Research course


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

Entry requirements

PhD: Entry requirements vary according to the research topic and/or specific studentships. The normal minimum entrance requirement is an upper second class honours degree or masters degree, relevant to the proposed area of study, from a recognised higher education institution in the UK or other recognised degree-awarding body. The comparability of qualifications from outside the UK with The Open University requirements will be determined through reference to UK NARIC.

Energy and sustainability; Nuclear energy; Smart grid systems.

Months of entry


Course content

The interdisciplinary strengths of The Open University are well suited to the challenges of energy technology and policy. Activities in energy systems range from expertise in end-user concerns and the potential for consumers to become ‘prosumers’; through the design of regional energy systems; to national energy policy and global considerations. There is particular interest in low-carbon energy options and in the needs and interests of developing countries.

Recent initiatives have grown the OU’s involvement in matters relating to civil nuclear power and to greater engagement issues of future electricity transmission and distribution. Here the interests extend beyond the ‘physical layer’ of power flows, to include the ‘cyber layer’ of information technology and the ‘social layer’ of end-user behaviours.

Recent investments have boosted our capability in energy materials science involving, for instance, nano-structures, graphene, innovative solar photovoltaics, electricity storage (batteries), steel metallurgy for energy applications, nuclear materials and semi-conductor science.

We have growing interests in both fuel cells and hydrogen-based energy systems. Our interests range from fundamental science and engineering to issues of policy and technology strategy.

We also have ongoing interests relating to current and future nuclear fuels, including fuel claddings, spent nuclear fuel management, and advanced nuclear fuel properties (including thorium-based fuels).

In the School of Mathematics and Statistics, researcher interests span: deterministic and statistical modelling, theoretical physics, and dynamical and complex systems. These researchers have a growing interest in energy research including applications in smart grids, energy storage, and demand forecasting.

The Open University has recently joined the Doctoral Training Alliance – ENERGY of the University Alliance. We expect to associate new OU energy PhD students with DTA ENERGY from October 2016 onwards (except those affiliated to another inter-university doctoral training scheme such as the ICO-CDT). We are confident that DTA ENERGY will enrich the student research and training experience in energy at the OU.

Key facts

  • As part of the recent increase in activity the OU has initiated a series of Energy conferences and events at the initiative of the OU’s School of Mathematics and Statistics. See our Energy Meeting website.
  • In the area of civil nuclear power the OU collaborates with Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge. In April 2014 we launched a nine-year EPSRC funded collaboration the ICO Centre for Doctoral Training.
  • The OU has strong links with Milton Keynes Council on matters relating to urban futures, sustainability and energy. As a leading modern city, Milton Keynes is an excellent environment in which to innovate and develop energy solutions.
  • In recent years the OU has led a major public and private research programme concerning the smart future. Known as ‘MK Smart’, the multi-million-pound programme has a major energy theme.
  • The OU advises and informs government and the European Union on a wide range of energy issues. We can draw upon strong links to industry both locally and globally.

Fees and funding

Please see The Open University website for more information.

Qualification and course duration


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


part time
24 months
full time
15 months

Course contact details

William Nuttall, Professor of Energy
+44 1908 655113