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Studying for a PhD

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Studying for a PhD

We have an active and expanding postgraduate research community, well-equipped for research, and situated on a beautiful campus close to London.

We are ranked sixth out of 82 UK Psychology Departments by the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014), with 93% of our research classified as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Research in our 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.

Develop your skills

We are committed to providing excellent training and career development opportunities for our PhD students. If successful, you will engage in departmental training to develop both your 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 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.

Departmental scholarships

The Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London invites applications for PhD studentships starting September 2018. **Application process now closed**

Our department is also part of the prestigious ESRC SeNSS Doctoral Training Partnership. More information about these opportunities coming soon.

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 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 **Application process now closed**

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.

Applicants may also have alternative sources of funding. Overseas students may receive direct support from overseas organisations.

Enquiries for further general information should be directed to:

Prof Johannes Zanker, Director of Graduate Studies

Dr Catherine Sebastian, Deputy Director of Graduate Studies

How do I apply for a departmental scholarship?


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 (below) 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 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
  • 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 take place on 17th July 2018.

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 to fund yourself during the three year period (six years, if part-time) of study. For this program this will be a Departmental studentship.
  • 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.

Psychology Department Studentships: Potential Projects and Supervisors

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.

Available projects, grouped by theme:

Health and Well-Being 

  • Developing and evaluating a psychological intervention to reduce the impact of HIV disclosure anxiety in people with HIV. First Supervisor: Dr Michael Evangeli; Second Supervisor: Prof Tamar Pincus
  • Psychological factors in perinatal gene and cell therapies for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. First Supervisor: Dr Afsane Riazi; Second Supervisors:  Prof Rafael Yáñez-Muñoz (Biological Sciences, RHUL), Dr Felicity Boardman (University of Warwick, UK)


Learning, Memory and Attention

  • What do children who speak English as an additional language know about words and how can reading help? First supervisor: Dr Jessie Ricketts; Second Supervisor: Prof Victoria Murphy (University of Oxford)
  • Applying insights from memory research to language use and language evolution. First supervisor: Dr Shiri Lev-Ari; Second supervisor: Dr Laura Mickes


Perception, Action and Decision Making

  • Altered gravity, movement control and the brain: how vestibular-gravitational signals influence sensorimotor processing. First Supervisor: Dr Elisa R. Ferre; Second Supervisor: Prof Narender Ramnani
  • Multi-modal mechanisms of attention. First Supervisor: Dr Steve Hammett; Second Supervisor: Prof Polly Dalton
  • Mapping recovery and learning mechanisms in the brain after severe limb injury and loss: Neuroimaging and behaviour. First Supervisor: Prof Narender Ramnani; Second Supervisor: Mr Shehan Hettiaratchy (Imperial College).


Social and Affective Processes

  • Attitudes towards immigrants and immigration. First Supervisor: Prof Hanna Zagefka; Second Supervisor: Prof Ravinder Barn (Sociology, RHUL)
  • The psychology of political attitudes. First Supervisor: Dr Gary Lewis; Second Supervisor: Dr Ryan McKay
  • When is the optimal time to stop evaluating new information and commit to a decision? The neuroscience, psychology and pathology behind this fundamental decision process, used for everything from forming beliefs to choosing the most attractive date. First Supervisor: Dr Nick Furl; Second Supervisor: Dr Ryan McKay
  • Cardiac-cortical interactions and their role on the processing of social information. First Supervisor: Prof Manos Tsakiris; Second Supervisor: Dr Joshua Balsters; External Collaborator: Dr Ruben Azevedo (University of Kent from Jan 2019)
  • Choice blindness and the illusion of moral superiority. First Supervisor: Dr Ryan McKay; Second Supervisor: Dr Petter Johansson (Lund University)

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