Research course


Open University · Department of Design, Development, Environment and Materials

Entry requirements

PhD: The normal minimum entrance requirement is an upper second class honours degree or master's degree, relevant to the proposed area of study, from a recognised higher education institution in the UK. You should also have experience of academic research in the previous four years, normally in the form of either a master's degree in research methods, an undergraduate degree with a research element in the final year, or work-related experience with evidence through research reports. If you're not sure if you meet the entry requirements, please contact us ( MPhil: Applicants should normally hold, or be expecting to obtain, a bachelors degree with at least first or upper-second class honours, or an equivalent qualification. However, entry requirements differ between academic areas, and sometimes a taught masters degree is also required. The research topic pages (in the menu on the right of our Research areas page) give details of specific entry requirements, and provide contact details to discuss your suitability for the MPhil with a member of academic staff.

Months of entry


Course content

The Design Group at The Open University established the study of design as a subject in its own right. This perspective encourages the study of patterns, processes and practices in diverse design domain settings. It opens up new vantage points to question how design is practised as a creative human activity, promotes innovation and the different ways that the designed and manufactured things around us impact on the world we inhabit.

The research that the Design Group undertakes shares a common concern in design for social change. It seeks to advance understanding of design and innovation’s role in society, to transform lives and challenges the ways that people participate in this change. Our research is clustered around four themes:

  • Design processes
  • Sustainable design and innovation
  • Collaborative design
  • Complexity and design.

Key facts

  • The Design Group hosts the AHRC Design Star doctoral training centre in design, in collaboration with Brighton University, University of Reading and Goldsmiths University.
  • The first journal in design, Design Studies, was founded by the group and we continue to have editorial input.
  • The group is recognised for its internationally excellent research and has been consistently highly ranked across all research assessment exercises.


The group has a suite of design research laboratories and is prioritising full-time research degrees that make use of these facilities:

  • Complexity Science and Design Laboratory
  • Design Observatory
  • FabLab
  • Robotics and Autonomous Systems Laboratory
  • Digital Media Laboratory.

Fees and funding

Please see The Open University website for more information.

Qualification and course duration


part time
72 months
full time
36 months
distance learning
variable months


full time
15 months
distance learning
variable months
part time
24 months

Course contact details

Dr Emma Dewberry
+44 (0)1908 332940