Postgraduate study

Psychology PhD

Awards: PhD

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Psychology

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

According to Research Excellence Framework, over 80% of our research is rated as outstanding in its reach and significance.

For more information, please go to:

Developmental Science

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, and computational modelling.

Human Cognitive Neuroscience

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

Areas of research include:

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

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

  • fMRI
  • fNIRS
  • EEG
  • brain stimulation
  • eye-tracking
  • motion tracking
  • computational modelling
  • clinical assessment

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

Language, Cognition and Communication

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
  • production
  • dialogue
  • bilingualism
  • language development
  • the cognitive neuroscience of language

Differential Psychology (individual differences)

The study of individual differences involves the questions of 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 because of its long history of world-class individual differences research and teaching. Our researchers focus on a broad range of topics, including the measurement, causes and consequences of personality traits and intelligence, positive psychology, primate behaviour, paranormal beliefs, development, ageing and psychopathology.

Social Psychology

The Social Psychology group examines how we think about the self, others, and groups. The research group cover qualitative and quantitative methodologies, spanning processes like identity, relationships, crowds, and inter-group relations. We employ a range of methods such as questionnaires, interviews, social cognitive techniques, observation, and physiological measures.

Currently, there are no mandatory courses for PhD students, although many students audit various courses and take part in workshops and other modes of training, within the department and beyond.

You will be assigned at least two supervisors who provide expert academic guidance on their research. It is expected that at least some of your research will be published in peer-reviewed journals. You are assigned to a research group, which hosts regular activities, such as journal clubs.

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

Psychology houses extensive facilities including several eye-trackers, EEG recording equipment, fNIRS recorder, celspot recording equipment and a suite of dedicated computers running experimental software.

These entry requirements are for the 2022/23 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2023/24 academic year will be published on 3 October 2022.

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:

English language requirements

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

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.

(*Revised 17 November 2021 to add accepted PTE Academic qualifications.)

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:

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.

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:

Read our general information on tuition fees and studying costs:

Featured funding

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.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD

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:

Round Application deadline Places awarded
1 22 November End of January
2 14 March End of May

First deadline: Monday 22 November

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

The outcome of applications will be confirmed by the end of January 2022. This is in order to meet the external funding deadlines.

Final deadline: Monday 14 March

The outcome of these applications will be confirmed by the end of May.

Research area

It is often a good idea to contact potential supervisors prior to making an application, and we strongly encourage you to do so, and to indicate potential supervisors in your application.


You will be asked to add contact details for your referees. We will email them with information on how to upload their reference directly to your online application.

Alternatively, referees can email their comments to:

Research proposal

In addition to the supporting documents requested on the application form, you should include a research proposal.

Your prospective supervisors, in conjunction with the relevant subject Postgraduate Adviser, will consider your research proposal to assess whether they are able to take you on as a student.

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

Further information

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD