Studentships and funding

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.

UK Research and Innovation funding

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) distributes funding through various research councils in the form of ‘studentships’. These studentships are often as part of Doctoral Training Partnerships with other universities and organisations. The OU then recruit individual students to these studentships.

There is usually a high level of competition for these funded studentships. UKRI-funded students typically have their fees paid and receive a stipend to cover living costs. They also normally 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 UKRI-funded students can also obtain additional support for overseas fieldwork from the Research Council, providing that the fieldwork was included in the original proposal.

Please see further information about the Doctoral Training Partnerships of which the OU is proud to be a part. Current studentships are advertised on the Studentship pages.

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.

Sponsored employees

Some organisations sponsor their employees or other potential students because they want to develop future researchers and research-informed practitioners, along with accessing world-class research outputs. There are many advantages of sponsoring an OU research degree for organisations.


Funding, or co-funding, a PhD student provides an opportunity for bespoke research projects to be undertaken by a student linked to an issue of relevance and value to an organisation or research agenda.

Professional doctorate

Sponsoring a professional doctorate – either a professional doctorate in education (EdD) or in health and social care (DHSC) – provides an excellent opportunity for an employee to undertake research that develops their capability as a research-informed practitioner – and enables the organisation to benefit from the knowledge produced.

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.

Self-funding and Doctoral Student Loans

Some postgraduate research students pay their own fees.

In 2018, the UK government introduced 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.

Please note you are unable to apply until you have received an offer letter and you will need to ask the Graduate School for a Course Code in order to apply.

You will need to ask the Graduate School for a Course Code in order to apply.

Doctoral Loans are paid out after the course starts, so you need to pay in full before your start date using 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.

Please be aware that due to the structure of the Professional Doctorate courses, the Doctoral Loan is paid over 8 years and after the course starts. Unfortunately, Student Finance are unable to pay out the full amount of the loan in less than 8 years.

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 653806.