Research Degrees Handbook | Research at The Open University
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Research Degrees Handbook

The Open University’s mission is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas and is reflected in its research which has the same openness and global reach. The research community comprises nearly 1,000 postgraduate research students, at the state-of-the-art research facilities on campus in Milton Keynes, online, or working in the University’s Affiliated Research Centres (ARCs) around the world. 177 students were awarded research degrees by The Open University in the academic year 2016-17.

Our innovative research and development ranks in the top third of all UK universities and influences national and international policy and practice, and enriches the lives of ordinary people around the world.

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, 72% of all Open University research submitted was graded as internationally excellent or world leading. The REF assessment of research impact on society has shown that our research makes a substantial contribution to the economy, policy making and quality of life in the UK and across the globe. Examples of these outstanding impacts:

  • Space researchers built the instrument Ptolemy, part of the Philae lander, which landed on comet 67P in November 2014.
  • Research on the climate fauna at the earth’s poles featured in the BBC TV programme Frozen Planet which watched by over 10.8 million viewers per episode.
  • Research into design of sustainable growth is influencing the development of transport technologies and systems in Milton Keynes.
  • Innovation research has influenced government policies on the pharmaceutical industry in several African countries.
  • Research by the Institute of Social Marketing on alcohol marketing led the British Medical Association to call for a ban on alcohol advertising and the introduction of minimum alcohol prices.

The Open University aims to ensure that its research continues to be recognised for excellence and impact, delivering substantial benefits to the University’s mission and priorities.

The aims of the Open University’s Research Plan, ‘Research Shaping the Future’, are to:

  • Ensure that our research transforms lives by meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century and promotes social justice.
  • Improve our national ranking in the next Research Excellence Framework.
  • Achieve global influence for research through open and innovative forms of knowledge sharing, supported by digital technologies.
  • Continue to use our research to inform our curriculum and underpin an outstanding learning experience for all students.
  • Support, develop and value the research community in a sustainable environment that fosters creativity and collaboration.

How to use this handbook

This handbook should be read prior to registration and referred to throughout registration. Upon acceptance of an offer of registration, students will be bound by the Research Degree Regulations, the terms and conditions described here, and relevant policies on the essential documents website.

The Open University Student Charter sets out the responsibilities The Open University and its students have towards each other.

Contact details are provided in Part 6.

This handbook is in six parts:

Part 1 Research degrees at The Open University

Research degree qualifications, mode and location of study, the organisational structure for delivering research degrees, administrative arrangements and equality and diversity.

Part 2 Terms and conditions of registration

The student record, the terms and conditions of registration, fees, financial support and grants.

Part 3 Studying for a research degree

Key milestones, facilities and services, the research community, professional development, participating in Open University life, help and support.

Part 4 Facilities and Services

Research facilities and support services available to students.

Part 5 Complaints and appeals

Procedures for making a formal appeal or complaint.

Part 6 Contact details

Online resources

Research website

A wealth of information about the University, the research degrees programmes, and student registration can be found online. Please visit the Graduate School Network.

Graduate School Network (GSN)

The Graduate School Network is the gateway to online training and development resources. Forms and guidance notes that support student progress are available on the GSN. All of the University’s policies, statements and regulations can also be found on this website.