PhD/MPhil Psychology

The course

Full-time, Part-time
Course type
Entry date



Heriot-Watt University’s mission is to create and exchange knowledge that benefits society, and in keeping with this, our psychology research examines and offers solutions for many different global challenges.

For example, it can help us understand how learners of different ages and with different levels of ability can be better supported, and show us how coaching, training and engagement can enhance performance, productivity or wellbeing.

Our research can also help to diagnose and support people with mental health conditions, and improve cognitive and psychological health and wellbeing across the life course.

Research in psychology at Heriot-Watt University is grouped by three main themes:

  • Cognition, brain and behaviour
  • Lifespan health and wellbeing
  • Work, society and environment.

Duration: Normally 3 Years (PhD) / 1.5 years (MPhil)

For staff profiles and a list of potential supervisors, please view: Psychology Staff List


Cognition, Brain and Behaviour

Our brains and cognitive abilities develop from childhood through to old age. Research within this theme explores those changes in healthy children and adults, as well as developmental conditions, dementia and stroke. Research spans from language to social cognition, including memory, motor control and body representation. A strong aspect of this theme is theoretically-informed translational interventions, making use of state-of-the-art multidisciplinary techniques such as robotics and virtual reality.

Lifespan Health and Wellbeing

Issues explored in psychology are inherently linked to wellbeing across the lifespan, affecting fields from education to health. Research in this theme explores health-promotion activities in children and adolescents, healthy ageing and mental health issues in developmental conditions.

Work, Society and Environment

Findings from psychology can impact people and society in a number of ways. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, research in this theme explores behaviour in the workplace, assessing risk in the environment, and interventions to improve workplace performance.

Entry requirements

All applications will be reviewed within the department with a shortlisting decision made based on qualifications, the suitability of the research proposal and the availability of a supervisory team. Applicants must have the equivalent of a first or upper second class honours undergraduate degree in psychology or related discipline. A masters degree (with a dissertation mark of 65% or higher) or relevant research experience may also be required. Applicants who are unsure if their qualifications meet the minimum criteria should contact Please note that possession of the minimum qualifications does not guarantee shortlisting.

How to apply

Please submit your application via the online portal.

Please state clearly on your application that you are applying for a PhD scholarship and quote the relevant project Reference.

In order that your application can be processed, please ensure that all the supporting documents listed below are submitted with your application:

1.   Research Proposal (max. 1500 words)

On the front page of your research proposal, please ensure that you state the relevant project reference.

The research proposal should contain: an introduction or outline of the proposed topic; a statement of objectives and/or specific research questions; a brief summary of some of the relevant literature which supports the research objective(s); an indication of the intended research methodology; an indication of the theoretical structure and/or conceptual outline; a provisional timetable of the major phases of the research process; results expected from the research e.g. practical value of the research or possible contributions to knowledge or policy or methodology.

At this stage we are not looking for a definitive document but merely an indication that you have thought through most of the above issues.

Please note that work submitted may be subject to screening via plagiarism software.

2. Academic transcripts and degree certificates

Copies of full academic transcripts from all previous academic degree courses and copies of degree certificates for degrees already awarded.  If you are currently pursuing a degree course please provide all available marks to date.

3. English language requirements

If you have not already studied a degree programme that was taught and examined in the medium of English we require evidence of language proficiency. For IELTS: the minimum overall IELTS score is 6.5 with no score lower than 6.0 in Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.

Further information can be found on the UK Government's Knowledge of English pages.

4. References

If you have references available these should be submitted with your application.  If they are not currently available please ensure that you provide the names and contact details, including email addresses, of two academic referees on the application form.

Candidates should also submit a curriculum vitae.

Queries may be directed to


Tuition fees for entry
Status Full-time Part-time
Overseas £ 19056 £ 9528


  1. Your residency 'status' is usually defined as the country where you have been ordinarily resident for the three years before the start of your course. Find out more about tuition fees.
  2. Overseas includes applications from European Union countries who do not hold Pre-Settled or Settled status in the UK. Read more about the application process for EU nationals.

Additional fees information


We welcome self-funded PhD research candidates from around the world. The majority of academic supervisors are open to applications from self-funding students and potential candidates should match their application to the research expertise and interests of the psychology department.

If you are interested in research areas that are not advertised here, please look at our research webpages and contact staff working in your area of interest. We also welcome good quality self-funded research projects from industry. For self-funded research from industry, we may be able to cover a percentage of the fee via a scholarship.

Queries may be directed to Caroline Murray:

Scholarships and bursaries

We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Over £6 million worth of opportunities are available in fee and stipend scholarships, and more than 400 students benefit from this support.

View our full range of research scholarships.

Additional scholarship information

The psychology department offers a number of research scholarships every year. These opportunities are advertised on our Postgraduate Research Scholarships page during the period from January to June.

Shortlisted candidates are then interviewed, and those awarded the scholarships would normally start in September or early October.

James Watt PhD Scholarships

Heriot-Watt University is inviting applications for PhD scholarships to undertake research training to PhD level in areas of research excellence in the School of Social Sciences as described in more detail below. The scholarships will be funded for three years and will follow standard RCUK conditions. They are open to UK and EU nationals and applicants should hold at least an upper second class honours degree in an appropriate science or engineering subject.

At this stage enquiries from interested students are sought and should indicate which project is being applied for, and include a curriculum vitae with details of two academic referees for preliminary screening.

Heriot-Watt University has an established reputation for world-class teaching and practical, leading-edge research, which has made us one of the top UK universities for science, technology, business and industry. The selected James Watt Scholars will be registered for a PhD degree at Heriot-Watt University on the University’s Edinburgh campus in the School of Social Sciences. Enquires should be sent by email to the lead supervisor of the project.