Ph.D. Student Research Degree Requirements

Stowers Institute for Medical Research Affiliated Research Centre of the Open University

Once a student has been selected (see Student Selection Procedures) they must register for a degree with the Open University: (see Registration with the Open University)

In consultation with the Scientific Director and relevant institute officials, the Research Degree Coordinator (RDC) administers the graduate student training program and chairs the Graduate Program Coordinating Committee.

The bulk of the scientific research project, in fulfilment of the requirements for a Ph.D. with the Open University, consists of experimental laboratory investigation, in addition to any specific training needs, the submission and oral defence of a written thesis.

Coursework related to the project may be recommended by the Student Advisory Committee. The student must actively participate in the training program of the Stowers Institute, which includes an ethics course, verbal and written skills required for scientists, safety training, animal care and use training (if appropriate), human subjects research training (if appropriate), as well as any courses and workshops that are recommended by the supervisors and/or Student Advisory Committee.

The Open University also requires that each student to complete the PhD Skill Course SMT895. This is currently supervised by the Research Degree Coordinator.

The student will meet regularly with the research supervisor(s) to discuss research progress and plans. These meetings will be documented and meeting notes must be kept by the student. Copies of these records should also be given to the supervisor(s).  This information should include meeting date, participants, achievements and goals/plan of action. (Suggested form)

The student will meet with his/her Student Advisory Committee at least twice per year.  After each meeting, the student prepares a summary report of their progress and distributes it to the committee for their comments.  The report, the powerpoint presentation and any committee comments are submitted to the Research Degree Coordinator within two weeks of each meeting. 

Probation Assessment and Annual Student Progress Reports

The first period of a student’s registration is a probation period, lasting twelve months. The probation assessment report involves a major review by the student and his/her advisory committee of the student’s progress. This includes a presentation to the Student Advisory Committee and a mini-viva.  Annually thereafter, annual student progress monitoring reports must be completed by the student, the supervisors and the Research Degree Coordinator and submitted to the Open University. 


Dissertation thesis

The student is required to give the RDC in the ARC at least three months notice of her/his intention to submit a thesis.  Notification should include confirmation of the thesis title and a proposed date for submission.

Each dissertation should include the following sections:

  • Title*
  • Acknowledgments
  • Table of contents*
  • List of figures and tables*
  • Abbreviations
  • Abstract*
  • Introduction including review of literature*
  • General materials and methods
  • Results (can be in chapter form and may include specific materials and methods and discussion of results)*
  • General discussion and/or conclusions*
  • Bibliography or references*
  • Appendix

* required sections


The composition of the examination panel isspecified by the Open University in their guidance notes. The examination panel will normally consist of one internal examiner, who is a member of staff at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research and one external examiner, who will normally be a member of academic staff at another university or research institution. At least one member of the examination panel must have significant previous experience of research degree supervision and examination of a UK PhD degree. No examiner should have had any influence in the supervision of the student, or in the design and implementation of the student’s project; or any collaborative relationship with the supervisor(s), or any vested interest in the student’s successful completion. Members of the examination panel should be entirely independent of the candidate and each other. Further clarification of the criteria for examiners is provided in the OU guidance documents.

Once the examination panel has been approved, the student should submit three copies of her/his thesis to the Research Degree Coordinator, together with the completed Student Declaration Form (ARC13). The viva (defence) is arranged by the Research Degree Coordinator.

After the viva, the internal examiner or internal assessor will provide the Research Degree Coordinator with the completed examination panel report form and list of corrections, amendments or revisions the student may be required to make along with a deadline for completion. If necessary, the amended thesis will be checked by one or both of the examiners to confirm that they have been completed satisfactorily. The Open University Research School will confirm in writing that the academic requirements for the award of the degree have been met.

Bound copies of the thesis

Once the Research School has confirmed that all approvals are in place, the student provides the Open University with two final bound copies of the thesis, an additional copy of the thesis abstract, a signed library authorization form (ARC12) and, if applicable, the British Library authorization form. These will be forwarded to the Research School of the Open University by the Research Degree Coordinator.  Three additional copies must be submitted to the Stowers library, one of which is kept by Administration, the other remains in the institute Library.  Additional copies should be provided to the main supervisor(s) and one retained by the (now) graduate.