In late July 2023, the UK Government decided it would likely act on a 2019 Review into Higher Education, labelling psychology as a degree with no or little benefit. In the future, the UK Government might impose legal limits on the number of psychology students a university can have. In this fascinating psychology podcast episode, you'll learn more about the report, the wages of a number of psychology jobs in the UK and why I believe it is a moral outrage if the UK Government prevents people from studying psychology. Even more so considering how powerful psychology is as a force for good. If you're interested or even remotely care about psychology, mental health and the future of our profession then you have to listen to this critical episode.
Today’s psychology podcast episode has been sponsored by Clinical Psychology Collection. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley
Why Psychology Isn't A Useless Degree? My Response To The Augar Report. A Clinical Psychology and Future Of Psychology Podcast Episode.
So, we're moving on to the content part of today's episode. So, we're going to be talking about the independent panel, the review of post-education and the funding from May 2019. So, this is something that the UK government did and informally it's known as the Augaur Review. So, I'm really excited about this because we do need to talk about it. We do need to respond to this because I think it's flat-out wrong. And to be honest, it's not as simplistic as they actually make out.
The Report Itself
So, in like, this section of the podcast episode, I actually want to focus on what the report itself said because there are some interesting points. So, the first part of the report, that actually relates to psychology, talks about how the UK has one of the most expensive psychology degrees in the world. Because of that international context...in England, a psychology degree will cost you £9,250 a year. That is for one single year. Whereas Wales, another member of the UK only has £9,000, but in the U.S one year of a psychology degree in a public university has £6,170. But in Australia, a psychology degree for one year will cost a maximum of £3,500. So, quite a bit cheaper. And then at Scotland, well Scotland, which I'm a massive fan of, a psychology degree will apparently cost you nothing because Scotland has free education if you're a Scottish resident.
So, as you can see, England is a stupidly expensive place to go to education. There've been lots of theories about this and including one that my head of school mentioned is that education in England is not valued, which to be honest yeah, I definitely don't think it is. Because if you see the policies that come out, if you just see the education secretaries, I just don't think they're serious about education whatsoever, mainly because none of them actually have any like experience in it. But again, that's a topic for another day though.
As you can see, England, very, very expensive place to live. And it's that number which I think the report is based on, because like a three-year psychology degree will basically cost you £27,000. So, that's something that we need to bear in mind going forward in this podcast episode.
Going on to the report itself and when it mentions that psychology, this is the thing that I actually want to quote. So, "The graduate premium for men is low or negative and at the age of 29 for a sizable minority of subjects. In addition to the creative arts, these include English and philosophy for which the premium is negative. And agriculture, communications, psychology, languages, history, bioscience, and physical sciences, which it is zero or very small. Women, by contrast, enjoy a graduate premium at age of 29 irrespective of the subjects they study. But the premium is small for creative arts, agriculture, social care, and psychology."
The reason why they actually choose the 29 age-bracket is because basically, it's a few years after your university. That gives the report a really good idea about what you're going to get over your lifetime. The very fact that psychology is basically no better than creative arts or farming is no better than history or languages. I think that is disgusting and very hurtful because I was actually talking with a history friend of mine a few weeks ago and we both agreed, doing a history degree will not get you a job. It seriously won't. There's just not...because history is really hard to get a job in anyway, because there's so few jobs. And plus, also it's not very specialized at the end of the day.
And when it comes to languages, I sort of understand that too. And communications, what does a communication degree does? I have no idea. Creative arts, I just do not know. I mean, again, none of these are specialized.
But social care and psychology is, because psychology is very specialized. Like, you cannot get a job in psychology. You cannot become a clinical psychologist, you cannot become a forensic psychologist, you cannot become an academic in psychology without a psychology degree. So, why on earth is this so undervalued?
Personally, I think right off the top of my head, I think it's because psychology jobs are public sector. Of course, I know this is turning into a borderline political episode, but in the UK, our government does not care about mental health. It really doesn't. I think the majority of the older population doesn't. And of course, it's the older people that vote in the UK government because over 60% of the population in the UK is over 50. So, the fact that they don't care about psychology and mental health I think does have an impact.
But psychology is also so much more than mental health. It's human behavior, is basically why do we do what we do? It's critical to everything. It's critical to our understanding. It's critical to our criminal justice system so we can understand why criminal behavior happens. It's critical to our children and our youth so we can understand how do we give them the best start in life. Psychology is everything.
So, the very reason, the very report done by this government or to be honest like two governments ago or basically however many, the fact that psychology isn't recognized for being a very powerful force for good I think is disgusting. Because it can be, it can change lives, it can improve them. So, I just think it is flat-out weird but it's even more weird when we look at the average salaries.
What Is The Average Salary For A Psychologist?
So now, I actually want to look into a number of different psychology jobs and look at their average salary and bearing in mind that a psychology undergraduate degree in the UK will cost you about £28,000. And then because psychology is so specialized and you need to have good knowledge, a master's degree, my master's is costing me even though it's just taxpayer money that I'll never pay back another eight and a half grand.
So, a psychology degree at undergraduate and master's level will cost you around £36,000. Okay. So, let's just bear that in mind, that number. I typed into Google, UK average salary 2023. Okay, so this is what a normal person earns. This is the average for across all the UK. So over this, the average on of all the millionaires and all the billionaires in the UK and it's also the average of all the poorer people and what I call the normal people.
So, the average GDP per capita in the UK is around £29,588 in 2023. That's what the normal person earns. Then I typed in UK average salary, a business psychologist. And the average from glassdoor.co.uk came back at £41,234 per year. That's what a fully qualified person gets. And because of that price tag, I'm sort of guessing they've got a few years of experience behind them.
Let's think about it. In one year, you can make basically £5,000 more than your degree ever costed you. So, that's one year. So, in the next year, yeah, if we lived in a society where all your university debt has to get paid off in like a single year, so that would leave you £5,000 for one year, but then for the rest of your working life you are earning £40 grand. That's £11,000 more than at the UK average. And I think that would go up within inflation. It's already £11,000 more, which I think is very, very good. It's very reasonable. In the UK, £40 grand a year can actually get you quite far I think, at least in my experience.
I find it a bit weird that that's only classed as a small premium because I mean, doctors might become an NHS doctor or a general practitioner. Yes, that might earn you £60,000 a year, which is larger. But just because you only earn £11,000 more than the average Joe, I don't think that's a bad thing or I don't think that undervalues psychology at all. But that's just a business psychologist.
Now, if we look at social psychology like cognitive psychology, biological psychology, as far as I know, if you want to do something in those jobs, you can only become an academic, and then you can research it in your spare time when you are not teaching. So again, that is £40,000 according to Google. So, I find it flat-out weird because this was done through a 2019 higher education single-paced spine. So, whether that's basically like resource. So, this figure is very, very true.
So, you can earn £40 grand doing a psychology degree and to becoming an academic. Again, it's not small. Granted because of how you are treated and all the other working conditions, £40 grand is nowhere near enough. But again, I don't know how that's only classed as a small benefit though, especially if we think about the larger context about the world, which is where you are going to teach people, you're going to teach students, you're going to inspire them and they're going to move on and they're going to do great things like with their life using the knowledge that you gave them.
So, the fact that psychology, especially if you become an academic is classed as useless or just a small premium basically, it's not going to give you any premium at all, I think it's just so weird because I think this is only done from a monetary point of view because you are inspiring the next generation. If I didn't have my lecturers then I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be podcasting. This podcast would not exist. None of my psychology books would, none of my psychology degrees, and all the people that I hope to help in the future, they would not happen. So, I just find it so weird, so weird.
And talking about my favorite topic in the entire world. So, according to prospectus.co.uk, the average clinical psychologist earns on average, so, the average trainee in the NHS at band 6 is £32,360. Now, even though that's from prospectus.co.uk, I do want to sort of counter that. So, an assistant psychologist, which you can become after your masters, basically earns about £26,000 or £27,000. They're the sort of price ranges that I've seen for someone who's basically just finished like their masters. So, even though that's basically the same as your undergraduate, I can understand where the report's coming from in that sense.
But then on the other side, when you would do your clinical psychology doctorate and when you're fully qualified you can be on £50,000, £60,000 or even £80,000 a year, which I think is mad. Like, I see some of the job adverts for like £80,000 and I'm like, "Yes, please, I really want to become qualified," because who wouldn't love to be on £80,000 a year? So, again, if the idea that doing an undergraduate psychology degree isn't good, then how are people meant to become masters students? And then how are people meant to gain their years of experience so they can do the clinical psychology doctorate and get onto £80,000? It makes no sense to me because you just can't do it.
NHS Workforce Crisis
For the final section of this podcast episode, I want to talk about what could happen if the UK government places legal limits on psychology degrees. So, the UK government has made its position rather clear from the stuff I've read, that it does want to impose legal limits on these sort of degrees. Again, because it's the UK government, it's not clear and it doesn't have any concrete ideas about what to do. Therefore, this section will be very hypothetical.
At my university, there was 250 people that graduated with me. Okay? And I've mentioned before on the podcast, that about 40% of psychology graduates end up by doing a psychology master's. And it's the master's students that I'm interested in. Because as I've said before, psychology is sort of useless unless you have a master's. So, that leaves 100 university students, okay?
Let's say 50% of this 100 decide to do clinical psychology and then let's say 10% after their master's go, "No, clinical psychology's not for me." And then the remaining 40 people go on to become assistant psychologists. Okay then, that is 40 extra people from my university alone decide to go and work in the NHS. So, they can support the fully qualified clinical psychologist, they can improve lives, they can help people, they can make people feel better, who will have depression, they can support people who are autistic, and they can help people with ADHD maintain their focus, improve their lives so they can achieve something. And also, but most importantly, if you might have a suicidal person, they can save their life. They can support a psychologist, so a person that wants to kill themselves can see that is not the way and life is so, so worth living.
That is all what a psychologist can do. Okay?
40 people from just my cohort alone using these fictional numbers. So, let's say the UK government says the maximum number of people can be 100. So legally, a university is only allowed to have 100 people on a psychology degree. So, that basically knocks off 150 people.
Okay, now let's try and do the same calculations. I love how ambitious I'm being in the fact that I can actually remember that.
Let's basically just say that on the same sort of numbers, so about 40% of 100 is 40 people. So, about 40 people decide to go on to do a master's of some sort in psychology. So, let's half that again because let's say 20 people go and decide to do a clinical psychology degree and then at 10% decide that clinical psychology is not for them. That only leaves 18 people out of our 40 that have decided to go into the clinical psychology workforce.
Now, I've spoken about this on the podcast before. Our mental health services in the UK and around the world are on their knees. We have vacancies, like the NHS has never seen before. They have over 300,000 job vacancies on the NHS. Of course, not all of them are in psychology, but NHS desperately needs people. So, can we really place legal limits on degrees that would get people into the NHS workforce? Because if there's 18 people and if there's a massive reduction over time of people who actually go into the NHS workforce, then the NHS will be on its knees. Mental health services will be broken.
No, in fact, I'm willing to say they will be smashed up because they just don't have the staff, they don't have the new people coming in, and I think that's tragic. Think of all the people that are going to suffer all the people we can't help, all the people that are never going to be able to access the waiting lists. The waiting lists will, I think, easily double because we don't have the staff to get through the waiting list and the backlog. I think this is a moral outrage.
I think it's disgusting.
And if the UK government does place legal limits on the number of students that can do a psychology degree, then I will be livid and I will...I don't know, I think it will push me to some sort of action because we need more psychology students.
And then, also the other benefits about studying psychology, like an understanding, it makes you understand people. It makes you understand people from different cultures because of cross-cultural research. It makes you understand people that are different from you. It makes you understand why autistic people act the way they do and it gives people hope, right? I've said this before, I've said this in episode 200, my psychology degree's given me so much hope for the future because by understanding how human behavior works, I can understand that people that are smarter than me or to be honest, if I was given the right support, then I could come up with ideas with other people about how to improve a climate change like messaging, tackle like racism and prejudice.
This is what psychology teaches us and we can do this stuff. I think everyone should have like these sort of opportunities to learn about stuff that will increase tolerance and that will make the world a better place. So, I know this was a bit rambly, but I'm so passionate about it. I think it's disgusting that they want to do this. And I really hope this has struck a chord with you because psychology isn't useless and money is not everything. Psychology teaches us so much that if more people did psychology, then the world would be a much better place. A place then where everyone would be equal. There'll be less sexism, misogyny, yeah. The world needs psychology more than ever, and just thank you for listening.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Clinical Psychology Collection. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley
Have a great day.
Clinical Psychology References
Independent panel report to the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding May 2019
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