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Funding and entry requirements

There are two main ways of studying for a PhD in the School of Computing and Communications.

  1. Full-time, fully-funded, on-site: we have a limited number of opportunities for this route, based on funding availability
  2. Part-time, self-funded, off-site: this is the route taken by most of our students.

Each year we advertise for 20–30 defined research projects and we generally recruit 5–10 full-time students. These students will be appointed via selection and interview on fully-funded studentships which provide fees and stipend for 3.5 years. These students are based full-time on campus in Milton Keynes. Occasionally, some of the advertised projects may be suitable for part-time study by students based on campus in Milton Keynes 2 or 3 days per week. Students recruited on that basis would also receive fees and part-time stipend, but for up to 6 years pro-rata.

Part-time, self-funded postgraduate students are welcome. However, those on self-defined projects are only appointed in exceptional circumstances, where the projects closely match the interests and activities of staff members.

Applicants for all research degrees must satisfy the academic requirements to be considered for recruitment.

Most studentships, which cover academic fees and stipend (living costs) also have eligibility conditions. Applicants wishing to apply for funding should see below for opportunities and requirements.

General information

You can find general information on OU research degrees in the OU Research Degress Prospectus. In particular, note:

Fully Funded PhD

Academic requirements

Funded PhD places in the school are awarded competitively, and have high entry requirements. Such PhDs are normally completed on a full-time basis, with students based on campus in Milton Keynes. Applications will be considered from students with, or expecting to gain, a first degree in any of a wide range of disciplines including computing, information systems, data science, mathematics or similar disciplines at first or upper second class level.

We attempt to recruit the best candidates for any of our advertised projects (see the project list) based on qualifications, skills and aptitude for research, although we also have to take account of subject balance, supervisor workload, timeliness and fit to strategic objectives.


All projects offered have identified funding sources.

Studentship funding from UK research councils is available for certain projects, whilst others are funded from internal University sources. The funding includes all tuition fees and a stipend, as well as an allowance for research training, travel, conferences etc. Candidates for research council studentships are required to have a 'relevant connection' with the United Kingdom. A relevant connection may be established if, at the date of application/nomination:

  1. the candidate has been ordinarily resident in the UK throughout the 3-year period immediately preceding the date of an award, and
  2. has not been resident in the UK, during any part of that 3-year period, wholly or mainly for the purposes of full time education, and
  3. has settled status in the UK within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971 (i.e. is not subject to any restriction on the period for which he/she may stay)

EU nationals who are resident in the UK only need to follow criterion (a) from the above list. If they do not satisfy this criterion, then they are eligible for funding for fees only and will have to make separate arrangements to fund living costs.

Projects funded internally by the University may have less restrictive requirements and therefore be available for overseas applicants.

All studentships offered by The Open University offer fees and stipends at or above the minimum level specified by the Research Councils.

Self-funded PhD

Academic requirements

Self-funded PhDs are normally pursued remotely (off-site) and studied part-time. Part time PhD study is offered by the OU as part of its mission to provide continuing education for people who are not in a position to undertake full time study. The requirement for a PhD is a new and substantial contribution to the research field, and in general the most obvious research lines will be pursued by full-time researchers. Hence, projects for part-time study need to be very carefully designed. The project must produce results which are a novel contribution to the field at the time of completion (usually about 6 years after the part-time student begins work), and it must be possible to undertake the project without regular access to usual university facilities.

Usually, part-time, off-site PhD students pursue research work which draws upon skills or knowledge related to their other activities. Part-time students normally have a minimum of two supervisors.

In recognition of the challenges inherent in pursuing PhD research outside the daily work environment of an academic school, the OU is careful to select only part-time PhD students who are likely to succeed. Sadly this means we receive far more part time PhD enquiries than we are able to satisfy. The first step for part-time PhD applicants is for them to identify the area in which they would like to work as well as potential supervisors. They are then responsible for writing a detailed proposal describing the research work they will undertake. Once an applicant has submitted a promising research proposal, it will be refined in collaboration with the prospective internal supervisor.

Generally, part-time PhD students are required to be resident in the UK. The only exceptions are in cases where a pre-existing collaboration, or an obvious common research area, exists between the prospective internal and external supervisors.


Students are responsible for paying their own tuition fees.

Overseas Students

For overseas students coming to do a PhD there are additional requirements concerning visas and demonstrating English language competency.

If you do not have already have a visa, the University will provide a Confirmation of Acceptance (CAS) with your offer letter, to enable you to apply for a visa before your study begins. Details of the visa process may be found on the UK Visas and Immigration website. Specifically, the UKVI site contains info about the Tier 4 visa.

The University requires an overall IELTS score of 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any of the four categories (reading, writing, speaking, listening). Further details can be found on the UKVI site under language requirement. That page also includes is a link to approved test providers

Many of the approved centres are run buy the British Council, and there is information about the IELTS on their website. This also includes links to a booking system to register for an IELTS.

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