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We've curated the most frequently asked questions about applying and studying for a PhD in Development Policy & Practice (DPP). If your question isn’t answered here, feel free to contact DPP’s Postgraduate Convenor (Mark Lamont)

Who can apply for a PhD in Development Policy and Practice?

We welcome and encourage applications from people of all backgrounds, regardless of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or ability. We have a strong record of supporting students with a range of disabilities to successful completion of PhDs. If you have any questions about how we can provide support while you study, please get in touch.

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What are the entry requirements for studying for a PhD in Development Policy and Practice?

Most successful applicants to the PhD programme have a Masters degree in development studies, political science, economics, anthropology, sociology or related disciplines. However, applicants can still be considered provided they demonstrate evidence of the ability to pursue research and write at a high level in the discipline.

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Is there a residency requirement?

We welcome applications from students all over the world. Students are, however, required to attend face-to-face supervision meetings and to take advantage of our year-round programme of workshops, seminars, and training at the OU’s main campus in Milton Keynes, as well as training provided by the universities of Oxford and Brunel London as part of our doctoral training partnership. As such, students are encouraged to reside in or near Milton Keynes. On a case-by-case basis, we are generally able to accommodate students living elsewhere in the world, provided they can travel to Milton Keynes as required. Find out more about Kirsteen Merrilees, one of our part-time PhD students studying with us from Nepal.

It is important to check the residency requirements of any PhD funding. Some funding bodies, such as the ESRC or AHRC, may require students to reside in the UK, for example.

Find out more information on support for overseas students.

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How much does it cost?

Current tuition fees for the PhD programme can be found from OU Research Degrees website.

Full-time PhD students are entitled to an annual research budget of £1000 (£500 for part-time students), which can be used to travel to conferences or to archives, for example.

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What funding options do you have?

Development Policy and Practice has a doctoral training pathway in the ESRC funded Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (GUDTP) with the University of Oxford and Brunel University London. This partnership offers opportunities to undertake a 3-year, 4-year and part-time PhD, funded through an annual competition. The advertising and recruitment period is typically between November and January.

If you are interested in applying for a GUDTP studentship, simply indicate on your PhD application form that you would like to be considered for funding. If your application to the PhD programme is successful, you will have the opportunity to complete a short additional application for the studentship. Studentships are open to applicants of all nationalities.

Students are also welcome to apply for external funding. General information about funding opportunities for postgraduate research can be found from OU Research Degrees website.

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How long does it take to do a PhD? And can I study part time?

You have the option of studying full time or part time. Full-time students generally complete their PhD in three to four years, while part-time students typically complete within six years.

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What are the deadlines for applying for and beginning the PhD?

The deadline for all PhD applications, including funded and self-funded students, is January. All PhD students begin their studies on 1 October of that same calendar year. We do not have a February intake for the PhD programme in Development Policy and Practice.

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Which areas of Development does the OU supervise?

Our department has a broad range of expertise, and is able to support many diverse research projects. We do have specific expertise in a number of areas, however, as reflected on our Research page.

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Can I be co-supervised by members of two different Disciplines?

Yes. The OU fosters interdisciplinary research, and we often organise a supervisory team with academics from two different disciplines.

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Are there different application deadlines for funded and self-funded students?

All applications to do a PhD in Development Policy and Practice are due the same date in January. All applicants, regardless of whether they are self-funded or are applying for funding, must submit their applications by the January deadline. All incoming postgraduate research students in Development Policy and Practice begin their PhD studies on 1 October each year.

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Do you offer an MPhil in Development Policy and Practice?

Yes. Students do have the option of pursuing an MPhil rather than a PhD. An MPhil requires research students to produce a thesis of 60,000 words (rather than 100,000 for the PhD) and it is typically completed in 15 months (full-time). The application procedure is the same for the MPhil and for the PhD.

Unfortunately, there is no funding available to study for an MPhil.

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Who should I ask to be my referees for my PhD application?

You are required to provide the names and contact details of two referees in support of your application. Both referees should be individuals who can confirm that you have the skills required to successfully complete a PhD. At least one of the referees should be an academic - for example, the person who supervised your Masters dissertation. The other referee can also be an academic or an employer who can confirm that you possess the necessary skills to undertake postgraduate research.

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Do I need to submit a research proposal as part of my application?

Yes, a research proposal is a vital part of any application. Any application submitted without a research proposal will be rejected.

You should contact the Post-Graduate Convenor, in the first instance, to discuss your research ideas and to get further information on what to include in the research proposal (word limit, methodology, and bibliographic references).

For more information, view our 'how to draft a research proposal' page.

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What is the first year of the PhD like?

When you first enrol for your PhD, you will technically be an MPhil student. During your first year, you will have the opportunity to attend induction and training sessions organised by the Graduate School Network and by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

During your first year, much of your research will focus on producing a literature review, which will allow you to master the secondary literature related to your chosen topic.

At the end of your first year of full-time study, or your second year of part-time study, you will submit your literature review along with some other work for your upgrade to the full PhD programme. For your upgrade, a panel of two OU academics will look at the work you’ve completed so far and your plans for the years ahead.

In the first year of the PhD programme, you can also be assigned a mentor; a more advanced PhD student in a different discipline within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Your mentor is there to help you with the transition to life as a PhD student.

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Would I be able to join a research group as a PhD student?

Yes. Members of the department currently operate several research groups, in collaboration with members of other disciplines. PhD students are encouraged to participate in the activities of the research groups, where they can present their research, listen to invited speakers, and meet other leading scholars in their field.

Our core research strengths are in Science technology innovation and development - Asian drivers in African development and Equality, Health and Human wellbeing (a grouping of research and policy interests related particularly to human and policy aspects of development).

DPP also leads the interdisciplinary International Development and Inclusive Innovation research group, looking to address global inequality, as well as the Innogen Institute, a joint structure with the University of Edinburgh, focusing on emerging technologies and development.

We are the UK's only higher education institute that not only leads practice-based development research alongside teaching, but also implements education and health development programmes at scale in low- and middle-income countries. Our current key research projects include Inclusive Societies: Migration for Inclusive African Growth and Innovation for Cancer Care in Africa.

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How we work with others?

DPP is closely linked to more than 50 universities worldwide, including institutions based in the Global South, and collaborates with over 400 other partners, from the private and NGO sectors, multilateral agencies and policy bodies. We are currently supporting international development staff through free, online courses such as Save the Children’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning programme, and Nesta’s DIY Toolkit. We also co-produced a new BBC World Service series on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Project 17).

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Can I get teaching experience at the OU as a PhD student?

We currently run a Teaching Scheme that invites PhD students to join an undergraduate module team and take part in discussions around creating and marking exams and essays, while benefitting from mentorship from an experienced tutor. PhD students can also receive training on writing and delivering lectures and have the opportunity to lecture to undergraduate students. The OU also collaborates with the Brilliant Club, where PhD students gain experience teaching in secondary schools.

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What careers do graduates go on to pursue?

Graduates of our PhD programme thrive in a wide range of different sectors. Many of our graduates teach in universities across the UK and overseas, while others have pursued careers in global development or government. If you want to find out what students who have studied with DPP have gone on to do, please visit the our DPP careers page.

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