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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 just over 1,000 postgraduate research students, working in our Affiliated Research Centres (ARCs) around the world, at our our state-of-the art research facilities on campus in Milton Keynes, and online. 241 students were awarded research degrees by The Open University in the academic year 2012-13.

The Open University’s innovative research and development ranks in the top third of UK universities. It influences policy and practice from local to global levels and enriches lives across the world.

In the last Research Assessment Exercise 2008, 80 per cent of OU research in Art and Design and 70 per cent in both Computing and Earth Systems, was deemed ‘internationally excellent’ or better. We are pioneers in these disciplines. For example, The Open University was first to:
  • develop an early warning system for detecting epidemics
  • develop a biodegradable plastics test facility in the UK
  • use a NanoSIMS to measure space dust to provide an understanding of the origins of the solar systems
  • develop a device to predict the duration of volcanic eruptions
  • identify that deforested tropical peat swamps are losing ancient carbon from their drainage water as ecosystem undergoes collapse
  • develop a database to track people’s experiences of reading.
  • launch a systematic research programme in Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI), to create technology designed for and by animals.

Our aim is to ensure OU research continues to be recognised for excellence and impact, delivering substantial benefits to the University’s mission and priorities.

Some key outcomes by 2015 include:

  • The University will have benefited from sustainable improvements in the quality and impact of its research.
  • We will have demonstrated both peaks of research excellence and universally high research quality, in a strong environment for research and scholarship.
  • We will be able to evidence major contributions to knowledge and the application of our research. We will attract and retain the best academics and offer students high standards of research and scholarship.

Our policies, regulations and services for research students are measured against the QAA Quality Code, Chapter B11, which is described in more detail in Part 8. You can find out more about our research strategy at

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 the Virtual Research Environment.

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 OU 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 website at

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

Procedures for making 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.

Our website is at

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 VRE

You will find more details throughout this handbook.

All of the University’s policies, statements and regulations can also be found on this website.