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Postgraduate student life

This page contains information about life as a postgraduate student working in the School of Physical Sciences at the Open University, living in and around Milton Keynes. 

New students: before you arrive, you should have been put in contact with a nominated “buddy” (student guide) from amongst the current cohort of SPS postgrads. The buddy scheme has been set up to ensure that new students are paired up with a current PhD student within SPS prior to their arrival at the OU in order to give them the opportunity to ask, amongst other things, about OU life, what it is like to be a PhD student and what it is really like to live in the unexpectedly green Milton Keynes. If you do not know who your buddy is, please contact



  • Many houses in Milton Keynes are currently occupied by OU postgrads. Rooms in these periodically become available. Contact your nominated buddy for suggestions.

Things to be wary of:

  • Some estate agents won’t often allow contracts to be signed without viewings in person.

  • The PhD stipend may not be sufficient leverage in the eyes of some estate agents. Nominating a guarantor may be a solution.

Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes (commonly referred to by everyone as “MK”) is a very green city with abundant parklands and lakes. There are thousands of acres of quiet parkland, lakes and woodlands. The infamous grid roads keep traffic away from the residential and recreational areas so it often has a village-like feel but with all the added benefits of life in a city just half an hour (by train) from London.

The open spaces are at the centre of many community events and activities in Milton Keynes, such as the local sports club activities (including the weekly park run), the biennial Milton Keynes International Festival and the annual Festival of Running.

  • There are plenty of activities available, including:

    • XScape contains a 170m indoor ski slope with real snow, as well as a 16 screen cinema, bars and restaurants.

    • The Centre:MK is a large indoor shopping centre with 200 shops and restaurants.

    • Milton Keynes Theatre has a varied year-round programme of London shows, touring productions and music.

    • Stadium:MK is a 30,000 seat stadium, home to MK Dons Football Club and hosts many high profile national and international sporting events.

  • There are lots of excellent, cosy pubs, mostly located within beautiful old villages pre-dating the city, which are dotted throughout Milton Keynes. Pub quizzes are a popular pass-time among PhD students!


The cheapest, and often most pleasant way to travel around Milton Keynes is by bike. The extensive network of cycle paths (known as “redways”) makes it a very safe and efficient city to cycle in, and means it is never necessary to cycle on main roads. There are also very pleasant parks throughout Milton Keynes which provide more leisurely cycling (and walking) routes.

The Grand Union Canal passes through the centre of MK, and the city is also threaded by a network of bridleways. So both canal boats and horses are another possibility!

Milton Keynes is located within day- (or evening-) trip distance of London, Birmingham, Oxford and Cambridge. A train journey to London is around £10 return with a student railcard, and a return trip to Oxford or Cambridge on the X5 bus is around £14.

MK is served by Junctions 13 and 14 on the M1, so for those with a car, it’s very easy to get away.    

Hooke Soc

The Hooke Society (Hooke Soc) is run by a committee of PhD students and post-doc research associates and is the voice for students and post-doc researchers within the School of Physical Sciences.

Hooke Soc. organises ad hoc social events for the whole of SPS, such as in-house film nights, trips to the cinema, games nights (featuring proper old fashioned board games!), murder mystery nights and a trip to the Harry Potter studios near London. As a society encouraging socialising and networking, it is also in charge of a weekly Friday social gathering whereby drinks and snacks can be enjoyed by everyone within SPS.

In addition, the two major SPS annual events − the offsite Christmas lunch and summer BBQ − are run by the Hooke Soc. committee and usually attract up to 70 attendees from SPS.