due to how little funding there is in the first place for those subjects.
Well, like I said... I don't have an undergrad degree at all, only a master's - and I had two offers of a place and funding, one of which was from the AHRC, which is one of the most fiercely competitive funding bodies there is. And the AHRC are the body who would fund a politics PhD. So I think the OP can be optimistic for a place and funding, but they need a distinction in their MA and a really, really amazing thesis proposal.
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by LadyMondagreen)
Well, like I said... I don't have an undergrad degree at all, only a master's - and I had two offers of a place and funding, one of which was from the AHRC, which is one of the most fiercely competitive funding bodies there is. And the AHRC are the body who would fund a politics PhD. So I think the OP can be optimistic for a place and funding, but they need a distinction in their MA and a really, really amazing thesis proposal.
Not having an undergrad degree is not the same as having a "bad" undergrad degree though. They would assess an applicant without an undergrad degree but a strong masters very differently to someone with an undergrad but a low classification/GPA I expect. I'm not saying it's impossible for the OP by any means, just saying that securing funding is likely to be more difficult for them.
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chazwomaq
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Undergrad result definitely makes a difference in my field. As artful_lounger mentions, funders may well have a minimum stipulation. But even if you meet the minimum, I would closely consider UG results. Some Masters degrees don't even give you a % or GPA, but just a category e.g. pass, merit, distinction. This means the UG result is more useful for distinguishing applicants.
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medicphd
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It's likely to differ for different projects. Like mentioned before, a lot will be dependent on funding criteria. However, I would always contact the supervisor of the project you're interested in. You'll likely not know from the advert whether they're asking for a 2:1 to filter out candidates, or because it's a must for the funding. If they're only asking for it to find the best candidate then it'll be flexible, and you'd have a chance at getting the position.
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Proxenus
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I'm Hong kongese too

it suprises me how much better your English is compared to some people that have been raised here 😅
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nkho228
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(Original post by chazwomaq)
Undergrad result definitely makes a difference in my field. As artful_lounger mentions, funders may well have a minimum stipulation. But even if you meet the minimum, I would closely consider UG results. Some Masters degrees don't even give you a % or GPA, but just a category e.g. pass, merit, distinction. This means the UG result is more useful for distinguishing applicants.
May I know which academic field you are in?
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chazwomaq
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(Original post by nkho228)
May I know which academic field you are in?
I'm a psychology academic. My background also includes biology.
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