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Psychology and the Open University in Northern Ireland

The School of Psychology and Counselling was very pleased to learn that the connection between the Open University and the British Psychological Society (BPS) will be further strengthened by the election of Dr Karen Hagan to Chair of the Northern Ireland Branch of the British Psychological Society (NIBPS).  The BPS is the representative body for psychologists in the UK and has accredited the OU’s four main Psychology Degree Qualifications:

Dr Karen Hagan is a Senior Lecturer and Staff Tutor in the OU School of Psychology and Counselling. She has worked with the OU since 1991. In her Staff Tutor role, she is responsible for the delivery of the OU Undergraduate Psychology Programme across the two jurisdictions of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  

Across the island of Ireland, Psychology is a very popular academic subject with approximately 550 students studying across the 11 Degree qualifications, 6 Diplomas and 5 Certificates in the OU Psychology and Counselling Programme.  In collaboration with NIBPS and the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI), OU students are invited to attend and contribute to conferences and events which bring them closer to the wider community of academics and practitioners.  For example, over the last year, OU students have attended local seminars of the Trauma Group in Forensic Psychology, talks on Bullying, Clinical and Health Psychology, a film on NHS Cuts with a panel discussion, and student support meetings. Attendees at the Joint PSI and NIBPS Annual Careers Conference obtained advice about future directions and got the chance to ask questions of psychologists in the main psychological professions – at least two even seem to have found future PhD supervisors!  

Karen notes the impact of engagement and the significance of her role in collaborating with the Societies and other Institutions: ‘OU students have excellent opportunities to learn about psychological topics, methods and applied work from this welcoming community.  It is wonderful to see the students who have attended and presented at events in the past, become the practitioners, lecturers and researchers of the present… and the future.’

Karen’s first Degree was in Psychology, and she holds a MSc in Psychological Research Methods. She spent 13 years working mainly with adults with learning disabilities and gained a professional qualification in Social Work. For her PhD, she applied a critical discursive psychological approach to examine autism diagnostic assessments. Her recent interests include discourses and practices of bullying and manipulation in schools, workplaces, politics and close relationships.     

In the School, Karen has worked on the production and presentation of successive Level 3 Social Psychology modules and Level 2 core Psychology modules.  Currently, through her work as Staff Tutor on DD317 Advancing Social Psychologyher interests have shifted toward political areas of Social Psychology.  On this module, students from a variety of countries and perspectives work together and engage in debates which test and develop their psychological understanding in a lively and inclusive manner.  

You can find out more about DD31 Advancing Social Psychology, from Karen at

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