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Doctoral Training Partnership studentships - Social Science

The Grand Union: Excellence and innovation in social science research training

The Grand Union DTP is an ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership uniting The Open University, the University of Oxford and Brunel University London. The partnership builds on the recognised research and doctoral training strengths of all three institutions. The DTP covers 24 subject areas (‘pathways’), themed into five broad clusters. Different pathways offer students opportunities to:

  • undertake a research Masters’ course followed by a PhD (known as ‘1+3’, ‘2+2’ or ‘2+3’ routes)
  • enter directly onto a PhD having already completed appropriate masters-level training (‘+3’)
  • undertake doctoral study over a longer period (‘+4’) in order to gain master-level training and skills in a flexible and personalised way, meeting individual students’ needs.

All OU pathways are available for students studying part time as well as those studying full time.

These studentships are funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Grand Union Doctoral Partnership. The studentships are fully funded for 4 years full-time or 8 years part-time, covering tuition fees (at UK/EU level) and provides a stipend. Learn more about Grand Union funding support.


How to apply

Studentships have been awarded for the 2019–20 academic year; studentships for the 2020–21 academic year will be advertised on this webpage and the OU jobs pages later in 2019.

There will be a three stage process. The first stage is to apply to the OU. The second stage is a selection process for nomination to the Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership. The third stage is an open competition for funding. The Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership is committed to funding the very best applicants; this will be decided at the third stage. Dates for all these stages are to be confirmed.

Equal Opportunity is University policy

OU Training pathways

Pathway 1. Citizenship – Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University

Citizenship studies is an inter- and cross-disciplinary field in which citizenship is investigated as not only a contested legal or political status, but also as field of practices through which individuals and groups (regardless of their status) struggle for, demand, or claim, rights, recognition or redistribution. The varied dimensions of citizenship (and conversely, non-citizenship), the multiple actors involved in struggles over citizenship, and the numerous sites at which these struggles take place translates to a conceptually, empirically and methodologically rich field of study and research.

Pathways 2. Development Policy and Practice Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University

Development Policy and Practice at the OU challenges 'top-down' and aid-driven development policy models and promotes research into more participatory and inclusive approaches. In particular, its approach to 'inclusive innovation' focuses attention on how technological, economic and social innovations in food, health and education systems and sustainable energy infrastructures can bring benefits to marginalized groups. Underpinning this pathway is a history of research at the OU on the social and economic impacts of innovation and the political dimensions of development, all with a strong orientation to policy and practice.

Pathway 3. Geography Lead University: Oxford; Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University

Geography at the (OU), is at the forefront of interdisciplinary research on key themes of space and power, culture and practice, and environment and politics. The discipline’s breadth of impactful research is enabled by its distinctive group of internationally renowned and award winning academics whose work has shaped key debates in the discipline through explorations of notions of space and place. Geography at the OU is highly research active. Research is conducted through the Open Space Research Centre; and is divided across three overlapping themes of space and power, culture and practice, and environment and politics. As an inherently interdisciplinary subject, the Geography pathway is uniquely placed to provide comprehensive social sciences research training to address societal and environmental problems.

Pathway 4. Innovation in Learning Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, The Open University

Our pathway supports cutting-edge interdisciplinary research into novel uses of digital technology for learning, teaching and assessment. We specialise in studying open and inclusive education and welcome proposals exploring the boundary between formal and informal learning. Our Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology leads the world in research into: assistive technology use; children’s digital lives; creativity and gamification; the application of AI to feedback and assessment; analysing big data to improve learning; MOOCs for professional development; the educational uses of Social Media; and online intercultural exchange (telecollaboration). Our research academics will show you how to use a broad range of methods and approaches, from ethnography, through visual and participatory methods, to data analytics, corpus research methods and eye-tracking. We positively encourage imaginative methodological combinations, as a means of generating new insights into the world of learning.

Pathway 5. Health and Wellbeing Lead University: Brunel; Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, The Open University

Achieving good health and supporting wellbeing for all is essential to achieving social justice, and this lies at the heart of the Open University’s mission. We are keen to attract students to work with us on research that locates the experiences of service users, ‘patients’, carers, family members and practitioners at the fore of inquiry. We place value on participatory and inclusive research particularly with individuals that are marginalised, ‘hard to reach’ or have complex needs. We also have research expertise in population-level research. Our research draws on various methodologies and forms of analysis and much is based on multidisciplinary work across the social sciences, in particular drawing on medical sociology, critical psychology, public health, anthropology and other critical, applied social sciences. The pathway will equip students to address health and wellbeing as complex, dynamic and fluid phenomena across the life course, and to use established and innovative social research methodologies to address these challenges. It provides training that students will need to research current and emerging health and wellbeing challenges relevant to diverse communities and stakeholders. Applications are invited on one or more of the following themes:
  • age, ageing and later life
  • children, young people, parenting and families
  • death, dying and bereavement
  • disability and long-term conditions
  • reproductive and sexual health
  • care and caring
  • mental health.

Pathway 6. Psychology Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University

The Psychology pathway at the Open University is hosted by the School of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Social Science. Focusing particularly on applied and critical social psychology, the pathway seeks to draw attention to, and challenges, social injustices in areas such as gender, race, immigration, poverty and sexuality. Connecting theoretical movements include feminism, subjectivities, sociocultural theory, psychosocial studies, phenomenology, critical discourse analysis, narrative analysis, Q methodology and dialogical approaches.

Applicants are invited to link to our thematic areas focusing on occasions of social transition, personal transformation and emergent and contested cultural and political issues. Open University psychology research provides new empirical insight into real-world issues relating to questions of movement across boundaries and changing gendered, religious, sexual and political subjectivities in concrete contexts. Please see the Psychology research area for a more detailed list of topics within and across each theme.

Psychology at the Open University has an internationally recognised reputation for developing theory and methodology, and applying psychology in a variety of settings with wider societal impact. The pathway will equip students to examine complex psychological phenomenon using both established and innovative social research methodologies to address these wider challenges.

Pathway 7. Leadership and Organisational Governance - Faculty of Business and Law, The Open University

The pathway will equip students to examine complex leadership and organisational governance phenomena, using both established and innovative social research methodologies to address the associated challenges.

  • Employment, empowerment and futures
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Law
  • Marketing Policing
  • Public leadership
  • Voluntary sector leadership
  • Social marketing
  • Strategy Business ethics and CSR
  • Inter-organisational collaboration
  • Social enterprise
  • Environmentally sustainable enterprise
  • Governance and social responsibility