Individuals and Societies  : Psychology


Studying Psychology in the UK

by marie on 22 Oct 2006 06:10 pm

Studying Psychology in the UK

Note: This was written for the students at my old high school, so apologies if you find anything specific to my school or to my country (Japan).

Psychology is the study of the mind. Typically I think people see the subject of psychology as studying therapy techniques, treating depression etc. This obviously is one tiny side of psychology. I wasn’t even aware of how broad a subject psychology was till I came to University.

Let us look at some of the areas of psychology:

It’s worth thinking vaguely about what kind of psychology you want to go into, as it will help cut down your university choices. If you still don’t know, no sweat!

What Subjects Should I Take?

This question is probably useless if you're a Junior and have chosen your classes, but you will be glad to know that universities are generally not fussy about what subjects you’ve taken. Although a lot of people in my course took psychology at A-level, there was also a considerable amount of people who did not take it because the subject wasn’t on offer in their school (like here). The classes take this into consideration, so do not worry about being behind others.

Taking the IB, the classes I found useful were biology, maths (statistics), and ToK, so consider taking those notes to your university.

What Kind of Psychology To Study?

BA vs BSc

Nowadays most universities offer psychology as a BSc (Bachelor of Science) degree. However, you may notice that some universities offer psychology as a BA (Bachelor of Arts) — I’m aware that Durham does. Very crudely speaking, BA degrees focus more on the ‘artsy’, philosophical psychology, whilst BSc degrees focus more on the ‘sciency’, experimental psychology, but make sure you check the courses they offer to be sure.

Looking at the Course

One important aspect to remember, just like any university, is that each school has very different courses. To look at the course structure of each university in detail, I recommend that you go to the website of the department of psychology of each university, and click on the ‘current students’ section (as opposed to the ‘prospective students’ section). Here you can usually find detailed information of what kind of classes they offer.

I knew that I wanted to study more experimental, neuroscience-based psychology, and when I looked at my University’s website I found that a lot of the classes they had on offer were biology based, which certainly influenced my decision.

Also, looking at the research interests of the professors can also help your decision, though it’s nothing to be fussy about. In your final year in university you’ll have to write a major research project and it’ll be useful to have a professor about who knows a lot about what you are interested in to supervise your dissertation.

Is the University BPS Accredited?

BPS stands for the British Psychological Society, and it is where most psychologists register with after they get their undergraduate degree. Joining has various benefits — first of all it looks good (teehee). More importantly, it means that you can have access to other BPS accredited postgraduate courses that you need to take before you can call yourself a chartered psychologist, and become eligible for the Society’s Register of Chartered Psychologists. This will boost your employment prospects by a mile.

Most universities are BPS accredited which means that the course has been approved by the society and in graduating you automatically become a member. However, it’s good to be sure so check the departmental website.

Their website offers loads of information not only on their society but on careers etc. so it’s definitely worth looking at:

Work Experience

This is one thing I wish someone had told me in high school. In Britain they are big on work experience. Ideally it would be great to get hands on experience with some psychologists, but this is obviously very difficult, if not impossible if you're a high school student in Japan. Being IB students you’re also time limited!

Still, there are little things you can do to make your CV look better that you can perhaps do over the summer holidays when you have more time. For example, doing some volunteer work at a primary school or at a centre for autistics or disabled people would look great. I saw some posters around school about ‘Peer Helpers’ — that would definitely be a good thing to do. Tutoring is also considered relevant ‘work experience’.

There’s no need to stress about this yet (focus on your studies by all means!!), but if you see an opportunity, go for it!

Psychology in Nottingham

Here are the reasons why I chose Nottingham to study psychology:

  1. It’s ranked in the top 5 in the country (was #1 when I applied but….grrrr rankings always change).
  2. It’s a very science-based course.
  3. You get a 2000 pound scholarship automatically in your first year, and it continues for the rest of your degree so long as you get a 55% average.

In your first year you have the following modules:

In addition to the lectures you have three 2000 word essays to write every three months. You are also allowed to select 40 credits worth of modules in other subjects out of the department. I took Human Physiology and Pharmacology (basically human biology), which was very difficult but proved to be very useful for my course.

In the second year you have no choice in modules, but in your third year you can mix and match different classes to suit what you want to do in the future. In addition you’ll have a big 10,000 word research project to submit at the end of the year.

Here is the departmental website:

[Cross-posted in the Choosing Your University forum]


Location: Cambridge, UK