Research Degrees

A research degree in the Department of Psychology, Social Work and Public Health allows you to develop your skills and contribute to internationally recognised psychology and health research, supported by skilled staff and a vibrant, cross-discipline research student community.

Underpinned by groups researching adult cognition, social and developmental psychology, children and family wellbeing, as well as maternal public health, the department offers a wide range of research areas for you to study in and make an impact.

The department offers high quality training and research facilities that can be accessed by both part-time and full-time students, and all research students become part of the University's Graduate College, which runs a comprehensive programme of training sessions and workshops to give you the opportunity to acquire both research and transferable skills to advance your career. The department complements this with research methodology courses, seminars featuring eminent academics, and the opportunity to present work at the Annual Faculty Research Student Symposium.

The fantastic opportunities offered to me by the university have not only enabled me to develop as an independent researcher, but also as a team player and communicator. I have been fortunate to present my research at various international conferences and to network with experts in the field from other academic institutions in the UK and abroad.
Sarah Mansbridge PhD in Psychology

What topics can I study?

We welcome applications for projects where we can support you with a supervisory team with the most relevant research experience, in Psychology, Social Work and Public Health our research is broadly classified under our research groups.

To get an overview of the research and groups within the department, and the areas where we can support research degree projects, take a look at our Research Groups page.

What Research Degree programmes are there?

You may register for a research degree on a full-time or part-time basis and applications are welcome from part-time students in employment who wish to undertake a research project which is connected with their work. All students must be able to meet the University’s requirements for a research degree, which is to be able to devote a minimum of 35 hours per week (full-time) or 15 hours per week (part-time) to the programme of research.


Full-time: three years. Part-time: 4 years (min.); up to six years (max.)

Undertaking a PhD involves:

  • critically investigating and evaluating an approved topic, resulting in an independent and original contribution to knowledge
  • demonstrating an understanding of research methods appropriate to the chosen field
  • presenting and defending a substantial thesis by oral examination.

Thesis: maximum 100,000 words for Psychology topics, and 40,000 words for Social Work and Public Health areas.


Full-time: two years. Part-time: 3 years (min.); up to four years (max.)

Undertaking an MPhil involves:

  • critically investigating and evaluating an approved topic
  • demonstrating an understanding of research methods appropriate to the chosen field
  • presenting and defending a substantial thesis by oral examination.

Thesis: maximum of 50,000 words for Psychology topics, and 20,000 words for Social Work and Public Health areas.

Masters by Research

Full-time: one year (maximum 2 years). Part-time: two years (max three years)

This comprises both a taught and a research element. It is aimed at those who wish to undertake, at postgraduate level, a short research project with no original contribution. It is normally an end point in itself.

Please note that we do not run a Masters by Research in Psychology, but offer an MSc in Development Psychology.

All students enrol as Probationer Research Students and during the first year formally register their research proposal for one of the above routes.

Entry Requirements

Full entry requirements can be found under Section 2 of the Research Degree Regulations (B6) available at

To summarise:

  • The minimum entry requirement for the degree of MPhil, or MPhil transferring to PhD, is a first-class or upper second-class UK honours degree or equivalent qualification.
  • Before being accepted, self-funded students should provide evidence that they are able to fund adequately the whole of their research degree programme.
  • Applicants whose main language is not English must meet the University's English language requirements.

When can I apply?

Research degrees normally start in September or January. You can apply at any time of year. Please allow at least four months between submitting your application and your expected start date so there is time to process your application, especially if you are an international student arranging a visa.

How to Apply


For all enquiries relating to research degrees, please contact:

Phil Voysey, Research Administrator
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+ 44 (0)1865 48 2904

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Oxford Brookes University
Gipsy Lane
Headington, Oxford