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The University of Southampton

Psychology student scheme recognised with a Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Award

Published: 3 August 2012

Psychology staff involved with the pioneering Voluntary Research Assistant scheme have been recognised for their contribution to enhancing the student experience.

Psychology’s Dr Claire Hart and Dr Erica Hepper have been awarded a 2012 Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Award for setting up and running a Voluntary Research Assistant (VRA) scheme. 

Drs Hart and Hepper set up the VRA scheme in 2008 to enable Psychology students to gain work experience and skills by assisting psychology and research professionals, and have coordinated and developed it ever since. Southampton is one of only a few universities in the country to offer such a scheme.

Dr Hepper comments, “We saw that our students were struggling to find work experience that was relevant to psychology, and many students did not feel fully aware of their career options. At the same time, the graduate job market is becoming more competitive and we wanted to help give our students the edge when applying for jobs and postgraduate courses. "

They initially developed the VRA scheme to facilitate students working part-time with researchers in Psychology during the university semester, taking into account their interests and career plans. More recently, to reflect the diversity of careers open to psychology graduates, a competitive summer placement scheme has been set up. This includes placements in NHS clinical psychology services, market research companies, and other professional settings.

Dr Hart adds, "We have been delighted with the popularity and success of the VRA scheme, and so pleased to see from students’ feedback that they enjoy and gain a great deal from their placements, and that their experience has enhanced their CVs. Being recognised with a Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Award is a testament, not only to the scheme itself, but also to the dedication and enthusiasm of our students and the professionals who have supervised and mentored them.”

Vice Chancellor's Teaching Awards are awarded annually to recognise outstanding and innovative contributions to enhancing the student experience.


The volunteering scheme allows highly motivated students who are interested in careers in psychology to work with experienced psychology researchers

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