Source: University of Essex
Promoted by University of Essex

University of Essex: Where psychology students thrive under the guidance of excellent staff

People from all walks of life coming together to understand our place in the world — that’s what it’s like to study psychology at the University of Essex’s Department of Psychology. Here, courses address this key mission — and leading them are award-winning teachers and supervisors who care and can help students from highly diverse groups succeed. Most staff were first-generation university goers and have risen to become prolific members in academia, including becoming Fellows of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). This fellowship recognises one’s commitment to professionalism in teaching and learning in higher education and shows that their practice aligns with the UK Professional Standards Framework. 

All of which goes to say: they’re some of the best people to make full use of this exciting time to study human behaviour. There’s no shortage of challenges and upheavals across the globe today and members of the Department of Psychology at Essex are at the forefront of our understanding of these new facets of how we live. Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are changing, sometimes without us realising it — making it imperative for us to reflect on them.

In the realm of new technologies, Dr. Paul Hanel is a leader, one who brings along often illuminating explorations of the relationship between human and machine. Or, more specifically, in his case, between human and artificial intelligence (AI). 

Source: University of Essex

Psychology at Essex programmes are at the forefront of our understanding of our place in the world. Source: University of Essex

One of his studies found that just 9% of humans are more creative than the best AI chatbots. Conducted together with researchers from Humboldt University, Berlin, the study showed that many humans lag behind mechanical muses and struggled to match them in a scientific study on creativity.

However, overall “there was no qualitative difference between AI and human-generated creativity,” the study concluded. But technology is set to act as valuable assistants in reviewing thoughts rather than being omnipotent tools. “However, they still require humans to use them and to interpret their outputs, so they can be great tools to assist us,” he says.

For those joining psychology at Essex programmes, insights from ground-breaking research like these are commonplace. It pairs well with the Department’s problem-based learning approach that puts societal issues at the core of everything it does. 

Each programme gets students to master methods and statistics within the context of concrete questions from different areas of psychology. It gives them the psychological knowledge and tools to address problems beyond academia and in different sectors as well. Practising these and pairing them with research power ranked 20th in the UK for research output in psychology (Grade Point Average, Research Excellence Framework 2021) lets students see, understand and recognise how their skills are relevant to the outside world.

Source: University of Essex

Students can expect to gain skills that will lead them to diverse career prospects once they graduate. Source: University of Essex

The BSc Psychology — which is British Psychological Society-accredited — exemplifies this best. It focuses on employability and transferable skills like analysis, problem-solving, creation and innovation, research, organisation, collaboration, communication, self-awareness, and self-management. Besides that, students will have access to state-of-the-art facilities like the Centre for Brain Science, where they can learn to modulate and measure brain activity. 

The key here is to place emphasis on the practical aspect rather than just learning in a classroom. At the Department of Psychology, students strike a good balance of both. The BSc Psychology with Cognitive Neuroscience teaches students how to understand brain processes while they learn from innovative researchers. Through the Research Experience Scheme, students on both programmes can work one-on-one with a psychologist as their research assistant.

For both programmes, students cover the breadth of the disciplines in Year 1 and Year 2, then in Year 3, opt to specialise in the fields of interest that they excel in. Students gain plenty from their coursework, with assignments that get them working directly with people from the industry and even addressing problems that companies deal with every day.

Beyond their programmes, there are extra-curricular activities that support its community. There’s a psychology blog, a social, hospitality and outreach experience scheme to help build skills around outreach, public relations, and social media, and many more. 

So, why else study at the University of Essex? Other than it being a top research power and 21st for overall student satisfaction in the National Student Survey 2022 (NSS) for psychology, the University also placed 24th for international outlook in the Times Higher Education, World University Rankings 2022. 

Psychology at Essex is not just a place to understand our place in the world. It’s so much more than that. There are friendships and professional networks to be made. It’s set to be a journey of breaking new ground, of challenging existing expectations and conventions, and – ultimately – of making a meaningful difference in the world. Learn more about how you can understand your place in the world here.