When do I apply?
For full-time and part-time MPhil and PhD applications, the main application period is from November to March, for study commencing on 1 October.
Closing dates can vary depending on the Faculty and source of external funding, if applicable. The Research Degrees prospectus and studentship advertisements on the OU jobs website give details of specific application deadlines.
What do I send?
Before you apply, we recommend that you seek advice from the academic contact for the research area you are interested in – please read our ‘How to apply’ page. In addition to a completed application form, we will normally require a research proposal. For advertised studentships, the advertisement will tell you what to send. A description of your suitability for the studentship, including information about your knowledge of the relevant literature and research methods, will normally be required.
The application form tells you where to send your application. You should answer all the questions that apply to you, including the HESA data questions and Equality monitoring form. If your application form is not completed in full, we will not be able to consider it.
If a proposal is required for your chosen degree or studentship, it should be 600–1000 words in length, unless the area to which you are applying has specified otherwise, and should include:
- the topic or area to be investigated
- the issue, research question or hypothesis that is to be tested (if it can be defined at this stage)
- the likely methods and techniques to be used in the investigation
- the relationship of the proposed research to the published literature and current research in your field, and an indication of the contribution your thesis would make
- details of work you have already done in the proposed field
- your suitability as a researcher for the proposed project.
Books offering useful advice about how to develop a research degree proposal
- Dunleavey, P. (2003) Authoring a PhD Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Dissertation (Palgrave Study Guides), Palgrave Macmillian ISBN 1403905843
- Walliman, N. (2005) Your Research Project: A Step-by-Step Guide for the First-Time Researcher, Sage Publications ISBN 1412901324
- Cryer, P. (2006) The Research Student’s Guide to Success, Third edition, Open University Press, ISBN 0335221173
The proposal enables the academic staff responsible for selecting applicants to assess:
- your competence in the proposed field of study
- your ability to conduct a research programme independently
- the nature of the supervision required.
If you are applying for an advertised studentship where the research topic has already been defined, instead of preparing a research proposal you should explain in writing why you are interested in the project and your suitability for the studentship. Please include information about your knowledge of the relevant literature and research methods. The advertisement will tell you if you need to send a proposal or not.
If you are applying for part-time study, you should say what resources you will need (such as library, laboratory, record offices, computing, surveys), what they will cost and the proposed source(s) of funding.
What happens next?
When we receive your application it will be forwarded to the relevant research area for consideration. The research area will assess your eligibility to undertake a research degree, determine whether your proposed project will make a significant contribution to knowledge and determine whether a suitable supervisory team can be established with the relevant expertise in the subject area. The research area will also assess whether your proposed project is a good fit with the research strategy of the department, faculty and University.
Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview, normally held at the OU campus in Milton Keynes.
Within the selection process, you will be expected to provide your original qualification certificates (including official translation into English, if applicable), transcripts where appropriate, and your passport.
Applicants from overseas will also be asked to verify their visa status with original documentation if you have a current visa allowing entry to the UK. If you are not from a majority English-speaking country, you will need to demonstrate your competence in the English language in all four elements: reading writing, speaking and listening to at least level B2 in the Common European Framework of Reference for languages. Further details and a list of approved providers of accreditation can be found on the UK Border Agency website. If you do not have a visa, we will provide a Confirmation of Acceptance (CAS) with your offer letter, to enable you to apply for a visa before your study begins.