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The Graduate Programme is provided by the Department of Psychology within the framework offered by the Graduate School of Life Sciences. The Graduate School also monitors Departmental efforts to ensure best practice.


The aims of the Graduate Skills Training Programme are to develop the necessary subject-specific skills for MPhil and PhD research in Psychology and to inculcate a range of transferable skills that also prepare students for their future careers. Following this training, students shouldb be able to:

  • Design experiments, collect data and analyse the results
  • Have an appreciation of the historical, ethical and scientific context of their research
  • Have a grasp of the relevant research literature
  • Report both orally and in writing on their research in an effective manner to both scientific and more general non-specialist audiences
  • Have a detailed understanding of the requirements for progression to a PhD
  • Be aware of the arrangements for graduate training and supervision
  • Submit a satisfactory research report at the end of their first year. For probationary PhD students, the research contained within this report should be of sufficient quality to prepare a student for a PhD in that area. It requires the student to obtain knowledge of the relevant literature and to plan experiments focussed on a suitable research question using that knowledge. They are also expected to demonstrate the viability of the techniques that they propose to use in the research. The report should be between 4000 and 6000 words in length. Requirements for the MPhil dissertation can be found elsewhere. 


Each PhD student is expected to engage in approximately 10 days (or equivalent) of skills training per year for the first three years. Each MPhil student is expected to engage in approximately 3-4 days (or equivalent) of skills training during their year. This training covers a wide range of activities such as attendance at courses and seminars, writing reports, presenting their research etc, which are described in more detail below. 

Although PhD students will attend many courses/seminars in their first year, it is not essential for them to complete all their skills training during this time. Courses should be selected according to the specific needs of the student at that time and it may be that attendance at some courses are more relevant in the student’s second or third year. The student is encouraged to discuss the various options with his/her supervisor at the start of each year to ensure the training is tailored to his/her particular needs.

The programme of skills training consists of a compulsory core element and various options.

The compulsory core elements for MPhil and PhD students are:

  • University safety course 
  • Department induction programme
  • Graduate seminar series - PhD students should attend at least 10 seminars (MPhil students 3-4 seminars) over the course of their first year (at least 5 of which should be from the Graduate Programme in Cognitive and Brain Science  and 5 from the Social and Developmental Psychology seminar series) to give them a broad appreciation of the breadth of research undertaken in the Department of Psychology.
  • Departmental seminars - PhD students should aim to attend a minimum of 10 external seminars (Zangwill Club, Chaucer Club, Behavioural Neuroscience) and 10 internal (lab) seminars per year (MPhil students 3-4 seminars). All students are expected to give at least one presentation in the appropriate internal seminar series themselves.
  • Requirements for students without a background in Psychology - PhD research in the Department of Psychology can often be interdisciplinary, and thus a number of students join the programme from diverse academic backgrounds. In order to ensure that all PhD students in the department have a baseline level of psychology knowledge, those students without a background in Psychology are required to attend 5 hours of foundational psychology teaching during their first year.
  • Preparation of the PhD first year report or MPhil dissertation, and viva 

In addition to these compulsory course elements, students may take options from the wide variety of courses offered by the Department, the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (MRC-CBU) and other departments in the University, as well as the Graduate School's strongly recommended Core Skills Training Programme.

All the seminars, courses, research, coursework and Departmental seminars attended / given should be recorded by the student in their log book. Meetings with the student's supervisor (minimum of one per term) to discuss progress in course work and research are also recorded in the student log book, as are meetings with the student's advisor (minimum of one per year). These meetings are a formal requirement, and in addition to other informal meetings that may take place. The supervisor will submit a termly CGSRS report for each graduate student commenting on the progress of the student.

The supervisor oversees the production of the PhD first year report. This is one of the most important components of the training programme, and without satisfactory completion of a first year report students will either not be registered to continue with the PhD or their registration may be delayed. The first year report is examined by two assessors, each of whom write a brief report and make a pass/fail recommendation. The supervisor discusses the content of the first year report and any comments the assessor(s) have made with the student following their oral examination. The supervisor will then write a CGSRS report indicating whether the student is recommended for registration. The reports and the student log are evaluated by the Graduate Education Committee. If they are satisfactory, and the requirements outlined here have been met, then this normally leads to registration for the PhD.  Further details on the first year report submission and assessment procedures are available here.

To ensure continuous monitoring of progress throughout the course, students are also asked to submit a one-page progress report at the end of their second and third year to the Graduate Education Committee, which summarises their research to date with a brief description of their plans for the following year.  Details can be found here.


First Year Report

Second and Third Year Reports


The Graduate Education Programme

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