Research course


Open University · Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

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Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent) in a relevant subject (e.g. education, engagement, communication, humanities, sciences, depending on the project offered).

Months of entry


Course content

AstrobiologyOU is research group of over 50 staff and students who work together to understand how, and where, life might be found beyond Earth and the scientific and ethical challenges faced by astrobiology-related exploration missions.

AstrobiologyOU work across four key themes:

  • Finding evidence of life – including identifying habitable environments, the signatures that life may leave behind, and the ethical implications of looking for, and finding life.
  • Planetary protection – protecting the Solar System from contamination from Earth and protecting the Earth from anything that may be brought back from space.
  • The Earth as an analogue – using locations on Earth similar to those in space, investigating terrestrial microbial communities in extreme environments, and understanding and regulating the impact of this work on the local human communities.
  • Societal impacts – including international development, engagement, education, ethics and inclusion, and the application of AstrobiologyOU’s research to meet societal needs.

These themes are addressed through dedicated, multidisciplinary teams in science, governance, education and engagement, and international development. Our research is supported by an excellent technical and administrative team, including laboratory and business development staff.

Our research funding is from Research England, The Science and Technology Facilities Council, the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the European Union and the Leverhulme Trust.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PhD
    full time
    48 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    part time
    96 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Graduate School