Taught course

Psychology and Learning Disability (Distance Learning)

University of Portsmouth · Department of Psychology

Entry requirements

A good honours degree or equivalent. Applicants with a professional qualification not at degree level may be accepted - each application is considered on an individual basis according to academic qualifications as well as professional qualifications and experience. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Months of entry


Course content

Why take this course?

The term 'learning disabilities' is used interchangeably with 'intellectual disability' to describe those who, from an early age, have substantial problems with learning and who need support with many aspects of life, including living independently.

This distance learning course enhances knowledge and skills of graduates and experienced practitioners wishing to develop their understanding of people with learning disabilities.

When embarking on this course, you may benefit from having completed paid or voluntary work with children or adults with intellectual disabilities.

What will I experience?

On this course you can:

  • Be taught by academics who are active researchers in learning disability
  • Participate in live web-based chat forums, e-conferencing, and individual tutorials, to discuss your work with lecturers and with other students
  • Tap into the Library’s vast selection of electronic resources or access library facilities and borrow books locally via the SCOLNUL scheme

What opportunities might it lead to?

This course provides an opportunity for those supporting children and adults with intellectual disabilities and their families to enhance their knowledge and skills, and gain an academic qualification.

Module Details

Full-time students will study all 180 Level M credits (i.e. six units) in one full year. Part-time students will normally study three units each year, and will begin to explore potential research ideas and research methodologies in the first year. All units are Level 7, 30 credits, and are core units.

Here are the units you will study (part-time students will study these in the first year):

  • Critical Disability Studies and Intellectual Disability: The perspective of Critical Disability Studies (CDS) is about how society and its agents respond to the labelled person's circumstances rather than how intellectual disability inhabits the person. This unit will address the relationship between workers and disabled people that CDS might call for. Here disability and intellectual disability in particular will be a standpoint or position from which to view society, in contrast to disability as a categorisation of people.
  • Autistic Spectrum Conditions: this unit aims to provide knowledge about autistic spectrum conditions and promote understanding of the key issues in providing support to people with autistic spectrum conditions and their families.
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods: This unit provides an introduction to experimental and survey-based research methods, and quantitative data analysis techniques. It covers qualitative methods for data collection and analysis, as well as to how to write research reports in both traditions.

The following units will be studied in the first year by full-time students and in the second year by part-time students:

  • Families and Systemic Therapy: This unit aims to provide you with an understanding of families including an appreciation of experiences of families with an intellectually disabled member. It aims to enhance your abilities to support families via theoretically informed, partnership-based empowering practices.
  • Research Project: The research project requires you to initiate, conduct and report upon an original piece of research. The work is conducted to deadlines agreed with a project supervisor and project must include empirical quantitative or qualitative research – data collection and relevant analysis must be included. Any statistical analysis must be both descriptive (e.g. means, standard deviations and graphs etc.) and inferential (i.e. statistical tests).
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): This unit outlines and discusses the efficacy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This course provides a thorough introduction to the academic literature on this subject. It is not, however, training be a therapist.

Programme Assessment

Despite its distance learning mode, this course is still extremely student focused. You will be given resources, materials, help and guidance to complete your studies to your full ability. Using our virtual learning environment you can participate in group discussions with other students in a friendly yet challenging online class environment. Plus real-time text based 'chat sessions' with lecturers will ensure you receive all the support you need for the topics you study.

You are assessed in a variety of ways to reflect the individual topics, however there are no examinations and all assessment is coursework based. Here’s how we assess your work:

  • Practice files
  • Essays
  • Wikis
  • Statistical analysis and reports
  • Literature reviews
  • A research project

Student Destinations

When embarking on this course, you may benefit from having completed paid or voluntary work with children or adults with intellectual disabilities.

Previous graduates of the course frequently make significant progress in their careers. Some are just in the beginning stages while others move on to senior manager positions and upwards. Past students have also progressed to advanced academic qualifications such as PhDs or professional doctorates.

Fees and funding

UK students
Full time: £7,700 *Tuition fee is subject to annual increase.
International students
Part time: £3,850 (year 1 - 90 credits - certificate/diploma) and £3,850* (year 2 - 90 credits - diploma/MSC) *Tuition fee is subject to annual increase.

Qualification and course duration


distance learning
12/24 months

Course contact details

Admissions Team
023 9284 5566