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Guide for applicants

Thank you very much for your interest in PhD study in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, which is part of the Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology of The Open University. Please see http://www.mathematics.open.ac.uk for more information about the Department.

I hope this guide answers most of your questions. If you have any further queries, please contact us at the addresses given below.


Robert Brignall, Director of Research in Mathematics and Statistics, 4 February 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

I am interested in applying for a PhD. What should I do?

We are pleased you are interested in a PhD in Mathematics and Statistics at the Open University. Please follow the following steps:

  1. Read this document through and contact us if you have any questions. Consult also the Research Degrees Prospectus.
  2. Check out the research interests of members of the Department and, in particular, the projects offered by staff members on the Research Degrees page.
  3. You are strongly encouraged to make informal enquiries to one of the contacts below before submitting an application.
  4. Complete the application form and submit it, together with a covering letter indicating your suitability and reasons for applying, plus relevant documentation to research-degrees-MCT@open.ac.uk. Guidance on completing the application form is available at the foot of this document.

What funding opportunities do you have?

The Department is pleased to offer several full-time studentships annually. If you are interested in a studentship, please mark this clearly on your application form. For an October start, your application should be received January to mid-March, with decisions on allocations being made in May. Please see the latest advertisement for the precise closing date.

What is the difference between full-time and part-time PhD study?

  • Full-time (3-4 years) students are based on-campus in Milton Keynes. You will normally have been awarded a studentship, which pays your fees, gives you a 13,863 stipend for 3 years, and a 1250 annual allocation for training and conference attendance.
  • Part-time (6-8 years) distance-study students work from home, and visit our Milton Keynes campus several times per year (and hold other meetings online). You are normally self-funded (including paying your own fees), but the department usually provides financial support for training and conference attendance.

What are your entrance requirements?

PhD study is a major undertaking and it is important for you to be properly prepared. Although we consider each applicant individually, the following are our guidelines for UK students. They are in addition to the University’s formal entrance requirements.

  • Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and History of Mathematics: We normally ask you to have
    1. a first-class BSc/BA degree in Mathematics (or in a closely related discipline, such as Physics) from a leading university; or
    2. a high 2.1 MMath degree (or a 2.1 MSci in a closely related discipline); or
    3. a good MSc degree in Mathematics (or in a closely related discipline);

    together with evidence of recent engagement with mathematics, either academic or professional.

    Note that the Open University’s undergraduate programmes on their own do not provide sufficient preparation to study for a PhD in Mathematics or Statistics.

    Many of our students have distinctions at MSc level. History of Mathematics applicants are asked to demonstrate an ability to conduct historical research.

  • Statistics: We normally ask you to have a good MSc in Statistics, although it may be possible to admit you if you have a first-class BSc/BA degree in Mathematics/Statistics or a 2.1 MMath, having studied a significant amount of statistics.

Note: We count Part III of the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos as an MSc degree; a Cambridge or Oxford MA counts formally as a BA. Several of our PhD students have 2.1 degrees from leading universities, some returning to study after successful careers in public service, industry and commerce.

I don’t yet have my degree result. Can I apply?

We welcome applications from students who are near to completing a university-level mathematics qualification. Any offer we make may be contingent on your performance in your qualification.

I don’t have the required qualification. What would you recommend?

The OU offers a Master of Science degree in Mathematics, which may be suitable for your needs.

If I study full-time, do I have to live in Milton Keynes?

Full-time students are asked to live within 15 miles of the campus in Milton Keynes. It is possible for you to request a dispensation for academic and/or family reasons, but the Department asks our full-time students to attend Walton Hall for at least three days a week. If you are not able to attend for three days a week but are able to spend more than half-time on your studies, you might like to consider part-time study.

I do not live in the UK. Can I take a PhD at a distance?

This is not normally permitted. In exceptional circumstances it may be possible for you to enrol as a part-time student, provided

  1. we can provide supervision;
  2. you are able to visit the UK for induction and training; and
  3. you have access to an appropriate academic research environment including library facilities.

I am not a European Economic Area citizen. Am I able to apply?

Yes, but if you do come from a non-EEA country where the main language is not English, you must have an English Language Certificate, CEFR Level B2 or above, before you apply.

Can I choose my own PhD project?

We strongly encourage applicants to choose a project from those listed on the Research Degrees page. Typically, you will work on a topic suggested by your supervisors that is close to your mutual interests.

What do I put in the "Research Proposal" section of the application form?

If you are applying for a project on the Research Degrees page (this is the recommended route), then put the title(s) of the project(s) for which you are applying. If you are applying with your own proposal (not recommended), then enter the title in this section, and send the proposal as an attachment to your application.

I am taking the OU’s MSc programme and wish to continue my studies at PhD level. How well must I do in the MSc?

Several of our research students have successfully completed the Open University MSc Programme in Mathematics prior to starting their PhDs. We are looking for students who have achieved at least three distinctions in modules relevant to their research interests, preferably including M840.

I am an Associate Lecturer of the Open University. Can I get my fees paid?

Associate Lecturers are eligible for partial remission of fees. Please discuss options with your staff tutor.

Can I study for a PhD in Mathematics Education?

For staffing reasons, we are not currently enrolling PhD students in Mathematics Education in the Department. If you are interested in Mathematics Education Research, we recommend you consider options within the University’s Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology. See also http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/topic/educational_studies.htm.

Can I study for a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree?

In common with many UK universities, PhD students are initially enrolled as Master of Philosophy students. However, we do not in general admit MPhil students who are not intending to study for a PhD.

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