This question is similar to the date of PhD award in France, but for the case of Oxbridge (maybe all of UK, but I don't know).

There is the date of the defense (behind closed doors), after which one may recieve no corrections, minor corrections, or major corrections (re-submit thesis). After the corrections are done the thesis is given to the University, and one can be "approved" for a PhD. But one only receives the certificate after a graduation ceremony, which may be years (typically weeks or months) later.

Which of these dates should I choose for fellowship applications etc? I have

  1. Date I defended
  2. Date I submitted the last version of the thesis
  3. Date thesis was approved
  4. Date I left the university to work elsewhere (become a postdoc)
  5. Date I graduated. (This is on the official transcript.)

In this chronological order. I obviously don't care personally, but often there are requirements such as "this and that many years after your PhD".

  • 2
    In general, digging into the small print for funding calls, etc, will turn up a more precise definition of how the 'PhD date' is to be determined. While Oxford is unusual in the length of delay between defence and graduation, a gap of any length can lead to ambiguity over eligibility for things.
    – avid
    Sep 7, 2020 at 10:00
  • Typically, the date on the certificate should be the most authoritative one, unless the date is defined in another way.
    – user151413
    Sep 7, 2020 at 18:35
  • @avid, Thank you, this also mirrors the recommendation by Arno in the accepted answer. It makes sense to look for a more precise specification and otherwise default to the official date.
    – Daniel
    Sep 7, 2020 at 20:44

3 Answers 3


The multitude of dates that would make sense is not at all specific to Oxbridge, and many funding bodies will clarify which date they want in the fine print.

If they don't specify otherwise, then the graduation date is a safe bet, as this is the date written on the certificate. In my experience, "at most x years post PhD" restrictions are far more common, and for those the graduation date will be the most beneficial one for you anyway.

If its not specified, and if the graduation date would disqualify you, but one of date of defense and submission date for the final version would work, then it makes sense to get in touch with whoever is in charge to make the case that they should consider you.

  • Thank you Arno, this sounds very sensible. I was afraid I'd accused of artificially reducing my "academic age" if I chose the award date, but it makes a lot of sense to default to it in case no clearer instructions are given.
    – Daniel
    Sep 7, 2020 at 20:43

In terms of assessing eligibility for a University Research Fellowship, the Royal Society defines it as the date the thesis was approved by the graduate board. I know this because I was found ineligible for the URF last year (too few years since PhD award), and I was trying to argue that the date of defense or the date of final submission should count - they disagreed!

That might not answer your question in all circumstances, but it gives a firm answer for at least one of the awards which considers time since PhD awarded.

  • 1
    I think this is probably the most common definition. Usually the candidate will recieve an official letter from the university stating they have been approved for the award of a PhD, and this letter can be used as proof. Sep 8, 2020 at 18:17

In a UK university a qualification is not considered as awarded until the graduation ceremony. It usually requires the Chancellor to utter the words "I grant to those listed on the official record the qualification ... etc".

Until that time you have the intermediate status of graduand and not graduate.

The date of the Phd is the date of the ceremony.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .