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Life as an OU PhD student

As far as our taught courses are concerned, the Open University is an online and distance learning organisation. We have no undergraduate or taught postgraduate students on campus. This may make you wonder what impact this absence of students on campus has on the dynamics of life within the School and the university as a whole.

Three female PhD students stand wearing rosettes.

The quick answer is that the combination of academic staff, researchers and research students here in Milton Keynes gives the School and the campus a more focused ‘research institute’ feeling, that is really conducive to promoting good work. That said, it’s not all hard work and no play.

There is a lively social programme organised by the School’s postgraduate research student society – RocSoc, with activities including camping weekends, walking trips or even just nights in the pub.

There is also a university-wide Postgraduate Students’ Society and a University Social Club, which is open to everyone on campus. The Social Club comprises a wide range of interests, including a film-club, Zumba classes for all abilities, lunchtime football, a cricket competition, and an annual relay race.

What’s it like living in Milton Keynes?

Outside of the University, Milton Keynes recently has plenty more going for it than just roundabouts and concrete cows.

The town is connected through a network of “red-ways”, which allow you to walk or cycle in safety away from the traffic of the main roads. There are plenty of green spaces and lakeside walks to enjoy as well as a range of fantastic leisure facilities including cinemas, restaurants, ski slope, ice rink and of course, a very large shopping centre.

Listen to what some of our PhD students have to say about living in MK.

Nearby, there is Woburn Safari Park and Woburn Abbey, as well as Bletchley Park home of the WW2 code breakers – all of which offer something fun to do at the weekend. There are also great transport links to London and Birmingham, as well as Oxford and Cambridge.

Supporting your time at the OU

Health and wellbeing during your postgraduate journey is very important; you are likely to face different challenges on your journey.

The Open University has a number of support networks available, as well as an Employee Assistance Programme. These groups are open to all postgraduate students as well as staff.

You will need to be signed in to the OU intranet to be able to access most of these services.

Employee Assistance Programme

As you go about your daily life, multi-tasking to balance home life, study and work commitments, you are likely to encounter challenges along the way.

The University provides access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), offering confidential support.

This free service is available to postgraduate research students and their immediate family.

Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Network

Networking opportunities and a collective voice for all BAME postgraduate research students and staff.

If you would like more information, please get in touch with us at


Women@OU is an all-inclusive group that works to promote gender equality and raise the profile of women at The Open University.

First generation students group

If you are the first in your family to stay on at school or go to university, the First generation students group are there to support you.

Neurodiversity Network

The OU's Neurodiversity Network is a place to further the equality, acceptance, and inclusion of the neurologically different within the OU.

“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” – Dr. Stephen Shore.

For more information, please get in touch via email

OU Trans Network

The OU Trans Network aims to provide a safe space for trans colleagues and postgraduate students to build community and form friendships across geographical and team boundaries in a trans-only group.

If you identify as trans and would like to be added to the group, please email

Enabling Staff Network

EnablingStaff@OU is a formal network whose purpose is to facilitate the integration of disabled staff within the workforce.

By providing a voice for disabled staff, providing peer support and inclusive practice while improving attitudes towards disabilities.


Applications closed: Floodplain Meadows Partnership Research Associate

We are looking for a Research Associate to work within the Floodplain Meadows Partnership team in EEES. The post is fixed-term and part-time.

12th October 2021

New research: exploring the reproductive complexity of plants

New research published in the high-profile journal Science has explored the reproductive complexity of plants.

21st September 2021

Applications closed: Lecturer in Environment and Sustainability

Change your career, change lives

6th July 2021
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