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More in this section Postgraduate research (PhD)

PhD in Psychology

The Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London invites applications for PhD studentships starting in the academic year 2017-18. 

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 and is supported by excellent facilities. These include a research-designated functional neuroimaging unit (fMRI), EEG and TMS labs, tDCS, a psychophysiology lab, a psycho-linguistics lab, eye-tracking, and a baby lab. Further information on our research environment can be found here. Information about the research interests of individual staff can be found here. Our Department is also part of two prestigious doctoral training centres: the ESRC SeNSS Doctoral Training Partnership and the Leverhulme Magna Carta scheme. Further details can be found in the tabs below.

All PhD positions may be applied for only after consultation with the proposed supervisor.

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

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

Application Procedures

Studentships are available from several sources, which may vary in terms of eligibility and application procedures. Please see specific guidance by clicking on the appropriate funding source tab(s) shown below. 

Applicants may also have alternative sources of funding. Overseas students may receive direct support from overseas organisations, such as the Pakistan Higher Education Commission. 

Royal Holloway Studentships


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 (see below for list) 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 to discuss the possibility of submitting an application. 

Available studentships provide a stipend of ~£14,500 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 midnight on Friday 9th December 2016




How to apply


Applicants should have the equivalent of a 2.1 honours 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 and read the profiles of the associated staff members. If you are interested in applying for one of these project areas, please contact your intended 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, so that each primary supervisor can only support one project/student, and each student can only prepare an application with one supervisor. 

Step 2

Your application must be submitted through the College online application system, for which you need to register at the outset of the process. 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 that you 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
  • a degree transcript and copies of any other qualifications
  • 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)
  • 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! 


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 early January 2017. 


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: 

  • 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.
  • A methods section stating how this question will be investigated (design, techniques, analysis).
  • 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.
  • 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 supervisors 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: 

  • How you intend funding yourself during the three year period (six years, if part-time) of study. For this program this will be a Departmental studentship. However, if you are a Home/EU student you may also be eligible to be put forward to the ESRC SeNSS Doctoral Training Partnership competition. 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. We will decide in January 2017 which applications will be put forward for ESRC funding.
  • 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. 


Specific areas


If applying for one of the College studentships, applicants must apply for one of the projects listed below through the College application process, in collaboration with the named supervisor. If an applicant wishes, they may apply for a different project (again in collaboration with a supervisor) but would not be eligible for the College studentships. They may, however, be eligible for the DTP or other schemes.  The available projects, grouped by theme are shown below:-

Social Neuroscience:- 


  • The neuroscience of facial attractiveness choices (Primary Supervisor: Dr Furl ; Second Supervisor: Dr McKay)
  • The development of the interoceptive self in adolescence (Primary Supervisor: Prof Tsakiris; Second Supervisor : Dr Sebastian)
  • Detection of emotion and trustworthiness across the lifespan (Primary Supervisor : Dr Watling; Second Supervisor : Dr Durant

Cognitive Neuroscience:-

  • The perceived duration of actions (Primary Supervisor: Dr Durant; Second Supervisor:  Dr Lingnau)
  • Semantic information transfer from audition to vision (Primary Supervisor: Dr Vetter; Second Supervisor: Dr Auer)
  • Mapping frontal lobe-cerebellar topography with MRI and Brain Stimulation (Primary Supervisor: Prof Ramnani; Second Supervisor: Prof Rothwell)
  • Neural control of the human voice (Primary Supervisor: Dr McGettigan ; Second Supervisor: Dr Miquel) 

Health & Clinical Psychology:-

  • Outcome trajectories of precision treatment in depression and anxiety (Primary Supervisor: Dr Brown; Second Supervisors: Dr Wheatley, Dr Fried)
  • Psychosocial and ethical issues in perinatal gene and cell therapies for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (Primary Supervisor: Dr Riazi; Second Supervisors: Dr Yanez, Dr Boardmann) 

Psychology & Law:-

  • Memory and eyewitness identification performance (Primary Supervisor: Dr Mickes ; Second Supervisor: Dr Furl)
  • The role of facial caricaturing in police line-up procedures (Primary Supervisor: Dr McKay; Second Supervisor: Dr Mickes)
  • Source memory and reports of repeated victimisation in the elderly population (Primary Supervisor: Prof Memon; Second Supervisor: Dr Storey) 

Psychology & Arts:-

  • Perceptual and physiological correlates of aesthetic preferences (Primary supervisor: Prof Zanker; Second Supervisor: Dr Durant)
  • The role of personal values of film characters and audience in film success (Primary Supervisor: Dr Bardi; Second Supervisor: Mr Ganz

Education & Learning:-

  • What do pre-schoolers learn from ‘educational’ apps (Primary Supervisor: Dr Shinskey; Second Supervisor: Dr Ricketts)
  • Sleep patterns and educational outcomes in adolescence (Primary Supervisor: Dr Ricketts; Second Supervisor: Dr Tamminen)

REMINDER: The deadline for all applications is midnight on Friday 9th December 2016.

ESRC SeNSS Doctoral Training Partnerships


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

This competition has its own application portal. However, all applications will be submitted via the participating institution, not by the individual. Therefore, all applicants interested in applying to this scheme should apply to the Department using the process described for "Royal Holloway Studentships" (see relevant tab), by the same deadline of midnight on Friday 9th December 2016. The selection panel will decide in early January 2017 which applications will then be put forward to the DTP competition. 

Please note that you may submit an application for a project not listed within the "Royal Holloway Studentships" and ask that it be considered for the DTP competition only (it would not be eligible for a Royal Holloway Studentship). However, you must contact the proposed supervisor(s) in advance to ensure they are prepared to supervise you, and so that they may provide input to your project proposal and application.

Leverhulme Magna Carta Studentships 


Royal Holloway hosts the Leverhulme Magna Carta doctoral programme, details of which can be found here. Specific projects will be advertised in Spring 2017.

Matched College funding for external partners from industry or charities


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.  Any such studentships will be advertised here.










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