A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
When I started looking into possible Master courses at Leiden University I was rather confused when I heard about Masters in Psychology and Masters in Psychology (Research). Maybe I can shed some light on the differences for you with this short blog post.
I am currently following a course from the Master in Clinical Neuropsychology as well as a course from the Research Master Cognitive Neuroscience. Comparing my experiences in these very different learning environments might help some of you decide between the two kinds of Master courses.
This is the most obvious difference. In Clinical Neuropsychology, I am sitting in a lecture hall with about 80 other students. The lectures are mandatory, so the hall is always pretty full. Also the Cognitive Neuroscience lectures are mandatory. The difference: we are 13 students in the course. It is much easier to get in touch with the other students and you even learn other people’s names. The big disadvantage: you cannot hide, so you wont be able to sleep in such a small group (not that would want to in either group).
For Clinical Neuropsychology, I will have to sit an exam with multiple choice and open questions. Not much different from the Bachelor Exams, only that the subject is somewhat more specialized. The exam will be based on articles and chapters from a book that we had to read.
The grade of Cognitive Neuroscience is composed of three parts: 20% is a presentation and discussion that we are preparing in a small group, 30% is a poster presentation on a project where we need to fit a model to a set of behavioral data and the last 50% are an essay. The assessment is much more focused on practical inputs and your own ideas and not too much about the content of the lectures.
In Clinical Neuropsychology, we get speakers from the field. Most of them work as therapists in rehabilitation centers for adults or children. They give us examples on how specific treatments can be used and how well they work. I find that really interesting, because no book will give you better examples and a livelier impression on what it is like to work as a therapist or in diagnostics.
The speakers from Cognitive Neuroscience are assistant professors at the department of cognitive psychology from Leiden University. They are all specialists in the field and published their share about decision making and reinforcement learning (the topic of the course). And this is what the Research Master is about: learning from researchers and training to become one.
The lectures are given in English in both Masters. The classroom language in the Research Master is also English, so people speak to each other in English during the break or before/after class. About a third of all students in the Research Master are from another country than The Netherlands, so everyone kindly agrees to English as the main language of communication in the classroom.
The picture is somewhat different in the Professional Master: from about 80 students, I am guessing there are not even 10 students from abroad. You will hear mainly Dutch around you during the break. The Dutch are just the overwhelming majority, so fighting for English as classroom language won’t make much sense. There might be rescue on the way though: with the first IBP (International Bachelor of Psychology) students graduating and some of them joining the Professional Master programs at LU this September, the percentage of English-speaking students will (hopefully) rise.
So the main difference is already in the title of the Master courses: The Research Master is focused on research and hence assessed more practically in forms of academic writing and presenting. There are also less students and more international students.
The Psychology Master course trains students to work as therapist or in diagnostics, so the speaker will be from the field.This is why some staff member might call the Psychology Master programs “Professional Master”: a course from practitioners for future practitioners. Assessment is based on book knowledge, as we have to know what we are basing treatments on. The research focus is much less pronounced (they are following the scientist-practitioner model though, so you won’t get away without applying models and evaluating clinical studies yourself).