The Open University Entry Requirements 2017/18

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The Open University Entry Requirements 2017/18

Funding and Entry Requirements

The Open University Entry Requirements 2017/18, Applicants for research degrees must satisfy the academic requirements to be considered for recruitment.

Most studentships, which cover academic fees and stipend (living costs) also have eligibility conditions. Applicants wishing to apply for funding should see below for opportunities and requirements.

Full-time PhD

Academic requirements:

PhD places in the school are awarded competitively, and have high entry requirements. Applications will be considered from students with, or expecting to gain, a first degree in any of a wide range of disciplines including physics, mathematics, engineering, geology, chemistry, geochemistry, biochemistry or similar disciplines at first or upper second class level.

We attempt to recruit the best candidates for any of our advertised projects (see the project list) based on qualifications, skills and aptitude for research, although we also have to take account of subject balance, supervisor workload, timeliness and fit to strategic objectives. It is possible for students to propose their own projects, but this must be in consultation with staff in the school and the project must be linked to the school’s overall research strategy.


All projects offered have identified funding sources.

Studentship funding from UK research councils is available for projects marked ‘STFC’ (Science and Technology Facilities Council) or ‘EPSRC’ (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council). The funding includes all tuition fees and a stipend (£13,590 pa in 2012/13). STFC CASE studentships are supported by industrial sponsors and offer a higher stipend (minimum of £14,590). Candidates for these research council studentships are required to have a ‘relevant connection’ with the United Kingdom. A relevant connection may be established if, at the date of application/nomination:
a) the candidate has been ordinarily resident in the UK throughout the 3-year period immediately preceding the date of an award, and
b) has not been resident in the UK, during any part of that 3-year period, wholly or mainly for the purposes of full time education, and
c) has settled status in the UK within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971 (i.e. is not subject to any restriction on the period for which he/she may stay)
EU nationals who are resident in the UK only need to follow criterion (a) from the above list. If they do not satisfy this criterion, then they are eligible for funding for fees only and will have to make separate arrangements to fund living costs. The full STFC studentship regulations can be found on the STFC Studentship handbook 2012-2013.

Projects with “earmarked funding” specifically awarded for that project may have less restrictive requirements and therefore be available for overseas applicants.

All studentships offered by The Open University offer fees and stipends at or above the minimum level specified by the Research Councils.

Applicants with their own funding sources (e.g. private funds, external scholarships) may apply for any of our projects subject to the academic requirements specified above.

Part-Time PhD

Academic requirements:

Part time PhD study is offered by the OU as part of its mission to provide continuing education for people who are not in a position to undertake full time study. The requirement for a PhD is a new and substantial contribution to the research field, and in general the most obvious research lines will be pursued by full-time researchers. Hence, projects for part-time study need to be very carefully designed. The project must produce results which are a novel contribution to the field at the time of completion (usually about 6 years after the part-time student begins work), and it must be possible to undertake the project without regular access to usual university facilities.

Usually, part-time PhD students pursue research work which draws upon skills or knowledge related to their other activities. Part-time students have a minimum of three supervisors, two internal supervisors who are members of the central academic staff at the OU, and an external supervisor who works in the same research field and is geographically close to the student.

In recognition of the challenges inherent in pursuing PhD research outside the daily work environment of an academic school, the OU is careful to select only part-time PhD students who are likely to succeed. Sadly this means we receive far more part time PhD enquiries than we are able to satisfy. The first step for part-time PhD applicants is for them to identify the area in which they would like to work as well as potential supervisors. They are then responsible for writing a detailed proposal describing the research work they will undertake. Once an applicant has submitted a promising research proposal, it will be refined in collaboration with the prospective internal supervisor.

Generally, part-time PhD students are required to be resident in the UK. The only exceptions are in cases where a pre-existing collaboration, or an obvious common research area, exists between the prospective internal and external supervisors.


No studentships are available for part-time research and students are responsible for tuition fees (£1914 pa for home and EU students for 2012/13).


SPS does not offer funding for MSc programmes and only occasionally accept students for MSc by research.

Applicants who wish to undertake an MSc by research (1 year) either because they wish to obtain some research experience before making a decision on starting a PhD or because they have not reached the standard for PhD entry, must have a first degree in a relevant subject at lower second class or higher. They should identify potential project areas from the PhD project list and send a CV and supporting information as for PhD applicants. Potential supervisors will then be approached to determine if they wish to offer a project.