Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology

What our Forensic Psychology students say 


Vicky Hatton
DForenPsy (top-up programme)

Dr Vicky Hatton graduated in 2017 and went on to work as a Forensic Psychologist for the Priory Group in a locked rehabilitation unit for men. Since being at this unit she has conducted research into the impact of a short training package on staff members’ knowledge and confidence of Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Learning Disabilities. Most recently, Vicky has also taken on a position as a Locum Forensic Psychologist in a female locked rehabilitation unit, also part of the Priory Group.

"I completed my Masters in Forensic Psychology at the University of Gloucestershire and at the same time became an Assistant Psychologist. Following my graduation I was keen to continue my professional development in the hope I would eventually become a Forensic Psychologist. I therefore began to explore the options of doctorates but was worried about completing a three-year course despite having completed a Masters. This was when I came across the Top-Up Professional Doctorate in Forensic Psychology at the University of Nottingham. When reading about this course I soon learned that I could complete it within two years as my BPS accredited Masters was equivalent to the first year of the full doctorate. For me, this was the perfect option to go for and as such, I applied and secured a place!

Whilst on the course I felt it was the perfect balance of teaching, placements and research. I was able to move around the country, at my wish, experiencing various types of placements. This included working with children and adults, as well as working within the community and a prison. As I was a fair distance from Nottingham, beginning the course whilst living in Devon, I was concerned about feeling isolated and unsupported by the team. However, I soon realised that distance was irrelevant as supervision still regularly occurred and my cohort developed a Facebook group whereby we could offer each other support any time of the day! During the doctorate process I was also able to publish two papers. One was part of my research thesis and the other was an additional piece completed whilst on placement. This was strongly supported by the team at the University of Nottingham who were keen to publicise success within trainees.

Just before I completed the course I had two job offers so had to make a difficult decision as to what setting I wished to work within. I eventually decided to work for a private healthcare company in a locked rehabilitation unit for men. At first I was nervous about accepting this job given that it was a 25-bedded unit with just me as the Psychologist. However, I soon settled into the role and was quickly able to utilise all the learning and personal development that I had engaged in whilst on the Top-Up doctorate at the University of Nottingham.


Sarah Ashworth

Dr Sarah Ashworth graduated in 2017 and started work as a Chartered and Registered Forensic Psychologist for Partnerships in Care, where she has worked since graduating from her undergraduate degree in 2009. She completes independent psychological assessments, and provides training and consultancy to a specialist autism charity (Derbyshire Autism Services). She also teaches on a variety of masters programmes across the country.

“Working with people who had completed various different routes to qualifying gave me good insight into the potential benefits and negatives of each route. I chose the Nottingham Doctorate because of the structure it provided. I felt the deadlines and organisation the course provided matched my style and hoped I’d be motivated by the concept of a final date which I could work towards. The fact that I’d lived in Nottingham since my undergraduate degree and having lived here ever since was a big part in my decision. I knew the University, loved the city, and had built a life in Nottingham so it made sense to start looking there (although I wouldn’t have been against moving elsewhere if it wasn’t suitable). I explored other masters degree opportunities but the fact that you could to progress through to the Doctorate component was a big selling point.

The financial aspect of doing the doctorate is a really big barrier for some people (me included!) so I spent a long time trying to work out the most cost effective way of completing it. I balanced the benefits of doing the course part time (spreading out the cost over more years, reduced workload, opportunity to work part time getting more money and experience) with the negatives (pressure of completing studies and working, demoralising seeing my cohort of trainees progress from masters to the doctorate component whilst I did my second year of masters). I decided to complete the Masters part time whilst working as an Assistant Psychologist and as I moved into the final two years I was able to complete the doctorate component full time, using my work as a placement.

I loved completing my masters as being out of academic education for three years working full-time I liked returning to theory and its application to practice. The breadth of modules together with the variety of guest lecturers provided a strong theoretical basis to working clinically. There’s a big focus on getting this research published which did feel stressful at times but was actually a real positive and I got a lot of support in getting my research ready for publishable standards.

The doctorate component focuses on supervised practice in forensic settings, returning to the University for only two block weeks of teaching. I think that one of the strengths of the course is the push to develop a breadth of experience, allowing for skill transfer between different settings and the opportunity to adapt to different environments. I tried to make sure I got a breadth of experience including different settings (community, medium and low secure), diverse client groups (learning disability, mental illness, adults and children) and varied organisations (NHS, private hospitals and charitable organisations). Any concerns I had about the academic evidenced based approach of the course were negated by the clinical experience I already had.

I believe the course’s structure provides a combination of clinical experience (across a range of settings/client groups etc.) and academic rigour (with a complete, potentially published, academic thesis in tow!). This, in addition to personal clinical experience has placed me in a competitive position within job applications and prepared me for life as a Forensic Psychologist!”


Jennifer Bamford
DForenPsy (Top-up programme)

Dr Jennifer Bamford graduated in 2015 and went on to work as a Chartered and Registered Forensic Psychologist for Cygnet Hospitals. She also owns her own company, completing independent psychological assessments such as prison parole reports, where her doctoral level knowledge and training has been critical to her work.

“At my MSc graduation I was speaking to a fellow graduate who told me about this 'up and coming' course at Nottingham University that enabled you to become a Registered Forensic Psychologist as well as receive a Doctorate level award, recognising the skill and study involved in the process. This sounded too good to be true although after some internet digging I came across the Top-Up Professional Doctorate in Forensic Psychology at The University of Nottingham and the rest is history.

The course was the perfect combination of lectures/university based work and clinical placement work. The university helped forensic psychologists in training to find placements but also gave us the freedom to find them ourselves. This was undoubtedly the biggest learning curve of my time in education yet; whilst dramatically improving my understanding and execution of clinical skills I also learnt how to complete empirical research fit for publication. I have since had a paper accepted for publication in a high-ranking journal. My supervisors went above and beyond their roles, offering me invaluable advice and support and treating me as an equal, not someone subservient to them. To my surprise they also later nominated me for the Junior BPS award for 'outstanding quality and innovation' and I was lucky enough to be the 2015 winner.

Although all of us in the cohort came from different parts of the UK, we felt very much ‘in it together’ during the course, offering each other advice and support after a hard day during the 4 block weeks of training, which are spread through the 2 years full-time programme. My supervisors never made me feel isolated despite being over 100 miles away from the campus. Unlike my previous degrees, this was a collaborative relationship, not that of 'teacher and student'.

Shortly before I finished the course I had three very good job offers in different parts of the country and it was hard to decide where I wanted my career, and life, to go. I now work for one of the top 3 medical providers in the UK, being responsible for a forensic ward of female patients with personality disorder as well as a locked rehabilitation facility for male service users. Alongside my clinical work at the hospital I also complete private reports through my own company. The doctorate has equipped me with the skills, knowledge and confidence to take on a lot of responsibility and to progress far beyond even my own expectations professionally in a relatively short space of time. I highly recommend the programme and the core team of dedicated staff.”


Jamie Walton
DForenPsy (Top-up programme)

Dr Jamie Walton graduated in 2013 and gained employment with HM Prison Service as a Chartered and Registered Forensic Psychologist. Jamie is now a National Specialist Lead for Sexual Offending Programmes at Interventions Services within the National Offender Management Service.

"I first became aware of the Top-Up Professional Doctorate in Forensic Psychology at The University of Nottingham in 2010, having completed an MSc in Forensic Psychology in 2009. The course appeared to ensure a strong blend of advanced research and specialist clinical practice, ensuring students meet high professional standards conferring both registration with Health and Care Professions Council as a Registered Practitioner Psychologist and Chartered Status with the British Psychological Society. The course certainly fulfilled expectations.

The course provided a highly structured programme of professional training with clearly linked competency criteria and professional practice expectations. Integral to the programme was a focus on breadth of clinical experience with a variety of service user groups in a range of forensic settings. This ensures that Forensic Psychologists in Training possess sufficient clinical skills and familiarity with different organisational demands to work effectively in challenging and changing environments. Sharing experiences with others during teaching periods on the course was useful and provided a great way to learn and reflect collaboratively. In addition, both the clinical and academic requirements of the programme were supported by relevant teaching provided by leading experts in selected areas. I was supported through my clinical placements by a very skilled and experienced coordinating supervisor. By the end of the programme, I had developed a portfolio of clinical competency and had developed skills which continue to ground my professional and ethical practice.

The course commitment to advanced research ensured that I developed a high level of analytical and critical skills, as well as in-depth knowledge in my chosen area of specialism. Similar to my clinical placements, I was supported by two knowledgeable and skilled supervisors who provided reassurance and guidance throughout the process. The course requires high standards of its research component and meeting these, with the support of peers, experienced academic and clinical staff, ensures that Forensic Psychologists in Training have the potential to contribute to scientific literature in their chosen field. For instance, my supervisors and I have successfully published different chapters from my doctoral thesis for which in 2014, I received the Junior Award in Forensic Psychology from the British Psychological Society. I still regularly share ideas with both of my supervisors from the program and consider them professional colleagues.

I would recommend this programme to those who aspire to develop a high level of clinical competency and academic ability. The Top-Up Professional Doctorate in Forensic Psychology offers a programme of advanced training. It offers levels of support, guidance and structure to ensure its high standards can be met in preparing Forensic Psychologists in Training with the skills necessary to work effectively in environments that often present unique challenges alongside great reward."

Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology

University of Nottingham
Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology
School of Medicine
YANG Fujia Building, Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road, Nottingham

telephone: +44 (0) 115 846 7898