A PhD in Psychology, Psychology

Understanding the Doctoral Training Partnership: A guide to getting funding for a PhD in psychology

Sarah Crafter, the pathway lead for the Doctoral Training Partnership in Psychology, talks about applying for doctoral funding.

Students have many different reasons for wanting to do a PhD but figuring out the process for applying for doctoral studies is a bit of a minefield. This is partly because applying for doctoral studies is a very different process to applying for an undergraduate degree or a Masters degree. For a start, you need to have a supervisory team made up of two supervisors. Your supervisory team will consider whether they have the right expertise to guide you through your topic and your chosen methodological and theoretical approach. I often think that trying to put together a doctoral team is a bit like fitting together pieces of a puzzle and every supervisor knows that the student is more likely to succeed with the right pieces in place. 

The most frequent question that I get asked however, is about whether there is any funding to support doctoral studies. One of the funding streams that is now available to psychology students wishing to study at the Open University is the Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). The Grand Union DTP is a collaboration between three universities: The Open University, Oxford University and Brunel University London. The DTP in psychology is specifically a collaboration between the School of Psychology and Counselling at the Open University and the Department of Psychology at the University of Oxford. 

So what does this mean for someone interested in doctoral studies in psychology at the OU? 

As a prospective student you can apply for doctoral funding for your research project through the DTP. It is a competitive process, but don’t let that put you off. The first step would be to look at the information on the Grand Union website and make sure you are eligible for DTP funding (more on that in moment). The second step would be to investigate whether the School of Psychology and Counselling at the OU has the supervisory expertise to oversee the project you would like to do. You will need to write a research proposal, so you can either write your proposal and then approach any supervisors who work in similar topics/methodological areas. Or, you can look at the work of specific people and tailor your idea to fit their expertise. Once you have your proposal written, you would then approach the supervisory team to see if they would be willing to support you. 

Since you are competing with other students for the funds, it is important to work with your prospective supervisors to improve your research proposal and application. Although the application deadline for theOU stream is the 8th January 2020, you are strongly recommended to begin working on your proposal NOW, and contacting potential supervisors as soon as possible.

There is a two-stage part of the application process. First, your application and proposal will be assessed by a team at the Open University. If you get through that stage, your application will be put forward for the wider competition with the University of Oxford students. 

What are we looking for in OU students applying to the DTP?

OU Psychology has an internationally recognised reputation for developing theory and methodology, and applying psychology in a variety of settings with wider societal impact. As a student applying for this pathway, your topic and approach would reflect applied and critical approaches to psychology, that draw attention to, and challenges, social injustices in areas such as gender, race, immigration, poverty and sexuality. Connecting theoretical movements include feminism, subjectivities, sociocultural theory, psychosocial studies, phenomenology, critical discourse analysis, narrative analysis, Q methodology and dialogical approaches. The pathway will equip students to examine complex psychological phenomenon using both established and innovative social research methodologies to address these wider challenges. 

How do you know if you are eligible to apply to the OU stream of the Psychology DTP? 

OU Psychology offers +3 and +4 training routes, depending on prior training. This means that the +4 route is for students with Master’s degrees that do not fulfil the ESRC’s 2015 Training Guidelines, while the +3 route is for those with Master’s degrees that have provided comprehensive research training. 

The award covers doctoral fees and living costs. To be eligible for a full award you must:

·     Have settled status in the UK, meaning there are no restrictions on how long you can stay; and

·     Have been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for three years prior to the start of the studentship grant. This means you must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences); and

·     Not have been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. This does not apply to UK and EU nationals who were ordinarily resident in the EU immediately before the period of full-time education.

For more information about the application process for the OU pathway to the DTP in psychology, click on the link below:


If you have any questions or queries you can get in touch with me at sarah.crafter@open.ac.uk

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