We’ve gathered the most frequently asked questions about the PhD Programme in History. If your question isn’t answered here, feel free to contact us as FASS-History-Enquiries@open.ac.uk with your question.
Who can apply for a PhD in History?
We welcome and encourage applications from applicants from 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 at all about how we can accommodate your study, please get in touch with us.
What are the entry requirements for the PhD Programme?
Most successful applicants to the PhD programme have a Masters degree in history or a related discipline, and/or a first class history degree with a substantial original-source dissertation. However, applicants can still be considered provided they demonstrate evidence of the ability to pursue research and write at a high level in some historical field.
Is there a residency requirement?
We welcome applications from students from all over the world. Students are, however, required to attend regular, face-to-face supervision meetings and to take advantage of our year-round programme of workshops, seminars, and training at The Open University’s main campus in Milton Keynes, as well as training provided by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge 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 in other parts of the UK or elsewhere in Europe, provided they can travel to Milton Keynes as required.
It is also important to check the residency requirements of any PhD funding. Some funding bodies, such as the AHRC, may require students to reside in the UK, for example.
More information on support for overseas students can be found here.
How much does it cost?
Tuition fees for the PhD Programme in History can be found here.
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.
What funding options do you have?
The Open University, in collaboration with the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, is part of the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Each year, this group awards a number of AHRC-funded doctoral studentships to incoming PhD students at the OU. In addition to fees and maintenance, the funding is also designed to enable professional development opportunities in collaboration with our strategic partners, including the BBC World Service, the National Trust, and BT. More information on these studentships can be found here.
If you are interested in applying for an OOC 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.
Students are also welcome to apply for external funding. General information about funding opportunities for postgraduate research can be found here.
How long is the PhD programme? 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.
What are the deadlines for applying for and beginning the PhD programme?
The PhD programme in history has a single deadline each year for all applications, for both funded and self-funded students. This is in January every year. 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 history.
What areas of History does the OU supervise?
The department has a broad range of expertise, and we are able to support many diverse research projects. We do have specific expertise in a number of areas, however, as reflected on our Research page.
We have finite capacity for taking on new PhD students, which means that even if a member of the department has suitable expertise in a given area, they may not necessarily be able to take on a new PhD student in a given year.
Can I be co-supervised by members of two different departments?
Yes. The Open University fosters interdisciplinary research, and we often organise a supervisory team with academics from two different disciplines.
Are there different application deadlines for funded and self-funded students?
All applications for the PhD Programme in History 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 history begin their PhD studies on 1 October each year.
Do you offer an MPhil in History?
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 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 offered for the MPhil programme.
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 they can be an employer who can confirm that you possess the necessary skills to undertake postgraduate research.
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 as incomplete. Here is more information on how to write a research proposal.
How long should my research proposal be, and what should I include?
Your research proposal should be approximately 1000 words, plus a bibliography. What to include in your research proposal in History can be found in the guidance on how to write a research proposal.
What is the first year of the PhD programme 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.
For your first year, much of your research will focus on producing a literature review, which will allow you to master the historiography on 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 will also be assigned a mentor, namely 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.
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 historians in their field.
The History Department currently cooperates closely with the following research centres:
What careers do graduates of your PhD programme 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 the media, the heritage sector, the civil service, or in private and voluntary organisations.