Design Star


AHRC Funded PhD Design studentships 

We are members of the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council ) doctoral training centre known as 'Design Star', in collaboration with four other world leading UK design centres. Design Star offers fully funded studentships for both full-time and part-time students who meet the eligibility requirements for award funding. 

Design Star provides:

  • a world-class research environment
  • a community of design researchers
  • a strong student voice
  • innovative and stimulating research training
  • outstanding supervision
  • external partners from government, industry and heritage
  • well-established graduate schools in each university
  • commitment to public engagement with research


Why Join Design Star with the OU?

Join a top performing UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) research group

We encourage interdisciplinarity. The Design group have a long history of exploring different approaches to design in diverse contexts, drawing on different disciplines such as urban planning, architecture, energy, business and complexity. We focus on a diverse range of design research with strong overlaps and interconnections between research areas both within design and across other university departments.

We foster strong partnerships with external organisations and other universities through our research activities.

OU doctoral students experience a comprehensive induction to research through a university-wide doctoral training scheme.

The OU hosts a virtual research student environment called the Graduate School Network. Here you can find all the information you need for undertaking at PhD. From specific on-line training resources, face-to-face training events and resources for supporting student well-being to links to different research centres and information about all the OU PhD regulations and processes. This is a one-stop stop for supporting your PhD journey.

The Design group has excellent facilities: large office spaces, workshops (Fab Lab, Design Observatory, Media Lab) and extensive library and multi-media resources.

Students work alongside academic staff and are very much seen as a key part of the Design group.


Research Themes

Our key research themes include: 

Design Processes

Design Ecologies

Design Complexity

Design Collaboration



How to Apply

To apply to join Design Star through the Open University you first explore the research theme pages by following the links above, then:

  1. Contact a relevant member of OU design staff to discuss your area of research interest
  2. Write your research proposal (no longer than 2000 words). Follow the guidance provided on the Design Star website
  3. Complete the OU PhD application process  which can be found in the online OU Research Degrees Prospectus. Under the Funding section of the form please state you are applying for a Design Star studentship. The OU application should be submitted to Your application will include your OU PhD application form and your research proposal.
  4. You also need to submit a Design Star application form. Send this application and a one page CV as a PDF document to Polly Harte, the Design Star Administrator.  

The deadline for both the OU and Design Star parts of the application is the 16th May 2018

Studentship funding outcomes will be made available in July 2018.


Please note that there are citizenship eligibility requirements for AHRC Design Star studentships which are detailed on the Design Star website. All applicants must hold a first or very good upper second class undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, and hold or be completing a Masters degree, or have relevant professional experience


Contact OU Design Star Lead Emma Dewberry for general enquiries 



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