I live in the UK, study Computing and I'm about to start my final year. I have been told by friends that the University holds the right to my final year project. Is there a way of getting the rights and intellectual property of my final year project?

  • 2
    Did you actually check with the University? What your friends tell you and what the University owns is often delineated by the fine print. At many Universities for example, the University retains a license to use your intellectual property, but you are still free to develop it. – Irwin May 13 '13 at 16:44

The first question is why you want the rights. For example, if you are working on something with serious commercial applications and hope to start a company or sell the technology, then this is a very serious issue. The first step is hiring a lawyer, who can advise you on precisely which rights you and the university currently hold, and who can help you negotiate with the university regarding commercialization.

On the other hand, most student projects are of no commercial value. If you just want to display your work online (to help build a portfolio for job applications and in case this work is useful for someone else), then it's probably easier. It may depend on the university, but presumably they don't want to limit the dissemination of student projects, so if you ask them I bet they'll grant permission. You should think about exactly what you want to provide and under what sort of license (for example, if you put code on the web, nobody's allowed to use it unless you license that). I imagine the university would be happy with some sort of Creative Commons license.

I'd recommend being very clear and straightforward when asking, to avoid raising suspicions that you are trying to trick them into giving up the rights to valuable technology.

  • Before hiring a lawyer, I'd recommend talking to the University's intellectual property office (or similar) to identify exactly what their rights are. They might be draconian (retain all rights, including ownership) but Universities are usually more interested in helping their alumni get rich through their projects than they are in trying to develop projects for themselves! – Irwin May 13 '13 at 16:47

I expect that it differs from university to university, but in general you won't be able to do this unless you buy the rights from them. Somebody in your students' union/student support services might be able to give you a better answer.


I would double-check on that statement of your friends. If you are not employed by someone to produce some intellectual property, then you will own the copyright to all texts and other material that you create. You are then free to transfer that right to someone else (at least in the UK), or give out licenses.

So unless either

  1. you have a work contract with your university for this project, or
  2. you signed an agreement that the university will own the rights to your project,

I would expect that you retain all rights in the project.

There is one caveat: Any material that is provided to you by the advisor of your project is of course not your intellectual property, and you would have to deal with it as with any external source. This may include even the initial project description, if it is of substantial intellectual value!

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