UCL Doctorate In Clinical Psychology


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Why apply to UCL

The UCL Course is at the forefront of many of the national and local developments and innovations which impact on the profession, and many members of staff are closely involved in NHS planning at both national and local level. We aim to equip trainees with the knowledge and skills they need to become effective clinical practitioners in a rapidly changing NHS.

Our guiding principles are the integration of theory with practice, the encouragement of a capacity for independent thinking and reflection, and the fostering of trainees' personal and professional skills. Taken as a whole, teaching and clinical practice should promote the skills essential for the development of evidence-based practitioners.

The Course has an explicitly pluralistic ethos and exposes trainees to a variety of approaches. It also encourages practice that demonstrates an awareness of equal opportunities and a sensitivity to the multi-cultural contexts routinely encountered in clinical work in London.

The Course is designed and organised with the close involvement of clinicians and Special Interest Groups. A range of support systems are built into the programme, not only to help with the known stresses of training, but also in recognition of the personal and professional change that training promotes.

The Course encourages the development of personal qualities such as reflexivity, enthusiasm for learning, and valuing the importance of supervision. These qualities are essential in helping the individual to prepare, once qualified, for continuing professional development and a career as a practising clinical psychologist.

While one should to be realistic about one's chances of gaining a place, it is also important not to overestimate the difficulty of getting a place. Nationally, in 2015  there were 3,698 applications for 591 places, which means that overall 16% of applicants were successful. In relation to our course, there were 1,114 applications for 42 places. At first sight this makes it look quite tough to get into UCL, but remember that each applicant can apply to four courses, so some of the people who were not taken on by us will have found places elsewhere.

Core Purpose, Values and Philosophy of the Course

Core Purpose, values and philosophy

Core purpose

The core purpose of the training course is to produce clinical psychologists trained to a high standard in academic, clinical and research domains, enabling them to meet the standards described by the HCPC Standards of Education and Training and Standards of Proficiency and the accreditation criteria of the British Psychological Society for Chartered status, and to qualify them for work within the National Health Service (NHS).


The values of the Course are aligned with those set out in the following codes, all of which can be found on the Course website:

· the HCPC Standards of Conduct

· the BPS Code of Ethics and Conduct

· UCL Student Disciplinary Code

· the NHS Constitution

The values embodied in these codes are reflected at all stages and in all domains of the programme - in its application processes, in the content and delivery of the teaching programme, in clinical placements and in the professional and personal support offered to trainees.

The NHS constitution sets out some core values which can be summarised as follows:

· putting clients first and involving everyone who is relevant to their care

· speaking up in the client's interests when things go wrong

· affording respect and dignity to clients, their families and fellow professionals, valuing them as individuals and respecting their aspirations and commitments

· offering resources to the benefit of the whole community and ensuring that people are not excluded or discriminated against

· offering high-quality, safe and effective care

· offering care that is compassionate and responsive to the needs of clients, their families and carers

· improving health and well-being and people's experience of the NHS


1. The Course has a pluralistic ethos: it aims to expose trainees to a variety of approaches within clinical psychology rather than just one. This is designed to ensure that trainees can respond flexibly to the demands that will be made of them in a rapidly changing NHS.

2. The Course aims to promote strong links between theory and practice and is organised to ensure that the clinical, academic and research components of training are well integrated. Reflecting this concern:

a) Diversity in teaching methods is encouraged, matching the method to the material to be taught.

b) Skills teaching is integrated within the academic programme, along with the use of experiential teaching methods.

c) Trainees are encouraged to adopt a hypothesis-testing approach to their work and to adopt a thoughtful and critical approach to the use of research evidence concerning the effectiveness of therapeutic techniques.

3. The Course endeavors to enable trainees to achieve high standards of clinical competence. To ensure high quality and relevance to the field, teaching is organised by a mixture of academic staff and clinical psychologist practitioners, many of whom have a national reputation in their fields.

4. The Course aims to promote good practice in teaching and research across a wide range of specialties, and to ensure that teaching of specialities with recruitment difficulties is of the highest quality.

5. The Course tries to ensure that trainees can practice effectively and equitably in the context of the diversity that characterises clinical populations in London. The promotion of equal opportunities in the selection of trainees and in teaching is an important feature of the Course philosophy, and a theme of the programme.

6. The Course aims to ensure that trainees develop a professional role that is both active and collegial, and hence a capacity to understand the roles and approaches of professional colleagues, and an ability to maintain good working relationships which promote the psychological well-being of clients.

7. The Course aims to foster an awareness of, and a responsiveness to, the needs of service users and carers, both through its teaching and by encouraging trainees routinely to consult with service users in order to understand their perspectives and needs.

8. As is consistent with the learner-led model of teaching appropriate for students at this level of training, the Course aims to be responsive to feedback at all levels of its organisation. The Course aims to ensure that its systems of assessment and evaluation of trainees also accord with best practice in this area and that trainees are involved in the assessment process.

9. The Course aims to foster an enthusiasm for learning and an openness to questioning, in teaching, in clinical practice and in research. Trainees are encouraged to follow up their interests and to develop personally over the three years of training.

10. The Course aims to make research an integral part of training by developing trainees' capacity actively to make use of available research, and equipping them with the skills to contribute to the evidence-base of the profession. The Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology has an internationally recognised research programme and trainees are encouraged to work with members of staff to maintain the same  high standards for their own research

12. The Course aims to be responsive to its purchasers (Health Education North Central and East London) and to Clinical Psychology services in the London region who offer supervision to trainees and employment to graduates from the course.

13. It is widely recognised that clinical psychology training can be stressful and the course endeavours to ensure that good sources of support are available to trainees. As is consistent with the general course philosophy, no one approach is favoured, but rather a variety of systems (including access to personal therapy) are offered.

The standards set out above are those by which the Course wishes to be judged. The measure of our success is our capacity to enable trainees to develop personal and professional competences congruent with our aspirations, and to become effective practitioners who can apply their skills for the benefit of service users and carers and go on to shape clinical practice and research in the future.

Criteria for entry

The UCL Doctorate in Clinical Psychology is a 3-year full-time programme which entitles graduates to apply for registration as a Clinical Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council and as a Chartered Clinical Psychologist with the British Psychological Society.

Candidates need to meet some basic academic criteria. After that, they also need to demonstrate (by gaining some relevant clinical experience) that they have some awareness of the roles undertaken by clinical psychologists, are familiar with the sorts of clients psychologists see, and have an idea of the contexts within which psychologists work. In addition, they need to show that they have the appropriate personal characteristics needed to work effectively with a wide range of potentially vulnerable individuals, and to contribute to the work of fellow professionals in the NHS or equivalent organisations.

  • Academic criteria

All candidates need to have obtained a good pass in an undergraduate honours degree in Psychology. The degree needs to confer eligibility for Graduate Basis for Charted Membership (GBC: see below). Because training leads to a Doctoral degree it is important that candidates show us that they can undertake work at a Doctoral level. For this reason candidates must obtain a minimum of a good 2.1 pass in their undergraduate Psychology degree.

Candidates who have not achieved a good 2.1 may need to think carefully about whether it makes sense to pursue a training in Clinical Psychology, since it is unlikely that they will be offered a place on a Doctoral Course. However, we recognise that sometimes degrees under-represent someone's academic ability - for example, illness or major life-events may have meant that there were periods when it was hard to maintain a good standard of work. If this is the case applicants need to offer clear evidence of their academic capacity in their application. This evidence must be supported by an academic referee who has monitored the candidate's work and can clearly demonstrate that certain academic achievements results underestimate the applicant's academic abilities.

Candidates with a 2.2 will not usually be accepted on the course unless there is unequivocal evidence of subsequent academic achievement equivalent to a good 2.1. In practice this means obtaining a higher degree, but the type of degree needs to be thought about carefully. Some Masters degrees will not offer enough academic challenge, making it hard for an academic referee to make the unequivocal judgment about a student's ability that a course needs. The more academically demanding a course, the more likely it is that they will be able to do this.

  • Graduate basis for chartered membership

In order to be considered for a place on any training course in Clinical Psychology it is essential to have Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC)with the British Psychological Society (BPS), usually at the time of applying or certainly by the time shortlisting is completed (in February). Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership is the same as Graduate Basis for Registration: all that has changed is the name. So if you previously had GBR you will now have GBC. The usual way of obtaining this is by completing an undergraduate degree in Psychology, or by taking a qualifying exam or programme which confers eligibility.

Not all Psychology programmes confer eligibility for GBC. If you are unsure whether you are entitled to GBC you should check this with your programme staff or write to the BPS (St Andrews House, 48 Princess Road East , Leicester LE1 7DR; Tel: 0116 254 9568; e-mail: mail@bps.org.uk ) for more details.

  • Relevant clinical experience

In order to have a realistic chance of being selected it is essential to gain some relevant clinical experience before applying to the course. There are several reasons for this. It gives applicants a chance to test out whether work in this field is for them - it is much better to discover this before making a major career commitment. It also means that courses know that candidates' applications are realistic, and gives them an idea of how applicants have responded to the clinical work they have undertaken. Many trainees find that they make good use of their pre-training experience during training, so it is not 'wasted' time.

We know that asking for relevant experience causes people to think twice about applying for Clinical Psychology course. It means that there is a gap between completing an undergraduate degree and starting training, with no guarantee of getting on a course. This presents a real challenge to many people, not least a financial one. There is also a risk - widely recognised by courses - that potential applicants feel themselves obliged to work for a number of years in the hope of gaining enough experience to be taken onto a course. We know that most people work for around 1-2 years before getting on a course, and in most cases this should be sufficient.

Being clear about what counts as experience is hard to specify, especially because suitable posts vary enormously. As above, and very broadly, candidates should look for experience which gives them:

.  an idea of what clinical psychologists actually do
.  some direct clinical contact with the sort of clients psychologists work with
.  an idea of what work with clients actually entails
.  a sense of the organisational context in which clinical psychology usually operates

One common route is to find work as an Assistant Psychologist. These posts are advertised in the BPS Bulletin (distributed monthly to all members of the BPS) and also (although less frequently) in other relevant publications - for example, the health section of papers such as The Guardian. 

As assistant posts are in relatively short supply, it is important to emphasise that they are not the only route to gaining relevant experience. For this reason applicants should think broadly about the possible options open to them. For example, employment in a social work context or as a nursing assistant in a psychiatric unit, or as a worker in a MIND Day Centre would be extremely valuable; all would count as relevant experience. Another route is to take a post as a research assistant, though the research should usually offer at least some direct involvement in a clinical area. It is worth remembering that a very "academic" research post would not give candidates much of a sense of how the clinical world operates, or how they react to the sorts of clients seen in clinical contexts.

There is something of a myth that applicants need to build an extensive 'portfolio' of experience, with more than one client group, and with a mixture of research and clinical experience. Speaking at least for selectors at UCL, we are not looking for this. We are looking for people whose posts map onto the bullet-pointed criteria just above, and who can show (and reflect on) the benefits of this experience in the way they present themselves. Basically it is the quality of experience - and what the person makes of it - that is as important as the quantity of experience.  

Part-time work
Part-time work is an acceptable way of gaining experience. However, there can be problems if the work is very part-time. While working (say) for 3 hours a week could give candidates some relevant experience, this is inevitably going to be rather limited. If your circumstances mean that this is all the experience that you are able to gain then it is important to be clear about why this is so, and to show how (despite its brevity) the experience has been used to good advantage.

Voluntary work
Voluntary work in an appropriate area "counts" in the same way as paid work. It is the type of work being undertaken (rather than whether there is a salary) which determines its relevance.

Because of the shortage of posts a number of applicants take voluntary posts, and this can be one way of gaining entry to paid employment. Although these posts can offer high-quality experience, candidates should be careful not to accept inappropriate "terms and conditions". The Course is concerned that people should not place themselves in a position where their motivation to undertake training exposes them to exploitation. Despite their voluntary nature, these posts should offer supervision and support.  

Gaining experience outside the NHS
As above, relevant posts can be found outside the NHS. However, it is a good idea to work (at least to some extent) in a context which gives you a general sense of the statutory healthcare system. For example, a MIND daycare centre, or a stand-alone unit for people with substance abuse services might operate outside, but have links to, the NHS. Clients would almost certainly have (or have had) contact with NHS provision, and there would be opportunities to learn (albeit indirectly) about the way in which the healthcare system operates.

  • English Language Proficiency Requirement

As per the UCL graduate admissions policy, command of the English language is considered essential. All applicants whose first language is not English must provide recent evidence that they have an adequate command of both spoken and written English. Candidates are required to achieve a minimum of 'good level' of English proficiency as specified by UCL. For more details of qualifications accepted and criteria for a 'good level' of English, please click here.

  • Home fee status

Because places offered through the Clearing House are NHS funded we can only consider applicants who meet home or EU fee status. This means that applicants must have full UK or EU residency and not require a work permit. In addition, to be considered for entry to the course in September 2017, they must have been resident in the UK or EU from 1 September 2014 to 31 August 2017, for a purpose that is not wholly or mainly related to receiving full-time education during any part of this 3-year period. There are no exceptions to these rules. If in any doubt about your fee status applicants should contact the UCL admissions office directly before making an application to the course.


All places on the course for home/EU fee status trainees are funded by the NHS - this includes a salary and payment of academic fees. We do not accept home/EU fee status trainees on a self-funding basis.

Currently trainees are paid on Band 6 of the Agenda for Change pay scales. Travelling expenses are paid at the Whitley public transport rate. University fees are paid directly by the NHS. Trainees are full time employees of the health service and have annual leave and other benefits in line with usual NHS entitlements.

Trainee Job Descriptions
Application Process

How to Apply 

Making an Application - the Clearing House for Postgraduate Courses in Clinical Psychology

As is the case for all UK courses, applications for the UCL course are administered through a central clearing house. They provide a handbook giving details of all courses and deal with all applications. A hyperlink to the UCL handbook entry can be found below.

For an application form and information about other courses in the UK write to: The Clearing House, Fairbairn House, 71-75 Clarendon Road, Leeds LS2 9PH, e-mail them at: chpccp@leeds.ac.uk, or visit their website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/chpccp/

The deadline for receiving completed applications is usually the 1st of December of each year, but applicants should confirm this.

  • UCL process 

Selection falls into several distinct phases: First, candidates' forms are screened and those which do not meet the basic entry criteria (e.g. the absence of GBC, no relevant experience, no home/ EU fees status) are excluded. Subsequently each candidate's form is rated by members of course staff and regional supervisors in order to reach a decision about who to invite for interview. Selectors look for evidence of academic ability, and indicators of clinical aptitude (such as motivation, realism, appropriate preparation for training), and will pay particular attention to the candidates' personal statements.

We interview about 126 applicants for 42 places but this may be subject to change. Each candidate attends for a half day and has one interview focussing on academic, clinical and service user issues. Interviews are conducted by a panel of three people. Interviews are designed to be challenging at the same time as giving applicants an opportunity to engage with the panel and perform to the best of their ability. Current trainees are available throughout the day to provide information about their experience of training. The course regrets that it cannot pay travelling expenses to those who attend for interview.

Equal opportunities: We aim to ensure that applicants will not be disadvantaged in selection because of ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, social class, disability or age. The Course is particularly keen to ensure that trainee cohorts reflect the ethnic and cultural diversity of the population of London. We actively encourage applications from suitably qualified individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds and are continuously reviewing our selection procedures to ensure that they do not inadvertently discriminate against some groups during the selection process.

  • Older applicants

Although many applicants are in their 20s, the age range of trainees is quite broad. At UCL we have a good number of trainees in their 30s and 40s. We recognise that more mature 'older' applicants - especially those who are switching careers - may find it more difficult to find the time to gain experience and undertake relevant academic study. As above, the course does not expect candidates to present a long portfolio of clinical experience - quality is just as important (if not more so) than quantity. Demonstrating a capacity to show how learning from experience has taken place takes candidates a long way.

Where candidates are looking to make a major career change they should demonstrate the rationale for their decision in their application.

  • Health checks 

Everyone working in the NHS must have a health check before they take up their post. This is to ensure that they are physically and psychologically capable of doing the job, and that they do not present a risk to the vulnerable people they will be working with.

Health checks are carried out on all new entrants by the Occupational Health department of Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust. Their assessment is based on a health questionnaire and an interview with an occupational health adviser.

  • People with disabilities

UCL has a policy of supporting individuals with disabilities, and its Disability Equality Scheme (www.ucl.ac.uk/disability) aims to promote equality of opportunity and positive attitudes towards individuals with disabilities.

Under the umbrella of UCL's Disability Services Support there are a number of services offering support for students: The Disability Centre, The Dyslexia Assessment and Support Centre, and the Student Enabling Information Technology Suite. Detailed information about these services and the range of support available for disabled students is available on the UCL website (www.ucl.ac.uk/disability).

The Course aims to work collaboratively with trainees with disabilities to ensure that they can carry out their work or studies successfully and to reduce potential barriers to a positive training experience. Wherever possible we seek to make appropriate adaptations for people with disabilities and try to make sure that clinical placements have the facilities appropriate to each individual's needs.  

Access to the right sort of information is an important first step in making (and supporting) an application. For this reason applicants with a disability should feel free to contact the Admissions Tutor to discuss the nature of their impairment or disability (whether the condition is permanent, temporary or fluctuating) as early as possible in the application process.

A helpful guide for prospective applicants with disabilities is published by the Health Professions Council (link to pdf).

  • Deferred entry

If we make an offer of a place we will not defer entry to a subsequent year.

  • Further Questions

We have tried to provide a comprehensive overview of the UCL application criteria and procedure on these web pages. Hopefully this will have answered your questions and queries; if you have read through the information and still have queries then please contact our admissions team. You should note that contacting us does not confer any advantage in our selection process.

Further information regarding applications to clinical psychology training in the UK can be found on the Leeds Clearing House website  (http://www.leeds.ac.uk/chpccp/).