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PhD (Course Code BLPC22)


The PhD degree is a minimum of three years of full-time research with an individual supervisor followed by examination of a research thesis in an oral examination. This is the principal research degree offered in the Department of Psychology and the great majority of our students are registered for this degree.

At the end of their first year of study students are required to complete a satisfactory First Year Report and Viva. A brief report (without viva) is required at the end of the second year and third year.

All candidates are expected to take part in the Department’s Graduate Education Programme and the Graduate School of Life Science’s Skills Training Programme.

Applications are usually considered in one round - for October entry. This allows applicants to compete for funding and to attend the Graduate Induction events held at the beginning of the academic year.

In some circumstances, it is possible to defer entry to Lent or Easter terms, or apply for a January or April start date. However, applicants should contact the Graduate Administrator in advance of submitting their application to discuss whether this option would be available to them.

Academic requirements

Candidates who wish to become research students in the Department should usually have a good degree in psychology, neuroscience or in another related subject (for example, physiology, sociology, linguistics, computer science, or engineering), which may provide sufficient background for research in certain areas of psychology, behavioural or cognitive behavioural neuroscience or social and developmental psychology.  Experience and/or training in psychology is not always a requirement, but may be advantageous for some research projects.

Graduate work in Cambridge is intense and very intellectually demanding and so the University has high academic entry requirements. You are normally expected to hold or to be about to achieve:

•           at least a 2.I honours degree from a UK university

•           an equivalent standard from an overseas university (On a 4-point GPA, we require a minimum of 3.5 out of 4)

•           a fluent command of the English language

•           completion of any current training or education course

You are not required to provide GRE scores.


Coming to Cambridge from the U.S., where science PhDs can take up to seven years, I knew I would have the advantage of an accelerated program. Now looking back on the last two years, I realise just how many opportunities have been open to me that wouldn’t have been available elsewhere.

At Cambridge you hit the ground running, thrown into the research process within your first few weeks. As there is no traditional coursework required, the focus is really on learning by doing. At times this can seem overwhelming, but once inspiration strikes every opportunity is provided to help make your project ideas come to fruition. That’s not to say that the accelerated pace is without its challenges. If you are unsure about your dissertation topic or require a bit more guidance it can be daunting to be in such a self-directed setting without the structure, classes or deadlines of a more typical PhD program. However, the flexibility that Cambridge provides and the opportunities available to students are unmatched, and the collective knowledge and expertise of other members of the department are truly without parallel.

One of the main advantages I’ve found at Cambridge is the collaborative nature that exists between labs and disciplines. The lines between psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience are blurred, and journal clubs, weekly seminars and visiting lecturers help bring the departments together, fostering the feeling of a wider scientific community and engendering discussion and collaboration. This cooperative environment helped encourage me to go beyond the original scope of my PhD and to set up an independent side project outside the immediate focus of my lab, which wouldn’t have been otherwise feasible.The thing that has always struck me most about Cambridge, though, is the passion that everyone brings to their work. Whether it’s seeking advice from professors in the department or chatting with your fellow graduate students at college, the enthusiasm with which everyone speaks about their research is infectious. The atmosphere is one of intellectual excitement and curiosity, and it is this aspect of Cambridge that I find most compelling and inspiring.

Dana Smith, PhD student in the Department, supported by the Cambridge Overseas Trust


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