UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


MSc Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology

This programme, run in conjunction with, and based at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, provides a unique foundation for individuals interested in pursuing a psychotherapy training or an academic career in childhood development. The programme combines different psychoanalytic theories of development and inter-family relationships with a year-long observation of infants in a family setting, and a research project.

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Key information

Programme starts

September 2020

Modes and duration

Full time: 1 year

Tuition fees (2020/21)

£10,750 (FT) 
£26,890 (FT) 

Application dates

All applicants
Open: 1 November 2019
Close: 24 Feburary 2020

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.

Optional qualifications: This degree is also available as a PG Diploma with fees set accordingly.
Location: London, Kings Cross (Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families)

The programme aims to give students an insight into the relevance of psychoanalytic ideas to our understanding of both child development and the workings of the mind. Psychoanalysis was the first 'talking cure' and the concepts covered should be of interest both to students wishing to work with children and to those considering further therapeutic training or academic research.

With the addition of a second year of infant observation, the programme is recognised by all the training schools accredited by the Association of Child Psychotherapists as covering the pre-training academic requirements for a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy training. 


The programme has three central components:

1. Theoretical Modules in Child Development and Psychoanalytic Concepts comprising weekly lectures supported by seminar discussions.

2. Observation Modules based on weekly observations of an infant and his/her family within the home, and an elective option to conduct a second observation of young children in a nursery school setting. These observations are discussed confidentially in small seminar groups with psychoanalysts/psychotherapists.

3. Research Modules cover quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, to provide students with the necessary skills to undertake empirical research, typically relating to either childhood development or the evaluation of therapeutic intervention. A wide range of research opportunities are offered both within the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and with external collaborating organisations. Students are supported in their research work by a supervisor and a series of research skills and development workshops. 

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 research, training and clinical practice 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.

Testimonials from previous students are available on the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families website.

Department: Division of Psychology & Language Sciences

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

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.

The following REF score was awarded to the department: Division of Psychology & Language Sciences
83% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)

Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.


Students may undertake an MSc or Postgraduate Diploma in one year of full-time study.

Degree Information

Students develop a theoretical grounding in psychoanalysis as related to child development and 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. 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 180 credits. 

A Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits) is also offered on both a full-time basis.

Core modules
  • Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Child Development I: Infancy
  • Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Child Development II: Toddlerhood and Early Childhood
  • Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Child Development III: Latency and Adolescence
  • Psychoanalytic Thought: Introduction to the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis
  • Psychoanalytic Thought: Developments and Applications 
  • Research Methods II: Introduction to Statistical Analysis
  • Observation I: Parent Infant
Elective modules

Students may choose one 15 credit module from the list below:

  • Observation II: Toddler Observation
  • Observation of a Young Child 
  • Parenting: Theory, Research and Clinical Interventions
  • Evaluating Clinical Interventions
  • Multiple Perspectives on Developmental Psychopathology
  • Parenting, Theory, Research and Clinical Intervention
Teaching and Learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops, and theory and observation seminars. Seminar groups are small, often led by clinicians and allow plenty of opportunity for discussion and reflection. Research work is supported by an individual supervisor and by workshops throughout the year. Assessments include a variety of essays, examinations, observation papers and a journal-type research paper. Assessment occurs throughout the programme (usually at the end of the relevant module).

Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology MSc



Entry Requirements

Normally a minimum of a upper second-class Bachelor's degree from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.

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
24 February 2020

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 Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology at graduate level
  • why you want to study Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology 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.


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

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 is administered by the the Centre and are not part of UCL.

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


“I chose to study Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology at the Anna Freud Centre because of its high academic standing and historical tradition. In addition, the centre offers intimate class sizes and a combination of hands on experience, through observations and research, which provides a solid educational environment with an excellent reputation.”
Emily, former student, USA

''My studies helped me obtain a post working with children, and to work there with a high degree of efficacy, thanks to the comprehensive knowledge of developmental issues gained from the MSc. I feel indebted to the Anna Freud Centre.’'
Brian, Assistant Child Psychotherapist.



Students who successfully complete the MSc can apply their degree in a variety of settings. Our graduates have found work as psychology assistants or child mental health workers, taken up posts as research assistants and have been admitted to psychotherapy trainings in both adult and child programmes and to PhD positions.

Recent career destinations for this degree
  • Doctorate Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, (UCL, AFNCCF and BPF)
  • PhD, Psychoanalysis Unit, University College London (UCL)
  • Assistant Psychologist, Royal Free Hospital (NHS)
  • DClinPsy in Clinical Psychology, UCL
  • Educator, Ready, Steady, Go Nursery
  • Research Assistant, UCL/University of Cambridge

Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2013–2015 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.


Application and next steps

Register interest in your chosen subjects.
Receive notice of graduate open days, events and more.

Register your interest

Q. What do people do with an MSc in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology

A. Students who successfully complete the MSc can apply their degree in a variety of settings. Our graduates have found work as child mental health workers or psychology assistants, or taken up posts as research assistants.

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 and alumni are regularly successful in gaining places. Others have been admitted to both adult and child psychotherapy programmes.

Several students have been admitted onto PhD programmes at internationally recognised universities, whilst other have gone into areas such as education and educational psychology, speech science and related child development fields.

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 psychoanalytic MScs offered by your department? 

A. Central to the concept and identity of this MSc lies the concept of the integration between theory, observational skills and research. 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. Students may undertake an MSc or Postgraduate Diploma in one year of full-time study. To be awarded a PG Diploma students must successfully amass 120 credits. For the MSc need to gain a total of 180 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 observations and research are time consuming. Full time 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.

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