At the end of January I had my Upgrade and I passed! The Upgrade is a formal (yet informal) review meeting held around 12-18 months into the PhD process. It’s the only external review of my work until the very end after I’ve submitted the whole thesis when there is a viva with an external examiner. (It’s called an Upgrade as technically students enrol for an MPhil before being ‘upgraded’ to PhD student status after this meeting)
The Upgrade meeting included one of my supervisors (my secondary supervisor on paper, though actually they have both had a pretty equal role so far), an academic from another department to lead the discussion, and an academic to oversee the meeting (though in the event he also participated). So, three people talking about my research plans and work so far. Potentially a bit intense.
Everything I was told beforehand was true: most of the preparation was in writing the upgrade portfolio of work itself (submitted just before Christmas) so there was very little I could do in advance of the meeting except be familiar with what I’d written. The meeting was friendly and natural, and I received insight from new perspectives and useful things to mull over. In fact, it’s such a privilege, two academics from different yet related fields, reading my words and giving me some positive feedback and new ideas. Everyone I spoke to told me this would be the case, but until you actually get through it, there are still some nerves – after all, it’s the great unknown! I googled for top tips for getting through the Upgrade but in the event, the pointers from websites and friends were absolutely right – relax and be ready to talk about your research, you’ve already done the preparation.
Now the hard bit is keeping up the momentum and not letting it be too much of an anticlimax! I’ve passed, now I actually have to do some of that work I said I’d be doing…