Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies

Research degrees

Male student in library

Develop new knowledge about the mind

Your research degree gives you the chance to investigate the topic that fascinates you in depth and reach a profound understanding.

You can develop new knowledge through your independent research for your thesis, and acquire new high-level skills, enhance your professional development and build new networks.

We offer a number of routes to study at doctoral level, including PhD by research and a taught PhD Refugee Care. Our active research community is full of PhD students and Post-Doctoral Fellows who, in addition to the staff, provide a stimulating and congenial environment.

Our staff include professors of psychoanalysis and Jungian psychology, and staff who represent many interests in psychoanalysis and other fields.


Explore our postgraduate research courses
Why choose us?
  • Four subjects in UK top 10 for research quality (Grade Point Average, Research Excellence Framework REF 2021).
  • Access to Freud's original letters and research for your studies.
  • Located within a centre of world-leading excellence for the social sciences (REF 2021).
"Not only has my research been published by a renowned publishing house, but I am leading new research that combines legal and psychological aspects in Italy within a transnational project."
Monica Luci Phd refugee care

Access to Freud's work

You can use Freud's original letters and papers in your work through the Freud Archive.

This collection of his work was donated to Essex and presides in the University's library. You also have access to our own library of specialist books and journals, to help with your learning and research.

Apply to study with us

Read our guidelines to find out more about how to apply:

Selection Process


The main criterion is that we need a good research proposal from you. You will need to work onthis independently in the first instance. You might want to make initial contact with either:

Please note, however, that any preliminary conversation cannot delve too deeply into the details of your proposal.


When your proposal is ready for our consideration, please send this, along with your CV, to the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr Emilia Halton-Hernandez. Your CV should indicate your previous academic achievements, their relevance to your research interest, and your psychoanalytic knowledge. We would also like to know if you intend to study full‐time, part‐time or by distance learning.

Not everyone starts with a high level of psychoanalytic knowledge. You should, however, indicate why a psychoanalytic doctorate is most appropriate. If the proposal is eventually accepted, you will need to discuss with the Director of Graduate Studies (and a maybe a potential supervisor) how you might develop sufficient psychoanalytic knowledge before starting the degree. This discussion will most likely take place during your interview.

You will work most closely with your academic supervisor and you need to give some thought as to who would be most appropriate from our list of academic staff. In your proposal, you will need to clarify who you would like to work with and the reason(s) why he/she is best suited to guide you through this process. Not all staff will have vacancies at the time you are applying

Your proposal will be reviewed by your potential supervisor and one other member of academic staff. We aim to complete this first stage of the process within 6 weeks of receiving your CV and proposal.

At this point, you may be asked to revise your proposal based on the feedback you have received from the readers. If this is the case, you will have one chance to submit a revised proposal.

If you have been asked to submit a revised proposal, a final decision on its suitability will be made once the readers have assessed it.


The formal application will only take place after your proposal has been accepted in principle. If successful, the Director of Graduate Studies will contact you, inviting you to complete the process:

  • You will need to make your application online,
  • Provide transcripts of previous degree certificates,
  • Provide two references,
  • Provide the results of your English Language test (IELTS) if you are not a native English speaker,
  • You will be invited for an interview with your supervisor, which takes place during the formal application stage.

Please note: Students for doctoral research are initially registered for an MPhil, but PhD status will be confirmed, normally in the second year, as long as your work is of a sufficient standard to continue at doctoral level. We hope this is clear and helpful, but if you have any questions, please ask in our office, by email, or telephone (; +44 (0)1206 873745 or 874969)

Proposal guidelines


The main criterion is that we need a good research proposal from you. You will need to work onthis independently in the first instance. You might want to make initial contact with either:

Please note, however, that any preliminary conversation cannot delve too deeply into the details of your proposal.

Preparing your PhD thesis research proposal  

Topics for PhD research should fall within the wide spectrum of psychoanalytic enquiry. They may examine any suitable phenomenon from a psychoanalytic (or analytical psychology) perspective using appropriate methodology (typically, theoretical, historical or empirical); they may also focus on psychoanalysis or analytical psychology as an object of enquiry.

Theses should represent an original contribution to the field. The length of the thesis may not exceed 80,000 words (excluding notes, appendices and references).


The proposal would normally include the following components, depending on the nature of the project:

Statement of the research question: What is the relevance of and the rationale for choosing this area of enquiry? Why is the research question posed in the way it is? Does the candidate have any particular motivation for posing this question or does he/she possess any expertise in this area?

A focused introduction: This should include a brief critical review of the literature relevant to the research question. What are the main texts and trends informing the thinking which has led to the formation of this research question?

Hypotheses: What are the main hypotheses or lines of enquiry? Within what general theoretical and/or historical framework will this research be carried out? What specific contribution from psychoanalytic/Jungian perspectives is relevant to this piece of research?

Research design and Methodology: How are the main hypotheses going to be investigated or researched? An outline of the methodology, research design and procedure should be given. In addition, the anticipated structure of the thesis (i.e. sections and chapters) should be outlined.

Pilot work and ethical issues: In proposals for empirical research, details will need to be provided of the proposed pilot work, the sequence of the various investigations and the research instruments which are intended to be used. In addition, the relevant methods of analysing the data will need to be discussed. Candidates should bear in mind that approval by an ethics research committee will be required before any collection of data.

Timetable: An outline of the approximate timetable of the various stages of the proposed research should be given.