We’ve gathered the most frequently asked questions about applying and studying for a PhD in Psychology and Counselling on a single page. If your question isn’t answered here, feel free to contact us at FASS-Psych-Co-PG-Admissions@open.ac.uk with your question.

Who can apply for a PhD in Psychology and Counselling?

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 PhD. If you have any questions at all about how we can accommodate your study, please get in touch with us.

Back to top

What are the entry requirements for studying for a PhD in Psychology and Counselling?

Applicants for the PhD are normally expected to possess the equivalent or better of an Upper Second Class Honours degree with Psychology; and, in addition, to hold an MSc in Psychology or related discipline. 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.

Back to top

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 Brunel 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 ESRC, may require students to reside in the UK, for example.

More information on support for overseas students can be found here.

Back to top

How much does it cost?

Current tuition fees for the PhD Programme 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.

Back to top

What funding options do you have?

The Open University, in collaboration with the universities of Oxford and Brunel, is part of the Grand Union ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). Each year, this group awards a number of ESRC-funded doctoral studentships to incoming PhD students at the OU, covering fees and maintenance.

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.

Students are also welcome to apply for external funding. General information about funding opportunities for postgraduate research can be found here.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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

Deadlines for the PhD programme in Psychology and Counselling are mid-January and end of April. All PhD students begin their studies on 1 October of that same calendar year.

Back to top

What areas of Psychology and Counselling does the OU supervise?

The School of Psychology & Counselling has a broad range of expertise, and we are able to support many diverse research projects as reflected on our research webpages. Our School houses three research streams: i) Culture and Social Psychology (CuSP); ii) Psychology of Health and Wellbeing (PHeW) and iii) the Forensic Cognition Research Group (FCRG). All PhD students in the School are invited to become members of one or more of these thematic research streams. >

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, s/he may not necessarily be able to take on a new PhD student in a given year.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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

For self-funded students, your application would need to be submitted either mid-January or end of April. If you are applying for the DTP funding stream, you would need to get your application submitted mid-January.

Back to top

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 be an academic as well, or they can be an employer who can confirm that you possess the necessary skills to undertake postgraduate research.

Back to top

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.

The PhD research proposal is an outline of your proposed project. The research proposal is used by potential supervisors to assess if they have the right supervisory expertise to oversee your project. They will also use the proposal to assess the quality and originality of your ideas, your critical thinking skills and how feasible it will be to do the project in the time.

Your proposal should clearly state what your topic is about, why it is important to research, and what would be the benefits of the research. Your proposal should be in the order of 1,500 words, and it should include the following sections: title; research questions and (if relevant) hypotheses; background and literature review; proposed research methods; reference list.

You can find more advice on writing your proposal here. There is also a lot of useful information on the Research Degrees webpage of the OU.

Back to top

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.

For 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, 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.

Back to top

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

Yes. Members of the School 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 academics in their field.

We currently cooperate closely with the following research centres:

Culture and Social Psychology (CuSP) brings insights from cultural and social psychology to real-world issues. The research is both theoretical and empirical, with a strong focus on methodological innovation. Potential topics include: Citizenship; immigration/migration; contemporary subjectivities, including religious, sexual and political subjectivities; children and childhood; digital lives; intergroup contact and social division.

Psychology of Health and Wellbeing Research (PHeW) is a theoretically and methodologically diverse group with a focus on practices of health and wellbeing. Key strands of research focus on counselling and psychotherapy, critical mental health and wellbeing in contexts

Forensic Cognition Research Group (FCRG) is a transdisciplinary group whose main aim is to better understand the perceptions, processes and systems of the criminal justice system, taking an approach that is both critical and solution-oriented to tackle real world issues. Key strands are courtroom processes; policing and inquiry; and community and citizens.

The list of research groups and centres in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences can be found here.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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 health, the Criminal Justice System, the media, or in private and voluntary organisations.

Back to top

Request your prospectus

Request a prospectus icon

Explore our qualifications and courses by requesting one of our prospectuses today.

Request prospectus

Are you already an OU student?

Go to StudentHome