Applying to the Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology Programme at UCL
Entry Requirements and Guidelines for Success
Each year, there is strong competition for places on the DECPsy Programme. The following advice is offered to assist you in improving your chances of securing a place. Please read it carefully as unfortunately we are unable to provide individual advice to applicants, due to the large volume of applications we receive. Good luck!
- Essential Shortlisting Requirements
- Good honours degree in Psychology that confers Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership of the British Psychological Society.
- Experience of work with children in education, child care or community settings.
- A good command of written and spoken English
A first degree in psychology at 2:1 (or equivalent) or above is required to demonstrate that applicants possess the academic competencies required for doctoral level study.
For undergraduate degrees give the class (first, upper second etc.) and the year awarded. If this information is missing your application will not be considered.
For postgraduate qualifications give information about awards with merit or distinction where applicable and the year awarded, or tbc where not yet complete.
The title of the qualification that confers Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership must be accurately entered in the first part of this section, as applications will be rejected if there is no exact match with approved programmes listed on the BPS website.
If you have an overseas qualification that has been approved by the BPS as conferring Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership please provide supporting details (e.g. BPS membership number) as evidence.
A minimum of one year's full-time equivalent (37 hours per week; 148 hours per month) work experience is required, one year must have been completed by the closing date for applications. You need to give the month and year in which any period of work started and finished and state how many full week equivalents were completed in the period, e.g. full time for 3 months would be 12 weeks, half-time for 3 months would be 6 weeks. You should give a clear description of what the work entailed and what your responsibilities were. See our work experience section for further, detailed, guidance on work experience.
This is essential and is assessed both at initial application and (in detail) through activities undertaken in the interview process. Applicants whose first language is not English must submit with their application recent evidence that their spoken and written command of English is of the required standard. The only acceptable English qualification for this programme is the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Academic. An overall grade of at least 7.0, with a minimum of 6.5 in each of the sub tests, is required.
- Desirable Shortlisting Criteria
Different applicants may be more or less successful in learning from similar work opportunities and in communicating the relevance of their experience in a convincing manner. It is important that ALL applicants present clear arguments in their 6,000 character maximum personal statement for the appropriateness and relevance of their experience. We suggest that you specifically address each of the following points so they directly link to our shortlisting criteria:
- Knowledge of psychological theory and research on children's development and learning and the ability to apply it to school and other practice contexts. It is better to focus on one or two clear and reflective examples where you have information from a specific recent research article and can describe convincingly how you applied it in your work, than to make vague references, e.g. to 'using behaviourist principles' or 'drawing on Piaget's work'.
- Detailed understanding of the role of educational psychologists, the different levels at which they work and changing contexts of practice. You need to show that you have detailed knowledge about the range of work educational psychologists do, obtained from a variety of credible sources, and that your commitment to the profession is sufficiently strong that you can be relied upon to invest the effort needed to complete a challenging and intensive 3 year training programme.
- Ability to identify skills/ knowledge especially relevant to training as an educational psychologist, and to explain their relevance. These may have been developed through professional, voluntary or personal experience but you need to able to provide a clear description of the skills involved and a logical explanation of their relevance to training as an educational psychologist. These may include multi-agency/team working skills in working with peers and colleagues, ability to speak a community language, knowledge of communities under-represented in the profession, and so on.
- Clear, concise and coherent written communication skills. This will be judged from your personal statement and will include consideration of spelling, grammar and punctuation as well as clarity of expression and coherence of argument.
In addition to reading relevant publications from the BPS and other sources, applicants often contact Educational Psychology Services in the area in which they live to seek opportunities to talk to an educational psychologist. Due to the volume of such requests many services are unable to offer opportunities to 'Work Shadow' an Educational Psychologist although some services provide open afternoons or evenings where EPs are available to talk with prospective applicants. Local Authority Open Days are occasionally advertised on our website. Recent examples include Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Kent although these are not exhaustive.
In some cases EP services may be more amenable to an offer to undertake voluntary work for the service for a one week period or more. Requests to services to meet with an EP, work shadow or undertake voluntary work should be made by letter or email and should contain information which demonstrates that you have the right qualifications, have already done substantial research on the role of an EP and are a serious applicant for professional training.
- Relevant Work Experience
Relevant work experience may be gained in a wide range of roles – some examples are listed below but these are not exhaustive. Some work experience or combinations of work experience allow applicants better opportunities to acquire the necessary understanding, knowledge and skills.
• Educational Psychology Assistant • Teacher • Portage Worker • Learning Support Assistant • Speech and Language Therapist • Care Worker • School or Children's Nurse • Assistant Clinical Psychologist working with children • Connexions Advisor • Social Worker • Family Worker • Play/Art Therapist • Educational Social Worker • Child Psychotherapist • Lecturer in Further Education (16-19 years) • Assistant Occupational Therapist • Assistant Physiotherapist • Counsellor • Children's Centre Worker • Youth Worker • Research Work • Learning Mentor
Working as an Assistant in an Educational Psychology Service is an example of work experience that is likely to allow applicants good opportunities to gain a realistic appreciation of the role of an EP, through working alongside a number of EPs over a period of time. Work as an Assistant is undertaken with clients in contexts where the EPs in their service also work, and requires a high level of professionalism and competence
Work experience will be more valuable where it has:
- brought applicants into significant contact with the work of educational psychologists.
- involved contexts and client groups frequently encountered by educational psychologists.
- required application of psychological theory and research or further acquisition of knowledge and skills relevant to training as an EP.
- required the demonstration of a level of professional responsibility and autonomy.
These aspects are often more difficult to evidence through work experience which is exclusively part-time, short term or voluntary, or which occupies only a small number of hours per week. This is because requirements for commitment, perseverance and responsibility may be less clear and more difficult to demonstrate than in the case of sustained periods of paid employment occupying a substantial proportion of the working week.
There is no specific date restriction on the validity of work experience, but it should be recent enough that you are able to demonstrate up to date knowledge of the work involved as an EP.
- Application Process - UK Candidates
All UK applications (both for government funded and self-funded places on the programme) are made via the AEP training website - please visit http://www.aep.org.uk/training/ for further information.
Applications can be made between September and December for entry starting the following September. Applications for UK candidates for the 2020 cohort are now closed.
If you are interested in applying as a UK candidate for September 2021 entry onto the programme please read our application website thoroughly. You can also download the AEP's Educational Psychology Training Entry Handbook (2019) here.
Application Process - September 2020 Entry
Application for September 2020 entry is now closed. Please visit the AEP website for information and guidance on how to apply next year: http://www.aep.org.uk/training/.
- Application Process - EU and Overseas Candidates
Application for September 2020 entry is now open.
Click here to visit our international applications webpage for further information about applying to the course as an EU/overseas student.
- Our Selection Process
We aim to make our selection process as transparent and stress-free as possible. At all stages applicants are assessed in relation to explicit criteria which are shared with you. All application forms are carefully assessed by course tutors who are also qualified Educational Psychologists. Moderation of the selection of applicants for interview is carried out by Principal Educational Psychologists working in London and the South East of England.
If you are invited to interview you will receive information about the further criteria which will be assessed, so you know what we are looking for and can prepare accordingly. The following selection activities will be used:
- A small panel interview
- A short group problem based learning simulation activity with a tutor
- A written task based on analysis of a video sequence
All members of interview teams are qualified Educational Psychologists and teams always include representative Principal Educational Psychologists. The half day which each interviewee will spend at UCL will also allow discussion with staff and open access to the opinions of a current group of our trainee educational psychologists. We want you to be able to hear from them about their training experience.
Our interview dates for UK applications for September 2020 entry are Thursday 20th February, Friday 21st February and Friday 28th February. Interview slots will be either morning or afternoon and applicants must be able to commit to whichever date they are allocated to in the event that they are shortlisted to attend.
- Diversity, Access and Equalities
The UCL Educational Psychology Group is firmly committed to promoting equal opportunity. UCL’s Equalities and Diversity Policy and Strategy underlies every aspect of our student selection process.
UCL's Access Agreement outlines our commitment to widening participation at UCL. Click here for further information.
Equalities and Diversity Policy
UCL's Equalities and Diversity Policy in respect of student recruitment and admissions is as follows:
- UCL is committed to provide a learning, working and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its members are respected, and which is free from discrimination, prejudice, intimidation and all forms of harassment including bullying;
- This policy means that all students of UCL have the right to study in an environment free from discrimination, prejudice and all forms of harassment or bullying;
- The above policy is adhered to in all matters concerning student recruitment and admissions. UCL is committed to a programme of action to ensure that this and other equalities policies are implemented and monitored at an organisational and individual level. Each department has a Departmental Equal Opportunities Liaison Officer who disseminates information on good practice and training. In addition, as members of minority ethnic groups with extensive experience of work with people with a range of needs, UCL Tutors Beverley Graham, Dr Shama Ali and Dr Gurdip Theara would like you to know that they are more than happy to be consulted by prospective applicants from minority groups.
- In the recruitment and selection of students our only consideration is that the individual meets, or is likely to meet, the requirements of the programme or course. Factors such as sex, sexual orientation, marital or civil partnership status, ethnic origin, race, religion, colour, nationality, political beliefs, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, disability and age are not be taken into account for the purposes of students' application to and acceptance on to a programme of study, and assessment of academic performance. Selection for the programme is made solely on merit.
The building in which we are based is wheelchair accessible and full information about the services we provide to facilitate inclusive study for students with a disability can be found at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/disability/
Helpful relevant information is also contained in the Health and Care Professions Council publication: Health, Disability and Becoming a Health and Care Professional
- Prior to Admission
Please note that, in accordance with the UCL Child Protection Policy, admission to the DECPsy programme will be dependent on:
- An enhanced child workforce Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, and/or clearance from the relevant overseas authorities. All applicants in receipt of provisional offers after interview – including those who are employed in a post which has previously required a DBS check – will be required to meet with the UCL Criminal Records Office during an induction session at UCL in early July, in order to initiate a disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service and/or clearance from the relevant overseas authorities. Applicants will be unable to begin practical placements in mid-September until a disclosure has been received.
- All offers are subject to the UCL General Conditions for Entry. Full details can be found at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/srs/academic-manual/c1/relationship/#7.2.
Where a criminal conviction is disclosed consultation will take place with the Faculty Tutor (Brain Sciences) and placement provider representatives on the Programme Stakeholder Advisory Committee in considering whether or not the conviction has implications for the applicant's ability to meet the Health and Care Professions Council's Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics.
At the July induction session each applicant is also given a Pre-Employment/Placement Health Questionnaire, to be returned to UCL Occupational Health Department within 2 weeks. Occasionally follow-up information may be sought or an appointment offered. The purpose of this is to ensure that applicants are physically and psychologically capable of meeting the standards required to work as an Educational Psychologist, and that they do not present a risk to the vulnerable children and young people with whom they will be working. In addition, a separate form is provided for applicants with medical conditions who can meet the requirements of the programme with reasonable adjustments, so details of the support needed can be supplied.
- Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to many DECPsy applicant queries we have received are below. You can also download all our FAQs as a pdf file here:
I'm in my final year of a psychology degree. Can I apply to the course now, or do I have to wait until I've graduated?
You cannot apply until you have obtained your undergraduate psychology degree results, which needs to be recognised by the British Psychological Society as conferring Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC). You will also need to have gained work experience prior to applying (at least 1 year full-time equivalent by the application deadline).
How much work experience with children is enough to give my application a good chance of success?
12 months' full-time experience working with children in an educational, child care or community setting is a recommended minimum. 1 year full-time equivalent (e.g. 24 months' half time) must have been completed by the application deadline. This can be cumulative or continuous and voluntary experience of various kinds may also assist applicants in demonstrating a breadth of relevant experience. Whatever kind of work has been done, we are primarily interested in what applicants have learnt from their experiences that is relevant to work as an educational psychologist, and how they have been able to apply the knowledge of psychology gained through their first degree. 'Quality' of work experience in terms of relevance to contexts and client groups encountered in an EP role is equally important to 'quantity'. Please see the Relevant Work Experience section on our application page for more details.
Do I need to have GBC before applying to the course?
You will need to be eligible for Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership, but you do not need to have acquired this before applying. Please contact the BPS if you would like confirmation as to whether or not you will be eligible. You would need to have acquired this status by the time the DECPsy course has started in September.
Do I need a Masters to apply for the course?
If you have achieved a 2:1 undergraduate degree in Psychology then a Masters is not needed. A Masters is only required if you achieved a 2:2 in your Psychology degree, and you must then achieve a Merit or Distinction in your Masters. The Masters course must be accredited by the British Psychological Society, if you are unsure on this please check with the BPS directly.
My undergraduate degree may not have sufficient psychology modules for GBC to be conferred, or, my undergraduate degree was not in Psychology - what should I do to be able to apply to the course?
If your degree does not have sufficient psychology modules then you should contact the British Psychological Society who will let you have details of conversion courses available to you. There is no 'preferred' conversion course as long as it is accredited by the BPS. Please note that we do not offer a conversion course.
Does holding a teaching qualification (PGCE) give you a better likelihood of being accepted on the course?
No, it is not essential that you complete a PGCE before applying and you should only do so if you feel you have a desire to teach.
Is there any option to qualify as an Educational Psychologist after studying a 1 year Masters in Educational Psychology now, either at UCL or elsewhere, or is my only option the 3 year Doctorate?
No, in 2009 the Health and Care Professions Council set the threshold level of qualification for entry to the register for Educational Psychologists at 'Professional Doctorate or Equivalent'.
Could you clarify the differences between the two Educational Psychology Doctorate programmes following the merger between UCL and the IoE?
The recent merger will not affect the Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology Programme at UCL and the two programmes are still run separately. We can only give information about our own doctorate programme. If you require assistance in regards to the Institute of Education Doctorate programme, please contact them directly at 020 7612 6591 or visit their website
How many places are offered on the course each year and how many are funded versus self-funded?
We are able to offer 16 funded places. There may also be some availability for EU/overseas applicants.
Do you offer any equivalent part-time or distance study alternatives?
No, the full-time study route is the only one available given the breadth and level of subject matter covered and its focus on practical placement learning. Please note that the course is very academically and practically demanding, ruling out any option of part-time work to assist with funding.
Would it be possible to substitute some of the credits for my existing qualification for part of the Doctorate - for example the first term of study?
No, this is never an option, course members must successfully complete the entire 3 years to qualify. On this integrated Doctoral-level programme there are no elements to which accreditation of prior (experiential) learning processes are applicable.
I applied to the course last year and did not get a place. I was told that this was in part due to the large number of applications and this should not stop me from applying again - is there any limit to the number of times candidates can re-apply?
Not at all - the course is extremely competitive and sadly the number of places available is small. Applying in successive years has proved successful for a number of current students who are now on their way to becoming qualified EPs.
Can you clarify the funding that is available to UK applicants? I understand that I can obtain a bursary from the government if I secure a funded place on the course, but is this intended to cover course fees, living costs or both?
Applicants who secure a funded place will have their fees for all 3 years paid in addition to the bursary of £16,390 in Year 1. For years 2 and 3 applicants obtain a placement bursary as a trainee educational psychologist with a Local Authority Educational Psychology Service.
What are my obligations upon completing the programme if I had a funded place?
A funded place on the programme should be viewed as a 5 year commitment. It is necessary to work as an EP in England for two years after graduating from the programme, however there is flexibility regarding this. If your circumstances should change for instance, the EP work can be done on a part time basis (providing that the period worked equates to two years of full time employment in total) or after a maternity leave is taken. A contract of terms of employment will be given to each candidate prior to the start of the course.
If I get a place on the course, will I need to organise my own placements in Years 1-3?
Currently, Year 1 placements are organised for you in one of our placement Local Authorities around London. In years 2 and 3, trainee EP placement bursary placements for UK trainees will be allocated to Services in London and the South East by a placement panel of Principal Educational Psychologists, taking account of your address and other relevant factors.
Year 2 and 3 placement arrangements are different for students from overseas and the EU, who are required to provide written confirmation that a placement of 260 days (approximately 3 days per week) has been organised in their home country for Years 2 and 3 when applying for a place on the course or to indicate that they wish to take up the UK placement option (subject to a fee supplement for EU students) in which an unpaid placement is supervised by one of the UCL tutors. If a placement is to be undertaken in the applicant's home country it will need to be arranged with a supervisor who is eligible for Chartered Educational Psychology status with the British Psychological Society (or equivalent with the Psychological Society of your home country). There are different fee levels for these 2 placement options. See the placements section of the DECPsy website for full details.
What can I expect to earn on my bursaried placement in years 2 and 3?
Each UK trainee undertaking a bursaried placement in years 2 and 3 will receive a bursary of £17,000 per annum, which includes a contribution towards travel/books, usually of £500, but with some additional funds being available to support trainees who incur particular travel costs associated with home to placement travel. Please click here for further information regarding year 2 and 3 placement allocations and expectations.
What are the term dates for the first year of the course, and in Year 1 is university study 5 days a week?
The course syllabus contains both practice (placement) and professional development (academic/taught, in-house) elements. In Year 1, taught sessions are held at UCL 2 days per week, primary, secondary and special school placements comprise 1 day a week and the other 2 days a week are reserved for research/study. Term dates obviously differ slightly from year to year but will be similar to the current academic year's which are available on our website. Please note that the course always starts on the first week of September in Year 1.
Is a reading list available to interested applicants?
Yes, this is available for download here
Will I be offered help arranging accommodation? What are the living costs likely to be?
Most students live in the region and do not have to move to attend the course. If you are applying from overseas or currently live further afield please click here for details on eligibility for UCL student residences. The UCL accommodation website also provides a great deal of helpful information, including estimated living costs for students living in London and a link to the University of London Housing Services website for those seeking private lodgings or flats.
I am an overseas applicant, where can I find out more about living in London?
In addition to the accommodation information above, some useful information can be found on the living in London international students webpage We also put overseas applicants in touch with existing overseas students on the programme, once a formal offer of a place has been accepted, so that information and advice can be sought if required.
Do you hold open days regarding the Doctorate in Educational & Child Psychology programme, or can I meet with a tutor from the course?
We do not offer open days or individual visits to discuss the DECPsy course. Sometimes Local Authority Open Days are advertised on our website, along with all the key information you will need about the course.
Do you offer work experience or internships?
We are unable to offer work experience or internships within the Educational Psychology Group.
What is the age range on the course? I suppose what I am trying to ask is, as a 'mature' applicant, am I 'too old' to apply?
Our course members are a range of ages and this is utterly irrelevant to our selection process - what counts are your skills and knowledge, not your age.
What is the typical background of a UCL doctorate trainee?
The DECPsy applicants accepted on to the programme are a diverse group with varying backgrounds, both academically and in terms of experience.
Is the programme very competitive?
Assessments are marked in a way which would make competition difficult to establish. In most cases work is marked on a pass/fail basis, with corrections and advice from tutors tailored to each individual. Staff and trainees strive to create a supportive and non-judgemental envrironment.
Is the workload difficult to manage?
Undertaking the doctorate is an intense commitment. The programme requires full time dedication and a willingness to work hard. If you manage your time well and meet deadlines set you will find the programme easier to manage.
Does the programme focus on cognitive assessments?
During your time on the programme you will learn the varying ways of assessing the learning and development of children. Occasionally this will focus on cognitive assessments however other types of assessment are covered, e.g. dynamic assessment of children.
What formal assessments are there throughout the programme?
Across the three years you will complete two exams, four case studies, three portfolios (one each year) a service related research report and a thesis followed by a viva.
Is the main responsibility of the EP to deliver cognitive assessments?
The work of an EP is rewarding and varied. The primary responsibility is to help students learn and thrive through observing, interviewing and assessing children as well as working closely with teachers and parents. Although some practising EPs will deliver cognitive assessments, this is only one aspect of the varied occupation.