At my university, there is no grading on a PhD transcript. There is no exam or predefined coursework (i.e. you can work on any aspect of the dissertation and in any order, which is not assessed but reviewed by the supervisor). At the end of the program (three years), the candidate must submit a dissertation for examination.

The PhD dissertation is examined by internal and external examiners and their reports give either a pass or a fail. There are various shades (e.g. pass, pass with minor revision, pass with major revision, fail, fail but allowed to resubmit, fail with a lesser award, fail with no award etc.).

The final transcript states "satisfactory progress" for each semester of enrolment and "pass" for the final semester. The graduation then takes place and the degree is awarded.

I recently had a request to provide the transcript of my PhD. The problem I have is that "satisfactory progress" and "pass" can both be seen as equivalent to a "C" grade (as per the key to grading that explains the grading for all university programs e.g. bachelors degree) I know this is not the case for a PhD. (I got some outstanding feedback from the examiners!)

How do I reconcile this situation?

I know I can alawys provide the examiners' reports but each report is close to 10 pages, with positive and negative comments. The award of the PhD is subject to the candidate making changes to the dissertation as per the examiners' comments (or otherwise defending why the examiners' comments are not valid in regard to the study). The final dissertation is not the same as the one the examiners assessed and in almost all cases it is a better product (hence the examiners's comments are no longer a true reflection).

How does the grading of PhD work in other universities?

EDIT: The 'issue' with no grades being available is that the Official Academic Transcript lists the six semesters (three years) with "Satisfactory Progress" for the first five semesters and "Pass" for the last semester. On the back is the grading information (i.e. what "Satisfactory Progress" and "Pass" mean). "Satisfactory Progress" is coded SP and means meeting all requirements to progress to the next course in a sequence of courses in a postgraduate research program and "Pass" is coded "C" and means demonstrated satisfactory levels of achievements in all objectives designated as essential for passing the course. The grading information also provides information on the highest grade which is HD (High Distinction) through to the lowest grade F (Fail). In this situation, why shouldn't a person see "Pass" as a C grade for a PhD!


1 Answer 1


How do I reconcile this situation?

You don't.

It will be clear to the anyone reading you transcript that your university does not provide grades for preliminary stages of your PhD. Most likely, what they're really asking for is merely proof that you have the degree. If they actually want more detailed grades, that's too bad for them, because those grades don't exist.

How does the grading of PhD work in other universities?

In the US, dissertations are not graded; you either get the degree or you don't.

Along the way to the degree, PhD students may take classes (either by requirement or by choice), and grades for those classes typically show up on the transcript just as they do for undergraduates. US PhD students also typically sign up for research credit hours as a "class" during semesters when they aren't taking real classes, but those "classes" are almost always graded pass/fail or equivalent (for example, at my university, "satisfactory/unsatisfactory"). The actual dissertation and defense never shows up in the transcript, even if a student fails their defense.

I can't think of any circumstance where anyone (at least in the US) would even look at the transcript of someone's completed PhD program. Proof of degree, sure, but grades? Never.

In this situation, why shouldn't a person see "Pass" as a C grade for a PhD!

Because PhDs don't have "grades".

  • Thanks JeffE. I have updated my question in response to your first answer. May 14, 2013 at 1:35

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