Psychology and Health Inequalities - MSc
- Mode of study
- Full time, Part time
- Entry months
- Duration of Study
- 1 year (Full time) / 2 years (Part time)
- Subject Area
- FEES (2022/23 academic year)
- UK - FT £9,500/PT £5,200
- International - £17,900
The conditions in which we're born, grow, live and work can lead to unfair, unavoidable, often disproportionate differences in health between people depending on their background, from lower life expectancy to increased susceptibility to illnesses. On our MSc, you'll learn to use psychology to better understand the drivers of those health inequalities, increasing awareness and sensitivity to potential barriers, including cultural, ethical or religious beliefs, which can affect uptake of health interventions, such as screening or vaccination. You’ll develop specialist skills and knowledge useful to NGOs, charities, think tanks, governments and health organisations seeking to positively impact people's lives throughout the world.
- Keele is ranked top 150 in the world for Psychology (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021).
- High staff-to-student ratio enhanced by small-group tutorials and a strong, inclusive research community.
- Blend of practice and research-led teaching drawing on broad base of expertise in psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics and epidemiology.
- Optional placement in Semester 1 or 2 provides valuable work experience which relates your learning to professional settings and applications in policy, research or practice.
- Opportunities to hear from guest lecturers with experience of working with patients, carers or health agencies.
About the course
As declared by the United Nations* in 1948, good health is our basic human right. Yet health inequalities, which influence the way different groups within society think, feel and act, continue to affect the mental and physical health and wellbeing of people of all ages, here in the UK and throughout the rest of the world.
Our MSc in Psychology and Health Inequalities is designed to help you understand and address the drivers and barriers that can lead to very real differences in health. For example, the differences in life expectancy based on where people live or their household income, the health disparities associated with ethnicity, or the likelihood of developing a physical or mental health problem.
It will prepare you to successfully apply health psychology models and critical health psychology to bring about positive behavioural change, working with and finding ways to engage with patients, community groups and other stakeholders, for example, to increase uptake in health prevention and support.
You will develop the skills and tools to conduct experimental research designed to give a better insight into the psychological, political, socio-economic, cultural and religious factors that affect different individuals and communities throughout the world. As such, this course is likely to be of interest to anyone currently working in healthcare or with a desire to understand and support health advocacy or any other form of public health engagement.
Teaching is very much linked to practice, with multiple opportunities to work on research with other students and staff, capitalising on our expertise on topics such as cervical screening, vaccination, parenting, ageing, and mental health, considered at the individual level and from a community or society perspective.
If you choose the optional placement, you will gain valuable experience, observing and reflecting on the ways in which different practitioners approach particular health issues, for example, within a charity, local government or health organisation. The Action Research project too offers a chance to tackle an area of health policy of particular interest to you, opening up dialogue with relevant stakeholders and preparing your analysis and recommendations. In doing so, you will develop essential transferable skills, learning to tailor communication and research to suit different audiences.
*Source - https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights
Other courses you might be interested in:
On this MSc, you will examine how health and wellbeing, and the care and treatment that adults, children and infants receive can be adversely affected by a wide range of unequitable and often systematic circumstances, on a national and sometimes global scale.
With the ultimate goal of reducing health inequalities, you will use psychological research to understand the motivations, behaviour and situational factors that influence health and illness, which often result in greater risk to the most vulnerable members of our society. Sex, ethnicity, disability or social exclusion, such as homelessness, for example, can increase the likelihood of violence, poor diet, smoking and alcoholism.
With psychology and health inequalities as its focus, this is a broad-based course that draws on research from psychology, social justice, politics and policy, sociology, models of behaviour change, and other cognitive areas of research. You will develop valuable, transferable skills in analysis and data processing, creative thinking, decision making and communicating with different groups. In doing so, you will learn behaviour changing approaches likely to be of use in a wide range of careers that require some form of public engagement or relationships with patients, not just in health settings, but also government, charity and industry.
The MSc Psychology and Health Inequalities can be studied as either a one-year full-time or two-year part-time course, with a September start date. It also possible to study more flexibly part-time on a modular basis, accumulating degree credits by taking individual modules over a period of maximum of five years.
You will complete 180 credits to obtain the master’s qualification, comprising eight modules. For full-time students, six core and two optional modules are spread over two semesters (120 credits in total), while the Dissertation is worked on throughout the duration of the course (60 credits). You will agree the topic for your Dissertation with your supervisor during Semester 1. You can choose optional modules from within Psychology or other relevant Schools across the University. For example, the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences offers modules relating to mental health or behaviour change for health and wellbeing. Part-time students take 90 credits per year for two years with the dissertation taken in the second year.
There are two interim awards available, depending on how many modules have been successfully completed: a Postgraduate Certificate for any two modules (60 credits); and a Postgraduate Diploma for all four taught modules (120 credits).
Semester one core modules
PSY-40109 Approaches and Methods in Health Inequalities (15 credits, Semester 1)
Learning about how to engage the public in research, you will focus on some of the common methods and analyses used in health research, including randomised clinical trials, epidemiological approaches, discourse analysis and interpretative phenomenological analysis. You will choose two different methodological approaches to evaluate a specific health issue of your choice, for example, observational methods to investigate the behaviours that lead people to exercise less, or qualitative interviewing to explore the barriers to accessing healthcare for specific populations. As part of the course, you will receive guidance on ethics, how to be sensitive towards interviewees and how to collaboratively develop recommendations from research.
PSY-40085 Critical Approaches to Health, Social and Political Psychology (15 credits, Semester 1)
Challenging your understanding of what psychology is, you will consider the role of the environment and social context in shaping individual psyche, and how we can break down barriers that may exclude individuals and groups from full participation in society. You will be encouraged to reflect on your own assumptions and values, and those of organisations and social influencers, through perspectives offered by, for example, discourse analysis and social representation theory, around topics such as LGBTQ+, loneliness, infant feeding.
PSY-40095 Advanced Research Skills, Design, and Analysis (15 credits, Semester 1)
Through hands-on workshops and interactive sessions, we prepare you to plan, conduct and analyse your own psychological research. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, you will learn to generate research questions, translate these into the design of your research, appropriately analyse data, and report your findings by writing a structured psychology lab report, using standard (APA) formatting. You can tailor your studies by focusing on the methods, design and analysis most useful to you.
Semester two core modules
PSY-40081 Advanced Studies in Health Inequalities (15 credits, Semester 2)
Drawing on published research from psychology and related disciplines, such as sociology, linguistics, public health etc., you will engage in lively ‘journal club’ discussion sessions to familiarise yourself with cutting-edge, contemporary issues. You will be able to focus on health inequalities of particular interest to you, for example, past students have considered bisexual women's health, infant feeding, social representations in old age, ageing, sleep and the impact of homelessness on health.
PSY-40083 Using Research to Influence Policy and Practice (15 credits, Semester 2)
You will explore how research can be used to influence policy and practice, across a range of settings such as government, charity sector, and education. Gaining hands-on experience of writing for a policy setting, you will be tasked with writing a policy brief on a policy related to a health issue of your choice in a similar style as the POST notes produced by the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology.
PSY-40038 Research Apprenticeship in Psychology (15 credits, Semester 2)
You will work with staff as part of their research teams, gaining valuable experience of working on an active research project alongside an experienced research mentor. Apprenticeships are offered across a range of subjects, fields, and activities and represent the diverse expertise of our academic staff. These will support and extend your research skills. Projects could involve designing and preparing full or partial research reports, systematic literature reviews, grant proposals and ethics applications, with the real possibility that research findings may eventually be published.
PSY-40045 Dissertation (60 credits, preparation in Semester 1 & 2, writing up over summer)
You will undertake an independent project in your chosen field of interest under the supervision of an experienced member of staff, developing in-depth experience of research methods in your specific research area. It is your chance to apply the skills and knowledge gained throughout the course to design, conduct, analyse and report an appropriate piece of empirical research, demonstrating a level of knowledge and understanding far beyond what you have learned in class. By way of example, previous topics have explored the impact of NGO funding on the wellbeing of orphan and vulnerable children, dietary behaviours before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the experiences of women who have breastfed in public spaces.
You will study two additional 15-credit modules, one in the first semester, and another in the second semester, chosen from a wide range of modules available across the University. This includes the Psychology Placement listed below, which we strongly recommend.
The list of optional modules is selected at the beginning of the academic year, giving you greater flexibility to tailor your course.
You can advance your knowledge of closely linked subjects, choosing psychology modules such as Action Research. Alternatively, you can diversify, choosing modules from a different discipline altogether. For example, modules from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences include Behaviour Change for Health and Wellbeing, Mental Health and Statistics and Epidemiology, while the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment offers a module in Health Inequalities.
Those keen to pursue research or PhD study may prefer additional research options, including Enhancing Reproducibility in Research, which covers one of the most pressing issues facing scientists today. You will learn best practice approaches to combat the ‘replication crisis’ which has found the results of many scientific studies are difficult or impossible to reproduce.
PSY-40089 Psychology Placement (15 credits, in either Semester 1 or 2)
You will be encouraged to participate in the optional placement module as a valuable personal and career development opportunity. This module allows you to relate your learning to actual research or practice in your chosen professional setting, and it will place you in a strong position post-graduation. We will draw on our existing collaborations with external organisations to help you find meaningful placement opportunities in health settings. Alternatively, we can support you to find a placement with an organisation that you identify yourself. You will gain authentic work experience in a relevant health environment. As an example, and depending on availability, this could include a different academic setting, a charity or healthcare organisation. The placement can be either based at the organisation's facilities or be digitally based; therefore, you could take a placement in an organisation which you might not be able to commute to.
How the course is taught
Our teaching and learning strategy is wide-ranging and innovative, seeking to give you a rich learning environment that draws actively upon leading edge research, as well as current professional practice. It includes traditional lectures, workshops and small group tutorials.
You will be taught by staff who regularly interact with charities and healthcare providers, including Public Health England, the NHS, children and mental health services, and a range of charities, covering cystic fibrosis and cervical cancer, for example.
You will learn from leading researchers and external practitioners, who will often share insight into different perspectives and mindsets around the world. One recent presenter, for example, shared details on methods used to improve bowel cancer screening in people with learning difficulties in Glasgow, while another reflected on the achievements and challenges of childhood immunisation.
All our psychology MSc programmes are designed to prepare you for careers in practice, research or academia, including PhD study. The research apprenticeship, dissertation and optional placement provide ample opportunity to tailor your knowledge and skills development, and gain relevant research and work experience before you graduate. You will gain valuable transferable skills learning how to design research studies, conduct interviews, collect and analyse data using appropriate statistical methods and software such as Qualtrics, where appropriate.
Taking advantage of several modules being shared across MSc Psychology programmes, we deliberately strive to create a vibrant and collaborative peer culture among our students, promoting transformative debate and discussion, and introducing you to different ideological beliefs. Previous cohorts have included students from different countries, some straight from undergraduate degrees, and others who have already spent time in professional life, for example, working for NGOs, keen to learn psychological tools to work with patient and community groups.
The taught modules run during the first two semesters. The Dissertation module runs across all three semesters: the supervisor and topic are agreed during Semester 1 and the dissertation is completed during the summer.
Semester 1 runs from the end of September to the end of January, with an assessment period in January.
Semester 2 runs from the last week of January to the middle of June, with the assessment period in June.
Semester 3 runs from June to the end of September.
How you'll be assessed
Assessment is varied and includes the use of group and individual reports, essays, presentations and practical projects. Most modules combine multiple forms of assessment.
Where possible, assessment is designed to reflect the workplace, including specialist and transferable general skills, such as team working, idea generation, critical thinking, problem solving, meeting deadlines and so on.
On the Using Research to Influence Policy and Practice module, you will be tasked with writing a policy brief on a policy related to a health issue of your choice and in a similar style as the POST notes produced by the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology.
ACADEMIC ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
This course is open to graduates with a first or upper second-class degree in relevant subjects such as psychology, public health, nursing, sociology, anthropology, etc. or overseas equivalent. Applicants without a degree will be considered on a case-by-case basis, where they can provide evidence of relevant professional experience or other experiential prior learning.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE ENTRY REQUIREMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
IELTS 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component.
The University also accepts a range of internationally recognised English tests.
If you do not meet the English language requirements, the University offers a range of English language preparation programmes.
During your degree programme you can study additional english language courses. This means you can continue to improve your English language skills and gain a higher level of English.
Some travel costs may be incurred if an external project or placement is undertaken; any such costs will be discussed with the student before the project is confirmed. It will be possible for the student to select an internal project and that would not incur any additional travel costs. There may be additional costs for textbooks and inter-library loans.
Keele University is located on a beautiful campus and has all the facilities of a small town. Student accommodation, shops, restaurants and cafes are all within walking distance of the teaching buildings. This is a very cost effective way to live and to reduce your living costs.
Scholarships and Funding
The University is committed to rewarding excellence and potential. Each year we offer a range of prestigious scholarships;
UK students - more information on scholarships and funding
International students - more information on scholarships and funding
It's important to plan carefully for your funding before you start your course. Please be aware that not all postgraduate courses are eligible for the UK government postgraduate loans and, in this case, you would be expected to source alternative funding yourself. If you need support researching your funding options, please contact our Financial Support Team.
You will be taught by staff, some of whom are internationally recognised for their research, impact and teaching innovation, who not only believe in the power of psychology to address major health inequalities, but want to develop your potential to drive positive change.
Current and recent staff research has considered health from the perspectives of older adults, LGBTQ communities, people with intellectual disabilities, gender, new mothers, and Eastern European migrants, amongst others. One recent project, for example, focused on awareness of and attitudes towards cervical cancer prevention among migrant Eastern European women in England. Another tested the effect of interventions designed to improve sleep on mental health, and explored the factors that moderated - or changed - the impact of improved sleep on health.
- Dr Alexander Scott, Lecturer (Programme Lead) – Alex is a health psychology researcher primarily interested in the role sleep plays in the experience of mental health difficulties and the impact of sleep on wider health behaviours. His research examines two key areas: how poor sleep might exert an effect on mental health by examining possible mechanisms of action; and testing the effect of interventions designed to target problems sleeping on subsequent mental health and behaviour outcomes.
- Dr Alexandra Kent, Senior Lecturer – Alexandra joined Keele in 2012 and established the Qualitative Research Lab. Her research combines a theoretical reworking of the way language and psychology are understood, with detailed technical analyses of empirical data using conversation analysis. Her research interests include the negotiation of power and authority in interaction, requests, shared decision making in interaction, and help-seeking behaviours.
- Professor Alexandra Lamont, Professor in Music Psychology (Director of the Keele Doctoral Academy) – Having studied and taught in the fields of music, education and psychology, Alexandra's diverse expertise lies in positive psychology, developmental psychology and in research methods, as well as her specialism in music psychology. She enjoys a number of international research collaborations involving researchers from Germany, Spain, Italy, Finland and Australia.
- Professor Abigail Locke, Professor of Social and Health Psychology (Head of School) – Abigail is a critical social/health psychologist with research interests around gender, parenting, health and identities. She has strong associations with the British Psychological Society (BPS), having been a previous Chair of the Social Psychology section, a committee member of Qualitative Methods in Psychology (QMiP) section, Deputy Chair of the BPS Research Board, a Trustee (2015-2017) and Past Chair of the Psychology of Women and Equalities Section (POWES). She is Secretary of the International Society for Critical Health Psychology (ISCHP) and one of the founding members of the European Association for Qualitative Research in Psychology (EQUiP).
- Dr Sue Sherman, Reader – Sue benefits from a multidisciplinary background in Computational Linguistics, Psycholinguistics, and Cognitive Psychology. Her current areas of research expertise concern factors affecting vaccine decision making, with a current focus on COVID-19, HPV and varicella, and exploring barriers and facilitators to engagement with cervical screening.
- Dr Katie Wright-Bevans, Lecturer – A Keele graduate, having completed both her undergraduate degree and PhD here, Katie joined the School in 2016 after working as a research associate at the University of Liverpool. A social and community psychologist, her research interests are broadly around health promotion, inclusion, justice and equality. She is interested in community-based and participant-led health promotion, understanding processes of social change, and the health promotion of vulnerable or marginalised groups.
Find out more about staff in the School of Psychology.
Based in the Dorothy Hodgkin building at the centre of campus, the School of Psychology offers a thriving and dynamic environment with state-of-the-art teaching and research facilities, and plenty of spaces for socialising and studying.
The recently refurbished 230-seater lecture theatre is one of the largest on campus. For independent or small group study, you have the choice of a larger communal room with computers or smaller study rooms you can book. On this course, you have access to various software, for example, NVivo to assist with transcription and analysis of focus group and interview data, and Qualtrics for running surveys.
Keele Postgraduate Association
Keele University is one of a handful of universities in the UK to have a dedicated students' union for postgraduate students.
A fully registered charity, Keele Postgraduate Association serves as a focal point for the social life and welfare needs of all postgraduate students during their time at Keele. Hugely popular, The KPA Clubhouse (near Horwood Hall) provides a dedicated postgraduate social space and bar on campus, where you can grab a bite to eat and drink, sit quietly and read a book or switch off from academic life at one of the many regular events organised throughout the year. The KPA also helps to host a variety of conferences, as well as other academic and career sessions, to give you and your fellow postgraduates the opportunities to come together to discuss your research, develop your skills and networks.
This MSc provides an opportunity to learn about and gain experience in a range of critical social and health psychology research methods, which can be used to effectively engage different community and patient groups, through Patient and Public Involvement (PPI), to address issues relating to health and other more widespread concerns.
This could lead to careers across the public, private and third sector, for example, working in research, education, public engagement and consultation, public administration, health promotion, policy or advocacy.
You will have a wide range of transferable research skills that will enable you to support organisations, from NGOs and NHS trusts to health charities and pharmaceutical companies, to tackle problems from a psychological point of view by gaining a better understanding of behaviours which might affect positive or negative outcomes.
Should you wish to continue your research, you will also be well placed to pursue PhD study, which could lead to a career in academia in the UK or internationally.
Positions may include:
- Assistant psychologist
- Civil servant
- Communications advisor
- Information officer
- Market researcher
- Public health advisor
- Researcher in private, public or third sectors - government, charities, social enterprises or businesses