If you are interested in studying forensic psychology, either as a graduate or post-graduate student, this resource will be perfect for you! This article was written by the (former) EAPL-S representatives for the UK: Sarah Wefers and Annelies Vredeveldt.
Studying Forensic Psychology in the UK
The United Kingdom is one of the best places to be if you want to study forensic psychology. Many influential researchers in the field are affiliated with a UK university, and numerous universities offer graduate programmes in forensic psychology. Add to that the inspiring historic cities, beautiful landscapes, and lovely weather (okay, the last one is a lie!) that the United Kingdom has to offer, and it is easy to see why so many students choose to study here.
The United Kingdom
Many people are confused about what exactly is the difference between “England”, “the United Kingdom”, “Great Britain”, etc. Just to clarify, the United Kingdom refers to the island which contains England, Scotland, and Wales (i.e., Great Britain) plus Northern Ireland. This article will review forensic psychology programs throughout the United Kingdom. There are 133 universities associated with the Universities UK organization. The British Psychological Society has an excellent website with a plethora of information on psychology programmes in the UK, including a section specifically on forensic psychology.
If you have a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and would like to learn more about forensic psychology, you could consider doing a Masters degree. Many UK universities offer taught Masters (MSc) programmes in forensic psychology. You can find all UK Masters degrees in Forensic Psychology e.g. on www.findamasters.com
Because there is such a wide range of universities, it would be impossible to explain the application process for each. However, information on how to apply can be found on the universities’ websites.
If you want to do research and put the letters Dr. in front of your name, you should consider doing a PhD. In the United Kingdom, there are generally no designated PhD programmes with taught elements like in North America. Instead, you spend three years doing independent research. Although having a Masters degree in psychology would probably make you a stronger candidate, it is possible to get a PhD position with only a Bachelor’s degree.
To get a PhD position, the first step is to approach an academic at any university whose research interests match yours (see the list of People below to get some ideas). If they agree to take you on, you will be invited for a selection interview with a panel of several staff members from the department. If you successfully navigate this step, you will typically be offered a position as an MPhil student. Once you have satisfactorily completed the first year of your research, you will be upgraded to the status of PhD student (which normally requires completion of a literature review and an “upgrade meeting” with your research committee).
You should note that there are high tuition fees in the UK, e.g. for the academic year 2018/2019, the tuition fees were set at £4,260 for full-time research degrees (including MPhil and PhD) by the Research Councils UK. However, many universities regularly offer studentships with a fee waiver, usually including a stipend. https://www.findaphd.com/ is a great resource to find advertised studentships. Those positions may give you the option to apply with your own research proposal or they may advertise research projects with predetermined topics.
Doing a PhD in the United Kingdom is substantially different from doing a PhD in North America, and you should consider which type of programme fits best with your interests and learning style. Very generally speaking, if you prefer freedom and independence over guidance and support, and if you feel you have had enough taught classes and would like to focus on research, doing a PhD in the United Kingdom might be something for you.
Two universities in the United Kingdom offer a Professional Doctorate programme in forensic psychology (ForenPsyD or D.Foren.Psy): the University of Birmingham and the University of Nottingham. PsyD programmes differ from PhD programmes in that they place a strong emphasis on clinical training rather than research training. When deciding whether to do a PhD or PsyD in forensic psychology, you should consider what you would like to do after graduating. If you intend to work as a forensic psychologist (for instance with offenders or victims), a PsyD will prepare you well for professional practice, and usually includes a forensic placement. If you intend to work as an academic, on the other hand, either to do research or to teach at university (usually both), a PhD would be the better choice.
As mentioned before, there are many forensic psychology researchers in the United Kingdom, so we cannot provide a complete list. However, here are some suggestions of people you might want to work with, listed by research area.
- Graham Davies, University of Leicester
- Ray Bull, University of Leicester
- Amina Memon, Royal Holloway (University of London)
- Tim Valentine, Goldsmiths (University of London)
- Fiona Gabbert, University of Abertay
- Becky Milne, University of Portsmouth
- Lorraine Hope, University of Portsmouth
- Tim Hollins (formerly Tim Perfect), University of Plymouth
- Graham Wagstaff, University of Liverpool
- Jacqueline Wheatcroft, University of Liverpool
Children and the Justice System
- Michael Lamb, University of Cambridge
- Lucy Akehurst, University of Portsmouth
- Gavin Oxburgh, Teesside University
- Anne Ridley, London Southbank University
- Aldert Vrij, University of Portsmouth
- Samantha Mann, University of Portsmouth
- Sharon Leal, University of Portsmouth
- Coral Dando, University of Westminster
- Paul Taylor, Lancaster University
Offenders and Risk Assessment
- David Cooke, Glasgow Caledonian University
- Lorraine Sheridan, Heriot Watt University (Edinburgh)
- Friedrich Lösel, University of Cambridge
- Mandeep Dhami, Middlesex University London
- Jane Clarbour, University of York
- Jo Clarke, University of York
- Jessica Woodhams, University of Birmingham
A word on Brexit…
In March 2019, the UK will leave the EU and it seems like nobody really knows what kind of effect that will have on the universities. Possible implications include increased tuition fees and a need for visas for EU students, and the end of Erasmus exchange programmes between the UK and European countries. As soon as the consequences of Brexit regarding studying in the UK become clearer, I will update this page to let you know of any factors you might want to consider when applying at UK universities.
I have enjoyed my time in the UK doing a PhD in forensic psychology so far and I have previously gained great experiences on a clinical forensic placement at Broadmoor Hospital near London. At UK universities, there is a very high academic standard and forensic psychology is thriving in the UK. So I can only recommend studying in the UK. If you have any questions about studying or pursuing a forensic psychological career in the UK, please do get in touch!