Thank you very much for your interest in PhD study in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, which is part of the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics of The Open University. Please see 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, 10 January 2019


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:

How to apply

  1. Read this Guide for applicants, and choose whether to study full-time or part-time.
  2. Read the list of available projects and choose which ones interest you.
  3. Make informal enquiry with the Director of Research.
  4. Apply by completing an application form and email it to the Director of Research by 8th March 2019.

What funding opportunities do you have?

The Department offers several fully-funded studentships annually for full-time study. If you are interested in a studentship, please mark this clearly on your application form. The closing date for applications is 8 March 2019.

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

As a full-time (FT) student you will be based full time at the University’s Walton Hall Campus in Milton Keynes, where you will have a dedicated work-space and computer. Unless you can fund yourself, you will have been awarded a studentship which pays your fees and a stipend (£14,999 per annum for 2019-20) for 3 years. You will also have £1250 allocated for training and conference attendance for the first three years of your PhD study. You will work closely with your supervisors and take a full part in the research life of the School, completing your PhD within 3 – 4 years.

As a part-time (PT) student, you will be normally based at home, working at least half-time on your PhD studies, and completing your PhD within 6 – 8 years. Unless your employer can help, you will typically be responsible for your own fees (see Fees - what you need to pay). You will communicate regularly with your supervisors via email, telephone, post and/or via online communication tools such as skype. You will typically attend the Walton Hall campus at least two or three times per year, and more often if you live nearer to Milton Keynes. You are expected to attend appropriate training events and conferences, supported by the School, where funding is available (which has generally been the case up to now). 

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 

  • a first-class BSc/BA degree in Mathematics (or in a closely related discipline, such as Physics) with a significant project component from a leading university; or
  • a high 2.1 MMath degree (or a 2.1 MSci in a closely related discipline); or
  • a good MSc degree in Mathematics (or in a closely related discipline);

together with evidence of recent engagement with mathematics, either academic or professional. On account of the lack of a project element, we do not generally view the OU's undergraduate mathematics degree offerings as sufficient preparation for PhD research, but each case is considered on its own merits. The OU's postgraduate masters in mathematics is considered sufficient preparation. 


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.

Mathematics Education

To do a doctoral degree in Mathematics Education we expect our students to have completed an appropriate masters degree, typically a Masters in Education. 

I come from a non-majority English-language-speaking country, can I apply?

Yes, but you will need to hold a SELT English Language Certificate, CEFR Level B2 or above (IELTS 6.5 overall, with none less than 6.0 in any category), before you apply. The UK Border Agency maintains a list of approved English language tests and providers, and if you do not currently hold such a certificate then you are strongly advised to arrange to sit a test as soon as possible.

Note that we regard all countries as `non-majority-English-language-speaking' unless they are included on the UKVI's list of exceptions, or if you hold a degree from a University in a majority-English-language-speaking country. Note that it is not usually sufficient for the language of instruction of your degree to have been English.

In exceptional circumstances, applicants from EEA countries may be able to substitute a SELT certificate with other documentary evidence; please enquire prior to application if this applies to you.

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

Yes. Students who are near to completing a university-level mathematics qualification are welcome to apply. 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?

Yes. As a full-time student, you are asked to reside within reasonable daily commuting distance of the Walton Hall Campus. The School asks our full-time students to attend Walton Hall for at least three days a week.

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

We do not offer PhD study by distance learning. Full-time students are required to work on-campus. Part-time students work from home, but they are expected to attend the OU campus at least two or three times per year. This usually makes it impractical to study unless you are resident in the UK or the Republic of Ireland during your studies. In very exceptional circumstances it may be possible for you to enrol as a part-time student and live overseas, provided

  • we can provide supervision; and
  • you are able to visit the UK frequently, and as required for induction and training; and
  • 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, providing you have suitable qualifications and a good command of English, individuals of all nationalities are welcome to apply, but note the English language requirements above if you are from a non-majority English speaking country. If you are from a non-EEA country and you have received an offer to study full-time for a PhD, you will need to obtain a Tier 4 visa from UK Visas and Immigration. Depending on the outcome of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, EU and EEA applicants may also need to obtain a visa, but this will be handled if and when it is required. For more information, see the UKVI tier 4 visa website

Can I choose my own PhD project?

We encourage applicants to choose a project from those listed on the 2019 Research Projects page. You will work on a topic suggested by your supervisors that is close to your mutual interests.

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?

About half 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, and we pay close attention to your performance on M840 Dissertation in mathematics

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 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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