Third International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology
Annie Trapp,
Higher Education
Academy Psychology Network,

Presentation (ppt)


The UK Higher Education system has undergone a period of rapid expansion in the last five years as a result of the government’s policy on widening participation to higher education. Although not all subject areas have benefited, the number of students, predominantly women, studying psychology has increased rapidly and the subject is currently the fifth most popular choice at university level.

Over 60% of students entering psychology degrees have already studied psychology at school-level but the articulation between school psychology and first year psychology is problematic and, in general, not highly-valued at first year undergraduate level.

As a result of the government policy of widening participation, university departments report that the larger cohorts of students, a greater need for student pastoral support and low literacy and numeracy skills are issues of concern.

Unlike many health-related degrees the three or four year undergraduate psychology degree is not primarily focused on providing training for professional practice. After undergraduate training, students wishing to become professional psychologists must undertake further training to obtain a professional doctorate. The introduction of statutory regulation for psychologists is likely to change the training requisites for some of the professional pathways. Over 80% of graduates choose employment opportunities other than professional psychology.

Quality assurance and enhancement mechanisms currently in place for UK psychology programmes include the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) subject benchmarks which provide general guidance for articulating the learning outcomes associated with the subject area but are not a specification of a detailed curriculum in the subject; the requirements for the British Psychological Society’s accreditation of courses which includes core areas of study; and the work of the Higher Education Academy Psychology Network.

There is considerable variation between psychology departments in how they are adapting their teaching and learning activities to meet the needs of a more diverse student population. For some departments constraints in institutional policy make it difficult to change practice and for others there is insufficient momentum for change within the department. In both these cases it is argued that not only is innovation stifled but existing good practice lost. On the other hand, there are departments that have had both the institutional support and the departmental leadership to make significant changes in order to accommodate to the needs of their students. This presentation will provide more detail to the changes described in the abstract and provide examples of departmental change. In conclusion, the presenters will consider the extent to which psychology students are being sufficiently well-prepared for the world in which they find themselves.

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© 2008 Victor Karandashev