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We have curated the most frequently asked questions about applying and studying for a research degree in philosophy. If your question is not answered here, feel free to contact us at or

Who can apply for a research degree in Philosophy?

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

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How do I apply?

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What are the entry requirements for studying for a research degree in Philosophy?

Most successful applicants to the research degree programme have a Masters degree in Philosophy. However, an applicant could still be considered provided he or she can demonstrate evidence of the ability to pursue research and write at a high level in the discipline.

Applicants for the PhD are normally expected to possess the equivalent or better of an Upper Second Class Honours degree with Philosophy as a significant component; and, in addition, to hold an MA in Philosophy. Please note that these are minimum application criteria and are not sufficient. Applicants who do not meet these criteria may, in exceptional circumstances, be considered, but they will need to give evidence through written work that they are sufficiently prepared for research-level study.

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Is there a residency requirement? 

We welcome applications from students 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 OU’s main campus in Milton Keynes as well as training provided through our doctoral training partnership (see below).

It is also important to check the residency requirements of any PhD funding. Some funding bodies, such as the (AHRC/ESRC), may require students to reside in the UK.

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.

Research students are entitled to an annual research budget of £1000 (for full-time students) and £500 (for part-time students). This can be used for research expenses, such as attending conferences.

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What funding options do you have?

The OU, in collaboration with the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, is part of the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). Each year, this group awards a number of AHRC-funded doctoral studentships to incoming PhD students at the OU, covering fees and maintenance. Find out more information on the DTP studentships.

If you are interested in applying for a DTP 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.

Many of our students have their own source of funding. However, 3 of our current 15 research students hold full Open-Oxford-Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership (OOC DTP) Studentships. These cover tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant (c.£15k). Competition is extremely fierce. Most applicants are not successful.

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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What are the deadlines for applying for and beginning a research degree?

For those who would like to apply for funding from the DTP, applications for an October start need to be made in the previous January. Self-funding students may apply at that point as well. In most years we aim to have another application window in late April; this is for self-funded students only.

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Which areas of Philosophy does the OU supervise?

Philosophy has a broad range of expertise, and we can support many diverse research projects. We do have specific expertise in several areas.

We have finite capacity for taking on new research students, which means that even if a member of the discipline has suitable expertise in a given area, he or she may not necessarily be able to take on a student in a given year.

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Can I be co-supervised by academics from two different disciplines?

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

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Do you offer an MPhil in Philosophy?

Yes. Students do have the option of pursuing an MPhil rather than a PhD. An MPhil requires research students to produce a thesis of up to 60,000 words (rather than up to 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 available to study for an MPhil.

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Who should I ask to be my referees for my research degree 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 research degree. It is best if at least one of the referees is 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.

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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 your application. Find out advice on how to prepare a proposal.

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What is the first year of research degree like?

All students are initially enrolled as for the MPhil. 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.

If you would like study for a PhD you will need to go through the ‘upgrade’ process. This takes place at the end of your first year of full-time study or your second year of part-time study. You would need to submit a piece of work (probably the prospective first chapter) along with some other work. A panel of two OU academics will look at the work you have completed and your plans for the years ahead.

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How will my application be assessed?

There are three criteria:

  • The proposal: Applications include a short research proposal. Your proposal needs to be academically coherent and practically viable.
  • The student: You need to be capable of seeing the project through to completion within three years (full-time) or six years (part-time) and have suitable qualifications (see above).
  • Supervision: We need to be in a position to supervise the project; that is, we need to have (i) the relevant expertise among available staff members and (ii) staff members with such expertise need to have space to take on extra research students.

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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 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 research degree programme thrive in a wide range of different sectors. Several of them have gone on to publish their PhDs as books. Most recently, Jon Phelan published Literature and Understanding, (Routledge 2020) and Brandon Robshaw published Should a Liberal State Ban the Burqa? (Bloomsbury, 2020). Another (Christopher Yorke) has twice won the essay prize of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport with work from his thesis.

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