What do I need?
If you want to undertake a PhD degree in Experimental Psychology there are a few things that you need to think about. Normally you need a minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor’s degree or a taught UK Master’s degree, or the overseas equivalent, in a relevant subject. Overseas applicants also need to satisfy the English language requirements.
We provide information about different pathways into the PhD programme below. Potential students should note that there are different dates associated with each pathway. Generally, however, the following dates are good rough guides:
October of the year before. By now you should be thinking of potential topics and be starting to contact potential supervisors, and making sure that you adhere to UCL’s admission requirements.
December of the year before. By now you should have a good draft of a research proposal to accompany your application(s), identified referees for your application, and gathered all the appropriate information needed for application. For specific information about the application process click here.
January of the same year. Interviews for the MPhil/PhD are generally held in January. These interviews are also used to identify candidates who can be put forward for competitive scholarships that are funded by UCL (such as Graduate Research Scholarships, Overseas Research Scholarships), and for any demonstratorships, funded by the School of Psychology and Language Sciences, that are available for the subsequent period.
February-April of the same year. Offers of admission are sent out, and candidates find out if they have been successful at obtaining funding.
Late September: Enrol in your MPhil/PhD programme in Experimental Psychology!
Routes to the PhD
There are 2 major pathways into a PhD in Experimental Psychology – directly and through a a so-called “1+3” option such as a doctoral training centre.
1. Identifying a research area and supervisor.
- Having made sure that you adhere to UCL admissions requirements you now need to identify a research area in which you would like to undertake a PhD, and identify a faculty member in the department that will be able to supervise your project. The most common method is to identify a rough idea of the research topic you are interested in and seek a supervisor that might also be interested. The student and supervisor then discuss the research topic in more detail, and develop a project that both can agree on. Note that one strength of UCL is that individual faculty can only supervise a small number of students: this allows for more personal supervision, but also means that the preferred supervisor may not be available to take on new students.
- With a project and supervisor in hand, the student then formally applies to do a MPhil/PhD programme in Experimental Psychology. Once the application is passed on to Experimental Psychology by UCL admissions, a formal interview is arranged with the nominated supervisor and the Graduate Tutor. These interviews are generally held in mid- to late January. The Department then decides whether to recommend that UCL offer a place to the applicant, and forwards that decision to UCL admissions.
2. Identifying funding options
- Applicants who receive offers of a placement on MPhil/PhD programmes at UCL, including Experimental Psychology, are not guaranteed funding. There are, however, many potential funding sources. We note some of them in what follows, but this is not an exhaustive list – please consult the UCL Doctoral School funding page for further information, and note that there may even be programs beyond those noted there.
- The Department of Experimental Psychology is part of Psychology and Language Sciences (PALS). PALS offers a limited number of “demonstratorships” which require the successful applicant to contribute to teaching onto specific undergraduate or postgraduate courses that the School runs. Experimental Psychology uses the interview process in January to recommend applicants to these demonstratorships, which are then assessed across PALS. The same interview process is used to make recommendations to the central UCL scholarship schemes, such as Graduate Research Scholarships and Overseas Research Scholarships.
- Individual faculty members may have secured funding towards a PhD studentship under specific research projects, from sources available in the UK and EU. These often include tuition and scholarship and commonly come from sources such as The Leverhulme Trust, the ESRC, and the European Commission. These studentships are advertised on appropriate websites (including our own) when available. Students who are successful in applying to these studentships still need to formally be cleared by central UCL admissions. The general timetable, above, is not always in line with that of funding sources outside the UK/EU area, and we do have flexibility in the timing of interviews and admissions to Experimental Psychology. In addition, some faculty members can support PhD studentships through “Impact” awards from the Faculty of Brain Sciences. These awards are co-funded by external sources, including charities and industry, for particular projects. Your prospective supervisor will be able to tell you more about this.
- Many students from outside the UK secure funding from sources that are run by their home country, or are run jointly by the UK and the home country. Again the general timetable, above, is not always in line with that of funding sources outside the UK/EU area, we do have flexibility in the timing of interviews and admissions to Experimental Psychology. We are continually aiming to develop strong relationships with international researcher students.
DOCTORAL TRAINING CENTRES AND OTHER 1+3s
UCL hosts many doctoral training centres (DTC’s) and schemes that are similar to them. Basically these centres provide the opportunity to apply for competitive funding to support doctoral training research. The funding comes from UK Research Councils (e.g., MRC, BBSRC, and ESRC) and majority charities such as the Wellcome Trust and supports studentships in areas relevant to their interests. DTC’s arose out of a desire to provide greater inter-disciplinary research training, for example joining psychologists and biologists or computational scientists. Experimental Psychology has hosted students from each of these DTCs. Broadly speaking, the schemes support either 3 year PhD studentships (so-called “+3s”) or 4-year programs involving a 1-year Masters degree followed by a 3-year PhD.
- “+3” These schemes (for example the ESRC DTC) provide tuition and scholarship for 3 years such that the student experience is similar to the direct route (above) with additional training and network elements.
- “1+3” Several of the DTC’s offer what is often called a “1+3” training scheme. The details and aims of each programme do differ, so we encourage you to look through each of them. Each requires different levels of pre-planning, and students are encouraged to think about potential supervisors for the MPhil/PhD component, which starts in the second year, before starting out. These programs are particularly useful for students who are moving into Psychology-related research from other fields, and those who do not have substantial previous research experience. There are two general types of programme:
- In most of these schemes (e.g. the ESRC DTC) the successful student first completes an appropriate Masters-level course, and then moves into the 3-year MPhil/PhD program at the end of the first year.
- In other schemes (e.g. the BBSRC or Wellcome Trust DTCs) the first year consists of mini-projects in laboratories, and the student again enters the 3-year MPhil/PhD programme at the end of the first year. In these programs, there is no need to identify a potential PhD supervisor before applying. It is assumed that the mini-projects in Year 1 will help the student find an appropriate supervisor for the PhD work. If you already have a good idea who you’d like for a supervisor, though, it is worth contacting them early.