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Master in Science Forensic Psychology

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  • Entry requirements
    For any accredited forensic psychology masters degree, an honours degree giving the BPS graduate basis for registration (GBR) is an essential entry qualification. Students often find that an upper second class also seems to be a pre-requisite, but at Coventry we welcome applications from people who might have a lower second class honours degree but who also have relevant experience. At the same time, we recognise the difficulty faced by students who cannot get a foot onto the ladder because courses ask for experience whilst work places demand qualifications. We welcome applications from students who can demonstrate their interest in forensic psychology in other ways. For applicants whose first language is not English, there is also a requirement to demonstrate competence in English language: this is demonstrated by an IELTS score of 6.5 (or above) or TOEFL 600 or above (paper based), or 250 or above (computer based).
  • Academic Title
    Master in Science Forensic Psychology
  • Course description
    The MSc Forensic Psychology provides students with a thorough grounding in the theory, themes, issues and practical skills that are central to the practice and application of psychological research into behaviour relevant to crime and forensic settings. The programme is accredited by the British Psychological Society as fulfilling the requirements of Stage 1 towards Chartered Forensic Psychologist status.

    Please also be aware that we offer a Graduate Diploma in Psychology which is a conversion course aimed at graduate students whose first degree had a psychology component but did not provide eligibility for the Graduate Basis for Registration (GBR) with the British Psychological Society.

    You can also study this course part-time, for details please visit Forensic Psychology MSc degree part-time

    Reasons to choose Forensic Psychology MSc degree

    The course was designed to cover the BPS Division of Forensic Psychology's (DFP) core curriculum, which was written as a standard by which to judge forensic psychology masters degree courses. The course has been commended for its breadth of coverage and relevance.

    Teaching excellence: Amongst the group of well-qualified and experienced lecturers who tutor the course are three chartered forensic psychologists, who between them have worked in the Probation Service, prison service, various community rehabilitation settings and in wide-ranging forensic research.

    In addition, the course team have extensive contacts in forensic psychology, so that many experienced practitioners visit the course to contribute their 'real world' knowledge, helping students to make the link between theory and practice. Visiting lecturers who contribute to the course include psychologists and researchers from other universities, lecturers in non-psychology crime-related subjects (eg criminology and law) at Coventry University, forensic psychologists and practitioners from the Home Office, the Prison and Probation Services, the Police Force, the NSPCC and victim support agencies.

    Student facilities: The Lanchester Library at Coventry University has a good selection of books on forensic psychology, as well as a large collection of video and audiotapes on relevant topics. Students can order inter-library loans at subsidised rates. A range of crime and justice-related journals are held in the library, and access to many journal articles is available electronically.

    Online learning: The library has over 350 personal computers for student use as part of the university's open access IT provision. There are also open access PCs in each of the buildings used by the MSc course and each student has a university email account to facilitate communication with each other and with staff. Coventry uses WebCT to enhance learning opportunities for its students. Each module on the forensic MSc has a dedicated website which gives on and off-campus access to course materials, news and discussion boards.

    Commitment to student support: The Psychology Department at Coventry takes many steps to encourage student feedback, and strives to be responsive. Not surprisingly, a high level of student satisfaction with the course has been noted. Coventry takes its responsibilities towards students with special needs very seriously, and makes great efforts to facilitating their access to study.

    Future prospects

    Typical Career Paths: The MSc Forensic Psychology provides career opportunities in a variety of forensic settings, such as the prison, probation and police services, local government and other agencies. Expected jobs are varied but may include Assistant Forensic Psychologist, Crime Scene Analyst, Prison Psychologist, Lecturer in Forensic Psychology, Researcher, Police Analyst, Police Officer and Probation Officer.

    Course content

    Students complete the ten modules listed below. The first six modules cover the theoretical and empirical basis of forensic psychology. Two modules are particular features of this course and explore the legal process (taught by the Law Department), and practice and application in forensic psychology (involving a number of guest speakers who are practitioners in forensic settings). A 30-credit module covers advanced research methods preparing students for the final module (60 credits), an independent research dissertation/project.

    Psychology and Criminal Behaviour (M81PY)

    This 10-credit module aims to introduce students to the contribution psychology has made to our understanding of criminal behaviour. A range of psychological theories will be examined and evaluated, then compared to alternative explanations of crime. This will be set in the context of a problematic view of crime produced by different interpretations of crime statistics and definitions of criminal behaviour.

    Psychology in the Criminal Justice System (M82PY)

    The aim of this 10-credit module is to provide students with a thorough grounding of the psychological theories and research that have been applied to processes within the criminal justice system. The processes that may be examined include eyewitness testimony, suspect identification, jury and legal decision-making, confessions, and expert testimony. The module will reflect the latest developments within this area of forensic psychology and students will be encouraged to adopt a critical and evaluative approach in their work.

    The Assessment and Treatment of Offenders (M83PY)

    This 20-credit module aims to provide students with a thorough grounding in the methods of assessment and treatment utilised within forensic settings. A range of methods will be described and critically examined. Students will be encouraged to assess the reliability and validity of assessment strategies, critically evaluate varied treatment programmes, and appraise evaluation techniques. The module also provides important preparation for practice by providing students with the opportunity to produce a risk assessment report on a mock case.

    Punishment and Rehabilitation (M84PY)

    This 10-credit module aims to examine traditional approaches to punishment and the contribution psychology has made to the development of rehabilitation strategies that aim to reduce offending behaviour and help victims of crime. Sentencing will be reviewed, together with an examination of the effects of imprisonment on offenders and their families, and an evaluation of alternative community disposals. The development of restorative justice programmes and increased involvement of victims will also be reviewed.

    Contemporary Developments in Forensic Psychology (M85PY)

    This 10-credit module will reflect contemporary developments within the field of forensic psychology and as such, the emphasis will be on applications of psychological theory in forensic settings. The module aims to provide stimulus material for students that will enable them to explore topics in more depth as part of their independent study. Some topics will be contentious and students will be encouraged to develop a critical edge in their evaluation of research findings.

    Sexual and Violent Crime (M87PY)

    The aim of this 10-credit module is to provide students with a sound understanding of the theories, research and practice related to sexual and violent crime. A broad range of sexual and violent behaviour will be examined, including murder and serial murder, sexual assault against both adults and children, and stalking. Behaviour conducted in both public and private domains, and perpetrated by adults and juveniles will also be explored. Students will be encouraged to be critical and evaluative in their examination of these topics.

    Practice and Application in Forensic Psychology (M86PY)

    The overall aim of this 10-credit module is to engage students in considering research, professional and practice issues in forensic psychology and to develop practice based skills as forensic psychologists. The module will focus on a range of issues that arise in research and practice in forensic psychology such as ethical codes of conduct, legal and statutory obligations and restrictions, and power, control and social issues in applying psychology. In addition, students will be provided with opportunities to develop a range of skills such as producing professional written reports, planning and conducting oral presentations, making decisions and generally engaging in competent professional practice.

    The English Legal Process (M48CLS)

    This 10-credit module seeks to provide postgraduate forensic psychology students with a general awareness and understanding of English (and Welsh) law and the legal system. It will enable them to appreciate the nature and functions of the criminal and civil justice systems and the distinctions between them. Students will be introduced to the sources of law, the structure of the courts and tribunals, the legal profession, the judiciary and the jury, together with an outline of the procedural and evidential law applicable in trials and other forms of dispute resolution. The module will be structured to place particular emphasis on the role of experts in the English legal system.

    Advanced Research Methods in Psychology (M80PY)

    The overall aim of this 30-credit course is to provide students with grounding in the techniques appropriate to research in applied psychology. This includes developing knowledge and skills in planning, carrying out and writing about research in applied psychology at a postgraduate level, and a sophisticated awareness of problems, issues and ethics in applied research in psychology. The module will provide students with a solid preparation for the dissertation and further research in the field. Students work will be clearly embedded with the BPS code of ethical conduct.

    Dissertation (M70PY)

    The aim of the dissertation is to engage students in supervised but independently undertaken empirical research at an advanced level. Students will be encouraged to integrate and practice the skills acquired during the course and to investigate to a depth at Masters level an area of specific interest to them. Additionally students will be expected to demonstrate a critical and evaluative understanding of the research process including the ethics, issues and problems in empirical research within forensic psychology. Rather than the more traditional dissertation thesis, the project will be written up as two articles, a literature review and an empirical research report, produced in a standard academic journal format.

    Course structure

    The course is available via a full-time or a part-time route.  Full-time students attend University two days per week for one academic year.  Part-time students attend one day a week for two academic years.  Students may obtain a Postgraduate Certificate in Forensic Psychology if they complete the equivalent of 5 single modules (60 credits), or year one of the part-time course; or a Diploma in Forensic Psychology if they successfully complete all the taught modules (120 credits) of the course (i.e. they do not complete the dissertation).

    Full-time students complete* Advanced Research Methods in Psychology on Tuesdays and Assessment and Treatment of Offenders on Thursdays in both terms.  They also complete Psychology of Criminal Behaviour on Tuesdays in term 1 and The English Legal Process, Psychology and the Criminal Justice System and on Thursdays in term 1.  After Xmas, they complete Punishment and Rehabilitation and Contemporary Developments in Forensic Psychology on Tuesdays, and Sexual and Violent Crime and Practice and Application in Forensic Psychology on Thursdays.  Work on the dissertation starts early in the year, but substantial work on the dissertation module takes place over the summer.

    Part-time students complete* Advanced Research Methods in Psychology on Tuesdays in both terms in year 1.  In term 1, they also complete Psychology of Criminal Behaviour and in term 2 Punishment and Rehabilitation and Contemporary Developments in Forensic Psychology.  In the second year, they complete the Assessment and Treatment of Offenders module in terms 1 & 2.  In addition, in term 1 they complete The English Legal Process and Psychology and the Criminal Justice System. In term 2, they study Practice and Application in Forensic Psychology and Sexual and Violent Crime.  Part-time students are encouraged to spread their dissertation work throughout the course, but during the summer of year 2, time is spent completing this work.

    * The days on which the course is delivered and the course timetable may change from year to year.

    Professional recognition

    The programme has accreditation from the British Psychological Society as fulfilling the requirements for Stage One training towards Chartered Forensic Psychologist status.

    Expertise

    The MSc Forensic Psychology course is delivered by a strong course team with active research interests.

    Course Director: Dr Sarah Brown, C.Psychol (Foren), AFBPsS

    Deputy Course Director: Mr Ian Britton, C.Psychol (Foren)

    Lecturer Practitioner: Miss Fern Hodges, C.Psychol (Foren)

    Coure Tutor: Dr Erica Bowen, C.Psychol

    Dissertation Module Leader: Mrs Gail Steptoe-Warren

    Law Module Leader: Miss Christina Thompson

    Research Methods Module Leader: Dr John Williams

    Many other staff within the Psychology department and from other departments in the University also contribute to teaching.

    We also make good use of our strong links with other forensic psychologists to augment the programme.  Guest speakers include recognised academic experts, prison psychologists, forensic psychologists from the Home Office or Prison/Probation service Headquarters, psychologists working in/with the police force, and local NSPCC and victim support staff.

    In 2004, the Psychology Department hosted the British Psychology Society Division of Forensic Psychology annual conference.  As well as contributing to the organisation and running of the conference, many MSc Forensic Psychology staff and a number of course graduates contributed to the conference with conference presentations and posters.

    Research opportunities

    Many of the course team staff contribute to the Forensic Psychology and Law Applied Research Group, which was developed and is led by Dr Sarah Brown. Students conduct their dissertation research in an area/topic of their choosing, using the method (qualitative or quantitative) that best suits their research question.  Graduates have completed research, some of which has led to publication and/or conference presentations/posters, in the following areas:

        * Reliability of eyewitness testimony
        * Jury decision making
        * Evaluations of Therapeutic communities, offender programmes, partner programmes, theatre/drama workshops and other initiatives (e.g. prison employment schemes)
        * Attitudes to rape & domestic violence, attribution of blame in rape or domestic violence cases
        * Comparisons of offender groups on a variety of factors, e.g. to aid risk assessment
        * Qualitative methodology studies on a variety of topics, such as sex offender discourse and juvenile offenders’ views of the threat of imprisonment

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