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Research Degrees Student Handbook

Research Degrees Student Handbook

The Open University’s mission is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas. This is reflected in our research which has the same openness and global reach. Welcome to our research community where you will join approximately 1,000 postgraduate research students, working in our Affiliated Research Centres (ARCs) around the world, at our state-of-the art research facilities on campus in Milton Keynes, and online. 182 students were awarded research degrees by The Open University in the academic year 2013-14.

The Open University’s innovative research and development ranks in the top half of all UK universities. Our research influences national and international policy and practice, and enriches the lives of ordinary people around the world every day.

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, 72 percent of all Open University research submitted was graded as internationally excellent or world leading. In Music, 94 percent of research was assessed as internationally excellent and above, ranking it 8th in the UK in its field. Assessment in the REF of the impact of research on society has shown that Open University research makes a substantial contribution to the economy, policy making and quality of life in the UK and across the globe. Examples of the outstanding impacts of Open University research include:

  • Space researchers built the instrument Ptolemy, part of the Philae lander, which landed on comet 67P in November 2014.
  • Research on the climate of and animals living at the earth’s poles was used for the BBC TV programme, Frozen Planet, watched by over 10.8 million viewers an episode.
  • Design research on 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.

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

The aims of our Research Plan 2020 are to:

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

How to use this handbook

This handbook is your guide to the University’s academic and administrative arrangements for research degree study. It tells you about the services available to you, the regulations that apply to your registration, and gives advice about what to do at key points.

Please read this handbook before you start your studies – you’ll also need to refer to it throughout your registration. When you accept your offer of registration you will be bound by the terms and conditions described here, and those on our essential documents website.

The Open University Student Charter website sets out the responsibilities The Open University and its students have towards each other, to allow students to achieve their full potential.

Contact details for the offices and departments are in Part 10.

This handbook is in ten parts:

Part 1 Research degrees at The Open University

Our 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

Your student record, the terms and conditions of your registration, fees, financial support and grants

Part 3 Studying for a research degree

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

Part 4 Examination

Your examination, qualification criteria, getting your results, award ceremonies and next steps.

Part 5 Doctorate in Education (EdD)

If you are studying for the Doctorate in Education (EdD), some parts of this handbook don’t apply to you. Part 5 and Part 7.4 provide information specifically for EdD students.

Part 6 Master of Research (MRes)

If you are studying for the Master of Research (MRes), some parts of this handbook don’t apply to you. Part 6 and Section 7.3 provide information for MRes students only.

Part 7 University regulations for research degree qualifications

The regulations relating to research degree qualifications are given in Part 7. Our Student Regulations which apply to all Open University students are published on our essential documents website. 

Part 8 Codes of Practice and policies

The Codes of Practice set out a framework for the conduct of research students and their supervisors, and serve as a standard for external audits and research degree appeals. Policies on a range of issues are provided in this part.

Part 9 Appeals and Complaints

Information on how to make a formal appeal or complaint.

Part 10 Contact details

Online resources

Research website

You will find a wealth of information about the University, our research degrees, and your student registration online. Visit our research degrees website.

Virtual Research Environment (VRE)

The Virtual Research Environment (VRE) is your gateway to online training and development resources. Forms and guidance notes you will need throughout your studies are available on the Virtual Research Environment. All of the University’s policies, statements and regulations can also be found on this website.