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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

  1. How does it work?
  2. What will I get from a PhD?
  3. Entry requirements
  4. Application closing dates
  5. Can I work while I study?
  6. How can obtain funding?
How does it work?

A PhD may be completed on either a full-time or part-time basis. The maximum registration for a PhD programme is four years (full-time study) or six years (part-time study).

During this time, you will develop a variety of research and other transferable skills, conduct primary research in your chosen area, and analyse and disseminate the results in a doctoral thesis of no more than 100,000 words, which you will defend via an oral examination. Your thesis must meet the expectations specified in the QAA Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.

All PhD students are initially registered for a Master of Philosophy (MPhil), and the PhD registration is confirmed after the successful completion of a probationary assessment (at the end of year 1 for full-time students and year 2 for part-time). Your academic progress will be monitored throughout your degree studies, via formal progress reports and regular meetings with your supervisors.

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What will I get from a PhD?

You will get a huge sense of personal achievement. Our doctoral training programme will help you develop transferable skills that will be invaluable in your subsequent career. The research techniques and methodologies you master will enable you to make a direct contribution to the advancement of knowledge in your chosen subject area.

In a modern, knowledge-based economy, highly educated and skilled people such as doctoral graduates are in great demand. They form the most highly educated and skilled group in the UK. Many will go on to use their skills within academia or in research-intensive occupations in industry. However, there will be others who will draw on their research background and the skills gained through a doctoral degree to pursue a wide variety of other careers.

After exploring The Open University online prospectus, you may wish to visit Vitae. Vitae is the UK organisation championing the personal, professional and career development of doctoral researchers.

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Entry requirements

Entry requirements vary according to the research topic and the specific studentship scheme you might be applying to. The minimum entrance requirement is an upper second class honours degree or Masters degree relevant to the proposed area of study from a recognised higher education institution (or other degree-awarding body) in the UK. The comparability of qualifications from outside the UK with The Open University requirements will be determined with reference to UK ENIC

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Application closing dates

You may begin your studies in either October or February. This ensures that you benefit from development and training as part of a cohort of postdoctoral students.

For 1st October start, deadlines for applications fall within the Jan-April period each year, depending on the Discipline to which you are applying. Please check with the discipline-specific pages.

For 1st February start, the closing date for applications 31st August. Once again, please contact the Discipline directly for further information if you are interested in a February start. 

Students who wish to fund their own studies can apply for October or February entry. Disciplines will advise further if they have additional application dates for self-funded students. 

Student wishing to apply for studentships should consult studentship adverts for application closing dates, as these vary according to studentship scheme.

Both the MPhil and PhD degrees are offered on a full-time and part-time basis.

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Can I work while I study?

Full-time students should not take on more than six hours of paid work per week. Full-time students are expected to commit to spending a minimum of 37 hours a week on study. There is no limit to the number of hours part-time students can work. Part-time students are expected to commit to spending a minimum of 18.5 hours a week on study.

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How can obtain funding?

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is partner in two Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP) which award PhD studentships on a competitive basis.

The Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) is ESRC funded and is a partnership between The Open University, the University of Oxford and Brunel University London.  Further information is available at OU postgraduate research prospectus.

The Open-Oxford-Cambridge DTP (OOCDTP) is AHRC funded and is a partnership between The Open University, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. Further information is available at OU postgraduate research prospectus and Collaborative Doctoral Awards on OOCDTP website.

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