So, here I am. Nearly a week after my MPhil differentiation, and feeling hollow and a bit worn out. I passed incidentally, but in the grander scheme of things, while I made progress, I don't think it was enough to win the war. An MPhil differentiation, for those of you who don't know is like a mini interview, where they look over your work and ask you difficult questions about it, basically to see if you're actually as good in real life as you make yourself out to be on paper. The paper in this case is a 15 page report written a few weeks before the interview outlining your work to date, and your possible future plans. The format is quite simple, the Head of Department ( a guy called Prof. Danny Crookes ) and the head of Postgraduate Admissions (Dr. Peter Kilpatrick) sit together to run the meeting, and with them, but silent, is your supervisor, who is there simply as an observer, to ensure the forms are met. They are to ask you questions on your work, for up to 30 minutes, and then you leave the room while they chat with the supervisor for another 15 before deciding to let you continue the course, or not as the case may be.
My differentiation meeting lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes, not including the supervisor discussion. That's over *twice* the time allocated and far more than any other person who went through the process this year. Most of them were fully fledged Phd students, and from what I can gather, they had a less intense time of it in the meeting than I. There's something going on here, and it looks to me very much like they were trying to see if I would crack, and when I didn't they kept pushing a bit harder, and a bit longer, to see if I would crack. I didn't. They had to let me pass. This is all the more surprising since the guy ahead of me who was a bit of a rising star in his Phd work was asked to re-submit.
The problems here stem not so much from the meeting, which was pretty darned bad in itself but rather the fact that the department had been sitting on my Phd application for next year on the basis that they had no further information on paper that would indicate progress from when I had graduated last year. The progress meeting (differentiation) was supposed be just such proof. Now I've been told that while they were impressed and would allow me to continue the MPhil, they also weren't going to offer me a Phd until I'd completed the course. This is all well and good until you realize that the time at which they will offer me it is going to be an empty spot for funding applications, and so I will have to pay for the first year myself. In other words, if I choose to go ahead with the idea of a Phd they're effectively going to fine me £3000 for my insolence. The whole thing is implicit, but targeted specifically at me. It's been a cat and mouse game between us for the last 6 months, and I've meticulously broken down each and every barrier, until it's just the head honcho, Danny Crookes's decision.
And tomorrow is the last day for changing his mind before the Phd funding boat sails for good, on the 1st of August.
So what ever I do, has to be done then. I've arranged an appointment at 2.00pm, but there's a coffee morning earlier on in the day as well so I'll probably meet him there in a social environment. Wish me luck. I'll need it.