Department of Psychology

Research Degrees

Professor Paul Hibbard stands on the right of the shot, his hands reaching out to adjust a VR headset that a person to the left of the photo is wearing.

Explore the science behind the mind

We are top 20 in the UK for research (based on Grade Point Average) with 90% of our research classed as 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent' (REF 2014).

We have excellent research facilities including well-equipped, purpose built laboratories in the Centre for Brain Science, and are located in a friendly campus environment.

If you wish to study for a PhD then you will initially be enrolled on a combined MPhil/PhD pathway. In your second year of study, depending on your progress, a decision will be made as to whether you will proceed towards an MPhil or a PhD.

Our department is recognised by the ESRC as providing excellent research training. If you are an MPhil or PhD student then you will take two taught modules in research management and quantitative data analysis.


Explore our postgraduate research degrees
Why choose us?
  • 90% of our research is classed as 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent' (REF 2014).
  • We are a member of the South East Network for Social Sciences (SeNSS) Doctoral Training Partnership.
  • We have excellent facilities, such as laboratories in our purpose built Centre for Brain Science.

So, what do we have to offer?

More than a PhD

Essex offers three types of postgraduate research degree.

A Master of Science by Dissertation (MSD) is a one-year research degree, sitting at the same level as an MSc. You will carry out independent research on a topic of your choice, with an academic supervisor. At the end you will write up your research and defend it in an oral exam known as a viva.

An MSD is an ideal degree if you are considering a research degree without the longer commitment of a PhD. However it does not preclude you from undertaking a PhD in the future, and if your research is progressing well you may be able to apply to upgrade to a PhD.

An MPhil is a two year research degree, on a topic of your choice with a supervisor. You will initially be enrolled on an MPhil if you apply for a PhD. If your research is progressing well then you will be changed to a PhD in your second year. You can opt to stay on the MPhil track, in which case you will finish your research and write up at the end of the two years, and will still have a viva.

A PhD is a minimum of three years. You will carry out research in to your chosen area of expertise, which will be written up in to a thesis and defended in your viva.

Professional development support

As a postgraduate research student you will have access to our innovative scheme Proficio.

Depending on your degree type you will have access to funding ranging from £1500 to £2500, with a portion of this money can only be spent on conference attendance.

The rest can be spent on training courses to help you with your professional development. Most courses are offered by the university and include topics such as public engagement, influence and impact, specialist software, and writing your thesis. You may also apply to use some funding for external workshops, which will be reviewed by the Director of Research Training.

By utilising these courses you can develop skills that will help you as an academic, or that are transferable to non-academic roles.

Excellent PhD completion rates

We take pride in our high completion rate. We achieve this in part by ensuring that you follow a clear path to completion in three years if you are studying full-time. We do this by setting specific appropriate milestones at the end of your first and second years. You will also find yourself working in an enthusiastic community of research students who will provide peer support.

South East Network for Social Sciences (SENSS) Doctoral Training Partnership

Our department is part of the ESRC-funded South East Network for Social Sciences (SENSS) Doctoral Training Partnership psychology pathway. This recognises not only our research, but the excellent research training that we offer students and early career researchers. It also gives our PhD applicants access to SeNSS-funded studentships, which are advertised through the year.

You will be joining a Department with a strong commitment to research, covering many areas of empirical psychology. The research community includes academic staff, research fellows, research officers and postgraduates engaged on many research projects.

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“My best memory, so far, was when I was told my first paper was accepted into a journal, it was such an achievement. Once I have completed my PhD, I would love to become a lecturer. Essex is one of the leading universities for research, so completing a research degree here will stand me in very good stead when I start applying for jobs.”
Rachel Grenfell-Essam PhD Psychology
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