15 Best UK Universities to Study Psychology
Studying Psychology at university is the perfect opportunity to explore the workings of the human mind and develop an in-depth understanding of human behaviour.
It’s also an important stepping stone to working in certain psychological professions, as a degree in Psychology is often required to pursue further psychological training.
There are plenty of UK universities which are renowned for their excellent Psychology programmes. Each institution operates slightly differently, so it’s always worth looking into each course’s individual content and structure. For example, some universities focus on developing a theoretical understanding, whilst others emphasise the role of engaging in hands-on research.
It can be quite overwhelming to start a university search from scratch, so to get you started here are some of the main factors to consider when choosing a university, and our top 15 places to study Psychology in the UK.
Why Is Choosing the Right University Important for Psychology Students?
Psychology is an incredibly broad subject and can be studied from a range of perspectives, from social and biological, to developmental and cognitive.
UK universities offer variations in Psychology degrees, focusing on different areas within the field from different perspectives. Your chosen university can impact the knowledge you gain over your degree so it’s important to consider the nature of the course when deciding which university is right for you.
Universities also differ in their teaching of Psychology, which can include lectures, tutorials, hands-on experimental experience and clinical experience. This can impact the skill set you develop during your degree, preparing you for different careers depending on your experience.
How Do I Choose a University for Psychology?
There are a range of factors that can influence your university experience studying Psychology, and it’s important to consider if the course is best suited to you. Take the time to reflect on what’s important to you before choosing a university.
For Psychology specifically, some factors to consider include:
I. Research areas and specialisations
Since Psychology is such a broad subject, a Psychology degree can lead to careers in a range of specialisations across clinical, cognitive and social psychology.
Different universities tend to have unique strengths in different areas. The faculty at each university have their own specialisations in the field, which are often reflected in their teaching.
If you’ve an interest in a specific field of Psychology, then you may want to choose a course that aligns with this, as it’ll likely make the experience more enjoyable for you.
II. Teaching style and expertise
There are many different teaching methods on offer at university so it’s helpful to consider how you’d like to contribute to the psychological field in the future.
If you want to work in research, then look for a university that emphasises the development of research skills through practical sessions and research projects. If you want to focus more on developing a theoretical understanding, then lectures might be more fitting.
Most of the professors and tutors at UK universities will be experts in their field. Having access to experts who are pioneers in a topic you’re interested in makes the academic experience that much better. If the faculty are actively researching and are well-known in their field, then they’re also more likely to be passionate in their work, and eager to pass on their knowledge!
III. Access to tools and facilities
Studying Psychology at university often involves engaging in hands-on experimentation and research, which can come in the form of practical sessions or self-guided research projects (often completed in third year).
Research often requires using a range of different technologies, like brain scanning equipment, and accessing up-to-date statistical programs to analyse your data – there’s nothing worse than waiting over an hour for an outdated program to run a single statistical analysis that you need for your research!
With this in mind, having access to well-equipped laboratories and modern technologies can really enhance your learning, so it’s important to choose a university with the same cutting-edge tools and techniques used in real-world psychological research.
IV. Applied nature of Psychology
While some Psychology courses focus more on research in the field, others focus on applying psychological theory to the real-world. The latter is particularly important in clinical settings, so if you’re looking to pursue a career in clinical psychology, then consider choosing a course that includes a focus on application.
There are also many other ways to gain psychological experience in real-world situations, so be sure to research potential opportunities to complete internships and placements!
Some Psychology programmes don’t include much of a focus on applied psychology but do include a placement year in the industry so you can focus on developing application skills.
What Are the Best Universities for Psychology in the UK?
The best Psychology course will differ for each person and depend on different factors. Here are our top 15 best UK universities to study Psychology:
Best for research excellence
1. University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is one of the most prestigious and well-respected universities in the UK, and their Psychology course is no exception. The Psychology department at the University of Oxford consists primarily of active researchers in the field, and is the home of pioneering research in cognitive psychology, social cognition and psychopathology.
The Psychology course at the University of Oxford is designed to help students gain hands-on experience throughout the degree, via practical classes in earlier years and a self-guided research project in more advanced stages of the course. Students also have access to clinical placements and internships.
Outside of practical work, the teaching style consists primarily of lectures and tutorials. Tutorials are held in small groups with an expert in the field, and are a great way for you to further develop your understanding of content covered in your lectures and reading. This means that teaching can be tailored to your individual progress and level of understanding.
The University of Oxford also works under a collegiate system, which helps to foster close-knit communities among students. This encourages collaboration and networking, and ensures that students can access advice and support from others who are further along in their degrees.
Please note: the Oxford Scholastica Academy is not affiliated with any UK universities, including the University of Oxford.
2. University of Cambridge
Psychology students at the University of Cambridge get the opportunity to collaborate with experts from various disciplines such as neuroscience, anthropology and computer science. This not only helps develop collaboration skills, but also provides students with exposure to current developments in the field, as well as a greater understanding of Psychology’s role within other disciplines.
The Psychology laboratories at the University of Cambridge are well-equipped with advanced technologies for experiments in brain imaging, cognitive development and behavioural analysis, so you’ll be able to gain valuable experience in the latest research technologies.
The research conducted by the University of Cambridge has immense global influences, such as the work that comes out of the Autism Research Centre.
Best for applied psychology
3. University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham focuses on applied psychology, equipping students with practical skills in clinical psychology, forensic psychology and educational psychology.
Students have access to advanced neuroimaging tools in the university’s Centre for Human Brain Health. This means that you’ll get research experience with up-to-date technology, and gain a strong neuroscientific understanding – something many students find particularly difficult.
The Psychology course at the University of Birmingham places you in a prime position to pursue a range of applied psychology professions after graduating.
4. University of Manchester
The Psychology department at the University of Manchester has immense expertise in clinical psychology research and practice, and offers students multiple opportunities to engage with real-world clinical settings.
The department is also actively engaged in mental health initiatives, conducting research and leading community programmes focused on reducing stigma and promoting mental wellbeing.
By studying and working at the University of Manchester, you’ll make a positive impact on global mental wellbeing and develop clinical skills at an early stage in your career.
Best for cognitive neuroscience
5. University of York
The main emphasis at the University of York is on cognitive neuroscience research, exploring topics such as brain function, perception, memory and consciousness.
Since the teaching staff at the university are also engaged in active research, the course content at the University of York is underpinned by research-led teaching. You’ll develop your knowledge and understanding based on experimental findings, home experimental design skills and practise active critical thinking.
6. King’s College London
King’s College London is a leader in neuroscience research, offering state-of-the-art facilities and unique opportunities to study brain function and disorders. Students of the university have access to laboratories with a range of brain scanning tools and techniques.
In particular, research at King’s College London focuses on urban psychology, and exploring how city environments impact mental health, social behaviour and wellbeing.
Best for behavioural psychology
7. University of Warwick
The Psychology department at the University of Warwick is a national hub for behavioural science research, focusing on decision-making, social behaviour and psychological interventions that target change in societies.
The professionals at the university are experts in digital behavioural research, and keep up-to-date with developments in the digital world. Students are offered opportunities to explore how technology influences human behaviour and mental health, which is an increasingly important topic.
8. University of Nottingham
The University of Nottingham is a forerunner in research on behavioural economics and decision-making, and has made significant contributions in these areas.
The university offers a range of opportunities to explore how Psychology interacts with innovation and entrepreneurship, preparing students for careers in diverse industries. Psychology students at Nottingham develop various skills, equipping them for future success in a range of careers.
Best for social psychology
9. University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh’s Psychology programme focuses on cultural and societal influences on human psychology, and offers insights into cross-cultural behaviour, mental health and social dynamics.
Teaching at the university also includes new innovative teaching methods, including virtual reality simulations and interactive workshops!
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh collaborate with public health agencies to aid in the development of policies and interventions in public health challenges. This means that students have the rare opportunity to engage in public health challenges and consider the wider impacts of the field.
10. University of Exeter
Psychology research at the University of Exeter focuses on environmental and social psychology, exploring how Psychology can generate positive change through sustainable behaviour, climate change and social influence.
The Psychology department also focuses on the application of psychological principles in educational settings, approaching teaching in an evidence-based way. This Psychology course is designed to prepare students for careers in teaching, educational psychology and research.
Best for developmental psychology
11. University of Bristol
A key focus of the Psychology programme at the University of Bristol is experimental psychology, and ensuring that students develop an understanding of the experimental basis of psychological theory and experimental design. Students are offered opportunities for hands-on research across a range of areas, including perception, cognition and developmental psychology.
The university has neuroimaging facilities with access to technologies such as fMRI, allowing students to explore brain function first-hand. Not only is this helpful in developing experimental skills for career progression, but also in deepening students’ understanding of existing research.
Best for mental health studies
12. University of Sheffield
The Psychology course at the University of Sheffield places a strong emphasis on social and developmental psychological research, offering students insights into social interactions, identity and human development.
The university also offers programmes in clinical and counselling psychology, so if you’re looking to pursue a career in therapy and mental health, then definitely check out this university! With practical training and research opportunities, you’ll get lots of chances for hands-on experiences.
Best for interdisciplinary studies
13. University College London (UCL)
Collaboration across disciplines is an important part of UCL’s teaching, as they focus on providing students with a holistic perspective on Psychology.
The university is affiliated with many leading research institutions, including the Wellcome Trust and the Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research. Students therefore have access to unique research opportunities with influential psychological research labs.
14. University of Glasgow
The Psychology department at the University of Glasgow is a promoter of cross-disciplinary collaboration, working with experts in fields such as cognitive science, education and health.
This emphasis on the application of psychological principles to real-world challenges equips students with valuable skills in behavioural economics, health psychology and policy-making.
Psychology students graduate from the University of Glasgow with a skill set that’s applicable beyond Psychology and an understanding of the importance of psychological research across other fields.
15. University of Southampton
At the University of Southampton, the focus is primarily on health and clinical psychology research, with aims of addressing issues related to the psychological factors influencing physical health.
In particular, recent research at the university has explored the role of psychology in understanding artificial intelligence – for example, how AI technologies can impact human behaviour and cognition. The department’s research and teaching emphasises the application of psychological theory to present-day issues, contributing to important debates on controversial topics.
Overall, there are a wealth of excellent UK universities to study a Psychology degree, each with their own unique focuses and teaching styles. It’s incredibly valuable to reflect on your learning experiences so far, as well as your personal interests and preferences, to identify the areas of Psychology that intrigue you most and the teaching styles that suit you best.
By Kylie Li
Kylie is reading Experimental Psychology student at Queen’s College, Oxford. She is most interested in developmental and cognitive psychology, and how these can be applied to the education system.
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