I completed my undergraduate degree in engineering at the best university in my country of origin, almost a decade ago. I completed the undergraduate program with a 2.9 CGPA on a 4.0 GPA scale, which roughly equates to an overall B grade (74.5%). Owing to my very difficult personal circumstances at the time, I had to repeat 6 failed courses and completed my degree in 5 years instead of 4. I later completed a master's degree at a mid-ranking UK university - a former polytechnic, albeit one with a very good history and a good reputation in my subject area - with an overall distinction and an A1 grade in my dissertation. I had the opportunity to start a funded PhD at that university at the time, but I wasn't really interested then.

Since completing my master's program, I've worked in the industry for nearly 8 years. Now, at 35 I would like to apply to a good PhD programme at a top ranked university next year. I'm very passionate about my research topic and have drafted a very good research proposal. Will my undergraduate record have any bearing on my application?

  • Maybe. It shouldn't stop you getting into a university, but it might make it hard to get funding. You should certainly talk with your potential supervisor and explain the difficulty, rather than just applying - but that's good advice anyway! If the undergrad results potentially put (for example) research council funding out of reach, they may know about (for example) internal university funding that is more flexible. – Flyto Aug 12 '19 at 20:46

Yes, but exactly what, won’t be known until you submit the application(s).


This is discipline specific to some degree and you haven't specified your discipline. I'll answer for my general fields (social science and humanities) as I suspect it is roughly similar across the board.

Your top master's result will go a long way to negating your okay undergraduate result, at least when it comes to research council PhD funding. There's a tick box to tick on the evaluation which pretty much gets ticked if there is any first at all. However, to get PhD funding from a UK research council you must be a Home or EU student, which you don't say if you are. If you aren't Home/EU things are a bit more dire.

Indeed, it's dire for everyone: the biggest shift I've seen in the 8 years since you were offered a funded PhD place is a huge reduction in the number of funded PhD places available in the UK. This may not have stretched to every discipline, but I'd be surprised to find one that didn't have some reduction in that timespan. I started my PhD in 2006 with a 2:1 in both my undergrad and masters and I got funding via an oxbridge college. I can't see flying now.

If you are not a Home/EU student, you'll likely be dependant on internal Uni funds and you're likely to find less of those lying around compared to 8 years ago. Since the same number (or more) people are competing for less internal Uni funding, things like a lower undergrad result will likely come in to play.

  • FWIW the OP does mention an undergraduate degree in engineering, but I agree that they haven't specified the discipline in which they wish to pursue a PhD – Yemon Choi Aug 10 '19 at 17:04
  • @GrotesqueSI My undergraduate and masters degrees are in Electrical Engineering and computer science respectively. I would like to pursue a PhD in computer science. I am now a naturalised British citizen and therefore considered a home student. – Aaron Aug 10 '19 at 17:22
  • @GrotesqueSI Also, forgot to mention I'm halfway through completing a graduate diploma course in Mathematics at a top UK university. I'm hoping to complete it with distinction and straight A's in all modules. It is a distance learning course and assessments are based on annual exams held in London each year. I suppose this would help my application, as the research topic I'm interested in requires a strong background in mathematics. – Aaron Aug 10 '19 at 17:31
  • Than you can go for research council funding and apply for advertised positions, so you're better off than many! The first should tick the previously mentioned literal tick box. – GrotesqueSI Aug 10 '19 at 17:33
  • I think no need to be too worried about the undergraduate marks then. – GrotesqueSI Aug 10 '19 at 17:34

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