Cognitive Psychology / Neuropsychology - PhD
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Study psychology at postgraduate level and you become part of a diverse, dynamic and supportive community in which to research and learn. Cognition and neuroscience research at Kent focuses on visual cognition, attention and memory, and language and communication.
A PhD is a doctorate of philosophy based on mostly independent study. It is assessed formally on the basis of one piece of work, a dissertation (or thesis), that reports your original thought and research. You must also successfully complete all required training.
Choosing a topic
Although sometimes we have specific PhD research projects related to funding awards, most of our research students choose their own research topics. Once you have decided on the nature of your project, it is important to contact a staff member whose expertise matches your area of interest with a CV and research proposal to discuss your proposed project and potential supervisory arrangements.
You then work with your proposed supervisor on refining your research proposal which provides the starting point for your subsequent research.
During your research, you are supported by your supervisory team, normally comprising one main supervisor and a secondary supervisor. Your will have agreed your main supervisor, based on their compatibility with your research interests, prior to registration. Typically, you have one formal meeting per month with your main supervisor to discuss your work and progress (bi-monthly for part-time students).
Through the Graduate School, you have access to training in research-specific and broader transferable skills, including academic writing, career management and presentation skills.
PhD students in receipt of a teaching studentship (GTA), must also complete the Associate Fellowship Scheme (AFS). The AFS registration period is one year.
The Statistics and Methodology module from our taught MSc programme is available for doctoral students who have not already completed an advanced statistics and methods course.
The School of Psychology
Kent's School of Psychology conducts both basic and applied research in several areas, and we are highly regarded as a leading European centre for postgraduate research. We have a strong international reputation in cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, forensic psychology and social psychology. This is complemented by our strengths in organisational psychology and political psychology.
Some of our PhD students are self-funded, and others are funded by grants or awards either from the School, the University, UK research councils or their countries of origin. The School has a strong track record of attracting ESRC research studentship funding, which involves partnerships with external organisations such as the Anne Frank Trust.
Before making your application, you are required to contact and confirm supervision with a staff member within the School of Psychology. Please note, if this is not completed and noted on your application, our admissions team will not be able to process your application until supervision is confirmed.
A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree with:
a. Adequate level of academic achievement
A final degree classification (grade average) of at least a 2.1 or Merit in the UK system (the second highest classification after First/Distinction). Results from institutions in other countries will be assessed individually according to this standard.
Your existing degree does not have to be in psychology as long as the statistics training requirement is met (please see below) and your proposed supervisor and the Director of Graduate Studies (Research) are satisfied with the suitability of your academic background. If it is in a different subject, or if it is not accredited by the British Psychological Society, please ask your academic referee to complete our Pro-forma for graduate research programmes and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
b. Statistics and research methods training in the social sciences
This programme includes a one-year statistics sequence which you must normally pass in order to receive your award. The teaching assumes that you are familiar with the following topics:
- Means and standard deviations
- Distributions, hypothesis testing and statistical significance
- Correlation coefficients
- Variables and measurement
Therefore, your existing degree transcript should note that you have taken and passed a minimum of one term each in statistics and social science research methods courses (or two terms of a joint statistics and research methods course).
It is possible to be exempted from the statistics training at Kent if there is sufficient evidence that you have already completed equivalent training in a previous qualification.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.
English language entry requirements
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Need help with English?
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Duration: 3 to 4 years full-time; 5 to 6 years part-time
The 2023/24 annual tuition fees for this course are:
- Home full-time £4712
- EU full-time £18000
- International full-time £18000
- Home part-time £2356
- EU part-time £9000
- International part-time £9000
For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.
For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact email@example.com.
Your fee status
The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.
General additional costs
Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.
Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:
- University and external funds
- Scholarships specific to the academic school delivering this programme.
We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.Search scholarships
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, over 80% of our Psychology research was classified as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ for environment and publications.
Following the REF 2021, Psychology at Kent was ranked in the Top 50 in the world and 6th in the UK in the Times Higher Education.
The School of Psychology is highly regarded as a leading European centre for postgraduate research, with an international reputation for excellence in social psychology (including group processes and intergroup relations); cognition and neuroscience; developmental psychology; and forensic psychology. We have staff who can supervise research degrees in all of these areas plus organisational psychology and political psychology. The research environment is designed to sustain a strong, vibrant research culture, encourage collaboration, and unite staff and students with shared research interests. Our themes ensure critical mass and create a highly energetic and stimulating intellectual climate.
Research activity is supported by:
- centrally coordinated provision and use of laboratories and technical support
- selection of speakers for our weekly departmental research colloquia
- weekly research meetings within each theme
- developing, reporting and analysing research, and hosting our many visiting scholars
- several monthly small meeting series on specific areas of cross-cutting research (such as forensic, social development, emotion, social cognition and health).
Our academics have received prestigious editorial appointments and both national and international awards. Many leading international social psychologists are affiliated with the group, reflecting the strong reputation of social psychology at Kent.
Our work is funded by a variety of British and international sources including the European Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, National Science Foundation, European Commission, Home Office, Department of Trade and Industry, Nuffield Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Our researchers also engage in consultancy work for businesses and the government.
Our research covers all areas of social psychology, including:
- prejudice and discrimination
- equality, identity, diversity and change
- justice and morality
- attitudes and decision making
- status, leadership and power
- conspiracies and social movements
- security and risk
- social influence
- culture and social interaction
Much of our research is coordinated through the Centre for the Study of Group Processes.
Cognition and Neuroscience
Visual cognition, attention and memory
Research on this topic focuses primarily on the role of vision and visual perception in human performance. The aim of this work is to identify the cognitive processes and neurological mechanisms that underlie various visual tasks. Studies with neurologically healthy volunteers examine issues such as:
- face recognition and identification
- eyewitness testimony
- person detection
- emotion processing
- episodic memory
- pattern and motion recognition.
Our research also examines a range of psychological disorders, including unilateral visual neglect, addiction, dementia and persistent vegetative state. We are interested in examining the cognitive nature of these disorders, which includes assessing attentional biases, visual experiences and neurological activity. Much of our work also has an applied motivation, for example helping to develop better therapies for people with brain injury.
Language and communication
Research in this group examines various aspects of semantic, pragmatic, morphological and syntactic understanding.
Research questions on adult populations include:
- the role of executive functions in successful language use and communication
- how language influences attentional processes and perspective taking
- anomaly detection in reading
- brain structural and functional correlates of grammatical processing.
Our work on developmental populations examines issues such as:
- how children learn to understand and produce sentences in their own language
- how children learn conversational conventions and self-repair
- developmental disorders of communication, including autism spectrum disorders and dyslexia
- bilingual language acquisition and processing.
This research group has links with researchers in the School of European Culture and Languages, as part of the Centre for Language and Linguistics.
Forensic psychology research at Kent and all forensic-related teaching operates through our Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology (CORE-FP).
Forensic psychology seeks to understand:
- the psychological processes underlying offending behaviour (including group processes)
- the reduction and supervision of offending behaviour (i.e. rehabilitation, treatment and management of community risk)
- victim responses to offending
- the mechanisms underlying the criminal justice system more generally (i.e. jury decision making and the courts)
- attitudes to offenders and offender reintegration in society.
Our academics are represented in editorships and editorial boards of many major journals in forensic and applied psychology. Many are Chartered Forensic Psychologists who assess and treat offenders and evaluate offender rehabilitation programmes. Thus we have strong links with the UK Prison Service, the NHS, the Police, and other bodies involved in forensic related services and activities.
Our research is funded by various national and international sources, which include the British Academy, Economic and Social Research Council, the Home Office, Leverhulme, the Ministry of Justice and the Nuffield Foundation.
Areas of forensic psychology research that we are currently working on include:
- bullying in prisons
- prison gang behaviour
- jury decision-making
- child sexual offending
- rape proclivity
- female sexual offending
- theories of offender rehabilitation
- sexual harassment
- violence, aggression and alcohol
- infra-humanisation of offenders.
Other areas of research include social cognition, social and moral emotion, and group process theory, all of which are applied to the study of offending behaviour or court process issues.
Our research interests include:
- how children learn to communicate
- social cognition (eg Theory of Mind)
- peer interactions
- understanding prejudice
- infant cognitive development
- developmental psychopathology (eg Autism)
- conversation analysis
We have excellent links with the wider community. Members of the Developmental Psychology group are committed to sharing their research findings and methodologies with the public. We hold highly successful large-scale events that bring together practitioners, policy makers, and academics to share knowledge and develop collaborations. Our outreach events are typically interactive, fun, and informative. They range from ‘Play and Learn’ days for young families, to workshops for school children on topical issues such as cyberbullying and happiness.
A central hub for our research and outreach activity is the Kent Child Development Unit.
The School of Psychology currently includes two formally constituted research centres, representing areas of concentration and excellence in research.
Centre for the Study of Group Processes
The Centre includes a thriving international research community, involving twelve tenured academic staff, as well as its research fellows and PhD students. The Centre attracts visits and research collaborations from major international researchers, many of whom have formal affiliations with the Centre.
Over the years, CSGP has attracted substantial externally funded research on a wide range of topics. It has also recruited excellent MSc and PhD students and its members teach for the School’s MSc degrees in Social and Applied Psychology, Political Psychology and Organisational and Business Psychology. The Centre also edits an international journal, Group Processes and Intergroup Relations (Sage Publications).
Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology
The Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology strives to be the leader in research that informs practice and policy. The vast range of topics covered by the centre staff is indicative of the centre’s facilitative research culture. As a result, members of the centre team have been the beneficiaries of research funding for new and innovative research.
Staff research interests
Kent’s world-class academics provide research students with excellent supervision. The academic staff in this school and their research interests are shown below. You are strongly encouraged to contact the school to discuss your proposed research and potential supervision prior to making an application. Please note, it is possible for students to be supervised by a member of academic staff from any of Kent’s schools, providing their expertise matches your research interests. Use our ‘find a supervisor’ search to search by staff member or keyword.
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Our postgraduate students commonly go into the fields of health, teaching or further education. For instance, many of our graduates take up roles as assistant psychologists in the NHS with a view to becoming a professional clinical or forensic psychologist. Upon completing our Master’s courses, graduates have also pursued academic careers.
The programmes we offer help you to develop general critical, analytic and problem-solving skills that can be applied in a wide range of settings.
The School has excellent facilities for both laboratory and field research, including advanced laboratory and teaching facilities. Resources include:
- three fully equipped colour video laboratories for face-to-face group research, together with ten satellite laboratories connected via remote-control CCTV and two-way audio links
- 58 research laboratories, all containing networked computers
- a further 80 PCs available exclusively to Psychology students, including a designated MSc computer-networked room providing full email and internet access
- shared offices and a personal, networked computer for research students
- a full range of computer-based experiment generators and productivity software installed on all the School’s systems
- an upgraded laboratory suite with equipment for digital sound and vision recording
- four Brain Vision EEG labs (including one for simultaneous TMS & EEG, and one portable EEG system)
- twp Trans-cranial direct current electrical stimulators (GVS, Magstim)
- Neuroconn tDCS/tACS electrical stimulator with facilities for simultaneous EEG
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) PowerMAG Research 100 High Frequency Stimulator
- two Tobii eye-trackers (Tobii X120 & Tobii T60 XL portable)
- one Arrington eye-tracker
- a suite equipped with Bio-Pac recorders to allow for a range of physiological measures to be taken during stressful and other tasks
- specialist laboratories equipped for face processing and vision research
- CRS ColorCal II Colorimeter/Photometer
- CRS Audiofile for synchronized audio-visual presentation
- numerous PC and Mac labs to run behavioural experiments
- Mirror Stereoscopes for dichoptic presentation and stereo vision research
- immersive virtual reality lab (including integrated eye-tracker)
- a social cognition laboratory
- creation in 2010 of the Kent Child Development Unit and research team focusing on how children learn about their world, about other people and about the language they hear around them.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Child Development; Clinical Psychology Review. Details of recently published books can be found within the staff research interests.
Researcher Development Programme
Kent's Graduate School co-ordinates the Researcher Development Programme for research students, which includes workshops focused on research, specialist and transferable skills. The programme is mapped to the national Researcher Development Framework and covers a diverse range of topics, including subject-specific research skills, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking and teamworking, and career management skills.
Learn more about the application process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.
You will be able to choose your preferred year of entry once you have started your application. You can also save and return to your application at any time.
Apply for entry to:
United Kingdom/EU enquiries
PhD at Canterbury
T: +44 (0)1227 768896
For informal enquiries please contact HSS Admissions
International student enquiries
T: +44 (0)1227 823254