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A degree at the nerve-centre of psychological research

For more than 70 years the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) has been a global leader in mental health research, education and training. Now, thanks to the innovative online degree programme designed and led by academics at the IoPPN, the University of London is offering the opportunity to access this world-class centre of excellence, no matter where you’re based.

Written by Allie Fitzgibbon |

A woman speaking to a group of students.
Students will learn and improve core skills that will be useful well beyond the degree.

Studying the human mind can help us better understand ourselves and the world around us. It can help to make sense of people’s behaviour, explain how children’s brains develop and give an insight into a variety of mental health issues. We spoke to Programme Director, Dr Jenny Yiend, about how cutting-edge research and real-life clinical examples are at the heart of University of London's BSc Psychology programme.

We have infused the curriculum with lots of clinical and other real-world examples so that students will be seeing that theory within the context of real-life issues.

The University of London has partnered with the world-renowned Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London, to design an online degree in psychology. You can study the flexible programme at your own pace from anywhere in the world that has internet access, giving unparalleled access to first class education.

Programme Director, Dr Jenny Yiend, is a Reader in Cognitive Psychopathology at the IoPPN. She described how the very latest research is embedded in the programme from the earliest stages.

“The whole degree programme is driven by the research agenda of the Institute (within the boundaries set by accreditation requirements) and really takes advantage of the particular expertise we have here. Modules include ‘Applications of Psychology’, ‘Health, addictions and wellbeing’, and ‘Gender and mental health’ and these are all areas where we have a very strong research representation. That means students are learning about the work of some of the world’s leading experts in these fields and are accessing the most up-to-date theory.

"However, at the heart of the IoPPN is the commitment to use research in a translational context, applying evidence-based learning to actually help people. We have infused the curriculum with lots of clinical and other real-world examples so that even from the earliest modules students will be seeing that theory within the context of real-life issues.”

This programme really takes advantage of the particular expertise we have at the IoPPN…students are learning about the work of some of the world’s leading experts in mental health.

Dr Yiend’s own background is in cognitive processing and psychopathology. She completed her PhD in anxiety and cognitive biases at the University of Cambridge and after several research positions there, she moved to the University of Oxford where she was Director of Studies for Psychology at St Hilda’s College.   

Her work at IoPPN has focussed on how our understanding of the cognitive biases – thought processes that shape peoples’ thinking in unhelpful ways – could be used in the treatment of more severe mental health conditions, including paranoia and psychosis. She has recently won funding from the Medical Research Council to lead a team of researchers in partnership with the University of Bath and the service user charity, the McPin Foundation.

“The team and I are working on a project called STOP – Successful Treatment of Paranoia. We’re looking at how digital therapy, specifically a mobile app, could be used in the treatment of paranoia. It’s particularly relevant in the current climate where, because of national lockdowns and COVID-19 safety restrictions, a lot of clinical care has moved online. This is a good example of how research is used in a translational way to help people.”

The whole programme encourages the development of essential attributes that any employer will look for – from how to evaluate critically to how to work as a team.

The degree programme also focuses strongly on research methods and statistical analysis and students are required to complete their own empirical research project. Dr Yiend explained why these skills are relevant not only to careers in science but to almost any role.

“Students are learning and improving core skills that will be useful well beyond the degree. During the research project they are learning project management skills such as how to work to a timescale, how to understand a scope of work – from the bigger picture to the intricate details – and how to use a Gantt chart to plan milestones. But beyond that the whole programme encourages the development of essential attributes that any employer will look for – from how to evaluate critically to how to work as a team.”

While there is a strong emphasis on maths and biology in the degree, a performance-based entry route allows applicants with non-traditional qualifications or those who do not meet the academic requirements to access the programme as well.

Dr Yiend explained: “This programme is unique because we want to make sure it is as accessible as possible – anyone in the world who wants to study this degree and has the ability should be able to. If you choose the performance-based entry route you will be asked to complete a maths-based and a biology-based module and providing you pass them you will be allowed to continue with the programme.

“Anyone who doesn’t have a strong maths or biology background can access several free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and read the recommended texts before they start so that they have the basic grounding they need. The key thing I’m really looking for in applicants is self-motivation – studying online you will get out what you put in and staying motivated is key.”

Find out how you can be at the forefront of psychological study with the University of London’s BSc in Psychology.