Psychology PhD

Key information

Full-time - 4 years

Start dates

October 2022
January 2023
April 2023

Part-time - 8 years

Start dates

October 2022
January 2023
April 2023

Why choose this programme

At Surrey, our research covers a wealth of human beliefs, behaviours and experiences investigating individuals across the lifespan to better understand child development, creativity, decision-making, the environment, food and consumer behaviour, gender and sexuality, health-related behaviour, neuroscience, prejudice, perception, physical and mental illness, and the very processes involved in thinking itself. 

Our team of researchers work in partnership with research councils (like the Economic and Social Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) and both EU and UK governmental departments, to ensure our research is relevant to society. From these collaborations, we’ve secured over £4 million in research grants. 

You’ll benefit from our expertise in qualitative and quantitative methodologies, subjective measures, and objective and biological assessments. We’ll train you in advanced and innovative research methods, teaching you how to use our state-of-the-art equipment, including our virtual reality (VR) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) software, preparing you for your career.

Virtual tour psychology media

A week in the life of a psychology PhD student

What you will study

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

Throughout your studies you’ll gain a solid grounding in research methods and improve your communication skills to effectively convey your findings. You’ll collect data and analyse this, completing a detailed literature review and then writing up your PhD thesis. Depending on your research project, data collection can take place in schools, hospitals, laboratories or online. 

Current students are researching topics including: 

  • Deficits in flexible thought in stroke aphasic patients 
  • How the natural environment, or representations of it, can be of benefit to individuals with mental health issues. 
  • How older people living with HIV perceive their health. 
  • If the pronouns ‘they/them’ can be used as genderless pronouns and what impact these may have on STEM subjects. 
  • Symptom perception and the cognitive and emotional factors impacting the symptom experience. 
  • The role of emotions in the psychology of uncertainty, information search and learning. 


Your final assessment 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’ll 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. 

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. 

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 research investigates:

  • The brain and behaviour, including changes across the lifespan, learning, training and rehabilitation, and the effects of modulators of plasticity.
  • Cognition, including the contribution of language, reason and decision making, and asymmetries in our thinking processes.
  • Development and learning, including attention and behaviour, emotional development in childhood, and neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We also focus on colour perception and cognition across developments in infants and children.
  • The environment, including when and how people interact with different types of environments and how these interactions affect both the quality of that environment and people’s own wellbeing.
  • Food and consumer behaviour, including attitudes towards healthy eating, the effect of claims and symbols on packaging, and the impact of food allergies when eating out.
  • Health psychology, including chronic conditions like heart disease and obesity, symptom perception, health behaviours such as diet and exercise, and pain and stress.
  • Social psychology, including discourse and language, interpersonal dynamics, self-identity, sexuality, and social interference and judgement.

Our academic staff

Throughout your studies you’ll have at least two supervisors from the School of Psychology, who’ll have scientific expertise relevant to your research project. Your supervisors will give you academic guidance and tuition, helping you develop your research ideas and plans, consider your theory and methods, and analyse your work. They’ll read and comment on your draft work, giving you honest and constructive feedback. They’ll 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 a minimum of an upper second-class honours degree (65 per cent or above) in psychology (or a related discipline) and a masters degree in a relevant subject with a pass of 65 per cent or above.

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.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.

PhD status will be confirmed following a satisfactory probationary period.


Start date: October 2022


UK £4,596

Overseas £21,100


UK £2,298

Overseas £10,600

Start date: January 2023


UK £4,596

Overseas £21,100


UK £2,298

Overseas £10,600

Start date: April 2023


UK £4,596

Overseas £21,100


UK £2,298

Overseas £10,600

For fees payable in 2022/23, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October 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 2022 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% 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. Find out more.


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

How to apply

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.

More 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 regulations, 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 generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) 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 more.

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