University of Chester

Programme Specification
Psychology (Conversion) MSc
2016 - 2017

Master of Science

Psychology (Conversion)

Psychology (Conversion)

University of Chester

Department of Psychology, University of Chester

Chester Campus

Postgraduate (Taught)

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

6 Years

Annual - October

C800

No

17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Social Science Psychology

The curriculum for this programme has been set out in line with two key sets of benchmark statements. The first are those prescribed in the Framework for Higher Education qualifications (FHEQ).The curriculum has also been developed in line with the benchmark statements published by the British Psychological Society for undergraduate and conversion programmes (see: https://www.bps.org.uk/system/files/user-files/Society%20Member/undergraduate_accreditation_2013_web.pdf

Graduate Basis for Chartership from the British Psychological Society, subject to gaining at least a 50% GPA and completing the full MSc.

Psychology

Tuesday 5th November 2013

The overarching aim of this programme is to provide an intellectual setting in which students can develop a fuller understanding of the substantive areas of Psychology and also improve their practical and analytical skills. The programme is fundamentally designed to offer students with an undergraduate degree the opportunity of achieving the level of training and assessment in psychology to allow them to qualify for the Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC). It has been designed in such a way that all students who complete the programme must complete it in its entirety (i.e., complete the full 180 credits). There are, though, structural requirements that are imposed by the BPS in order for 120 credit programmes to confer GBC. In short they require an empirical research project component as part of the programme which has major implications for the programme’s structure. Careful consideration of these implications has resulted in the structure proposed within this document and detailed in section 24. In essence the programme has been designed so that all of the key, core curriculum areas are taught as separate modules along with a module in research methods. This means the empirical project will be delivered via the dissertation module and all students must, therefore, complete this component to achieve their eligibility for GBC. For this reason this programme will therefore be suitable for students with either a limited, or no, background in psychology. To summarise, this programme provides students with the equivalent training obtained in an accredited undergraduate psychology degree. This is the first step in becoming a professional psychologist and allows students the opportunity of applying for the further training that is required to achieve chartered status. A second, key aim of the programme is to give students the opportunity of developing a strong transferable skills set, something that is clearly being demanded by today's employers. The programme is designed to provide students with a broad set of skills that will be applicable in their current or future employment. Upon successful completion of the programme students will therefore have:

  • Developed their knowledge of classic and contemporary psychological theories in the areas covered by the BPS curriculum. Specifically the programme will facilitate psychologically driven understandings in the areas of biological psychology (PS7311), cognitive psychology (PS7312), developmental psychology (PS7313) , individual differences (PS7314), social psychology (PS7315) and conceptual and historical issues in psychology (embedded within all modules).
  • In addition the programme will develop skills and understanding in statistics and research methods (both quantitative and qualitative) along with techniques for supporting research.
  • Honed their cognitive skills through analytical reasoning, critical evaluation and the generation of advanced social scientific constructs and materials.
  • Developed and increased self-awareness and insight into the professional and ethical issues relevant to the context of the course and also to other occupations requiring the skills that can be obtained through studying psychology
  • Developed transferable skills through the use of a wide variety of research techniques and statistical methods appropriate to postgraduate training in the Social Sciences in general, and psychology in particular. These will include those utilised and demonstrated during the development of practical research and through working both individually and as part of a group.

Students will be provided with, during induction, an introduction to the careers services within the University. They will also be introduced to the department's careers liaison officer. Throughout the programme students will be able to contact the careers service or careers liaison officer, for advice and guidance in relation to their career progression, following the completion of their degree.

Knowledge and Understanding
Students on this course will develop their knowledge and understanding within each of the key areas of study as highlighted below. It is, however, important to emphasise that the course will also develop transferable skills through the use of a range of assessment methods (see section 27 for more detail). These will include, among others, critical reasoning, presentation skills, analytical skills and communication skills.

Successful completion of the course will therefore see students emerge with a portfolio of skills which they will be able to demonstrate along side theoretical knowledge that they have gained.

Key knowledge and understanding developed in each area will be as follows:

  • Researching Thought and Behaviour (PS7301): principles of research design, data collection and reporting, core and advanced quantitative methods, core and advanced qualitative methods.
  • Biological Psychology (PS7311): the fundamentals of biological psychology and the importance of biological systems in human behaviour. Topics covered include biological systems (the brain, nervous and endocrine systems), communication between these systems via neurons and hormones and individual differences in functioning.
  • Cognitive Psychology (PS7312): the fundamentals of cognitive psychology and will demonstrate the importance of cognitive processes when trying to understand human behaviour. Topics will include perception, attention, memory, problem solving, decision making and language.
  • Developmental Psychology (PS7313): the historical foundations of child development and fundamental aspects of social and cognitive development in young children and adolescents. Topics will include research methods and ethics, cognitive development, Piagetian and Vygotskian approaches, emotional development and attachment theories.
  • Individual Differences (PS7314):the theories and research into individual differences in intelligence, cognition, personality and their measurement. Topics covered will include the historical development of the notion of intelligence, psychometric and cognitive approaches to intelligence, theoretical and definitional approaches to personality and its measurement.
  • Social Psychology (PS7315): the human as a social being. Topics will include many of the classic studies in psychology regarding issues of conformity, aggression, prejudice and interpersonal relationships. Methodological and ethical issues related to the studies that informed this field will be explored.

Thinking or Cognitive Skills

  1. Critical evaluation
  2. Decision making
  3. Information processing
  4. Analytical reasoning

The development of these skills is achieved through the critical appraisal of published material, and of research methodologies, which is embedded within the assessment of the taught modules in the course. This is further developed within the MSc dissertation.

Practical Skills

  1. Data handling and analysis (PS7310, PS7312, PS7313, PS7315, PS7112).
  2. Literature searching (all modules).
  3. Use of a range of specialist research-based and analytical software packages (PS7301, PS7312, PS7313, PS7112).
  4. Formulation and presentation (live and written) of structured arguments (all modules).
  5. Critical appraisal (all modules).
  6. Debating skills (all taught modules).
  7. Qualitative methodological skills (PS7310, PS7315, PS7112).
  8. Quantitative methodological skills (PS7301, PS7312, PS7313, PS7112).
  9. Ethical awareness and practice (PS7301, PS7312, PS7112). 

Professional Skills

  • IT skills and skills in statistical and research software packages (all modules).
  • Research skills (PS7301, PS7312, PS7313, PS7315, PS7112).
  • Data handling and analysis (PS7301, PS7312, PS7313, PS7315, PS7112).
  • Critical thinking and evaluation (all modules).
  • Debating skills (all taught modules).
  • Time management (all modules).
  • Project management (PS7315, PS7112, PS7314).
  • Team-working skills (PS7314, PS7315).
  • Written and presentation-based communication skills (all modules).
  • Ethical awareness and practice (PS7301, PS7312, PS7112).

Communication skills, both oral and written are developed throughout the programme i.e. through assessment methods such as:

Oral presentations (PS7313, PS7314)

Research reports (PS7301, PS7312, PS7313, PS7112)  

Essays (PS7311, PS7312, PS7315)

Critique (PS7314)

Posters (PS7315, PS7313)

Reflections (PS7112)

The ability to communicate research understanding and theoretical knowledge is developed through these tasks in order that students are ultimately capable of disseminating material to a wider audience. 

The MSc programme is studied over one year full-time or two years part-time (maximum study time six years). The programme is modular in structure and consists of six 20 credit taught modules and one 60 credit dissertation (normally based on empirical research carried out by the student). Each 20 credit module represents approximately 200 hours study commitment with typically 2-3 hours per week (over 12 weeks) of staff:student contact time. The total student study time for each 20 credit module is approximately 170 hours.

The award of MSc is awarded for the successful completion of 180 module credits (equivalent to nine modules), including the dissertation. This award will allow the student to apply for GBC. Students are admitted onto the full MSc programme and not for a postgraduate certificate or postgraduate diploma. However, in line with University policy, students who achieve 60 credits may be awarded a Postgraduate Certificate and students who achieve 120 credits but do not complete the full programme may be awarded a Postgraduate Diploma as exit awards. It is important to make clear that students electing to take these exit awards will not be eligible for GBC. The dissertation module is not compulsory for students wishing to exit with the non-accredited award of PGDip.

The programme consists of five 20 credit core content modules, a 20 credit research methods module and a 60 credit dissertation. The course is designed in such a way that full-time students will complete two core content and the PS7301 Researching Thought and Behaviour methods module in the first third of the year. The second third of the year will see students complete a further three core content modules with the dissertation being completed in the final third of the year (over the summer period). Students taking a part-time route on the course can be flexible in terms of the modules taken in each of the two years. The exception to this is PS7301 Researching Thought and Behaviour which should be taken in the first year of the course.

The research methods and five core content modules (20 credits each) cover the specialist theoretical and methodological approaches required by the BPS curriculum. All modules have been designed with transferable skills embedded within them, primarily through the range of assessment tasks that will be utilised. In addition, contemporary and historical issues pertaining to each of the content areas are also covered within each of these modules, in line with BPS requirements. Furthermore, ethical issues relating to both theory and research will be examined within each of the core modules.

PS7301 Researching Thought and Behaviour (20 credits) provides the research backbone to the course and within this students cover both quantitative statistics and qualitative research methods to the degree of sophistication required in level 7 teaching. The module will include an emphasis on practical as well as taught sessions to ensure students have a strong understanding of the use of statistical software packages such as SPSS. The use of research methods and statistics will also be developed through the assessment methods used in the other core content modules.

The five core content modules (20 credits) are those in which the specialist theoretical and methodological approaches are covered. In Biological Psychology (PS7311) students will cover the fundamentals of biological psychology and the importance of biological systems in human behaviour. Topics covered include biological systems (the brain, nervous and endocrine systems), communication between these systems via neurons and hormones and individual differences in functioning.

Cognitive Psychology (PS7312) will familiarise students with the fundamentals of cognitive psychology and will demonstrate the importance of cognitive processes when trying to understand human behaviour. Topics will include perception, attention, memory, problem solving, decision making and language.

Developmental Psychology (PS7313) will cover the historical foundations of child development and fundamental aspects of social and cognitive development in young children and adolescents. Topics will include research methods and ethics, cognitive development, Piagetian and Vygotskian approaches, emotional development and attachment theories.

In Individual Differences (PS7314) students will critically evaluate the theories and research into individual differences in intelligence, cognition, personality and their measurement. Topics covered will include the historical development of the notion of intelligence, psychometric and cognitive approaches to intelligence, theoretical and definitional approaches to personality and its measurement.

Social Psychology (PS7315) will provide students with a critical understanding of the human as a social being. Topics will include many of the classic studies in psychology regarding issues of conformity, aggression, prejudice and interpersonal relationships. Methodological and ethical issues related to the studies that informed this field will be explored.

The Research Dissertation module (PS7112) (60 credits) encourages students to develop expertise in a particular area of psychology. Preparation for this module is likely to commence in the first trimester of delivery but this module will predominantly occur during the summer period.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
PS7112 7 Research Dissertation. 60 Comp
PS7301 7 Researching Thought and Behaviour 20 Comp
PS7311 7 Biological Psychology for Conversion 20 Comp
PS7312 7 Cognitive Psychology for Conversion 20 Comp
PS7313 7 Developmental Psychology for Conversion 20 Comp
PS7314 7 Individual Differences for Conversion 20 Comp
PS7315 7 Social Psychology for Conversion 20 Comp

Students successfully meeting the learning requirements of modules totalling 60 credits will be eligible for the award of Postgraduate Certificate. This will not confer eligibility for GBC.
Students meeting the learning requirements of modules totalling 120 credits will be eligible for the award of Postgraduate Diploma. This will not confer eligibility for GBC.
The award of MSc is awarded for the successful completion of 180 module credits (equivalent to 9 modules), including the dissertation. This award will, subject to a minimum average programme grade of 50%, confer eligibility for students to apply for GBC.

The British Psychological Society (BPS) have accredited this programme as conferring eligibility for Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC). The BPS requires that students on accredited psychology conversion programmes must have a degree. Therefore students can only be admitted onto the programme if they hold a recognised university degree. The overall degree average mark must be 50% or above in order for students to be eligible for GBC. Upon confirmation of final marks, students wishing to join the BPS should apply to them directly with evidence of their qualification. They can then become graduate members of the BPS and are then eligible to apply for further chartered training programmes in any branch of psychology.  

Generally entry to the programme requires students to have gained a recognised honours degree award of 2:ii or above. The degree can be in any subject, including unaccredited psychology. Interviews are not conducted in the admissions process. International students and those for whom English is not their first language are required to have IELTS scores of 6.5 overall with not less than 5.5 in any sub-skill. This is in line with the university's post-graduate requirements. Students who do not meet this requirement may be eligible to attend the pre-sessional English language courses offered by the university in preparation for their studies.

The MSc Psychology (Conversion) programme at Chester is accredited by the British Psychology Society (BPS) as providing eligibility for the Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC). The curriculum therefore conforms to BPS requirements. BPS requirements, in conjunction with the 'core domains' of the national benchmarks, more or less constitute a national curriculum for Psychology. Knowledge, both of the areas and of the links between them, is expected, as is an understanding of appropriate applications. Ethical, theoretical and practical research issues arise in each of the knowledge areas within psychology:

Biological Psychology e.g. biological bases of behaviour, hormones and behaviour, behavioural genetics, neuropsychology, socio-biology and evolutionary psychology;

Cognitive Psychology e.g. perception, learning, memory, thinking, language, consciousness and cognitive neuropsychology;

Developmental Psychology e.g. childhood, adolescence and life-span development, development of attachment, social relations, cognitive and language development and social and cultural contexts of development;

Personality and Individual Differences e.g. personality, psychological testing, intelligence, cognitive style, emotion, motivation, mood, mental health (including social, biological and cognitive processes), and gender and equality;

Social Psychology e.g. social cognition, attribution, attitudes, group processes and intergroup relations, close relationships and social constructionism;

Research Methods in Psychology i.e. research design; the nature and appropriate statistical analysis of data; psychometrics and measurement techniques; and quantitative and qualitative methods.

Generic skills identified by the benchmarking statement include effective communication, use of data, IT literacy, information organization and retrieval, critical handling of source material, teamwork, problem-solving and scientific reasoning, critical judgement, interpersonal sensitivity, and personal planning skills. These will be explicitly taught in many modules, and students encouraged to document their development in summative assessments in some modules.

Prior to commencement of the course, and during the induction programme, students will be offered a day of initial training and support for their learning. This will draw on the expertise within the team, from the faculty's VLE co-ordinator and in support functions such as Library and Information Services (LIS). The focus of the event will be in giving initial training in study and research skills. Students will be introduced to the library and library catalogue and to the Portal and Moodle systems. The session will therefore essentially help orientate students in terms of the support that is available for their learning and guide them in terms of the ways they may consider approaching their studies at level 7.

Students will each be allocated a personal academic tutor (PAT) during induction. The PATs will all be experienced in providing support for students in relation to matters associated with their academic performance throughout their course. PATs will also use the resources provided by the Student Skills Development Unit and guide students to these resources when it is felt appropriate. PATs are also able to provide a level of pastoral care for their students. However, they are also able to guide students to the Student Support and Guidance (SSG) when this is required. SSG can offer more specialised support and counselling for students in relation, for example, to personal or financial problems that they may face. International students, in addition to the support mentioned thus far, may also be provided with the additional support that is offered via the International Office. This offers mentoring and 'buddy' programmes to help students settle into their new environment.

Students' acquisition of knowledge and understanding will be facilitated through a wide range of learning and teaching methods. These will be diverse and will enable students of varying abilities to reach their full potential. The teaching team, a number having a PGCE and Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, will use their knowledge of learning and teaching methods to create a strong team teaching ethos with an emphasis on critical evaluation and reflection required at level 7. The programme team will make use of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) throughout the modules offered. The approach to learning and teaching will also be informed by the current experience of the department. The team have been regularly praised, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, by external examiners and accrediting teams who were extremely impressed by the breadth and range of learning and teaching methods employed on existing programmes.

Students will be taught primarily through lectures, seminars, tutorials and workshops. The use of small lab group settings in PS7301 and PS7312 will also allow the team to employ a broad range of approaches and move away from purely didactive teaching. Sessions will be developed in such a way that they encourage a participative approach, allowing for debate and critical reflection. Teaching will also be delivered in such a way that it helps develop deeper learning and understanding, avoiding simple rote learning methods. Taught sessions will be supplemented with self-directed learning tasks and both individual and group-based projects. Students' cognitive skills are developed through assessment and through critical appraisal of published material throughout the programme. Furthermore critical appraisal of research methodologies is embedded throughout the core content modules and developed within the MSc dissertation.

Feedback will be provided for students in both summative and formative forms throughout the course. The use of electronic submission and marking systems will allow students to receive their feedback at times that may be more suitable for them, and by distance. The team will make use of discussion boards and module spaces within the Portal system which allow for a more continuous dialogue to occur between the staff and students, something that is especially important when teaching is based on one day per week. Students also learn practical skills, primarily within the PS7301 Researching Thought and Behaviour module, but also within other core modules. For MSc students these skills are further developed through the process of planning and producing a research dissertation in PS7112. Teaching will be delivered over one day per week on this course. Details of the proposed trimester structure and the contact within each day's teaching have been previously outlined.

The assessment strategy for this programme has been informed by the benchmarking statements referred to earlier in this specification (see section 25). Specifically the BPS guidelines make the following key points in relation to assessment: "All GBC Curriculum areas must be separately assessed and must potentially contribute to the final classification of the award, with the exception of conceptual and historical issues in psychology. This is to ensure that students have fulfilled the objectives of the programme and achieved the standards required to be eligible for GBC. The GBC Curriculum does not require separate assessment of conceptual and historical issues in psychology to reflect the treatment of this area within the Subject Benchmark Statement for Psychology, where there is an expectation only that students should gain knowledge of the area." (2010, p.17) As mentioned above, the department has been praised by external examiners and accrediting teams who were extremely impressed by the breadth and range of learning and teaching methods employed on existing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Tested strategies and methods of assessment will therefore also be applied to this programme. The assessment strategy has also been developed with the issue of employability firmly in mind, notably in PS7112. Assessments will therefore reflect the needs of employers for postgraduates with skills requisite for this degree. Students' knowledge and understanding will be assessed by coursework that includes: extended essays (PS7311, PS7312, PS7315), critical reviews (PS7314), laboratory or project reports (both qualitative and quantitative) (PS7301, PS7312, PS7313), presentations (PS7313, PS7314, PS7315) and research dissertation (PS7112). Cognitive skills will also be developed through all of these methods. Students' practical skills will be assessed through extended essays, critical reviews, laboratory or workshop reports (both qualitative and quantitative), project reports, presentations and research dissertation. Key skills will be assessed through use of all of the coursework methods outlined above, together with statistical assignments and presentations.

Students completing the MSc programme will, subject to a minimum average grade of 50% across the programme, be able to qualify for the Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC). This is the first step in becoming a professional psychologist and allows students the opportunity of applying for the further training that is required before they become chartered. Having obtained GBC, students can then pursue a career in specialist areas that include Clinical, Forensic, Health, Occupational, Counselling, Educational and Sport Psychology with a view to becoming a Chartered Clinical, Forensic, Health, Occupational, Counselling, Educational or Sport Psychologist. Students completing the course will also be well qualified to enter a wide range of professions that range from marketing, the caring professions, through to personnel or teaching (for which further training is required). Students may also wish to use their qualification to enter teaching and research in further or higher education. Students will be provided, during induction, an introduction to the careers services within the University. They will also be introduced to the department's careers liaison officer. Throughout the programme they will be able to contact the careers service or careers liaison officer for advice and guidance in relation to their career progression following the completion of their degree. It will be ensured that students on the course are made fully aware of the professional routes that will be available to them within psychology on completion of their studies.

The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.

A number of sources inform the University's approach to diversity and equality. The Department recognises its duty not to discriminate because of age, disability, sex, gender identity or expression, race or ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, marriage or civil partnership status, or pregnancy / maternity in the educational opportunities it provides. The programme, as with the whole of the Department, conforms to relevant codes of practice and guidance, specifically when implementing the Equality Act (2010). Guidance from the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, such as the code of practice for post-16 education, and the Equality Challenge Unit serve to inform programme developers of their duties and responsibilities. In practical terms, the Department works with colleagues from Student Support & Guidance, Learning Support Services and from Marketing Recruitment and Admissions to ensure the various agendas are taken into account. In addition, the Institution's Teaching and Learning Strategy (reflected in the Departmental and the Programme strategies) sets out specific aims as part of the diversity agenda.  The programme team have little influence over who applies to the programme, but will provide support and guidance for students with for example, diverse abilities, through the formative approach to teaching and learning which is embedded in the programme. The Department always has a member of the University's Equality Forum and works to ensure that the Department is kept up to date with developments.

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