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 Admissions) they must register for a degree with the Open University: (see Registration)

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 PhD with the Open University, consists of experimental laboratory investigation, in addition to any specific training needs, the submission and oral defense of a written thesis.

Coursework related to the project may be recommended by the Student Advisory Committee. The student must actively participate in the Institute training and educational opportunities, which include an ethics course, improving verbal and written skills, safety training, animal care and use training (if appropriate), human subjects research training (if appropriate), as well as any internal or external courses and workshops recommended by the supervisors and/or Student’s Advisory Committee.

The Open University provides access to online training and development resources (the Virtual Research Environment) to registered students and their supervisors. The Research Degree Coordinator assists the students and supervisors to explore and utilize these resources.

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 recorded should include meeting date, participants, achievements and goals/plan of action.

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 AV presentation and any committee comments are submitted to the Research Degree Coordinator within three weeks of each meeting.

The student must present annually at the Friday Science Club (FSC) or a similar venue (ie. Young Investigator Day or a Super Group presentation, that the student’s advisory committee members are invited to attend). Invite supervisors to a practice session. Notify committee members when you will be presenting internally or locally. The first presentation should be before the end of the 10th month of registration, before the probationary review is completed.

In all OU student co-authored publications, the fact that the student is enrolled in our Open University program must be acknowledged either in the author address, as a footnote or in the acknowledgment section of the paper. An acknowledgement statement could look something like this: "This work was done to fulfill, in part, requirements for XXX's PhD thesis research as a student registered with the Open University."


Probation Assessment and Annual Student Progress Reports

The first period of a student’s registration is a probation period, lasting eleven 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 evaluated by independent assessors. This probationary report and recommendation is submitted to the OU for ratification.  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 Research Degree Coordinator of the programme at least three months’ notice of her/his intention to submit a thesis so that the examination panel can be organized and ratified by the OU. Notification should include confirmation of the thesis title and a proposed date for submission. Detailed guidance documents for thesis preparation and submission are available through the Open University’s Virtual Research Environment available to registered students and their supervisors and advice from the Research Degree Coordinator.


The composition of the examination panel is specified 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 of the two examiners 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, in the design and implementation of the student’s project; 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 candidate declaration form. The viva (defense) 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, 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. Following the completion of required modifications, and notification of examiner(s) approval, 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 Research Degree Coordinator’s office with at least 7 printed copies on A4 sized paper. Binding will be paid for by the RDC’s office.  The Open University requires two final bound copies of the thesis, an additional copy of the thesis abstract, a signed library authorization form 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, one by the RDC and the other remains in the institute Library. Additional copies should be provided to the main supervisor(s) and one retained by the (now) graduate. The student may request a reasonable number of additional bound copies.