MPhil/PhD Developmental Science

Information About | Other Programmes in the Division


Information about Research in the Developmental Science Research Department

The Developmental Science Department is a unique interdisciplinary group, made up of developmental scientists and clinicians in: developmental experimental psychology, neuropsychology, psycholinguistics, cognitive neuroscience, developmental disorders and speech and language pathology, which aims to advance fundamental understanding of human development and translate these advances into clinical and educational domains. Its research includes vision and visual cognition, cognitive understanding and learning, speech processing and language, ranging from early infancy through childhood, bridging normal development with developmental disorders of vision, cognition and language There are special laboratories for infant testing, including EEG and behavioural methods. It benefits from close contact with work in neighbouring research departments on cognitive neuroscience, language, cognition, child neurology and behaviour. Clinical applications include studies of the development of very premature infants, children with autism spectrum disorder, Downs Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, dyslexia, specific language impairments, attentional disorders, hearing impairments, and therapeutic interventions with these groups. Work is supported by grants from MRC (including Visual Development Unit), ESRC, Nuffield Foundation.

For more information about the Research Department, including a list of members of staff and their research interests, please see

Student Views

I am currently in the 3rd year of my PhD and have really enjoyed my time here in Developmental Science. I have received excellent academic support and have been given many opportunities to be involved with undergraduate teaching within the department. Being part of the UCL community allows you to form great collaborative links with other research departments such the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience, Neurology and Institute of Child Health. This means there are constantly interesting seminars to attend - both within and outside the department. I would recommend it to everyone!
                                                    Anna R.

I am currently a 2nd year PhD student at the Department of Developmental Science. I have really enjoyed being a student here, there is excellent support for students by supervisors and staff. I attended several modules that were taught here e.g. advanced research methods, autism, sign language in the brain and cognitive neuroscience and I really enjoyed them. The department is also great for interdisciplinary research, it has close links with phonetics and linguistics, psychology, institute of cognitive neuroscience and the deafness cognition and language centre. This allows students to attend several different seminars of interest and have the opportunity to engage in research across different disciplines
and network further with fellow academics.

                                                   Tanya D.


General Information about Studying for an MPhil/PhD in our Division

The MPhil/PhD programme commences in late September/early October for full-time students. As a research student in the Division you will find yourself using 'state-of-the-art' techniques in a very active research environment. You will be part of a lively and friendly group of graduates. There is a wide range of technical assistance available when needed, as well as library and computing facilities.

The UCL regulations require that initial registration as a research student is (with rare exceptions) for the MPhil degree. As part of the programme students take a range of courses designed to equip them for research. In particular, they take a selection of research methods courses appropriate for different backgrounds, designed to help them develop key research skills, such as the ability to evaluate critically the literature in an area or to perform advanced statistical analyses.

The full-time PhD typically lasts for 3 years, including the time registered as an MPhil student, and if the thesis is not submitted within this time then students may register as Completing Research Students for 1 additional year. The Division is assessed on how many PhD students finish on time.

A research student works with a staff member who is their principal supervisor, responsible for directing their research training, and a second supervisor. Other staff members, as part of a research group, may be closely involved with their work and students are encouraged to discuss their research widely with anyone having relevant experience. The Division of Psychology and Language Sciences contains expertise on a wide range of topics, so that students usually have little difficulty in finding someone who can give good advice. The Graduate School also offers a range of skills development courses for graduate students. Many full-time research students take some part in departmental teaching by giving tutorials and/or demonstrating in practical classes; payment is made for this work.

Each Research Department has a Graduate Tutor who is in charge of academic and pastoral arrangements for MPhil/PhD students. They can provide advice, support, and if necessary action, if any problems arise with respect to research, supervision or other academic problems.

For information on part-time study for a research degree in the division, click here


Applying for the MPhil/PhD in Developmental Science

The Division offers the MPhil/PhD programme on a part-time basis, although the majority of students register on a full-time basis. The academic criteria and selection process are identical to those for the full-time PhD.

The programme of study for a part-time PhD may be completed in a minimum of 3 years; it typically lasts for 5 years, and if the thesis is not submitted within this time then students may register as Completing Research Students for 2 additional years. The Division is assessed on how many PhD students finish on time.

Candidates are expected to work no less than 50% of full-time on the PhD project for the duration of the PhD. Part-time PhD students need to demonstrate that they will be able to actively pursue the PhD project throughout the relevant period, and will have sufficient time and commitment to sustain the amount of research activity needed to complete their studies. For many part-time PhD students, the PhD project is linked to employment on a funded research project involving the supervisor.


Before applying, you should:

  • Have or expect to have a relevant first degree or Master's degree of 1st class or 2.1 standard in UK system, or equivalent for overseas degrees.
  • Have a commitment to and demonstrated ability in research. Often your previous experience and performance, such as in an undergraduate or a Master's research project, will show whether research is right for you and you are right for research.
  • Overseas applicants also need to satisfy the English Language requirement

If you meet the above criteria, the next step is to check whether we can supervise research in your chosen area. We only take MPhil/PhD students to whom we can offer expert research supervision from one of our academic staff. Therefore, your research question needs to engage with the research interests of one of our staff. You can find details of the areas of research activity and research interests of staff via the links at

Select one or at most two potential supervisors whose research interests are related to yours, and send them an email containing:

  •  a brief CV
  • a clear statement that you are interested in studying for a PhD, stating when you would start, and how you would plan to fund the research
  • a brief statement of your research question or interest, and how you think the question could be investigated.

Our academic staff are quite happy to receive approaches like this, in order that they can liaise with you to identify a potential research focus of mutual interest.

The potential supervisor should get back to you within a couple of weeks. They may invite you to apply formally. If they do not, there can be several reasons such as a full quota of research students, planned sabbatical leave and so on.

If you have difficulty identifying an appropriate supervisor, you can contact the relevant Graduate Tutor or Graduate Secretary in the Department to which you are applying. If you are invited by the potential supervisor to apply, you need to submit a formal application. 


Formal Application

You need to complete:

  • a Research Proposal of 1000-1500 words in length, to be submitted with the UCL graduate application form. This is an extremely important part of your formal application. It should clearly state the research question, and its importance. It should provide the specific details of experimental or other kinds of studies and data that will be used to address the research question. Logical thinking, clear design of research studies, and relevant methodological knowledge are all key parts of a good research proposal. Where appropriate, the research proposal should explain how initial experiments or studies will lead onto further questions and studies in a coherent progression. The research proposal should be your own work, though the supervisor may give some advice. The word limit (minimum 1000 words, maximum 1500 words) includes all sections and appendices. Only key references rather than a lengthy reference list should be included.

In addition to the Research Proposal, we suggest that you use the 'Personal statement' section of the UCL graduate student application form to give any details on why you think you are particularly suited for your chosen area of research. You will also need to submit a transcript for previous qualifications, references and, where applicable, an English Language test certificate.

Application deadlines

Applications to the Division for competitive funding awarded by UCL must arrive by  31 January in the year you wish to start. Applications must be complete with references, so please allow time for references to be completed and submitted. At that point you need to have identified a member of staff who has agreed to supervise you, should you be accepted. All applications are rated by 2 academic staff members. Suitable candidates are offered an interview, where they briefly present their research proposal and are questioned by academic staff. Offers of places are generally made within a month of interview. The MPhil/PhD programme starts at the beginning of the UCL autumn term.

If other sources of funding are being considered, it is still in your interest to apply by 31 January deadline, but later applications can sometimes be considered. Applications should be made as soon as possible, and not later than the last day of June for entry in September/October. Interviews for places not funded by UCL may take place at any time until late summer.

Part Time Application Deadline

Part-time PhD applications are considered in a single annual round. The deadline for applications is 30 June, and the programme starts in late September/early October.

Additional Information


To be admitted as a research student, applicants usually obtain a source of funding from a recognised funding body. Self-funded students will only be admitted on a full-time basis if they can provide evidence that they will have sufficient funds to support themselves for a minimum of three years.

UK/EU Students

The chief sources of funding for UK students are studentships from the Research Councils (Medical Research Council (MRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). People also need to meet the relevant residency requirements.

Some sources of funding (e.g. ESRC) are available on a '+3' or a '1+3' basis. The '+3' studentships are for candidates who already have or expect to obtain an appropriate Master's degree, and provide funding for the three years of the MPhil/PhD programme. The '1+3' studentships provide funding for certain of the MSc programmes, in addition to the three-year MPhil/PhD programme. Students applying for such funding should discuss these issues with their proposed supervisor.

As an additional source of funding open to UK/EU and international students, sometimes the Division is able to award Demonstratorships. These are awarded for four years and include a stipend and tuition fees in return for teaching or demonstrating for 300 hours per year.

Individual members of staff may sometimes be able to support students with the help of research funds that they have obtained from the Research Councils or from various charities or other funding bodies. In this latter case, students usually enrol on a part-time basis. UCL also awards a small number of Graduate School Research Scholarships on a competitive basis.

Overseas Student

There are several sources of funding available for overseas students to undertake graduate training in the UK. Some funding is awarded on a competitive basis by UCL to students nominated by their Departments (e.g. UCL Graduate School Scholarships). Other sources of funding require students to apply independently, (e.g. British Council, Commonwealth, Chevening, WHO and NATO Scholarships, Government or Employers' Schemes). It is important to make early enquiries about these independent schemes (up to a year in advance).

Scholarship Opportunities

The following Research Councils have in the past funded research students in Developmental Science: ESRC, MRC. For these and other scholarship opportunities for UCL research degree programmes, please select the link below:


Many students who complete a PhD in the department stay in academia, either going on to become postdoctoral researchers or research assistants, and ultimately lecturers. Some go on to further training in fields such as clinical psychology, educational psychology, consultancy or applied research. A PhD degree taken here is recognised both nationally and internationally as a qualification of the highest status.


Developmental Science
Postgraduate Tutor John Swettenham -
Postgraduate Secretary Antonietta Esposito -


Q: What are the fees for the research programmes?

Please go to this link here for more details for fees for 2011-2012/