To get onto a doctorate programme dealing with parapsychology the first step is often an undergraduate degree in psychology. Parapsychology itself is only available as a postgraduate degree (and even then, it will be a Psychology Doctorate where the research concentrates on parapsychology) but there are parapsychology modules available in 4th year at Edinburgh University's Psychology department. For further details see the Teaching pages.
For those interested in a PhD or MSc involving parapsychological research, one thing to bear in mind is that few accredited universities offer qualifications in parapsychology. Furthermore, there are still relatively few full-time research positions available in the field. Most new researchers start off by working towards a postgraduate degree in Psychology (and occasionally other disciplines) with their research specialising in some area of parapsychology.
Here at the Koestler Parapsychology Unit, we accept a limited number of applications for postgraduate degrees supervised by unit personnel every year. It is also possible to take an MSc by Research in Psychology where your thesis work specialises in some area of parapsychology. Candidates generally need to have obtained a good initial degree, either a first or upper second, usually in some area in the social or natural sciences, one of the most appropriate being psychology, though other disciplines can be adequate depending on the topic of study. For further details see the Teaching pages.
However, there are also other British Universities with staff members who supervise postgraduate theses related to parapsychology. These include:
The Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes, part of the Psychology Division at Northampton University.
The Parapsychology Studies Group, Coventry University, Priory Street, Coventry CV1 5FB.
The Liverpool Hope Parapsychology Research Group at Liverpool Hope University College.
The Consciousness and Transpersonal Research Unit at Liverpool John Moores University.
Professor Richard Wiseman at the University of Herfordshire.
The Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Goldsmiths College, University of London.
It might also be worth approaching potential supervisors at other universities informally if you feel that your research interests overlap with their field of expertise.
As far as funding is concerned, aid for postgraduate students from governmental sources, for instance, is becoming increasingly competitive. A student applying for an ESRC studentship at Edinburgh will either be expected to have already acquired a research training which meets the requirements of the Postgraduate Training Guidelines for the first year or, if proceeding directly from undergraduate training, will be expected to register for an MSc by Research for their first year, which can then (if successful) lead to advancement to candidacy at the end of the first year. Non-governmental sources of funding are unfortunately few and far between.
Serious applicants should first visit the Edinburgh University Website Postgraduate Prospectus for general information (fees, duration, requirements) and also look at the Postgraduate pages on the Psychology website. You should note that the only staff available to supervise parapsychology doctorates are Dr Caroline Watt and Dr Peter Lamont. Check the People section of this website to see if their interests overlap with your own.
The KPU offers a distance learning course: An Introduction to Parapsychology. Click here for further information and to register your interest. Students have said of this course:
"fascinating and challenging" Kylie Sturgess, Australia
"I really enjoyed the variety and breadth of learning materials... highly recommended" Stephanie Rowland, Washington, USA
"interesting, informative and stimulating... Caroline makes everyone on the course feel wanted and valued... great value for money" Russell James, UK
"an intense 3-month ride... the course material was perfect... newbies to the subject don't suffer from jargon overkill" Kris de Ruysscher, Belgium
Parapsychologists, like all researchers, have to struggle to obtain funding. Some funding can be obtained from public sources such as the AHRC, Leverhulme, and ESRC, and there are private sources specifically for parapsychological topics (e.g., Bial Foundation, Society for Psychical Research, Perrott-Warrick Fund).
At present, the Koestler Parapsychology Unit can provide financial support only for some staff salary costs. Any additional resources, such as providing essential computing equipment, funding postgraduate students, bringing in additional research staff, must be funded by attracting external support. Well-conducted research can be expensive, both in terms of good equipment and facilities, and in terms of personnel. The KPU is a thriving research group that functions as an active contributor to the School. If you would like to support our research (in the form of willed contributions, one-off donations, studentships, research grants, etc.), please contact us. Support can be designated for specific research areas and, as a registered charity, all donations are tax-free.
Apart from providing financial support, interested individuals can also participate in our research program by doing voluntary work, or by volunteering to take part in research projects. We have a policy of not working with commercial ‘psychics’ who may be seeking endorsement of their abilities, due to the possible conflict of interest in such cases. We are interested to work with individuals who are curious and open-minded about parapsychology.
Parapsychology is a subject of great interest to students, so it will attract and engage them. Furthermore, irrespective of the evidence for or against the psi hypothesis, students can learn a great deal from the methodological challenges associated with attempting to test hypotheses of anomalous information transfer or influence. Also, parapsychology is a superb case study for issues to do with the demarcation between science and pseudoscience, and for the issue of controversy in science - its causes and how to overcome these.
Happy to try to help, time permitting. First specify more precisely what aspect of ‘the paranormal’ you are interested in, check out the information contained in this website and linked sites, and then - if you think we have the appropriate expertise - contact the relevant member of KPU staff (see People pages).
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