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Research degrees
Research degree fees
Funding and studentships

Funding and studentships

All postgraduate research students need to think about how to pay for fees and living expenses that they will incur while studying. Living expenses might include housing costs, utility bills, childcare, travel, food and entertainment. Funding can be obtained from a number of different sources, these are outlined in the following sections.

Research Councils

The seven UK research councils provide fees and maintenance funding for UK students (and fees-only support for EU students) for postgraduate research study. Each research council is responsible for a particular group of subject areas.

Most Research Councils do not consider applications from individual students. The Research Councils allocate research ‘studentships’ to universities in a number of different ways and the universities then recruit individual students to these studentships. Research Councils may also allocate funding linked to specific projects.

There is usually a high level of competition for these Research Council funded studentships. The University normally has internal deadlines so that application forms can be submitted by the University to the Research Councils to meet their deadlines.

All Research Council funded students receive a Research Teaching Support Grant (RTSG) which can be used, subject to agreement with supervisors, to support the student’s research training. These funds can be used to support attendance at external workshops and conferences.

Some Research Council funded students can also obtain additional support for overseas fieldwork from the Research Council, providing that the fieldwork was included in the original proposal.

Some Research Councils, including ESRC, EPSRC, NERC and STFC, also offer Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering (called ‘CASE’ studentships) which involve close collaboration with partners from industry, government or a public body.

Current OU doctoral training partnership (DTP) studentships

AHRC Studentships at the Open University are funded via the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership, please see the Open-Oxford-Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership website for further details and current opportunities.

EPSRC Studentships at the Open University are funded via the Imperial-Cambridge-Open Centre for Doctoral training (please see the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Nuclear Energy Futures website for further details and current opportunities) and an EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership allocation for STEM disciplines (applications for the studentships are through the participating STEM schools).

EPSRC Studentships at the Open University are funded via the Imperial-Cambridge-Open Centre for Doctoral training please see the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Nuclear Energy Futures website for further details and current opportunities.

NERC Studentships at the Open University are funded via the Central England NERC Training Alliance, please see CENTA's research themes webpage for further details and current opportunities.

OU-funded research degrees

The OU offers funded studentships, either wholly or with an element of matched funding from an external partner in industry, government or a public body. Each faculty will have different funds available, and different criteria for eligibility. This varies from year to year. The studentships will have particular terms and conditions relating to Intellectual Property, registration periods, location of study and periods of leave.

Current studentships are advertised on the Studentship pages.

Other sources of funding

Other sources of funding include trusts and charities. Your eligibility to apply for funding may depend on your specific circumstances or on the nature of your research. This source of funding is usually attached to advertised projects.

The University subscribes to The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding Online, which lists alternative funding bodies which can make awards to any student, regardless of subject or nationality. The Alternative Guide Online contains a huge database of funding opportunities, comprehensive guidance and numerous tools to help you prepare a winning grant application. The Open University has purchased a licence to the Guide, and so it’s free for all students and staff to use! If you are a prospective student who has applied to the University, please contact the Library Research Support Team to get an access PIN.

Additionally, some organisations sponsor their employees or other potential students on full-time or part-time research programmes. Your employer can tell you if your organisation would consider contributing to your research degree fees.


Some postgraduate research students choose to pay their own fees.

Doctoral Student Loans

In 2018, the UK government introduces new loans to help with the cost of study on doctoral programmes. The loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course. More information on the loan and eligibility can be found on the on’s doctoral loans webpage.

Doctoral Loans are paid out after the course starts, so you need to use a different payment method to complete registration. You should contact the Graduate School if you plan to apply for a Doctoral Loan, to get a course code and to confirm your registration with Student Finance.

Research student assessing funding options

Your questions

For advice about applying for a research degree, or sponsoring a research student, email the Graduate School or call +44 (0)1908 654882.