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Psychology PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Psychology

Postgraduate Virtual Open Day

Join us at the Postgraduate Virtual Open Days 14-16 November 2023.

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Research profile

Staff within the Department of Psychology carries out and supervises world-class research in a range of areas. We host five major research groups:

Developmental Science

Human cognitive neuroscience, language, cognition and communication.

  • Differential Psychology

Social Psychology

Psychology is rated 3rd in the UK by Times Higher Education for the quality and breadth of the research using the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021).

Research in the Developmental Science group examines how different developmental factors interact across the lifespan, from before birth into adolescence and old age. The group comprises a diverse but well-integrated set of researchers, with expertise in:

  • cognitive, social and linguistic development
  • differential psychology and genetics
  • statistical and computational modelling

They use a range of methods from behavioural experiments and brain imaging, to large cohort studies.

This research group comprises academics with a diverse set of research interests spanning cognitive neuroscience.

Areas of research include:

  • visual processing
  • control of action
  • executive functions
  • social cognition
  • higher-level cognition and reasoning

The group uses traditional experimental psychology and neuropsychology, neuroimaging techniques such as:

  • brain stimulation
  • eye-tracking
  • motion tracking
  • computational modelling
  • clinical assessment

Staff work with both normally functioning children and adults, and people with neurological disorders.

The Language, Cognition and Communication group is internationally recognised for its work on the psychology of language.

We have wide expertise in such areas as:

  • spoken and written comprehension
  • bilingualism
  • language development
  • the cognitive neuroscience of language

Researchers use a range of methods, including behavioural experiments, brain imaging and eye-tracking.

Differential Psychology (individual differences)

Individual differences researchers ask how and why people or other primates differ from one another psychologically and how these differences matter in their lives.

The University of Edinburgh is uniquely positioned to offer PhD training in the area because of its long history of world-class individual differences research and teaching. Our researchers focus on a broad range of topics, including the assessment, causes and consequences of personality traits and intelligence, positive psychology, primate behaviour, paranormal beliefs, development, ageing and psychopathology.

For example, the researchers study the roles of genetics and life experiences and developmental trends in personality traits and intelligence, and how these traits are linked with real-life outcomes in the domains of achievement and health.

The Social Psychology group examines how we think about the self, others, and groups. The research group covers qualitative and quantitative methodologies, spanning processes like identity, relationships, crowds, and inter-group relations. We employ a range of methods such as:

  • questionnaires
  • social cognitive techniques
  • observation
  • physiological measures

Programme structure

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses.

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

Training and support

Currently, there are no mandatory courses for PhD students, but we expect students to take part in an informal year-long seminar series on key topics of academic work and research seminars of their research area. Also, many students audit various courses and take part in workshops and other modes of training, within the department and beyond.

We will assign you at least two supervisors who provide expert academic guidance on their research. We expect that at least some of your research will get published in peer-reviewed journals.

Many PhD students gain undergraduate teaching experience, for which we provide training and mentoring and you can gain formal recognition (a teaching certificate).

Psychology houses extensive facilities including:

  • several eye-trackers
  • EEG recording equipment
  • fNIRS recorder
  • TMS, celspot recording equipment
  • a suite of dedicated computers running experimental software

We work with the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for MRI scanning facilities.

  • Find out more about our community

The School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences is home to a large, supportive and active student community, hosting events and activities throughout the year which you can join. As a postgraduate student you will have access to a range of research resources, state of the art facilities, research seminars and reading groups.

Career opportunities

While many of our PhD graduates choose to remain in academia as lecturers and researchers, going onto post-doctoral opportunities or progressing into faculty positions, some pursue employment and careers in other sectors.

Important application information

Find a research opportunity and contact potential supervisors prior to making an application.

We strongly encourage you to get in touch with a potential supervisor, and to include their name in your application. When contacting a potential supervisor, please include a draft proposal and CV as this will provide the starting point for discussion. You can introduce yourself by explaining why their work interests you.

  • View our main research interests and staff profiles

Write a research proposal

We will use your research proposal to consider whether the proposed research is feasible and can be supervised by our staff members, so it is important that your theoretical and methodological preparedness for it are clear.

We understand that it can be difficult to formulate research plans well in advance of carrying out the work, but we encourage you to articulate your ideas as clearly as possible. You should draft your proposal several times, and, ideally, seek comments on it from other people (perhaps from your referees or former lecturers) before submitting it.

We recommend that you contact your planned supervisor(s) well in advance of the deadline to identify a suitable topic for your research proposal. You should draft the research proposal independently and then discuss it with your planned supervisor(s), revising it based on their comments and suggestions.

Each PhD thesis contains several theoretical and empirical chapters. Your proposal should focus on the empirical work, laying out plans for at least two empirical studies (further plans can be worked out as you progress). Ideally, each of the studies will be a publishable journal article; students are strongly encouraged to publish their work in collaboration with their supervisors.

Your proposal must not exceed 1000 words; the panel may not read the part of your proposal exceeding the limit. This does not include references.

Your proposal should include:

  • A title for the project
  • A brief background for the planned research question(s)
  • A compelling, brief rationale for the studies, including the specific research questions/hypotheses
  • A description of the methodology for addressing these questions/hypotheses, which generally includes:
  • Sufficiently large sample(s) of participants (allowing for appropriate statistical power) and measurement/experimental procedures
  • If using existing data (for example, data from large cohort studies or biobanks, imaging data sets, etc.), describe the data sets
  • Your data analytical approach (for example, suitable statistical models)
  • If using qualitative data such as interviews, describe your methods and analytical approach
  • Note that the methodology should be realistic, within the resources and time-scales available to you and your supervisor(s), and also allowing for necessary time for writing the thesis
  • An indication of how your proposed work fits with and contributes to the research programme of your planned supervisor(s). A PhD thesis typically means teamwork, involving the student and one or two supervisors, and often also other members of the research group(s) of the supervisor(s); a student receives training and help from the team, but can also contribute to the team with their research. Applicants who can show a good fit with supervising team have an advantage.

We may ask for a brief (Zoom or MS Teams) interview with you if we have further questions.

If your application is successful, we expect that your research will develop. It is likely that your supervisor(s) or those reviewing the work will suggest changes or developments to your research as your studies progress. Therefore, you will not be held to the ideas that you explain in your proposal during the course of your research.

  • How to write a good PG research proposal

Get ready to apply

In order to ensure full consideration of your application we ask that you submit your complete application including all supporting documentation.

We will ask you to add contact details for your referees. We will email them with information on how to upload their reference directly to your online application. Please allow plenty of time as we can only consider your application once we have received your full application, including your references.

  • Find out more about the application process

Consider your funding options

There are a number of funding opportunities both within the University and externally. Funding is highly competitive at PhD level.

  • More information on funding

Pre-application Checklist

To receive a pre-arrival checklist to help you with your application, please email the PPLS Postgraduate Office at

Please complete this checklist to keep track of your application preparations. Please submit the completed checklist as an additional document to your application.

Psychology at Edinburgh

Entry requirements.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a related subject.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

  • Entry requirements by country
  • English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced ( CAE ) / C2 Proficiency ( CPE ): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE : ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS , TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE , in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

  • UKVI list of majority English speaking countries

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

  • Approved universities in non-MESC

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Fees and costs

Tuition fees, scholarships and funding.

Only applications received by the Round 1 deadline will be considered for University of Edinburgh based funding.

You may be able to secure external funding outside of this deadline.

Featured funding

  • Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Funding
  • [College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Research Awards] ( )
  • [Edinburgh Doctoral College Scholarships] ( )

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

  • UK government and other external funding

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Search for funding

Further information

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 5002
  • Contact: [email protected]
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Central Campus
  • Programme: Psychology
  • School: Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences
  • College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Select your programme and preferred start date to begin your application.

PhD Psychology - 3 Years (Full-time)

Phd psychology - 6 years (part-time), application deadlines.

Only applications received by the Round 1 deadline will be considered for University of Edinburgh based funding. You may be able to secure external funding outside of this deadline.

We operate a gathered field approach to PhD applications.

This means that all complete applications which satisfy our minimum entry requirements will be held until the nearest deadline. The admissions panel will meet to consider all applications received together after that date.

Applications are held for processing over two deadlines:

(Revised 12 October 2023 to amend the application deadlines)

  • How to apply

You must submit two references with your application.

Please read through the ‘Important application information’ section on this page before applying.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

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PhD/MPhil Psychology

Course Enquiries

+44 131 451 8250

[email protected]

Heriot-Watt University’s mission is to create and exchange knowledge that benefits society, and in keeping with this, our psychology research examines and offers solutions for many different global challenges.

For example, it can help us understand how learners of different ages and with different levels of ability can be better supported, and show us how coaching, training and engagement can enhance performance, productivity or wellbeing.

Our research can also help to diagnose and support people with mental health conditions, and improve cognitive and psychological health and wellbeing across the life course.

Research in psychology at Heriot-Watt University is grouped by three main themes:

  • Cognition, brain and behaviour
  • Lifespan health and wellbeing
  • Work, society and environment.

Duration: Normally 3 Years (PhD) / 1.5 years (MPhil)

For staff profiles and a list of potential supervisors, please view: Psychology Staff List

Entry requirements

  • Fees and funding

Cognition, Brain and Behaviour

Our brains and cognitive abilities develop from childhood through to old age. Research within this theme explores those changes in healthy children and adults, as well as developmental conditions, dementia and stroke. Research spans from language to social cognition, including memory, motor control and body representation. A strong aspect of this theme is theoretically-informed translational interventions, making use of state-of-the-art multidisciplinary techniques such as robotics and virtual reality.

Lifespan Health and Wellbeing

Issues explored in psychology are inherently linked to wellbeing across the lifespan, affecting fields from education to health. Research in this theme explores health-promotion activities in children and adolescents, healthy ageing and mental health issues in developmental conditions.

Work, Society and Environment

Findings from psychology can impact people and society in a number of ways. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, research in this theme explores behaviour in the workplace, assessing risk in the environment, and interventions to improve workplace performance.

All applications will be reviewed within the department with a shortlisting decision made based on qualifications, the suitability of the research proposal and the availability of a supervisory team. Applicants must have the equivalent of a first or upper second class honours undergraduate degree in psychology or related discipline. A masters degree (with a dissertation mark of 65% or higher) or relevant research experience may also be required. Applicants who are unsure if their qualifications meet the minimum criteria should contact [email protected] . Please note that possession of the minimum qualifications does not guarantee shortlisting.

How to apply

Please submit your application via the online portal.

Please state clearly on your application that you are applying for a PhD scholarship and quote the relevant project Reference.

In order that your application can be processed, please ensure that all the supporting documents listed below are submitted with your application:

1.   Research Proposal (max. 1500 words)

On the front page of your research proposal, please ensure that you state the relevant project reference.

The research proposal should contain: an introduction or outline of the proposed topic; a statement of objectives and/or specific research questions; a brief summary of some of the relevant literature which supports the research objective(s); an indication of the intended research methodology; an indication of the theoretical structure and/or conceptual outline; a provisional timetable of the major phases of the research process; results expected from the research e.g. practical value of the research or possible contributions to knowledge or policy or methodology.

At this stage we are not looking for a definitive document but merely an indication that you have thought through most of the above issues.

Please note that work submitted may be subject to screening via plagiarism software.

2. Academic transcripts and degree certificates

Copies of full academic transcripts from all previous academic degree courses and copies of degree certificates for degrees already awarded.  If you are currently pursuing a degree course please provide all available marks to date.

3. English language requirements

If you have not already studied a degree programme that was taught and examined in the medium of English we require evidence of language proficiency. For IELTS: the minimum overall IELTS score is 6.5 with no score lower than 6.0 in Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.

Further information can be found on the UK Government's Knowledge of English pages.

4. References

If you have references available these should be submitted with your application.  If they are not currently available please ensure that you provide the names and contact details, including email addresses, of two academic referees on the application form.

Candidates should also submit a curriculum vitae.

Queries may be directed to [email protected]

  • Your residency 'status' is usually defined as the country where you have been ordinarily resident for the three years before the start of your course. Find out more about tuition fees .
  • Overseas includes applications from European Union countries who do not hold Pre-Settled or Settled status in the UK. Read more about the application process for EU nationals .

Additional fees information


We welcome self-funded PhD research candidates from around the world. The majority of academic supervisors are open to applications from self-funding students and potential candidates should match their application to the research expertise and interests of the psychology department.

If you are interested in research areas that are not advertised here, please look at our research webpages and contact staff working in your area of interest. We also welcome good quality self-funded research projects from industry. For self-funded research from industry, we may be able to cover a percentage of the fee via a scholarship.

Queries may be directed to Caroline Murray:  c.a.murray

Scholarships and bursaries

We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Over £6 million worth of opportunities are available in fee and stipend scholarships, and more than 400 students benefit from this support.

View our full range of research scholarships .

Additional scholarship information

The psychology department offers a number of research scholarships every year. These opportunities are advertised on our Postgraduate Research Scholarships page during the period from January to June.

Shortlisted candidates are then interviewed, and those awarded the scholarships would normally start in September or early October.

James Watt PhD Scholarships

Heriot-Watt University is inviting applications for PhD scholarships to undertake research training to PhD level in areas of research excellence in the School of Social Sciences as described in more detail below. The scholarships will be funded for three years and will follow standard RCUK conditions. They are open to UK and EU nationals and applicants should hold at least an upper second class honours degree in an appropriate science or engineering subject.

At this stage enquiries from interested students are sought and should indicate which project is being applied for, and include a curriculum vitae with details of two academic referees for preliminary screening.

Heriot-Watt University has an established reputation for world-class teaching and practical, leading-edge research, which has made us one of the top UK universities for science, technology, business and industry. The selected James Watt Scholars will be registered for a PhD degree at Heriot-Watt University on the University’s Edinburgh campus in the School of Social Sciences. Enquires should be sent by email to the lead supervisor of the project.

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Course type

Qualification, university name, phd psychology in edinburgh.

7 degrees at 2 universities in Edinburgh.

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PhD/MPhil Psychology

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Psychology PhD

The university of edinburgh.

  • 3 years Full time degree: £4,712 per year (UK)
  • 6 years Part time degree: £2,356 per year (UK)

Neuroscience (Biomedical Sciences - Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences) PhD

Informatics: ilcc: language processing, speech technology, information retrieval, cognition phd, integrative physiology (biomedical sciences - centre for discovery brain sciences) phd, clinical and health psychology phd, child life and health phd, course type:.

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Postgraduate psychology courses at University of Edinburgh

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Clinical and Health Psychology

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Mental Health in Children and Young People: Psychological Approaches

Counselling (interpersonal dialogue), performance psychology.

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Psychology of mental health (conversion), developmental cognitive science, social psychology, psychological therapies, psychology of language, psychological research, speech and language processing, mind, language and embodied cognition, evolution of language and cognition, cognitive science.

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Psychology, Doctorate / PhD in Edinburgh

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Thank you, your report has been submitted. We will deal with the issue as soon as possible. If you have any questions or would like to receive a follow-up, please send an email to [email protected] .

phd psychology edinburgh

PhD BSc(Hons) MA(Hons) Msc(Res) Psychology

2 in 5 applicants to this programme received an offer.

Data shown above is for entry in academic year 2020/21 (sources) .

Previous Years

Data sources.

  • FOI Request by Mr Burano. September 2015.
  • FOI Request by Taza. October 2017.
  • FOI Request by Beilei Xiang. January 2019.
  • FOI Request by Erina Nishii. August 2021.

The acceptance rate , or offer rate, represents the fraction of applicants who received an offer. Note that this will be generally lower the acceptances rates (acceptances divided by applicants) published by many other sources. This article explains it in more detail. The acceptances generally indicate the number of offer holders who accepted the offer and fulfilled its conditions. For some universities, however, it denotes the number of applicants who accepted the offer, regardless of whether they subsequently met its conditions.

Data Reliability

Unless otherwise noted, the data presented comes from the universities and is generally reliable. However, some of the differences between years and/or courses may be due to different counting methodologies or data gathering errors. This may especially be the case if there is a sharp difference from year to year. If the data does not look right, click the "Report" button located near the top of the page.


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