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Studying for a PhD

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Studying for a PhD

The Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London invites applications for PhD studentships starting in the academic year 2020-2021.

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 virtual reality, 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're 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.

You're 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 here. 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.

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


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.

Developing your application

Step 1

Take a look at the research profiles of the associated staff members, then 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 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 (guidance provided below)
  • a detailed financial plan (drawn up with your potential supervisor; guidance provided below)
  • 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.


Enquiries for further general information should be directed to:

Dr Dawn Watling,, Psychology PGR Lead

Prof Narender Ramnani,, Psychology Deputy PGR Lead

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:

  • If you are applying for a specific studentship, please state this at the top of the proposal (this will not be included in the character count).
  • 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 (e.g., departmental studentship, SeNSS studentship).
  • A financial plan, agreed with 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.

The following 2020 funding calls have now closed:

Psychology Department Studentships
**Deadline 5pm on 3rd January 2020**

ESRC SeNSS Doctoral Training Partnership Studentships
**Initial internal Deadline 5pm on 3rd January 2020**

ESRC-funded collaborative studentship titled "Investigating and enhancing motivation for reading"

**Deadline 23:59 GMT on 20th January 2020**


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