Health Psychology PhD

Key information

Full-time - 4 years

Start dates:
January 2024
April 2024
July 2024
October 2024

Part-time - 8 years

Start dates:
January 2024
April 2024
July 2024
October 2024

Why choose this programme

  • Contribute to a rapidly evolving area of/ practice and research that is becoming increasingly relevant to modern society
  • Benefit from our expertise in qualitative and quantitative methodologies (using  subjective measures,  objective measures, and biological assessments of health)
  • Conduct research in our multi-million-pound facilities
  • Train in advanced and innovative research methods to prepare for your career
  • Develop your consultancy skills by completing a work placement
  • Upon successful completion of this PhD, gain the Stage 2 requirements needed to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to work with patients as a practitioner psychologist (health psychologist).
Postgraduate Research at Surrey

A week in the life of a postgraduate research psychology student

What you will study

During your Stage 2 training you will work independently to evidence the five core competencies, including:

  • Generic professional
  • Psychological interventions
  • Consultancy
  • Research
  • Teaching and training.

You will gather evidence of competency in these five core areas for your portfolio.

In your first year you will focus on the design of your PhD and complete four compulsory training courses covering quantitative and qualitative research methods, professional academic skills, and teaching and training. You will also familiarise yourself with relevant literature, create a research plan, develop your methodological and analytic skills, and complete your first study.

You will develop research methods and improve your communication skills to effectively convey your findings. You will collect and analyse data, complete a detailed literature review and then write up your PhD thesis. Depending on your research area, data collection can take place in schools, hospitals, laboratories or online. 

Throughout your registration you will also work on your Stage 2 competencies by applying the knowledge you covered at Stage 1 (your MSc in Health Psychology) alongside working on your PhD. Your PhD will partly fulfil the research competency and may also fulfil some of the other competencies, depending on the research studies. The other competencies will need to be completed with additional studies or the placement.

Our current students are researching topics including:

  • Factors associate with prostate cancer screening
  • Cognitive, emotional and physiological factors implicated in the recovery-from-work process
  • Symptom perception and the cross over between physical and mental symptoms
  • The role of illness-related rumination in psychological and physical health outcomes in those living with cancer
  • Weight bias and weight management.


You will have a confirmation assessment to formally review your project. If you're a full-time student, this will take place around 12-15 months into your studies or 24-30 months if you’re studying part-time. You’ll be required to submit a written report and successfully complete an oral examination.

Your final assessment for your PhD will be based on the presentation of your research in a written thesis, which will be discussed in a viva examination with at least two examiners. You have the option of preparing your thesis as a monograph (one large volume in chapter form) or in publication format (including chapters written for publication), subject to the approval of your supervisors.

You will also submit your Stage 2 Health Psychology portfolio to reflect the work completed for the required competencies. This will be completed with the support of Dr Bridget Dibb and will be evaluated by an external examiner.

Professional recognition

PHD - British Psychological Society (BPS)
Accredited against the requirements for the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) of the British Psychological Society (BPS).

PHD - Health and Care Professions Council, the (HCPC)
Approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) for the purpose of providing eligibility to apply for registration with the HCPC as an operating department practitioner.


As part of your training, you’ll complete a work placement, giving you the opportunity to develop your consultancy skills.

Teaching methods

You will be taught through a combination of:

  • Seminars
  • Research
  • A work placement
  • Individual study.

Progress reviews

In addition to the confirmation process, you’ll have six-monthly progress reviews with your supervisors. These meetings are an opportunity to reflect on your progress, discuss successes and challenges and set targets for the next six months. These reviews will be monitored by postgraduate research directors and recorded on your student record.

You’ll also have one formal meeting with your supervisors every month and can expect to have more frequent meetings between these. The regularity of these will depend on the nature and stage of your project.


Each year we run a postgraduate research conference where you’ll be able to present your work and network with fellow researchers. You can also attend external conferences that are relevant to your area of research.

Careers and graduate prospects

On successful completion of this PhD, you’ll have the Stage 2 requirements needed to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to work as a Health Psychologist. You’ll also have the requirements needed for the Graduate Basis of Chartered Membership of the British Psychological Society (BPS).

Research support

The professional development of postgraduate researchers is supported by the Doctoral College, which provides training in essential skills through its Researcher Development Programme of workshops, mentoring and coaching. A dedicated postgraduate careers and employability team will help you prepare for a successful career after the completion of your PhD.

Research themes

Our Health Psychology research group has four broad research areas:

  • Chronic conditions including obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and brain injury
  • Health behaviours and behaviours change including eating, exercise and sleep
  • Risk appreciation, governance and policy processes including food contaminants and toxicants, smoking, genetic conditions and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Health, stress and fatigue including strategies for managing work-life balance and stress as experienced by members of the emergency services.

Our academic staff

For the research component of your PhD, you’ll have two supervisors from the School of Psychology.

For the Stage 2 elements, you’ll be supervised and supported by registered Health Psychologist and Chartered Psychologist, Dr Bridget Dibb. All your supervisors will give you academic guidance and tuition, help you develop your research ideas and plans, consider your theory and methods, and analyse your work. They will read and comment on your draft work, giving you honest and constructive feedback. They will also provide you with pastoral support and advice, referring you to more specialist services where necessary.

Research facilities

Our facilities have recently undergone a £5 million investment, giving you access to the latest equipment, including a four-room virtual reality suite to simulate real-life scenarios, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, where you can perform neuroimaging and observe the brain in action, and two observation laboratories.

With our equipment you can conduct experiments using electroencephalography (EEG), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). You'll also be able to monitor eye tracking and physiological measures such as earlobe temperature, heart rate and galvanic skin response, in our laboratories and remotely, using mobile data loggers.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold an upper second-class (2:1) UK degree (65 per cent or above) in psychology (or a related discipline).

Students must also:

  • Be a graduate member of the British Psychological Society (BPS) or hold the Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC)
  • Hold the BPS Stage 1 Qualification in Health Psychology (e.g. MSc Health Psychology).

International entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6 in each individual category.

View the other English language qualifications that we accept.

If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

View the other English language qualifications that we accept.

If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

Application requirements

Applicants are advised to contact potential supervisors before they submit an application via the website. Please refer to section two of our application guidance.

After registration

Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants:

  • Meeting the expected entry requirements
  • Being shortlisted through the application screening process
  • Completing a successful interview
  • Providing suitable references.


Start date: January 2024





Start date: April 2024





Start date: July 2024





Start date: October 2024


To be confirmed


To be confirmed

For fees payable in 2023/24, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than September will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).

Overseas students applying for 2023 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4 per cent rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.

Additional costs

There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey.


A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.

Apply online

If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, you should enter the details of the specific project that you wish to apply for rather than your own research proposal.

Read our application guidance for further information on the application process.

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees. The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

Terms and conditions

When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and procedures, and our terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are provided in two stages: first when we make an offer and second when students who have accepted their offers register to study at the University. View our offer terms and conditions and our registration terms and conditions (PDF) for the 2023/24 academic year, as a guide as to what to expect.
Please note: our offer terms and conditions will be available in the September of the calendar year prior to the year in which you begin your studies. Our registration terms and conditions will vary to take into account specifics of your course.


This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the academic year to which it applies. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read our full disclaimer.

Course location and contact details

Campus location

Stag Hill

Stag Hill is the University's main campus and where the majority of our courses are taught. 

University of Surrey Admissions

Contact Admissions Team


University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7XH