ERC-funded PhD Studentship in Psychology – “The psychological causes and consequences of social inequality”

outside Marlowe building on campus

Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD studentship with Dr Nikhil Sengupta in the Psychology and Public Policy Research Unit (PSYPOL) at the University of Kent, funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The studentship commences in Sept 2022.


This studentship is suitable for applicants who have or will have a Master’s degree or equivalent at merit or distinction level in Psychology or another relevant subject area by June 2022.

The studentship award covers your tuition fees at the Home rate (£4,500 per annum in 2021-22) and additionally provides you with a stipend (£15,609 per annum in 2021-22) for maintenance. This level of financial support is guaranteed to the awardee, subject to performance, however, additional support may be available for international applicants in particular circumstances.

Research Project

The studentship, starting in September 2022, will be part of the ERC-funded grant project titled “The Psychology of Public Policy: Inequality, Immigration and International Relations.”

The project aims to investigate how people’s political attitudes develop and change over time, and how they affect the social structure. It involves two largescale data collection initiatives – a four-wave longitudinal survey of 50,000 adults and an eight-wave longitudinal survey of 20,000 adolescents. The adult survey also involves the use of a custom app that enables nested studies – specifically, experiments and experience sampling studies. The adolescent survey includes full network information for each participant, enabling the use of network analysis. Each survey is fairly extensive, allowing for the inclusion of a wide range of concepts relevant to the project’s objectives (see below) and the student’s research interests.

The “political attitudes” referred to in this project are primarily in the areas of inequality, immigration and international relations. The successful candidate will focus on the “inequality” topic within this project, as indicated in the title of the studentship. Applicants interested in any form of inequality –ethnicity, income, class, gender etc., or any intersection of these inequalities –are welcome to apply.

The project’s main objectives are described in brief below:

  1. Social antecedents of political attitudes. The effects of peers, norms and social identity in the development of political attitudes in adolescence and adulthood. This objective will also consider the effects of media exposure and political communication in shaping political attitudes. It will use data from the adult panel study, nested experiencing sampling data, and network data from the adolescent study.
  2. Cognitive antecedents of political attitudes. The effects of cognitive biases and heuristics in shaping political attitudes. Data for this objective will be drawn primarily from the adult panel study and the nested experiments.
  3. Motivational antecedents of political attitudes. The effects of basic human needs, motives and personality dispositions in shaping political attitudes. Data for this objective will be drawn from the adult panel study, nested experiments, and adolescent network study.
  4. Individual consequences of political attitudes. The effects of political attitudes on people’s political behaviour (e.g., voting or protest intentions) and well as their wellbeing and psychological adjustment. Data from both the adult and adolescent samples are relevant to this objective.
  5. Structural consequences of political attitudes. The effects of individual-level political attitudes on structural outcomes such as policy change, election results, demographic or regional change etc. Data from the adult survey will be used for this objective.

The successful candidate will leverage the largescale data generated by this project to advance the project’s objectives related to the “psychological causes and consequences of social inequality”. Given the broad scope of the research questions above, a wide range of topics in social, political, cognitive, and developmental psychology can be investigated under the purview of the project. Dr Nikhil Sengupta will work closely with the student to shape the specific studies in the PhD in a way that meets the projects goals as well as matches the student’s research interests.

The studentship will involve to (a) supporting the project lead and post-doctoral research assistant in implementing the research, (b) analysing data using advanced quantitative methods, and (c) disseminating their research findings via conferences and publications.

The student will be part of the Psychology and Public Policy Research Unit and will also be embedded in the Political Psychology Lab at the School of Psychology located on the Canterbury campus of the University of Kent. For more information, see the School’s website.


The competition is open to applicants of all student fee paying statuses; however, this studentship guarantees coverage of fees at the Home rate only, with the possibility of additional support for international applicants in particular circumstances. This means that EU and International students may be required to make up the difference, or a proportion of the difference, in fees.

Please note that current Kent PhD students are not eligible for this award.

How to apply

All completed applications received by 23:59 (UK time) on 10 April 2022 will be considered.

Completed applications must comprise all of the following:

  • Submission of a KentVision application for a Psychology PhD place in the School of Psychology at the University of Kent including:
    • A transcript of degree undergraduate and postgraduate marks to date and certificate, if available, in pdf format.
    • The names and email addresses of two academic referees. References must also be received by 10 April 2022. Please leave a suitable amount of time for your referees to respond to the reference request which is sent automatically upon submission of the PhD application in KentVision.
    • A current CV in pdf format.
  • Submission of a 1-2 page covering letter which explains why you should be considered for the ERC-funded Psychology PhD Studentship. In this letter, please include your research interests and how you think the data being generated by this project could be useful in pursuing them. This should be sent directly to and should include the KentVision application ID number. If you have any specific questions about the scholarship, please write to Dr Nikhil Sengupta at

Please note that the PhD application form in KentVision includes fields and word count guidelines that are not specific to consideration for this competition so please ensure that you follow the procedures listed above. In fields such as ‘Reasons for study’ and ‘Research proposal’ you are welcome to write ‘See Application for ERC-funded Psychology PhD Studentship’.

Deadline for completed applications (including references) is 10 April 2022. The shortlisting process will start on 11 April 2022 and interviews will be held in the week commencing 2 May 2022. Unfortunately, we are unable to cover travel costs but will arrange Zoom/Teams interviews where appropriate.