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Research degree application questions

Do my professional experience count for PhD entry?

Relevant professional experience will be taken into account, if you do not have a computing degree but still have a 2(i) BSc or better, or an MSc, and have worked in the computing industry for more than four years. If you don't meet the general prerequisites we would advise you to study on an MPhil or MSc programme in computing first.

Studying for your MPhil/PhD - what is it like?

It's a lot of work. It can be thrilling, tedious, challenging, interesting, frustrating. It requires commitment and perseverance. Finally, it can be profoundly rewarding. You must be able to articulate and defend your ideas, to read and make sense of a wide range of publications, to report accurately, to bring evidence to bear in your arguments, to ask questions, to ask for help, to plan and execute work, to make good use of criticism, to write in a rigorous academic style, and to reflect on what you read, do, and think.

Do I have to do it all alone?

One of the objectives of a research degree is to train you to become an independent researcher. You will be supported in this journely by your supervisors who will provide advice and direction all the way, allowing you take more and more control as you become more skilled and confident. So, although you will be expected to come up with your own original ideas, this will be most likely through a process of interaction and dialogue with your supervisors and other researchers in your field rather han you working in isolation. You will also receive pastoral support beyond your supervisory team:you will have an independent third party monitor for this purpose, who is usually a senior academic from the Department. Finally, you will have access to a research skills development programme that includes weekly seminars, reading groups, workshops on specific research skills, an annual research students conference, online resorsces and much more.

Who will supervise my studies?

Two experienced researchers, at least one of whom has seen at least one student through to successful completion of a PhD degree. Supervision tends to be discussed at the time of the interview: the aim is to match student interests and supervisors' expertise, so that all benefit from the supervision arrangement. Normally, at least one of your possible supervisors will be on your interview panel.

Do I have to pass any tests?

The PhD programme is structured with a series of milestones based on the 3 years of full-time study (multiply by 2 for part-timers). Year 1 is the probation year, when you orient yourself in the literature, develop your knowledge and experience of research methods, and identify a particular research question. The first year culminates in production of a research proposal which you defend in a mini-viva, an oral examination with two internal assessors from the Department.

In the second and third years of your PhD, you will be carrying out the proposed research, evaluating its success, writing reports on your work and presenting your research at conferences. The second year culminates with the submission of a detailed dissertation outline. In your third year you will also be busy writing up and submitting your dissertation, which you will defend in a viva-voce examination wth two examiners, one external to the OU and one internal to the Department.

The MPhil programme follows a similar structure, but with a reduced timescale (15 months full-time, to 2 years part-time).

All research students and supervisors prepare progress reports every six months which are reviewed by the Postgraduate Research Tutor and Associate Dean for Research.

Over the course of studies you will have built up a portfolio of skills, and in this last year you will also be thinking of your future and preparing for the next steps in your career path.

What facilities can I expect?

Each full-time student has a dedicated office space (in a shared office), an appropriate computer, and access to standard office facilities including communications, storage, stationery, printing and photocopying. Both full-time and part-time students have access to a wide range of on-line library services.

Can I expect funding to attend conferences and seminars?

We encourage all research students to present their research at conferences, seminars and workshops. Full-time students are funded to attend appropriate conferences. Part-time students only receive travel support in exceptional circumstances, which are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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