Safe but disillusioned?

In February we published ‘A degree of safety’ by Angus Smyth in which he said that psychology courses do not encourage originality among students. This he claimed gives rise to disillusionment and ‘playing safe’ – particularly apparent in final-year projects. We asked readers to tell us their own opinions and experiences. Published here are extracts from three of the letters we received. But first Hugh Foot gives a supervisor’s point of view.
IT is difficult to challenge a claim based on someone else’s personal experience. Whatever the situation in Angus Smyth’s own university may be, my impressions of the experience of psychology students generally is substantially different. I would not refute that many students do suffer a period of disillusionment. In my experience this is much more likely to strike in the middle part of the course. Attendance at lectures and tutorials is typically down in the second year. The content of staff–student committee meetings pivots on the vociferous complaints from mid-career students who, in the words of many staff colleagues, know enough psychology for the novelty (and excitement?) to have worn off, but not enough to be able to make sense of the many disparate threads of knowledge running through the course. Questions like ‘What does it amount to?’ and ‘Where is it leading me?’ are frequent sentiments of students wondering if they shouldn’t have followed another degree course with better career prospects…!

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