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Study abroad : Subject Guides

Best universities for psychology

If you're thinking of studying psychology, you've come to the right place. Find out which universities come out on top for this subject here.

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Are you fascinated by people, the human mind and behaviour? If so, psychology sounds like the right degree for you. A particularly popular subject at university-level, psychology equips students with a range of useful skills and knowledge that proves valuable across a wide range of professions. Due to being such a sought-after course, we’ve decided to look at the best colleges for psychology in the world.


We’ve used the QS World University Rankings 2021 to find out which institutions come out on top for this subject to help you decide where to apply. The QS top 10 universities for psychology are:


1. Harvard University (USA)

2. Stanford University (USA)

3. University of Oxford (UK)

4. University of Cambridge (UK)

5.  University of California, Berkeley (USA)

6. University of California, Los Angeles (USA)

7. Yale University (USA)

8. University of Michigan, Ann-Arbor (USA)

9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA)

10. UCL (UK)


Within the top 10, you can see that universities in the UK and USA dominate the rankings for psychology. So, you may want to find out a bit more about these destinations once you’ve taken a look at the universities. Start with our beginner’s guides to studying in the UK and USA.


Now, let’s take a closer look at some of these institutions and their psychology departments.


Harvard University

The department of psychology at Harvard University has a long and rich history dating back to the 1800’s. In fact, some of the leading names within the field first began their careers at Harvard University including B.F. Skinner, George Miller and Gordon Allport. The psychology department offers four tracks to choose from including psychology general, cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, and evolutionary psychology.


So why study psychology at Harvard? A survey revealed that Harvard psychology graduates began working in the following industries (Office of Institutional Research 2019):


1. Financial services and banking

2. Sciences and clinical research

3. Consulting

4. Communications and PR

5. Healthcare and medicine


Plus, Harvard taught eight U.S. presidents and has seen Pulitzer Prizes, Nobel Prizes and 108 Olympic medals awarded to students and alumni. This should give you some indication of the world-renowned reputation of the university as a whole.


 Stanford University

The psychology department at Stanford University was one of the first to be established at the university. The main schools of thought within the department are developmental, social, cognitive, neurological, and affective science. During an undergraduate psychology course at Stanford, you will study the following modules:


  • Minds and machines
  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Learning and memory
  • Perception
  • Developmental psychology


This degree takes four years to complete on a full-time basis, consisting of 70 units. The programme provides students with knowledge and skills suitable for careers in law, business, counselling, medicine, public policy, and technology. For students who want to work in the tech industry, Stanford University may be particularly appropriate as the campus is based in Silicon Valley, which is home to major tech companies such as Google and Yahoo.


Other U.S. universities offering psychology degrees include:


University of Oxford

As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Oxford has a rich history. With 26 Nobel Prize winners, seven poet laureates and 30 world leaders, the university certainly has a strong reputation that is highly respected around the world.


At the University of Oxford, you can choose to study experimental psychology or psychology, philosophy, and linguistics, both of which are accredited by the British Psychological Society. Founded in 1898, the department has a longstanding history. Leading figures within the field who have taught at Oxford include Jerome Bruner, Donald Broadbent, and Anne Treisman. In total, the school is home to more than 400 students and researchers. The core areas of research include:


  • Developmental psychology
  • Perception and cognition
  • Social psychology
  • Behavioural neuroscience
  • Psychological and brain health


Applicants typically need A-level grades (or equivalent) of A*AA to be considered for these courses, plus admissions tests and an interview. Make sure you check with the university for specific requirements though as these are subject to change.


Other universities for psychology in the UK include:


University of Cambridge 

If you wish to study psychology at the University of Cambridge, you will need to choose between psychological and behavioural sciences (PBS) and natural sciences (NS). Both of these courses are accredited by British Psychological Society. Typical offers for the PBS course are A*AA at A-level while A*A*A is standard for the NS programme.


While admission requirements are high, you will be taught by world-leading researchers in the field. Students can also incorporate other related areas of interest into their studies such as politics, computer science, sociology, philosophy, economics and so on. Teaching is carried out through lectures, seminars, classes, and laboratories.


Founded in 1209, the University of Cambridge has an 800-year history, making it the fourth oldest university in the world. With 98 Nobel Laureates and 15 British Prime ministers, the University of Cambridge continues to uphold its reputation of academic excellence.


Now that you know which universities are considered the best in the world for psychology, you might already have a better idea of where you’d like to study. However, if you’re still not sure, you can use our course matcher tool to search for other universities offering psychology.


Make sure you also stay up to date with the latest news in international education.


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