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PhD students


The Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London invites applications for PhD studentships starting in the academic year 2018-19.


Our Research Strengths

The Department has an active and expanding postgraduate research community, is well-equipped for research, and is situated on a beautiful campus close to London. We were ranked 6th out of 82 UK Psychology Departments in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), with 93% of our research classified as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Research in the Department spans a breadth of topics across psychological sciences and neuroscience. We are supported by excellent facilities including a research-designated functional neuroimaging unit (fMRI), EEG, TMS, tDCS and eye-tracking; as well as labs dedicated to sleep, vestibular-multisensory integration, psychophysiology, psycholinguistics and infant cognition. You can find out more about our research environment on our Pure Profile and the research interests of individual staff on our directory.


Departmental Scholarships

Each year our Department offers a number of scholarships in specific areas that will enhance our research capabilities.

Our Department is also part of the prestigious ESRC SeNSS Doctoral Training Partnership.


Develop your skills

We are committed to providing excellent training and career development opportunities for our PhD students. Successful applicants engage in Departmental training to develop both their research-related and transferable skills. You can tailor your own experience, choosing from a wide variety of courses covering career development, communication skills, and specialised research methods.

Our students are strongly encouraged to attend and contribute to research group seminars, Departmental colloquia and our annual Postgraduate Convention. In addition to Departmental training, research students can take advantage of the College-led Researcher Development Programme.


How do I apply?

All PhD positions (whether self-funded or not) may be applied for only after consultation with a proposed supervisor. That is, before you make an application you will need to find a supervisor by contacting a member of academic staff (with research interests similar to yours), to discuss your proposal.

For some funding types, potential supervisors are listed within the relevant funding tabs shown below. If you find a member of academic staff who is prepared to supervise you, then they will able to answer any questions that you have and help you with your application.

Studentships are available from several sources, which may vary, from time to time, in terms of eligibility and application procedures. We are currently advertising the following opportunities:

Psychology Department Studentships **Deadline 12 noon on Monday 8th January 2018**

ESRC SeNSS Doctoral Training Partnership Studentships **Initial internal Deadline12 noon on Monday 8th January 2018**

Please click on the relevant tabs below for information on how to apply.

Applicants may also have alternative sources of funding for example, overseas students may receive direct support from an overseas organisation.

Enquiries for further general information should be directed to:

Prof Johannes Zanker j.zanker@rhul.ac.uk, Director of Graduate Studies

Dr Catherine Sebastian catherine.sebastian@rhul.ac.uk, Deputy Director of Graduate Studies

Funding is available for PhD studentships funded by the College and allocated to the Department of Psychology. This year, applications are invited in specific areas that will enhance our Department’s research capabilities and develop new collaborations across research areas. If you are interested in pursuing one of these PhD projects, please contact the relevant primary supervisor (shown at the end of this page) to discuss the possibility of submitting an application.

Available studentships provide a stipend in the region of £15,500 per annum for three years, and also cover the tuition fees for UK and EU students. Overseas applicants are welcome to apply but would be required to pay the difference between UK/EU and overseas tuition fees. There may be opportunities to compete for scholarships to cover part of the overseas fees.

The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Monday 8th January 2018


How to Apply


Applicants should have the equivalent of a 2.1 honours degree in Psychology, or a related discipline, and meet College requirements for English (for international students). The chance of obtaining a studentship are increased for applicants holding a first class Bachelor’s degree and/or a relevant MSc. Overseas applicants are welcome to apply but would be required to cover the difference between UK and overseas tuition fee rates.

Step 1

Take a look at the advertised project areas (shown below) and read the profiles of the associated supervisors. If you are interested in applying for one of these project areas, please contact the primary supervisor and find out whether they would be prepared to supervise you. You can then start to carve out your specific ‘research plan’ with advice from your potential supervisor. We expect a one-to-one match between student and project, because each primary supervisor can only support one project/student, and each student can only submit an application with one supervisor.

Step 2

Your application must be submitted through the College online application system – Royal Holloway Direct. The online application system provides a lot of detail, including a list of documents that are required for each PhD application. You will need to nominate two referees (neither of which should be your proposed supervisor) on this online form. They will be contacted by the College directly, but it is always a good idea for you to contact referees before you submit your application to make them aware of your plans, and so they can respond to the College request swiftly. Please provide:

  • an up-to-date CV;

  • all degree transcripts and copies of any other qualifications (in English);

  • copies of English language qualifications (if English is not your first language);

  • contact details for two references;

  • your Research Proposal;

  • a detailed financial plan (drawn up with your potential supervisor); and

  • a supporting statement from your potential supervisor (a letter, which you must attach to your online application).

Once you have carefully checked your application press the submit button. Your application is on its way!

More guidance on some of the requested documents

Research Proposal (to be completed by applicant with input from potential supervisor):

(maximum 10,000 characters including spaces and references)

The research proposal should include:

  1. A brief introduction of the research topic, including a review of the relevant literature, and a description of the main research questions to be addressed;

  2. A methods section stating how this question will be investigated (design, techniques, analysis);

  3. A succinct outline of the first studies, including contingency plans showing how potential problems will be addressed, such as recruitment of participants, obtaining external ethical approval, development of new equipment and methods etc; and

  4. A timeline showing how the planned research can be completed within a three year timescale (six years if part-time study).

Note, it is important that the expertise of your potential supervisor(s) and the facilities available at RHUL (e.g. specialist equipment) are highlighted in relation to your research proposal.

The financial plan (completed by potential supervisor with applicant):

This should be detailed in nature and as accurate as is possible because awareness of project costs will play a crucial part in the Department’s decision making process. The financial plan should include, as a minimum, the following:

  1. How you intend to fund your day to day living expenses during the three year period (six years, if part-time) of study. For this application this will be a Departmental studentship.If you are a Home/EU student you may also be eligible to apply to the ESRC SeNSS Doctoral Training Partnership competition. If so we would strongly advise you to include this possible option in your financial plan and on your application form. The application process for both types of studentship are the same in the first instance. The Department will decide in January 2018 which eligible applications will be put forward for ESRC funding.

  2. A statement from your intended supervisor showing how any specific costs associated with the research project (such as participant payments, travel costs, MRI scanning, or other equipment costs) are to be met during the study period.

A supporting statement completed by your potential supervisor:

Your potential primary supervisor will need to indicate, in writing, their willingness to supervise you. If there are any specific issues to be addressed (such as using techniques outside the supervisor's area of expertise) then some indication of how this will be achieved must be included. Their statement should include their academic record and the relevance of his/her research to the proposed project, and to the Departmental research strategy.


What happens next?

After completeness and validity checks, your electronic submission will be sent to the Department of Psychology, together with the references obtained by the College. Once the Department is happy that all the required information is attached to your application, it is passed to the Postgraduate Research Committee, along with those of other applicants, for their consideration. The Committee may, at this stage, request further information from individual applicants.

If you are unsuccessful at this stage you will be notified via email. If you are shortlisted then, you may be invited to an interview, which under certain circumstances may be done by video link. Interviews will likely take place in late January 2018.


Psychology Department Studentships: Potential Projects and Supervisors


If applying for a Psychology Department studentship, applicants must apply for one of the projects shown below, through the College’s on-line application accessed by clicking here, in collaboration with the named primary project supervisor (also shown below).

The applicant must contact the primary supervisor before starting their on-line application.


Available Supervisors and projects by research area:-


Health and Well-Being 

Developing and evaluating a psychological intervention to reduce the impact of HIV disclosure anxiety in people with HIV


Learning, Memory and Attention


Impact of naturally shifting sleep patterns on memory and educational outcomes in adolescence


Perception, Action and Decision Making

Elisa Ferre & Narender Ramnani                       

Altered Gravity, Movement Control and the Brain: how vestibular-gravitational information impacts on behaviour and brain activity

Steve Hammett & Jonas Larsson               

Natural image statistics, cortical filters and image classifiers

Petra Vetter                                                              

Modulation of human visual perception

Robin Walker & Angelika Lingnau     

Reading with an acquired visual field defect

Johannes Zanker & Szonya Durant  

Exploring aesthetic experience in virtual gallery spaces


Social and Affective Processes


Rebecca Brewer & Manos Tsakiris

Investigating interoceptive abilities in Eating Disorders

Nick Furl, Ryan McKay & B. Averbeck             

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to study how the brain represents the social reward value of faces when making decisions

Catherine Sebastian & Ryan McKay

Adolescent decision-making under conditions of ambiguity

Dawn Watling & Szonya Durant                        

Detection of genuine emotion and trustworthiness across the lifespan

Hanna Zagefka               

The influence of attachment security on intergroup attitudes


Applicants may only apply for one Psychology Department Studentship.  Supervisors will only be able to support one applicant.

If an applicant wishes, they may also apply for a studentship with a different funding scheme (again in collaboration with a supervisor) but if successful they would not be eligible for a Psychology Department studentship. This includes but is not limited to SeNSS DTP studentships where eligibility criteria exist.

The deadline for all applications is 12 noon on Monday 8th January 2018.

ESRC SeNSS Doctoral Training Partnership

The Department of Psychology is part of South East Network for Social Sciences (SeNSS) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), which unites research-intensive universities in South East England in providing outstanding postgraduate training through ESRC funding. More information about the Network can be found here.

All applications to the DTP will be submitted via the participating institution (RHUL) and not by the individual. However the Department will still require applicants to complete an on-line application via the College’s online applications system – Royal Holloway Direct.

Applicants interested in applying for this scheme should apply to the Department using the process described in the “Psychology Department Studentships” tab, by the same deadline of noon on Monday 8th January 2018.

The selection panel will decide in January 2017 which applications the Department will put forward to the DTP competition.

Please note if you are applying for a DTP studentship only then you may submit an application for a project not listed within the “Psychology Department Studentship” tab, and ask that it be considered for the DTP competition only noting that their application would not later be eligible for a Psychology Departmental studentship. However, you must contact your proposed supervisor(s) in advance to ensure that they are prepared to supervise you, and so that they can provide input to your project proposal.

It may be possible for College to provide matched funding for a PhD studentship and UK/EU fees if a partner is found from industry or the charity sector.

There are currently no studentships of this type to view here.

Specific projects will be advertised below, as they become available.




Any questions?

Please contact Professor Johannes Zanker,  Director of Graduate Studies or 

Dr Catherine Sebastian, Deputy Director of Graduate Studies





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