Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2020/2021

M.A. Honours in Psychology and Business Studies

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: The British Psychological Society
Final award: MA (Hons)
Programme title: Psychology and Business Studies
UCAS code: CN81
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Psychology and Business Studies
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Head of School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
Date of production/revision: January 2011

External summary

Psychology is an experimental and observational science that deals with the understanding and explanation of behaviour and experience and with how these change and develop throughout our lives. Psychologists are interested in many factors that affect our behaviour – from biological bases to social influences. At Edinburgh, you will have the opportunity to learn from researchers who are international leaders in their field, and a particular strength of our teaching is the key element of experimental/practical work throughout the course.


Psychology at Edinburgh has close links not only with the other disciplines within the School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences, but also with a wide variety of other Schools such as Biological Sciences, Education, Health, Informatics, and Social & Political Studies. There are opportunities for students to work as Volunteer Research Assistants on the University’s research projects.


The University’s Business degrees are highly sought-after programmes, accredited by a wide range of leading business education organizations and professional bodies. Leading graduate employers are involved across the curriculum. The subject’s main focus is on the management of organizations. It looks at the theories and methods behind successful management and explores the relationships between people, organizations and their environment.  Students study organizational policies, strategic planning, employment relations, finance, marketing and technology.

The degree programmes draw on other subject areas including psychology, law, economics and sociology. The degree programme is accredited by the British Psychology Society (with a proviso – see section 12).


Educational aims of programme

The programme is designed in such a way that transferable skills are acquired in tandem with intellectual and practical skills.

The programme aims to develop:

  • knowledge and understanding of psychological theories, concepts, research paradigms and research findings, and the ability to make links to the relevant historical background
  • research skills, including statistical and other data analysis skills, which will equip you to contribute to psychological knowledge
  • an awareness of applications and implications of psychological theories and research
  • the ability to think critically and creatively about theoretical, empirical and applied issues and their inter-relationships
  • an appreciation of the diverse, wide-ranging nature of psychology and an ability to make links between different areas of the discipline
  • an understanding of how psychology relates to other disciplines

and to:

  • provide students with the analytical and conceptual knowledge and knowledge of skills relevant to senior management in purposeful organisations. This knowledge includes that of the internal aspects, functions and processes of organisations, the economic, environmental, ethical, legal, political, sociological and technological context in which organisations exist and of the conceptual and analytical tools valuable in their critical analysis
  • provide students with the proficiency to practice integrated and multiple management skills, including computer literacy, independent action, communication, team-working and inter-personal interaction
  • provide students with the knowledge and skills to address problems through flexible, adaptable, innovative and judgemental approaches
  • enable students to gain a grounding in the key concepts across a range of specialist areas: business policy, marketing, corporate finance, accounting, human resource management, industrial relations, management science and operations management and business economics
  • foster the development of general transferable intellectual and study skills which will equip graduates to make a valuable contribution both within their chosen career path and in the wider community and to encourage a positive attitude to continuing development and lifelong learning

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

On completion of the programme, students will have acquired a good knowledge and understanding of:

  • cognitive psychology (which investigates the mental processes involved in thinking, reasoning, memory, language and perception)
  • individual differences in personality, intelligence and mental abilities
  • biological and comparative  psychology (how the brain works and how the study of  animal behaviour can inform us about human behaviour);
  • social psychology (how behaviour is influenced by other people or by the social context)
  • developmental psychology (how abilities, behaviour and characteristics change with age)
  • methodology and statistics (how to conduct psychological investigations and analyse the findings)
  • the internal functions and processes of organisations which includes their purposes, how they are structured and their governance, how they are operated and managed and an appreciation of their diversity. The behaviour of individuals and of organisations as a whole and their inter-relationships with their external environments are also included
  • the external environment in which organisations operate including economic factors, ethical factors, political factors, sociological factors and technological factors and their inter-relationships with the strategy, behaviour and management of organisations
  • the processes, procedures and practices of the management of organisations. This includes theories, models, tasks and roles of management and rational analysis and other processes of decision making within organisations and in relation to the external environment
  • Students are also given opportunities to develop their knowledge in depth in one of several of the following areas: finance, business economics, international business, organisational behaviour, entrepreneurship, marketing, management science and operations management, the management of technology, strategy

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

Throughout the course of the programme, students acquire key research abilities, including the ability to:

  • develop a critical understanding of psychological theories and their relationship to scientific evidence
  • critically and constructively appraise psychological findings
  • understand the historical underpinnings of contemporary research paradigms.
  • present and evaluate evidence in appraising contemporary theory
  • integrate and relate diverse findings and concepts from different areas of psychology
  • formulate and test hypotheses with appropriate research strategies
  • appraise research in relation to ethical and professional guidelines
  • use a variety of practical research-related resources such as laboratory equipment, and computer software such as statistical analysis packages and bibliographic databases
  • carry out studies which employ a diverse range of data-collection techniques such as observation, experiment, psychometric testing, questionnaires, interviews and field studies
  • analyse data using both quantitative and qualitative techniques.
  • use practical and theoretical knowledge to both design and undertake a piece of original research and write this up as a research dissertation
  • develop the ability to use models of business problems and phenomena to help find solutions
  • develop cognitive skills of the ability to think critically about concepts and arguments, to analyse argument, problems and event, and to synthesise different ideas. These skills include the ability to identify assumptions and hypotheses, to evaluate statements by considering empirical evidence, to detect flawed deductive and inductive reasoning, to identify implicit values the ability to define terms adequately and to generalise arguments appropriately
  • develop skills of identifying, formulating and solving business problems using appropriate quantitative or qualitative techniques
  • create and evaluate several alternative solutions and the ability to apply appropriate knowledge and ideas to different situations

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

  • analytical thinking skills—the abilities to understand difficult pieces of text, to reconstruct arguments and views, to assimilate and explain difficult ideas
  • critical thinking skills—the abilities to draw conclusions from positions or bodies of data, to question arguments and (wherever appropriate) to show their flaws, to generate alternative ideas and new solutions to problems
  • independent thinking skills—the abilities to approach a problem with an open mind and to address problems with an original approach, and the confidence to rely on one’s own intellectual capacities
  • independent working skills—the ability to motivate oneself, to plan one’s own work, and to set one’s own goals and deadlines
  • development of teamwork skills in small-group practical teaching
  • development of oral and visual presentation skills in project presentations as well as presentations linked to lecture courses
  • develop the ability to be aware of, to select and effectively use appropriate business data, information sources and research methodologies to carry out research into business and management issues for projects, dissertations and presentations, either individually or as part of a team


Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Students should acquire skills that can be used in a wide variety of intellectual contexts and forms of employment. These include   

  • written communication skills — students should be able to communicate effectively and concisely via written material such as essays and written experimental reports.
  • oral communication skills — students should be able to communicate effectively via oral and visual presentation

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

  • retrieve and organise information effectively
  • engage in effective teamwork
  • develop problem-solving and general reasoning skills
  • develop skills in making critical and constructive judgements
  • develop independent learning skills such as time management, forward planning, and the ability to reflect on one’s own learning strategies
  • present and evaluate research findings
  • the confidence to rely on one’s own intellectual capacities
  • the ability to motivate oneself, to plan one’s own work, and to set one’s own goals and deadlines
  • ability to apply analytical skills and techniques to issues arising out with psychology
  • the ability to work autonomously
  • time and priority management skills
  • distinguish relevant from irrelevant considerations in argument
  • the ability to summarise information concisely and present reports.
  • the ability to apply theoretical and conceptual knowledge to practical situations.
  • construct clearly organized arguments
  • be sensitive to ambiguity and multiplicity of meanings
  • understand and appreciate the significance of new ideas
  • interpersonal and team working skills. These include the abilities to listen, persuade and negotiate and to lead, build and influence a team, as well as being sensitive to interpersonal and intercultural differences and to differences in intellectual approaches to business issues
  • the ability to learn in a variety of modes

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

Students should acquire skills that can be used in a wide variety of intellectual contexts and forms of employment. These include


  • computing skills — the ability to use computers for word-processing, information storage and for retrieving information from the world wide web, e.g. word-processing, power point, statistical packages, graphics packages and databases. The ability to summarise information concisely and present reports. The ability to apply theoretical and conceptual knowledge to practical situations.
  • use of libraries—the ability to use libraries for the recovery of information, and related research skills, including the ability to discriminate between different sources of information, suggested readings, and so on
  • numeracy skills.
  • comprehend and use data effectively

Programme structure and features

Full details of the degree programme and structure can be seen at <http://www.drps.ed.ac.uk>


Students who wish to be eligible for the British Psychological Society's Graduate Basis for Registration must take the Dissertation in Psychology. (This MUST be taken in Final Year).


Full details of all the courses offered in each year are provided in the Psychology course guides at http://www.psy.ed.ac.uk/psy_students/undergraduate/index.php


Courses are taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials.  Optional courses in Years 3 and 4 are taught through seminars. The programme is designed in such a way that transferable skills are acquired in tandem with the intellectual and practical skills outlined above.  There are also more specific associations between transferable skills and learning methods, such as the development of teamwork skills in small-group practical teaching, and the development of oral and visual presentation skills in practical classes and lecture courses.  Skills are modelled in lectures and/or small groups (e.g. tutorials), including discussion of relationship between specific skills and general principles of the subject area. Independent research projects allow students to take a pro-active role in development of skills most interesting and relevant to their interests.


Progression Requirements – Students are normally expected to have gained 120 credits at the end of each year.


Alternative exit points - Students who do not progress into Honours may graduate after Year 3 with the BA General degree in Humanities and Social Sciences

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

In the two years of the programme, three lectures a week are presented by a team of psychologists in their particular field of expertise (Differential, Developmental, Social and so on).  In the third year, there is a separate series of semester long weekly lectures on each of the six core areas of Psychology (Differential, Biological, Developmental, Social, Memory & Perception, and Thinking & Language). Years 1 to 3 also include lectures on research methods and statistics. In the fourth year, students choose from a wide range of 10-hour courses offered by members of staff in their area of research activity and expertise. At each level, the lecture material is supported and extended through recommended reading (which progresses from relevant sections of the course textbook, to topic-specific textbooks to journal articles as you move through the four years), online lecture notes and other materials available through webCT. It is expected that students will consolidate and extend their knowledge and understanding through independent reading.

In addition to reading and lectures, there is a range of further ways in which students are actively involved in learning. Psychology 1 includes regular tutorials in which key studies (read prior to the tutorial) are discussed, and participation in departmental research provides first-hand insight into the research process. Psychology 2 includes five 3-hour practical and tutorial sessions per semester. These are structured around learning a statistical package and learning to design, carry out, analyse and write up two psychology experiments. Psychology 3 includes practical sessions on quantitative and qualitative analysis. Psychology 4 options employ a range of teaching and learning methods in addition to lecturing, such as student presentations, discussions, and problem solving. Finally, working in pairs and supervised by a member of staff, some combined honours fourth years conduct a research project, present their early ideas and design in the form of a research poster in order to receive feedback at this stage of the research, and submit an independent dissertation at the end of it.

Less formally, peer support and study groups are strongly encouraged and supported at each level of the programme, such as the Psychology Society’s Peer Assisted Learning Scheme or PsychPals. This scheme consists of talks and workshops led by senior students for their more junior peers which are designed to provide practical help such as how to search for articles online, how to write psychology essays and so on.  There are also year and topic specific Study Groups which are run by students in association with the Dyslexia Society and open to all members of that year group. Finally, the Speaking Up Group meets on a weekly basis to help students who find it difficult to make verbal contributions in tutorials and other discussion forums for whatever reason.

Teaching and learning is supported through excellent IT provision, reading materials in the main library and (from third year) a library in the Psychology building, excellent laboratory facilities, a suite of research cubicles and tutorial rooms to support practical classes, and the ground floor and basement concourse which are pleasant places to meet with peers.

In the semester two Innovative Learning Week, normal teaching is suspended in order to provide the space for staff and students to explore new learning activities. Some examples of activities held in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences were ‘The Original Psychic Challenge’, a Psychology Alumni event to give students the opportunity to meet recent graduates and talk about careers, ‘Good googling’, and Psychology at the movies.

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 127730
Year 222780
Year 316840
Year 411890

Assessment methods and strategies

Psychology 1 is assessed through a combination of 2 course work essays, 2 Multiple Choice Question exams and participation (in research and tutorials). Detailed oral and written feedback and guidance on writing essays is given in tutorials. The assessment for Psychology 2 includes 2 exams in which students are required to write essays based on the course material and answer statistics questions, and 2 experimental reports.  General written feedback is provided on exam essays; formative feedback is given by the tutor on the Introduction and Methods sections of the first draft prior to submission of the first report; and written feedback on both of the final reports.  Psychology 3 assessment includes statistical assignments, a qualitative analysis assignment, a brain quiz and exams covering the chosen topic areas and 2 methodology courses. Written feedback is given on all coursework and ‘Feedback Events’ are held in which students can view their exam scripts and receive oral feedback and advice on improving exam technique. Psychology 4 options are assessed in a variety of ways, as deemed appropriate for the course: by exam, essay, a combination of course work and exam, or through a combination of a research proposal and essay. All students complete a dissertation and a poster describing their research and they receive staff and peer feedback on their poster, which may be used to refine the design of the study before actually carrying it out.


These different forms of assessment encourage independent learning (e.g. writing essays, and research reports at pre- and post-honours levels), and the amount of formally assessed course work is designed to allow students time for independent reading. The range of assessments helps students develop scientific writing and essay writing skills, and statistical and research skills are assessed at all levels in different ways (through exams, course work assignments, research reports, and the dissertation).  Communication skills are developed through assessed presentations (oral and written) and critical skills practised (through essays and tutorial work).

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 136064
Year 2601030
Year 337558
Year 416084

Career opportunities

The skills developed throughout the course in research, statistical, IT and report-writing are valued by employers in various sectors. Previous graduates have gone on to work in healthcare and social services or human resources, management, business and finance, media and advertising. Alternatively you could continue with study to enter a research or teaching career. Students wishing to pursue a career as a psychologist (e.g. as a Clinical or Educational Psychologist) must as a first step obtain an honours degree in Psychology that is accredited by the British Psychological Society before embarking on further study. This requires a minimum lower second class Honours degree and the completion of the Year 4 dissertation in Psychology.


Other items

  • students have the opportunity to study abroad at another University in their third year of study. This is arranged through the ERASMUS and International Exchange programmes. Consultation with staff before leaving helps advise them on the most appropriate courses to take while away.
  • all students are assigned a Director of Studies who can provide general guidance and advice on both academic and non-academic matters
  • student support services include a PPLS Student Support Officer, the Advice Place (run by the Students’ Association), the Student Counselling Service, Chaplaincy Centre, the Disability Office, Accommodation Services, International Office, Student Employment Service and the University Careers Service.
  • students in the programme have access to the Psychology’s excellent computing and lab facilities. Their studies are supported by very good holdings in all areas of psychology in the University’s main library and in the Psychology library, and excellent access to international reference databases.
  • prospective students should consult http://www.psy.ed.ac.uk/ and http://www.business-school.ed.ac.uk/undergraduate for further information about the subject areas and departments, and should also consult http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/undergraduate/ for more general information (e.g. on entry requirements).