UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


PaLS PhD and Doctorate Programmes

All research programmes in the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences (PaLS) bring together lecturers and researchers from a wide range of disciplines and attracts staff and students from around the world. Together, they create an outstanding and vibrant environment for both study and research, taking advantage of excellent library and IT facilities and cutting-edge resources such as extensive laboratories for research in speech and language, perception and cognition, a centre for brain imaging and a behavioural neuroscience laboratory.


PaLS is divided into 7 research departments and offers 8 different MPhil/PhD programmes. A PaLS PhD is normally designed to extend over three years full-time or five years part-time. Your prospective supervisor will be a member of staff in one of the 7 research departments.

General Information

The MPhil/PhD programme commences in late September/early October for all 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.

UCL regulations require that initial registration as a research student is for an MPhil degree. If satisfactory progress is demonstrated a student's registration is 'upgraded' to PhD. 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 (CRS) for 1 additional year. The Division is assessed on how many PhD students submit their thesis on time so it is very important full-time students finish within 4 years. You may also study your PhD part-time. Part-time students are normally required to be registered for 5 years, with 2 additional years in CRS if needed. Part-time study arrangements are to be agreed with the supervisor.

A research student will have a principal supervisor, who takes the lead in the supervisory team and a subsidiary supervisor who enhances the effective supervision of the students work by contributing a second opinion. 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 UCL Doctoral 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.

PhD Application Process

 Before applying

  • 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.

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 PhD Administrator 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. 

The general procedure for making a formal application is laid out below. Each Research Department may have slightly different requirements so please check with the PhD Administrator in your chosen Department before submitting your application. 

Formal Application

You need to complete:

  • The standard UCL graduate application form Please note that we prefer online applications.
  • 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

To be considered for all competitive funding awarded by UCL applications must arrive by the 1st week of January 2018 for entry in September 2018. 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 the early January deadline, but later applications can sometimes be considered. Applications should be made as soon as possible, and not later than end of June for entry in September/October of the same year. Interviews for places not funded by UCL may take place at any time until late summer.


To be admitted as a research student, applicants usually obtain a source of funding from a recognised funding body. Self-funded students should 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.The ESRC has studentships 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.  ESRC funding at UCL is co-ordinated by the UCL, Bloomsbury & East London Doctoral Training Partnership.As an additional source of funding open to UK/EU the Division is sometimes 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 Doctoral School Research Scholarships on a competitive basis.
  • Overseas Students 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 Doctoral 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).

Each individual PhD programme may have specific funding opportunities, see individual programme pages below for details


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.


Experimental Psychology

Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology

Psychoanalytic Studies

Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

Language and Cognition


Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences

UCL Interaction Centre

Professional Doctorate Programmes

The professional doctorate programmes offer teaching in the areas of mind, behaviour and language and undertakes world-leading research in these subjects.