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Psychology University Admissions

Discussion in 'Social sciences' started by JaneyFar, May 13, 2011.

  1. JaneyFar

    JaneyFar New commenter

    Hi Psych28,
    I used to be Lecturer at a red brick university before leaving to teach psych at A level (wanted to get away from research) and so have some experience of what you are saying.
    I think the key is that students do not need to have studied psychology to do the subject at university. Secondly, I think the idea of psychology students being disadvantaged because they have studied it at A level stems from the fact that A level offers a very simplistic way of looking at the subject, particularly regarding research methods. I know that as a university lecturer we all moaned about A level students thinking they knew about research methods and getting it wrong. For instance, students writing a discussion section where they say an extraneous variable that may have caused the difference between two conditions is noise or time of day (even though they tested both conditions at the same time of day or with the same amount of noise). This simplistic knowledge then gives A level a bad reputation amongst uni lecturers.
    However, I work in a very large sixth form centre and have not found that my students cannot get into the top universities when they are studying psychology (including Warwick). I do know that Warwick prefer to have students that have studied more traditional subjects, particularly science subjects, but I think that has been the case for a while. Their degree is very 'science' based and as they get so many applicants they can afford to be prescriptive in their requirements. However, I do not think doing Psychology A level is seen as a disadvantage - just not an advantage per se.
    On the more negative side, it is the case, however, that the Russell Group Universities have issued in the last sixth months a list of 'facilitating' subjects that they prefer students to have studied, see: http://russellgroup.ac.uk/uploads/Informed-Choices-final_2.pdf.
    The list of facilitating subjects are:
    Mathematics and futher mathematics
    Languages (modern and classic)
    List of generally more vocational based qualifications they mention as less preferred include:
    media studies
    Art and design
    Business studies

    Psychology is in neither list so not seen as preferred or less preferred. I would not bother writing to the exam board as I don't think it will get you anywhere at all. Psychology is meant to be considered a science at A level but I think it will always struggle to gain the same status as the natural, traditional sciences.
    I don't know if that helps at all. I don't think your students should panic but should think about the choices they make alongside Psychology if they are wanting to go to the top uni's.
  2. If 'psychology' were not respected by all universities then they wouldn't be running the degree would they?!
    Warwick are simply saying that because they are heavily oversubscribed they 'prefer' students with at least two traditional subjects, including one natural science.
    There is absolutely no need for students or staff to panic as this has been the case for a very long time at very competitive universities.
    The last post makes some excellent points, and as someone who has been in the same position (refugee from HE, now teaching at an independent school)and as a Warwick graduate in psychology I would agree completely with her analysis of why some staff make disparaging comments about A level psychology. I would also add that most of the staff have little knowledge of what is involved in it anyway!
    A very confident student or teacher should challenge staff who make these comments to justify them - as I have at conferences (including at Cambridge) and it is surprising how quickly they backtrack or betray their ignorance!
    I have previous students at Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick, Durham, York, Bristol, Imperial etc studying psychology, medicine or a related subject so I really would not worry.
    The advice is if you want a psychology place at a top ten university then the studetn should if at all possible (and if they'll get the A/B grade!) do a natural science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) or Maths. Psychology as their third A level is not a problem anywhere.
    Hope this helps!
  3. Thank you for your replies. I may not have made it clear but it is 'Psychology A-level' that I believe is not respected.
    I think you are right in that some staff do not know what is involved and make claims that are ignorant and uninformed. However, I had hoped that this had changed given that the boards consulted with Universities when designing the specification.
    I guess this is why I would like to see some sort of campaign to make it clear to Admissions' Tutors the demands made of students when studying A-level Psychology. I teach at a small school and I have already spoken to a few students who have told me they would love to study AS Psychology but have been persuaded not to do so by parents/word of mouth/press views of the subject.
    Luckily, it is still a very popular subject at my school but I would not like to become complacent. I have seen other subjects come and go. I would like to see Psychology A-level recognised and respected by H.E. Psychology Departments and perhaps even encouraged!? I certainly feel my students are well-prepared for H.E. and gain so much from their study at A-level.
    It sounds like there's not much to be done but I do appreciate your thoughts.

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