- Master of Philosophy
An M.Phil. is a lesser degree than a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), but in many cases it is considered to be a more senior degree than a taught Master's degree, as it is often a thesis-only degree. In some instances, an M.Phil. may be awarded to graduate students after completing several years of original research, but before the defense of a dissertation. In some cases, it can serve as a provisional enrollment for a Ph.D.
In the United States
American universities award the M.Phil under certain circumstances. At those universities, the degree is awarded to Ph.D. candidates when they complete their required coursework and qualifying examinations, but before the defense of a doctoral dissertation. This status is also called All But Dissertation, or A.B.D. (colloquially, "All But Done"), and sometimes may include the defense of a thesis proposal.
Many Ph.D. candidates at these universities view the M.Phil. as a formality and elect not to receive it in order to avoid the paperwork and costs involved. However, some programs do not offer an en route M.A. or M.S., so the M.Phil. is the first opportunity to receive a degree between the Bachelor's and Ph.D. Some colleges and universities, such as the College of the Atlantic, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Utah, offer a standalone M.Phil. degree in various fields.
In the United Kingdom
In most UK universities, completion of an M.Phil. typically requires two years of full-time study and the submission of a thesis comprising a body of original research undertaken by the candidate.
It is common for students admitted into a Ph.D. (or D.Phil.) program at a UK university to be initially registered for the degree of M.Phil., and then to transfer onto the Ph.D. upon successful completion of the first (or sometimes the second) year of study: this will often involve the submission of a short report or dissertation by the student, and possibly an oral examination or presentation. In addition, most universities allow examiners to recommend award of an M.Phil. if a Ph.D. candidate's thesis is deemed not to be of the requisite length or standard for a doctorate. However many students register for an M.Phil. with no intention of upgrading to a Ph.D., either due to personal circumstances or due to their chosen research project having insufficient scope for a Ph.D.
At a few UK universities, an M.Phil. research degree can be achieved after only one year of study and is viewed as being equivalent to a taught M.A. or M.Sc. degree. At the University of Manchester, for example, the examination of an M.Phil. degree is entirely by submission of a thesis and does not require an oral examination.
However, in some institutions, such as University College London, a clear set of requirements must be met for the award of an M.Phil, under which candidates are required to submit and defend a thesis against external and internal examiners, a process which may in itself take up to a year, and, as such, the award may be regarded as a mini-PhD. 
Oxford & Cambridge Universities
At Oxford University, the M.Phil. is a usually two-year Master's degree, although some programs are one-year. The M.Phil. requires both a lengthy thesis and more examinations than a one-year Masters degree (such as M.Sc., M.St. or M.Litt.).
Cambridge University offers the M.Phil. as a one-year Master's degree program. This is to distinguish it from the Oxbridge M.A. degree, to which B.A. graduates usually proceed after a certain period of time without any further study (a procedure which has been followed at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge since the seventeenth century). It is usually a taught degree at Cambridge, nevertheless the university offers a purely research based M.Phil. in most areas.
Ancient Scottish universities
The ancient Scottish universities, who for historical reasons award the Scottish M.A. degree upon completion of four-year first degree programs in arts and humanities subjects, differ in their use of M.Phil. or M.Litt. for postgraduate research degrees, but are slowly standardizing to the M.Phil. as a research degree and the M.Litt. as a taught degree.
In the Netherlands
In the Netherlands the M.Phil. is a special research degree and only awarded by selected departments of a university (mostly in the fields of Arts, Social Sciences, Archaeology, Philosophy and Theology). Admission to these programmes is highly selective and primarily aimed at those students opting for an academic career. After finishing these programs, students normally enroll for a Ph.D. program. The Dutch Department of Education, Culture and Science has decided not to recognize the MPhil degree. Accordingly, some Dutch universities have decided to continue the grant the MPhil degree but also offer a legally recognized degree such as MA or MSc to those who receive the MPhil degree.
In Norway, the degree of MPhil is a 'standard' Master's degree (120 ECTS credits) at a level equivalent to an MA or MSc. Upon completion, the MPhil qualifies for acceptance to a PhD program, but is most often taken as a stand-alone qualification. The MPhil is not a common degree in Norway; most universities award MA (in humanities or social sciences) or MSc (in technical and scientific subjects) degrees.
In Finland, the regular (first) Master's degree filosofian maisteri translates to "Master of Philosophy". However, the term "philosophy" is to be understood to the maximum extent, because this is the name of the basic Master's degree in all natural sciences and humanities. It does not imply a specialization in theoretical philosophy or even other than introductory studies. In fact, most of the students majoring in philosophy get a degree with a different name (Master of Sociology or Politics). These degrees are regular Master's degrees, not special "higher" degrees (cf. Licentiate and Doctor of Philosophy).
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