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MSc Philosophy, Mental Health and Psychology

Start date
September
Duration
1 year full-time; 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught
Fees

Annual tuition fee for 2023:
UK: £10,170 full-time
International: £21,960 full-time
More detail.

How can we think about mental health? Are psychological properties reducible to neural properties? What can both philosophy and psychology bring to our understanding of mental health?

On this unique interdisciplinary programme you will explore philosophical and psychological approaches to the mind and mental health.

You will have the opportunity to learn from experts from across the Department of Philosophy, and the School of Psychology drawing on the world-leading research environments in research centres such as the Institute for Mental Health and the Centre for Human Brain Health. You will pursue original research drawing from a wide range of potential topics supervised by experts in these areas. You will take modules from across all three disciplines, but have the choice on which area you would like to specialise in.

This programme is aimed at graduates with a background in philosophy, psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, theology or sociology. Graduates from a range of other backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply and will be considered on a case by case basis. It can also be used as a route into PhD research.

By studying this course you will develop many skills that are useful in both academic and non-academic settings:

  • Critical thinking skills: You will develop your ability to analyse problems and assess opinions from different viewpoints. This is highly useful for problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Communication skills: You will gain experience in presenting and explaining abstract concepts, scientific ideas and complex arguments in an accessible manner. You will also be good at persuading others by presenting logical and coherent arguments.
  • Writing skills: You will develop your skills in communicating effectively in writing. This includes being able to write clearly and concisely without compromising rigour.
  • Research skills: You will be able to identify problems and collect necessary information to resolve them in a timely manner.
 

At Birmingham, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students also have the opportunity to learn graduate academic languages free of charge, to support your studies.

Why study this course?

  • Taught by experts – The University of Birmingham has established world leading research centres at the intersection of Philosophy, Mental Health and Psychology, such as the Institute of Mental Health and the Centre for Human Brain Health, providing you with the opportunity to study alongside some of the top interdisciplinary researchers thinking about mental health across these fields. You will have the opportunity to pursue original research supported by these fantastic interdisciplinary research environments, and by the highly ranked Department of Philosophy and School of Psychology. The Department of Philosophy was ranked 1st in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework exercise 2021 based on Grade Point Average (Times Higher Education), and the School of Psychology was ranked in the top 100 in the world (QS World University Rankings, 2022).
  • Interdisciplinary study – this unique course provides co-teaching from across philosophy, mental health and psychology, meaning that you will take modules from across all three disciplines and gain an understanding of how they interact with each other.
  • Be a part of an active postgraduate community – you will join a lively and stimulating communities in the Department of Philosophy, School of Psychology and the Institute for Mental Health. You will have the opportunity to contribute to on-going research activities, including research seminars and events such as our speaker series, various workshops, reading groups and conferences throughout the year.
  • Choose from a wide variety of modules - you will have the opportunity to build the course you study around your interests with a range of optional modules available from across Philosophy, Mental Health and Psychology.
  • Access to a wide range of services – as a postgraduate student you will have access to services such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service and the Bank of Assessed Work which will aid your transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level, or back into academia after a time away. 

The postgraduate experience

The College of Arts and Law offers excellent support to its postgraduates, from libraries and research spaces, to careers support and funding opportunities. Learn more about your postgraduate experience.

Modules

You will take the Philosophy of Cognitive Science as a core module. You will then choose to take either 'Research Methods and Skills in Psychology' or 'Research Methods in Mental Health', and either 'Philosophy of Mental Health' or 'Philosophy and Ethics of Mental Health and Wellbeing’. This will ensure you acquire a thorough grounding in the three areas that form the core of the programme.

You will then choose three optional modules and have a choice of independent research focussing on either Philosophy, Psychology or Mental Health.

Core modules

You will study three core modules: 

Philosophy of Cognitive Science 

This module covers a range of advanced topics in philosophy of cognitive science. Main foci include the Computational Theory of Mind, perception, and modularity, issues that have been central in the formation and development of cognitive science since its inception in the 1950s.
Assessment: One or two written assignments totalling 4,000 words

Either

Research Methods and Skills in Psychology

This module will cover how to systematically approach and conduct research. It will also require acquisition of a key practical skill in an area chosen by the student in consultation with their supervisor. Topics for the course will include methods and analysis techniques; understanding and gaining exposure to research and reporting it effectively in writing; training in IT and administrative skills useful for research activities (e.g., file management); and key issues in psychology and neuroscience research.

Assessment: Written assignment, online practical and a practical report.

Or

Research Methods in Mental Health

This module will provide an advanced understanding of the main types of research methodology in mental health. The module will focus on theory as well as practice so that students acquire the requisite skills to apply this knowledge and are able to demonstrate the application of research skills. Examples of research methodology that will be covered include:

  1. Quantitative skills development in: epidemiology and statistics, clinical trials, evidence synthesis and meta-analysis, neurosciences
  2. Qualitative skills development in: evaluation methods, ethnography, thematic analysis, realist methods

Assessment: Open book exam and 2,000-word essay

Either

Philosophy of Mental Health

This module provides an overview of contemporary debates in philosophy, psychiatry and Mental Health. In each seminar a new issue will be investigated, but there will be three interrelated threads throughout the module. One is about the nature of psychiatry. The second is about the sense in which psychiatric disorders are disorders of the self. The third is about how we should respond to people with psychiatric disorders, considered from a wide range of perspectives, including interpersonal, clinical, ethical, legal and public health policy. These themes will be addressed by reference to different aspects of psychiatry (classification, diagnosis, aetiology, research, treatment, etc.) and different psychiatric disorders (addiction, anorexia, dementia, dissociation, schizophrenia, personality disorders, psychopathy, etc.) and different disciplinary frameworks. The module will also have a practical element involving structured, outcome-focussed deliberation about difficult cases highlighting these threads and their interrelations.
Assessment: One or two written assignments totalling 4,000 words 

Or

Philosophy and Ethics of Mental Health and Well-being

This module will serve as a research-led introduction into important conceptual issues in mental health.  Key topics will include the nature of mental disorder, wellbeing and mental health, the ethics of early intervention and prevention, stigma and justice in mental health, ethics of psychiatric research and clinical practice, and important areas of philosophical psychopathology.  The module will also include an introduction to phenomenological approaches to mental health.

 Assessment: 2000-word essay and 2000-word reflective case study

Optional modules

You will also choose three optional modules. Options typically available include:

  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Epistemology
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Metaphysics
  • Bioethics
  • Fantastic Beasts and how to Understand Them: Topics in the philosophy of biology
  • Adolescence: mind and brain
  • Higher cognitive functions in children, adults and nonhuman animals
  • Translational cognitive neuroscience
  • The neurobiology of mental illness
  • Cognitive neuroscience methods and applications
  • Introduction to data science
  • Development and neurodiversity

Dissertation or research project

In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a
supervisor. There are three options available for you to choose from:

  • Independent research in Philosophy. This option involves working 1-1 with a supervisor in the Department of Philosophy, and write a 15,000 word dissertation.
  • Research dissertation in Mental Health. Students who take this option will undertake a research dissertation placement working on a current research project embedded in a research laboratory linked to the Institute for Mental Health at the University of Birmingham.
  • Supervised research project in Psychology. This will involve group-based research, leading to a 6,000-word research thesis. See some of the recent projects undertaken by students on the course.


Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.

   

Fees

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2023 entry are as follows:

  • UK: £10,170 full-time; £5,085 part-time
  • International: £21,960 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Fee status

Eligibility for UK or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Paying your fees

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.


Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

How To Apply


Please review our Entry Requirements before making your application.

How to Apply for a Postgraduate Degree - Taught programmes

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students (requiring a VISA) to apply is 3 July 2023. The deadline for UK students is Wednesday 31 August 2023.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

The programme allows for multi-disciplinary entry. You need an upper second-class Honours degree, or equivalent, preferably in Philosophy, Theology, Sociology, Psychology, Neuroscience, Linguistics and other cognate disciplines. 

If your undergraduate degree is in another subject, you are still very welcome to apply. We consider every application on its merits and we are happy to consider applicants with diverse academic backgrounds. Your level of academic achievement, letters of reference, and personal statement will all have strong influence on our decision. We may also require you to submit a writing sample and attend an interview.

We ask you to submit two academic references as part of your application, but if you have been out of academia for some time we will also accept a professional reference in addition to one academic reference.

International/EU students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band.. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements


As well as the taught modules you take on this programme, you are encouraged to participate in our weekly Postgraduate Seminar and in the regular meetings of PhilSoc, so you'll be able to gain insight from a range of academics and peers from across the department. 

Course delivery

You will take six taught modules and undertake an independent research project in either Philosophy, Mental Health or Psychology. We have two 11-week teaching semesters per year, the autumn semester and spring semester. Semester dates can be found on our website. Modules run for one semester, and each module involves a two-hour weekly seminar which you are required to attend.

In addition to the weekly seminars, you will have to allow adequate study time for each of your modules. Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, homework and assignment preparation, and attending seminars.

Studying full-time

You will spread your module work over the two teaching semesters, ideally studying three modules in each semester. However, this depends on your module choices and it is also possible to study two in one semester and four in another. Most of the work for your research project takes place in the summer. 

Studying part-time

If you do a part-time programme, you spread your modules over four teaching semesters (autumn and spring of year one, and autumn and spring of year two). You will work on your research project in year two; again, most of this work takes place in the summer.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

Preparing you for your future career

Modern business is increasingly sensitive to issues connected with the mental well-being of their employees. Furthermore, issues surrounding implicit bias are now occupying a more central role in industries’ employment strategies.  This course is unique in offering a broad grounding in a wide range of issues connected to our understanding of the mind.

Think tanks, policy writers, and others working in the public sector are increasingly required to be knowledgeable about the mind. This course will provide you with the tools to critically engage with these topics and prepare you for a potential career in these areas.

This course will also be very good preparation for postgraduate research, with a particular emphasis on interdisciplinary work straddling empirical, clinical and philosophical approaches to the mind which is a strong and growing academic area.

Birmingham's Philosophy postgraduates develop a range of skills that are highly desirable in the job market including articulacy, precise analytical thought, and the ability to analyse and construct sound arguments.

Due to the transferable nature of these skills, Philosophy postgraduates traditionally enter a wide range of employment areas, from teaching and lecturing to social work. Based on the most recent 3 years of data, (Graduate Outcomes 2017/18 to 2019/20), 87% of leavers from Philosophy postgraduate programmes were in work and/or further study 15 months after graduation.

Support from the Careers Network

The University's Careers Network provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated  careers and employability team who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.

You will be encouraged to make the most of your postgraduate experience and will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive one-to-one careers advice, including guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique, whether you are looking for a career inside or outside of academia
  • Meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs and employer presentations
  • Attend an annual programme of careers fairs, skills workshops and conferences, including bespoke events for postgraduates in the College of Arts and Law
  • Take part in a range of activities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers and enhance your CV

What’s more, you will be able to access our full range of careers support for up to 2 years after graduation.

 

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