The Student Room Group

Oxford PPL vs Cambridge PBS?

Hello,

I am a year 12 student that is debating on whether or not I should apply for Oxford or Cambridge for a psychology degree, and was wondering if the red pen had any guidance or advice to my personal situation.

Right now, I'm studying Philosophy, psychology and mathematics in A-levels and I love all 3, and my dream job is integrative psychotherapy because it allows you to take into account all the different ideologies and interpretations of psychological development, behaviour, and psychotherapy and use whatever fits best for a client (and thus allowing me the ability to help people in a clinical sense but with freedom to my own interpretations).

I have been battling between PBS at Cambridge and PPL at Oxford. I originally thought I would like to go to Oxford because it offered psychology and philosophy as a bipartite degree, and because it was slightly more reputable and prestigious in my eyes (unfounded bias, I understand, Cambridge also has immense prestige in the university aswell). However, the psychology structure in Oxford is somewhat vague and almost always prioritises the 'scientific' and 'rigorous observation and testing' in psychology, although I believe I would like seeing psychology from a neuroscientific point of view, I believe that I would much prefer being able to see it from all different views (from personality to developmental to neuroscience, which , although I should reiterate does include the neuroscientific side, is not solely focused on such) , and Oxford does not seem to imply that with their course, whereas Cambridge, allowing 'PBS' to be a general label for all different aspects of psychology, in humanities (including philosophy), and in the sciences, which seems to be more of an integrative approach to psychology.

I was wondering if you would be able to give me some guidance, such as a possible indepth insight into the structure at Oxford on how psychology is done and if it is more neuroscientific than Cambridge (although I'd be interested in seeing neuroscience at play, I would much rather be primarily in a classroom or in a room with clients/participants to talk to or observe rather than in a laboratory all the time) , or if you have any general advice/insight picking between the two universities.

Any input would be greatly appreciated from all of you (especially anyone who attended either of the courses and/or were in a similar position to me), thank you!
(edited 2 months ago)
Reply 1
Can only give insights to Oxford, but hopefully this helps.

The 'scientific' and 'rigorous observation and testing' aspect does not imply a focus only on neuroscience, it's more that the course focuses on teaching you a lot about how psychology experiments work, how to do statistics, and focuses on psychology specifically as an experimental science. So you're learning much more by reading actual journal articles than textbooks, and are encouraged to develop research design skills. There is a good amount of neuroscience on the course, partly because the BPS requires accredited degrees to teach some biological psychology/neuroscience content and partly because Oxford has a lot of neuroscience research going on so there are quite a few advanced options taught by neuroscientists. But equally there is plenty of Psychology, and by doing PPL you might dodge the most difficult neuroscience content in the first year Neurophysiology paper as you'd take the Philosophy paper instead (if its still structured like my first year in 2020), and there are also lots of advanced options that have nothing to do with neuroscience. You also have the option to do a Master's year focused just on Psychology as a 4th year, or graduate with a BA after 3 years - the integrated Master's option might be useful if a career in Psychology is your ultimate aim, and I don't think Cambridge offer that right now.

Both Cambridge PBS and Oxford PPL (assuming you take the correct balance of Psychology and Philosophy to meet the requirements) are BPS accredited so you will explore broadly similar content - conceptual and historical aspects of psychology, developmental, social, biological, clinical and individual differences and cognitive psychology. I think PBS has more freedom in the possible non-Psychology modules you take, whereas with Psychology and Philosophy at Oxford you'd be limited to taking Philosophy options, so that might be something to think about. But the Psychology content at Oxford is not just or even mostly neuroscience - its a Psychology course (and if you wanted to do Neuroscience you'd take Biomedical Sciences and then specialise so there is a whole different course for that!). If you have any questions about Psychology at Oxford I'm happy to answer, although I did EP so I don't know much about the Philosophy side.
Reply 2
Original post by eeeli
Can only give insights to Oxford, but hopefully this helps.

The 'scientific' and 'rigorous observation and testing' aspect does not imply a focus only on neuroscience, it's more that the course focuses on teaching you a lot about how psychology experiments work, how to do statistics, and focuses on psychology specifically as an experimental science. So you're learning much more by reading actual journal articles than textbooks, and are encouraged to develop research design skills. There is a good amount of neuroscience on the course, partly because the BPS requires accredited degrees to teach some biological psychology/neuroscience content and partly because Oxford has a lot of neuroscience research going on so there are quite a few advanced options taught by neuroscientists. But equally there is plenty of Psychology, and by doing PPL you might dodge the most difficult neuroscience content in the first year Neurophysiology paper as you'd take the Philosophy paper instead (if its still structured like my first year in 2020), and there are also lots of advanced options that have nothing to do with neuroscience. You also have the option to do a Master's year focused just on Psychology as a 4th year, or graduate with a BA after 3 years - the integrated Master's option might be useful if a career in Psychology is your ultimate aim, and I don't think Cambridge offer that right now.

Both Cambridge PBS and Oxford PPL (assuming you take the correct balance of Psychology and Philosophy to meet the requirements) are BPS accredited so you will explore broadly similar content - conceptual and historical aspects of psychology, developmental, social, biological, clinical and individual differences and cognitive psychology. I think PBS has more freedom in the possible non-Psychology modules you take, whereas with Psychology and Philosophy at Oxford you'd be limited to taking Philosophy options, so that might be something to think about. But the Psychology content at Oxford is not just or even mostly neuroscience - its a Psychology course (and if you wanted to do Neuroscience you'd take Biomedical Sciences and then specialise so there is a whole different course for that!). If you have any questions about Psychology at Oxford I'm happy to answer, although I did EP so I don't know much about the Philosophy side.


Thank you so much ! Could you tell me, as an EP, what a more general Neuroscientific, and a more Social/relationship/developmental based, lecture looked like and the experiments you did/researched with them?

In addition, what would you say the ratio (in general, not taking into account the neurophysiology course) between more Scientific (neuroscience/Biological) and more Humanitarian (social, developmental etc) Psychology topics/papers was in your EP course ? (details on what was mandatory abd what could have swapped to be more humanitarian would be lovely too!)

I believe I do love psychology, but I'm unsure whether or not I would love the neuroscience behind Psychology or EP given how scientific it is (although I may be wrong as I haven't went to one of their lectures yet, and each time I look into Psychology or Philosophy lectures I enjoy them), so more input on the general life/subjects you did would be nice to see what I can expect (courses change each year, but a general idea is nice)
Reply 3
Original post by Ralfs14711
Thank you so much ! Could you tell me, as an EP, what a more general Neuroscientific, and a more Social/relationship/developmental based, lecture looked like and the experiments you did/researched with them?

In addition, what would you say the ratio (in general, not taking into account the neurophysiology course) between more Scientific (neuroscience/Biological) and more Humanitarian (social, developmental etc) Psychology topics/papers was in your EP course ? (details on what was mandatory abd what could have swapped to be more humanitarian would be lovely too!)

I believe I do love psychology, but I'm unsure whether or not I would love the neuroscience behind Psychology or EP given how scientific it is (although I may be wrong as I haven't went to one of their lectures yet, and each time I look into Psychology or Philosophy lectures I enjoy them), so more input on the general life/subjects you did would be nice to see what I can expect (courses change each year, but a general idea is nice)

Just a disclaimer that I graduated before the course format changed to 4 years, so some things might be different, but the new course structure looks pretty much the same as mine for the first 3 years.

An example of a neuroscience lecture might have been looking at the brain basis for memory - so learning in more depth about Patient HM, hippocampus-centric theories of memory, and theories with other roles of the wider medial temporal lobe and memory circuitry throughout the brain. Another might be looking at neurotransmitter models of e.g. depression by learning about rodent studies where rodent behaviour as a model for depression is assessed in rats that have certain types of neuron/neurotransmitter missing. In a neuroscience practical you might do brain dissection, learn about how MRI data is processed or write a report about behavioural data that links to a neuroscientific concept.

In my social psychology lectures we looked at things like intergroup psychology, psychology of emotions (e.g. interpreting facial expressions, Ekman's basic emotion theory etc), social psychology in young children and comparative social psychology (so looking at studies of helping in apes for example). An example lab experiment for this might be analysing data based on an experiment looking at how people's eyes might be an informative cue.

In developmental psychology there was a variety of topics, one lecture might be looking at key theories of autism, another might look at how language develops and specialises. A practical for this might be analysing and writing a report based on existing data on a behavioural task conducted in children.

Psychology at Oxford does treat Psychology as an entirely scientific discipline with a very quantitative, positivist leaning - even when something isn't neuroscience/biology based it is still very much looked at through the lens of science. I wouldn't call any of the modules humanitarian, rather they fall on a continuum from very brain based to cognition based to behaviour based. But in terms of specifically neuroscientific courses its probably like 1/6th to 1/4th minimum depending on what subject combinations you pick (for me it was a lot more, as 2 of my 3 third year advanced options were neuroscience). The majority of the course probably falls under the broad umbrella of cognitive psychology.

This is all based on compulsory modules - as far as I am aware PPL students choose a mix of lecture courses and practicals rather than taking all of them, but you have to take them across all the BPS required topics to get an accredited degree. So you could take a biological based practical to tick that box and not take the biological lecture course which is a bigger commitment. In optional modules/research project/library dissertation what you can do depends on what academics are running modules or supervising projects and dissertations, so this varies widely.
Reply 4
Original post by eeeli
Just a disclaimer that I graduated before the course format changed to 4 years, so some things might be different, but the new course structure looks pretty much the same as mine for the first 3 years.

An example of a neuroscience lecture might have been looking at the brain basis for memory - so learning in more depth about Patient HM, hippocampus-centric theories of memory, and theories with other roles of the wider medial temporal lobe and memory circuitry throughout the brain. Another might be looking at neurotransmitter models of e.g. depression by learning about rodent studies where rodent behaviour as a model for depression is assessed in rats that have certain types of neuron/neurotransmitter missing. In a neuroscience practical you might do brain dissection, learn about how MRI data is processed or write a report about behavioural data that links to a neuroscientific concept.

In my social psychology lectures we looked at things like intergroup psychology, psychology of emotions (e.g. interpreting facial expressions, Ekman's basic emotion theory etc), social psychology in young children and comparative social psychology (so looking at studies of helping in apes for example). An example lab experiment for this might be analysing data based on an experiment looking at how people's eyes might be an informative cue.

In developmental psychology there was a variety of topics, one lecture might be looking at key theories of autism, another might look at how language develops and specialises. A practical for this might be analysing and writing a report based on existing data on a behavioural task conducted in children.

Psychology at Oxford does treat Psychology as an entirely scientific discipline with a very quantitative, positivist leaning - even when something isn't neuroscience/biology based it is still very much looked at through the lens of science. I wouldn't call any of the modules humanitarian, rather they fall on a continuum from very brain based to cognition based to behaviour based. But in terms of specifically neuroscientific courses its probably like 1/6th to 1/4th minimum depending on what subject combinations you pick (for me it was a lot more, as 2 of my 3 third year advanced options were neuroscience). The majority of the course probably falls under the broad umbrella of cognitive psychology.

This is all based on compulsory modules - as far as I am aware PPL students choose a mix of lecture courses and practicals rather than taking all of them, but you have to take them across all the BPS required topics to get an accredited degree. So you could take a biological based practical to tick that box and not take the biological lecture course which is a bigger commitment. In optional modules/research project/library dissertation what you can do depends on what academics are running modules or supervising projects and dissertations, so this varies widely.

Alright Thank you! Humanitarian was incorrect wording, but I believe scientific experimentation will be something that I'll enjoy (I did not enjoy them much during secondary, but if its psychology based I can already sense me enjoying them much more), and PPL I heard that you have to take half/just over half of the papers in psychology if you want to get BPS accredited (which I don't mind too much, philosophy is great but doing predominantly psychology is wonderful too). The ratio's can still help even if I'm taking a bipartite degree, so thank you for that! I haven't looked at many lectures on the biological side of psychology, but I believe experimentation from both biological and social/cognitive will be interesting to see and do. Once again, thank you for the input!
Reply 5
Original post by eeeli
Original post by Ralfs14711
Thank you so much ! Could you tell me, as an EP, what a more general Neuroscientific, and a more Social/relationship/developmental based, lecture looked like and the experiments you did/researched with them?

In addition, what would you say the ratio (in general, not taking into account the neurophysiology course) between more Scientific (neuroscience/Biological) and more Humanitarian (social, developmental etc) Psychology topics/papers was in your EP course ? (details on what was mandatory abd what could have swapped to be more humanitarian would be lovely too!)

I believe I do love psychology, but I'm unsure whether or not I would love the neuroscience behind Psychology or EP given how scientific it is (although I may be wrong as I haven't went to one of their lectures yet, and each time I look into Psychology or Philosophy lectures I enjoy them), so more input on the general life/subjects you did would be nice to see what I can expect (courses change each year, but a general idea is nice)

Just a disclaimer that I graduated before the course format changed to 4 years, so some things might be different, but the new course structure looks pretty much the same as mine for the first 3 years.

An example of a neuroscience lecture might have been looking at the brain basis for memory - so learning in more depth about Patient HM, hippocampus-centric theories of memory, and theories with other roles of the wider medial temporal lobe and memory circuitry throughout the brain. Another might be looking at neurotransmitter models of e.g. depression by learning about rodent studies where rodent behaviour as a model for depression is assessed in rats that have certain types of neuron/neurotransmitter missing. In a neuroscience practical you might do brain dissection, learn about how MRI data is processed or write a report about behavioural data that links to a neuroscientific concept.

In my social psychology lectures we looked at things like intergroup psychology, psychology of emotions (e.g. interpreting facial expressions, Ekman's basic emotion theory etc), social psychology in young children and comparative social psychology (so looking at studies of helping in apes for example). An example lab experiment for this might be analysing data based on an experiment looking at how people's eyes might be an informative cue.

In developmental psychology there was a variety of topics, one lecture might be looking at key theories of autism, another might look at how language develops and specialises. A practical for this might be analysing and writing a report based on existing data on a behavioural task conducted in children.

Psychology at Oxford does treat Psychology as an entirely scientific discipline with a very quantitative, positivist leaning - even when something isn't neuroscience/biology based it is still very much looked at through the lens of science. I wouldn't call any of the modules humanitarian, rather they fall on a continuum from very brain based to cognition based to behaviour based. But in terms of specifically neuroscientific courses its probably like 1/6th to 1/4th minimum depending on what subject combinations you pick (for me it was a lot more, as 2 of my 3 third year advanced options were neuroscience). The majority of the course probably falls under the broad umbrella of cognitive psychology.

This is all based on compulsory modules - as far as I am aware PPL students choose a mix of lecture courses and practicals rather than taking all of them, but you have to take them across all the BPS required topics to get an accredited degree. So you could take a biological based practical to tick that box and not take the biological lecture course which is a bigger commitment. In optional modules/research project/library dissertation what you can do depends on what academics are running modules or supervising projects and dissertations, so this varies widely.


Hey Eeeli, I just tried to look into cognitive psychology a bit more and found a lecture on 'Cognitive Neuroscience' at MIT which basically said that they're trying to study the 'coding' between perception and the mind , and that cognitive psychology is based in an 'engineering' mind to figuring out the brain and mind, is this true for most of the cognitive psychology lectures or is that a specific type/neuroscience based? Could you give examples of types of Cogbitive lectures you did in Oxford (I know you said its vast, so an example of two opposites in the ideas could be useful)?

Sorry for all the questions, just trying to wrap my mind on whether or not EP is right for me, thank you in advance!
Reply 6
Original post by Ralfs14711
Just a disclaimer that I graduated before the course format changed to 4 years, so some things might be different, but the new course structure looks pretty much the same as mine for the first 3 years.

An example of a neuroscience lecture might have been looking at the brain basis for memory - so learning in more depth about Patient HM, hippocampus-centric theories of memory, and theories with other roles of the wider medial temporal lobe and memory circuitry throughout the brain. Another might be looking at neurotransmitter models of e.g. depression by learning about rodent studies where rodent behaviour as a model for depression is assessed in rats that have certain types of neuron/neurotransmitter missing. In a neuroscience practical you might do brain dissection, learn about how MRI data is processed or write a report about behavioural data that links to a neuroscientific concept.

In my social psychology lectures we looked at things like intergroup psychology, psychology of emotions (e.g. interpreting facial expressions, Ekman's basic emotion theory etc), social psychology in young children and comparative social psychology (so looking at studies of helping in apes for example). An example lab experiment for this might be analysing data based on an experiment looking at how people's eyes might be an informative cue.

In developmental psychology there was a variety of topics, one lecture might be looking at key theories of autism, another might look at how language develops and specialises. A practical for this might be analysing and writing a report based on existing data on a behavioural task conducted in children.

Psychology at Oxford does treat Psychology as an entirely scientific discipline with a very quantitative, positivist leaning - even when something isn't neuroscience/biology based it is still very much looked at through the lens of science. I wouldn't call any of the modules humanitarian, rather they fall on a continuum from very brain based to cognition based to behaviour based. But in terms of specifically neuroscientific courses its probably like 1/6th to 1/4th minimum depending on what subject combinations you pick (for me it was a lot more, as 2 of my 3 third year advanced options were neuroscience). The majority of the course probably falls under the broad umbrella of cognitive psychology.

This is all based on compulsory modules - as far as I am aware PPL students choose a mix of lecture courses and practicals rather than taking all of them, but you have to take them across all the BPS required topics to get an accredited degree. So you could take a biological based practical to tick that box and not take the biological lecture course which is a bigger commitment. In optional modules/research project/library dissertation what you can do depends on what academics are running modules or supervising projects and dissertations, so this varies widely.


Hey Eeeli, I just tried to look into cognitive psychology a bit more and found a lecture on 'Cognitive Neuroscience' at MIT which basically said that they're trying to study the 'coding' between perception and the mind , and that cognitive psychology is based in an 'engineering' mind to figuring out the brain and mind, is this true for most of the cognitive psychology lectures or is that a specific type/neuroscience based? Could you give examples of types of Cogbitive lectures you did in Oxford (I know you said its vast, so an example of two opposites in the ideas could be useful)?

Sorry for all the questions, just trying to wrap my mind on whether or not EP is right for me, thank you in advance!

I feel like that's a specific approach to cognitive neuroscience (although without the context of the whole lecture my interpretation is limited), more broadly cognitive psychology is about understanding mental processes we can't directly observe (sort of in contrast to behaviourism). At Oxford we studied things like memory, problem solving, processing language, attention, reasoning etc. A lot of this is then linked to the brain as well - cognitive models are investigated in terms of how they might manifest in the brain. Cognitive approaches do tend to pop up in a lot of places in modern psychology, you can probably find examples of cognitive psychology in a lot of developmental, social, clinical etc psychology.
(edited 1 month ago)
Reply 7
Original post by eeeli
Original post by Ralfs14711
Just a disclaimer that I graduated before the course format changed to 4 years, so some things might be different, but the new course structure looks pretty much the same as mine for the first 3 years.

An example of a neuroscience lecture might have been looking at the brain basis for memory - so learning in more depth about Patient HM, hippocampus-centric theories of memory, and theories with other roles of the wider medial temporal lobe and memory circuitry throughout the brain. Another might be looking at neurotransmitter models of e.g. depression by learning about rodent studies where rodent behaviour as a model for depression is assessed in rats that have certain types of neuron/neurotransmitter missing. In a neuroscience practical you might do brain dissection, learn about how MRI data is processed or write a report about behavioural data that links to a neuroscientific concept.

In my social psychology lectures we looked at things like intergroup psychology, psychology of emotions (e.g. interpreting facial expressions, Ekman's basic emotion theory etc), social psychology in young children and comparative social psychology (so looking at studies of helping in apes for example). An example lab experiment for this might be analysing data based on an experiment looking at how people's eyes might be an informative cue.

In developmental psychology there was a variety of topics, one lecture might be looking at key theories of autism, another might look at how language develops and specialises. A practical for this might be analysing and writing a report based on existing data on a behavioural task conducted in children.

Psychology at Oxford does treat Psychology as an entirely scientific discipline with a very quantitative, positivist leaning - even when something isn't neuroscience/biology based it is still very much looked at through the lens of science. I wouldn't call any of the modules humanitarian, rather they fall on a continuum from very brain based to cognition based to behaviour based. But in terms of specifically neuroscientific courses its probably like 1/6th to 1/4th minimum depending on what subject combinations you pick (for me it was a lot more, as 2 of my 3 third year advanced options were neuroscience). The majority of the course probably falls under the broad umbrella of cognitive psychology.

This is all based on compulsory modules - as far as I am aware PPL students choose a mix of lecture courses and practicals rather than taking all of them, but you have to take them across all the BPS required topics to get an accredited degree. So you could take a biological based practical to tick that box and not take the biological lecture course which is a bigger commitment. In optional modules/research project/library dissertation what you can do depends on what academics are running modules or supervising projects and dissertations, so this varies widely.


Hey Eeeli, I just tried to look into cognitive psychology a bit more and found a lecture on 'Cognitive Neuroscience' at MIT which basically said that they're trying to study the 'coding' between perception and the mind , and that cognitive psychology is based in an 'engineering' mind to figuring out the brain and mind, is this true for most of the cognitive psychology lectures or is that a specific type/neuroscience based? Could you give examples of types of Cogbitive lectures you did in Oxford (I know you said its vast, so an example of two opposites in the ideas could be useful)?

Sorry for all the questions, just trying to wrap my mind on whether or not EP is right for me, thank you in advance!

I feel like that's a specific approach to cognitive neuroscience (although without the context of the whole lecture my interpretation is limited), more broadly cognitive psychology is about understanding mental processes we can't directly observe (sort of in contrast to behaviourism). At Oxford we studied things like memory, problem solving, processing language, attention, reasoning etc. A lot of this is then linked to the brain as well - cognitive models are investigated in terms of how they might manifest in the brain. Cognitive approaches do tend to pop up in a lot of places in modern psychology, you can probably find examples of cognitive psychology in a lot of developmental, social, clinical etc psychology.

Alright Thank you, that makes sense and seems much more inspiring . (I started watching a cognitive psychology lecture instead and it was much more exciting/reassuring) . Good to see how the course is at Oxford a bit more , and understandable how broad and reaching it is. Thank you! (The lecture on Cognitive neuroscience was this one https://youtu.be/vFZY--lgmHs?si=cdrwGHDPVsGe3FiA and the Psychogy introduction to cognitive neuroscience was this one https://youtu.be/_xGgFWH_Z1Q?si=joDRshMBixhS_U-r if you were wondering )

Quick Reply

Latest

Trending

Trending