UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


MSc Early Child Development and Clinical Applications

This programme provides a comprehensive understanding of early child development through a range of theoretical and clinical perspectives. Students are able to apply this understanding in a supervised clinical placement normally in the Early Years Service at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, as well as conducting a centre-led research project or alternatively in collaboration with external partners. This two-year full-time MSc programme (formerly known as MSc in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology) has undergone changes to bring it up to date with current research and clinical practice.

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Key information

Programme starts

September 2021

Modes and duration

Full time: 2 years

Tuition fees (2021/22)

£12,500 (FT) 
£28,500 (FT) 

Funding available to improve equity of access and inclusion for Black, Asian and minority ethnic entrants and financially disadvantaged candidates. For more information contact: ecdca@annafreud.org. Funding application deadline: 15th March 2021.

Application dates

All applicants
Open: 9 November 2020
Close: 30 July 2021

Note on fees: The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website.

Location: London, Kings Cross (Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families)

This programme focuses on giving a comprehensive multi-perspective understanding of development and clinical practice in the early years (i.e. prenatal to 5 years), considering biological and environmental influences. This is provided through teaching of psychoanalytic theories, developmental and neuroscience research, and current clinical practice, as well as a naturalistic observation of an infant in their family home.

The course also provides an opportunity to begin to develop clinical skills for work with parents and children under the age of 5 through a placement in the second year of the programme. Supervision of clinical placements is provided, as well as clinical competencies masterclasses, taught by clinicians with various approaches.

There is also a strong focus on developing research skills, with teaching covering quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Students undertake a research project, supported by individual supervision and workshops on a topic related to development, mental health and/or clinical work. Research projects are conducted either within the services at the Centre or with external collaborators. The project leads to a research paper written in a journal-style format. 

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The programme is made up of three key elements: Developmental Foundations, Science and Practice and Research.

Developmental Foundations: These modules focus on a multi-perspective understanding of Early Child Development and the impact of these early years on later stages of life. There is also a module which teaches key Psychoanalytic Theories of Infancy and the Caregiver-Child Relationship. These theories are also explored in terms of their socio-cultural influences, how they were received at the time and how they are used now. In parallel to this, students carry out a two-year Observation of an infant and family in their home. This observation allows to see ‘theory in action’ but also develop observational and self-reflective capacities, which are key for therapeutic work.

Science and Practice: These modules provide an understanding of how psychoanalytic theories, neuroscience and developmental research are applied to current clinical work with parents and babies. The Applied Psychoanalytic Concepts module specifically looks at the application of psychoanalytic ideas and explores individual and group work with babies, children, and parents, work with foster and adoptive parents, and explores clinical work where issues such as gender identity, parental conflict, and/or abuse/trauma are discussed. Prevention in Mental Health introduces the concept of preventive mental health, focusing on general promotion of health programmes and selective preventive interventions in high-risk groups. In Multiple Perspectives on Developmental Psychopathology 1 you will gain an overview of psychopathology (e.g. autism and conduct disorder) from multiple perspectives. Multi-disciplinarity and Multiple Perspectives in Early Years module looks at the importance of professional networks in early work, understanding different clinical approaches in the early years. Clinical Competencies masterclasses and a supervised Clinical Placement will allow you to apply the learning from the first-year taught content of the programme and to develop clinical skills in practice.

Research: Both formative and assessed Research Methods modules will expose you to a range of research methodologies, including quantitative and qualitative methodologies, and data analysis techniques. The programme provides training on SPSS, which is a statistical analysis software package. Developing these skills enables students to conduct their own Research Project and write-up a journal-type research paper.

Why study this degree at UCL?

Teaching on the programme is based at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families in London, a world-renowned centre for clinical practice, training and research in the field of child mental health. The MSc is based within UCL's Division of Psychology & Language Sciences, one of the world’s leading integrated departments of research and teaching in mind, behaviour, and language.

Distinctive features of this programme include teaching by highly experienced clinicians and researchers working in the field of early child mental health and parenting; the opportunity to develop clinical skills for working with infants and parents; practical training in conducting research; and gain experience of working in an early years clinical setting, under the supervision of an experienced clinician.

Department: Division of Psychology & Language Sciences

Student / staff ratios › 181 staff including 173 postdocs › 780 taught students › 440 research students


Students may undertake an MSc in two years of full-time study.

Degree Information

Students develop a theoretical grounding in early child development, through teaching of psychoanalytic theories, developmental and neuroscience research, and current clinical practice. Observations of parents and children allow students to witness some of these theoretical constructs in real world contexts and help students develop the observational skills essential in clinical work. Supervised clinical placements allow students to apply the learning from the first-year taught content of the programme and to develop clinical skills in practice. The research teaching covers qualitative and quantitative research methodologies and gives students the tools necessary for conducting reliable, valid and ethical research.

Students undertake modules to the value of 270 credits. 

Core modules

Year 1, Term 1

  • Early Child Development I
  • Psychoanalytic Theories of Infancy and the Caregiver-Child Relationship
  • Multiple Perspectives on Development and Psychopathology I
  • Research Methods I (formative)

Year 1, Term 2

  • Early Child Development II
  • Applied Psychoanalytic Concepts
  • Research Methods II: Introduction to Statistical Analysis

Year 1, Term 3

  • Early Child Development III
  • Prevention in Mental Health
  • Multi-disciplinarity and Multiple Perspectives in Early Years
  • Multivariate Data Analysis (formative)

Year 1, Terms 1-3

  • Workshop: Research method / assessment (formative)
  • Qualitative Research (formative)
  • Parent-Infant Observation I
  • Research Project I

Year 2, Term 1

  • Clinical Competencies: Masterclass I

Year 2, Term 2

  • Clinical Competencies Masterclass II

Year 2, Terms 1-3

  • Clinical Placement
  • Workshop: Clinical model/tool (formative)
  • Parent-Infant Observation II
  • Research Project II
Teaching and Learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops, small group observation seminars, a clinical placement and supervision, and research supervision. The clinical placement is supervised by an experienced clinician in early years. Observation seminar groups are small, led by psychoanalytic clinicians and allow plenty of opportunity for discussion and reflection. Research work is supported by an individual supervisor and by workshops throughout the year. There are various assessments, such as essay, exam, case report, oral presentation, science communication article and leaflet, observation paper and a journal-type research paper. Assessment occurs throughout the programme (usually at the end of the relevant module).


Entry Requirements

Normally a minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree from a UK university in Psychology, or in another relevant social, clinical or life science discipline, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. It is highly desirable that students have obtained relevant experience working with children or parents prior to application.

English Language Requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.

The English language level for this programme is: Good

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

International students

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

Application and next steps


Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

Who can apply?

Usually, prospective students have an undergraduate degree in psychology or another relevant social, clinical or life science discipline and have obtained some prior experience of related research. However, we also welcome applicants from other academic backgrounds and mature students already working with children or families. Some experience of working with children is also desirable if possible.

Application deadlines
All applicants
30 July 2021

For more information see our Applications page.

Apply now
What are we looking for?


When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Early Child Development at graduate level
  • why you want to study Early Child Development at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to this programme
  • how your academic and professional background meets the demands of this rigorous programme
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.


Funding available to improve equity of access and inclusion for Black, Asian and minority ethnic entrants and financially disadvantaged candidates. For more information contact: ecdca@annafreud.org. Funding application deadline: 15th March 2021.

The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families offers one bursary for this MSc programme (£3000 per year) which is open only to Home and EU Students. Additionally the Centre offers one bursary for mature students. Both bursaries are awarded based on academic ability and potential as well as on financial need. Please note, students are only eligible to apply once they have been issued with a firm offer from UCL for this programme. The bursaries are administered by the the Centre and are not part of UCL.

For information on general scholarship opportunities, please go to the UCL Scholarships page.

Please note: this programme is not eligible for US Federal Loan Authority funding.



The MSc forms an excellent basis for careers in clinical work, research and academia so students who successfully complete it can apply their degree in a variety of settings.

Detailed knowledge of early child development and its impact on later stages of life, as well as clinical practice, would benefit graduates who wish to go on to work with children and families in different therapeutic and clinical settings, or in educational settings. Graduates may also be admitted onto professional doctorates, such as: Doctorate in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, Clinical Psychology, Counselling Psychology or Educational Psychology.

The skills in observation and self-reflection are essential for future careers in adult or child psychotherapy. The programme is a recognised pre-clinical course which provides the theoretical and observational requirements to apply for a clinical training in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy at a training school of the Association of Child Psychotherapists.

Research skills gained on the programme would equip graduates for work as Research Assistants or for PhD studies.


Contact: Ms Zara Abraamian, Programme Officer
Contact email: ecdca@annafreud.org


Q. What do people do with an MSc in Early Child Development and Clinical Applications?

A. Students who successfully complete the MSc can apply their degree in a variety of settings and find work as child mental health workers or psychology assistants, or take up posts as research assistants. They may also be admitted onto professional doctorates or PhD programmes.
The programme has strong links with IPCAPA at the British Psychotherapy Foundation (bpf) and with the UCL Doctorate in Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, accredited Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy training schools in London.

Q. What kind of background do you look for in successful candidates?

A. Whilst a background in Psychology or a social science is useful, it is not essential and applications from all background disciplines are considered.

Q. Would I need to have lots of research experience to secure an offer?

A. The programme assumes no previous research experiences although many students already have some basic experience and knowledge of some areas of research. The programme considers it more important that students develop the emotional ability and intellectual capacity to understand concepts central to research and how these translate to both theoretical and observational contexts. 

Q. I’m an overseas student where can I convert my grades to find out if I am eligible for the programme?

A. You can find information on converting grades on the graduate admissions website under information by country.

Q. How does this MSc differ from the other MScs offered by your department? 

A. This MSc integrates different theoretical and clinical perspectives and gives students the opportunity to develop skills necessary to work with babies, children under the age of 5 and families. While the MSc has a predominantly psychoanalytic approach, it integrates current research from developmental psychology and neuroscience. The programme envisages its graduates as being able to translate concepts across these domains and therefore develop an appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of each domain itself and areas of overlap between domains. As such, it forms an excellent basis for careers in academia, clinical work and research.

Q. How much experience of working with children do I need to apply for this programme? 

A. Some experience of working with children is expected although the nature of this experience can vary greatly. Importance is given to the capacity to think about the experience rather than the sheer volume of experience itself.

Q. How long is the programme? 

A. The MSc is two years of full-time study of a total of 270 credits. To exit with a PG Diploma, students must successfully amass 120 credits.

Q. Is it possible to do the MSc as a part time student?

A. It is not possible to complete this programme as a part time student.

Q. What are the programme commitments?

A. This is a demanding programme that is also very rewarding to its students. There is a great deal of reading to be completed, and the clinical placement, observations and research are also time-consuming. Students should expect to have to devote at least four days per week to the programme which has implications for those students seeking to hold part-time jobs whilst studying. 


Dr Alejandra Perez is the Programme Director for this MSc. Alejandra is a Psychoanalyst working in private practice and a Parent-Infant Psychotherapist of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families.

Dr Elena Panagiotopoulou is the Deputy Programme Director for this MSc. Elena is a Researcher with an inter-disciplinary background in psychoanalytic developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience.