Application process

We take you through how to apply for three kinds of opportunity: MPhil and PhD, Professional Doctorates, and PhD studentships provided within a Doctoral Training Partnership.

The OU is proud to partner other universities in several prestigious Doctoral Training Partnerships across diverse research areas.

How to apply

Before you apply, take a look at the Research area you are interested in. This will tell you about research priorities, supervisors available, and potential research projects the University is considering.

The Research topics web pages give you contact details within each faculty, so you can discuss your research proposal with a member of staff. Most research degree places are subject to a competitive selection process; you will normally need to submit a carefully thought-out research proposal and attend an interview before you are offered a place. Places are decided based on:

  • the quality of your proposal
  • the view of the selection panel regarding the contribution to knowledge that your research would make
  • the availability of supervisors with knowledge and experience relevant to your research
  • the funding available
  • the University’s current research priorities
  • any entry requirements that apply to the research area.

Where a student holds qualifications other than those listed they must be able to demonstrate suitability for postgraduate level research in relation to the nature and scope of the proposed work. Professional experience, publications, written reports or other appropriate evidence of previous research shall be taken into consideration. In addition, applicants must provide the names of qualified persons from whom the University may seek references as to the applicants’ academic attainment and potential for undertaking research at this level.

Once you have decided which type of research degree is right for you, and checked that your proposed research topic aligns with the OU’s current research portfolio, check when you need to apply, and what to send us – this depends on the type of degree you are interested in (see below).

If your application is shortlisted there will be a selection process involving an interview and references, and sometimes you will be required to produce a piece of written work. Selection is conducted according to the fair selection principles defined in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education: Admissions, Recruitment and Widening Access, and Research Degrees. You can read more about the Quality Code in the Research Degree Student Handbook.

If you are successful, we will contact you with an offer of registration, and tell you how to register. If you accept an offer of registration you will be bound by the research degree regulations of the University and by such others as may apply. The regulations and codes of practice are updated each year and the most up-to-date version will apply to all students unless specified.

Application process by type

MPhil and PhD

The process for applying for full- and part-time PhDs and MPhils.

Professional Doctorates

How to apply for a part-time professional doctorate: a DHSC or EdD.

Doctoral Training Partnership studentships

The Doctoral Training Partnerships and Centres for Doctoral Training of which the OU is a member and their recruitment schedules.

If you have a disability or additional requirements

We welcome applications from students with disabilities or additional requirements and offer a wide range of support services and facilities to enable you to succeed in your studies. If you have a disability, health condition, mental health difficulty or specific learning difficulty (such as dyslexia) that might affect your studies, we encourage you to tell us as early as possible. Please indicate this in the relevant section of the application form.

Please give as much information as you can so that we can support you fully. You can also discuss your needs with us at your interview or with the Graduate School at a separate time. All recruitment decisions are based on academic merit. Information about personal circumstances, such as disabilities, are solely to make sure we offer you the support you need.

We will only use the information you provide to assess the full implications of your circumstances for your proposed research area, and to arrange appropriate services. You may also be eligible for a Disabled Students’ Allowance (see Additional funding support).



Current funded studentships

Current studentships (including those within Doctoral Training Partnerships) are advertised on the Studentships page and will have additional application requirements, so it is important that you also check what these are and how to make the application.


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.