At the University of Oxford, the M.Phil. is a two-year master's degree, while the M.St. is a one-year master's degree. The M.Phil. is considered more difficult and prestigious, as it requires both a lengthy thesis as well as more examinations. Traditionally, the M.Phil. qualified a person to teach at Oxford; some professors, most notably the world-renowned philosopher Richard Swinburne, have held major professorships without ever finishing a doctorate degree. But today, the PhD or EngD is seen as the expected academic terminal degree.
The University of Cambridge offers the M.Phil. as a one or two-year taught or research degree. This is to distinguish it from the Oxford/Cambridge/Trinity Dublin MA degree to which BA graduates usually proceed after a certain period of time and is not awarded as a result of further study (since the seventeenth century). The ancient Scottish Universities, who have the power to award MAs for four-year undergraduate degrees in the arts, differ in their use of M.Phil. or M.Litt. for postgraduate research degrees, but are slowly standardising to the M.Phil. as a research Masters and the M.Litt. as a taught Masters.
In the UK, the M.Phil. is increasingly becoming used as it is in the United States - a degree offered but rarely taken, by Ph.D./D.Phil. candidates who have yet to complete their dissertation. Officially, however, many students in the UK do not initially study for a PhD/D.Phil: they study for an M.Phil, and the decision to continue from M.Phil. to D.Phil./Ph.D. is taken at the end of year 2 by the student and supervisors. Even when the student and supervisor agree that a student should study for a PhD after the Bachelors, some supervisors recommend that the student submits an MPhil thesis at the end of his first year of study, in order to gain experience in writing a larger thesis. Some people sometimes read for the M.Phil. instead of the Ph.D., though some may mistake it for a failed Ph.D. rather than recognise it as a passed degree.
In the Netherlands the M.Phil. is a special research degree and only awarded by selected departments of a university (mostly in the fields of Arts, Social Sciences, Archeology, Philosophy and Theology). Admission to these programmes is highly selective and primarily aimed at those students opting for an academic career. After finishing these programs, students normally enroll for a PhD program.
Some American universities award the M.Phil: at those universities, the degree is awarded to Ph.D. candidates when they complete their required coursework but before they defend their doctoral dissertations. This status is also called A.B.D., or All But Dissertation (or All But Done). Many Ph.D. candidates at these universities view the M.Phil. as a formality and elect not to receive it in order to avoid the paperwork and costs involved. However some programs do not offer an en route M.A. or M.S., so the M.Phil. is the first opportunity to receive a degree between the Bachelor's and Ph.D.
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