Programme Specification for MA Working with Groups

This programme is only offered at: Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust.

Final award


Intermediate awards available


UCAS code


Details of professional body accreditation

Accredited by the ENB, approved continuing professional development for nurses

Relevant QAA Benchmark statements


Date specification last up-dated

November 2011


The summary - programme advertising leaflet

Programme content

The programme is aimed at those working with or in groups in the public or independent sectors to help them to understand better working groups and the dynamics that exist within them, enabling participants to reflect on and improve their own professional practice. The MA award is by dissertation based on the students work with groups.

The programme offers:

  1. A grounding in theory - broadly psychoanalytic, rooted in observation and taking account of a systemic perspective
  2. An emphasis on understanding groups using an experiential group relations approach
  3. Supervision and consultation of ongoing work with groups in participants’ own work settings
  4. An emphasis on developing a capacity for reflection on the role of the individual student in group and organisational settings.

Admission requirements

Applicants are required to be working with groups in the public or independent sectors (on either an employed or voluntary basis). This will be in a context where they can develop their thinking and practice during the programme and from which they can bring examples of their work for discussion and reflection.

Applications are encouraged from people in a wide variety of professional settings including social work, education, health services (both community and hospital based) voluntary organisations and forensic services.

Successful applicants will demonstrate the potential for a capacity to reflect on themselves and on their work.

Programme structure

Three years part-time, attendance each Friday from 9.15am to1.45pm in term time for Years 1 and 2. Every third Friday from 9.15am to 12.15am for 10 sessions in Year 3.

Learning environment

Theoretical lectures and reading seminars, work-discussion seminars, dissertation skills seminars, learning by observation and reflection and experiential learning are all constituent parts of the learning environment.


Assessment is by written papers, four in year 1 and three in year 2. Word limits are all between 3,000 and 4,000.

Year 1: A formative work discussion paper that does not count towards the final award. It is marked and feedback given to students to help in the preparation of subsequent papers.
Three papers are assessed: a work discussion paper, an observation report and an end of year essay.

Year 2: A work discussion paper, an observation report and an end of year practice paper.

Year 3: An MA dissertation of 14,000 words.

Relevance to work/profession

There are opportunities throughout the programme for ongoing discussion and supervision of students’ own work and professional development. The programme encourages reflective practice.

Thesis/Dissertation/project work

Assessed papers may be approached from the particular perspective of the individual student; there is an emphasis on application and integration of learning from the programme. The dissertation project is based on work that the student will undertake with a group in their place of work and must be original and carried out independently.

Added value


Your future career

On completion of the programme participants are expected to have increased their competence and confidence in understanding and working with and in groups.

The programme will help individuals make decisions about the direction of further training, for example, in group psychotherapy or in organisational consultancy.

How we support you

  • Regular meetings with personal tutor
  • Help in preparing for written assignments
  • Regular, ongoing discussion/supervision of students’ own professional work
  • Seminars on Dissertation Skills
  • Practice Supervision Seminars tailored to students’ requirements

Bonus factors

A cohesive and supportive student group.

A supportive and responsive staff team.

A programme that offers a framework of core concepts while allowing students to follow their own particular areas of interest.


Programme aims and learning outcomes

What is this programme designed to achieve?

  • A working theoretical knowledge of group and organisational dynamics and the ability to apply theoretical concepts to students’ own practice of working with groups.
  • A knowledge of how to set up and run groups within their own work setting
  • A capacity for reflection and self-awareness in relation to groups and organisations.
  • Competency in observational skills.
  • A framework for evaluation of work with groups

What will you learn?


  • Knowledge of basic psychoanalytic, systemic and developmental concepts as applied to groups.
  • Working theoretical knowledge of group, institutional and organisational dynamics.
  • Basic knowledge of the processes involved in healthy development and some of the factors that interfere with it.

Thinking skills

  • Ability to apply theoretical concepts to their own practice of working with groups.
  • A capacity to reflect on themselves and the groups they work with.
  • An ability to reflect on the dynamic processes in groups.
  • An ability to evaluate groupwork and to understand what makes for effective practice.

Subject-Based Practical skills

  • Competence in observational skills in relation to both groups and organisations.
  • Understanding of practical issues involved in setting up and running different types of groups.
  • Capacity to plan, evaluate and write-up a comprehensive account of a piece of work with a group

Skills for life and work (general skills)

  • A developing understanding of aspects of students’ own internal worlds, which impact on their feelings and behaviour in their professional lives.


The programme structure


All programmes are credit-rated to help you to understand the amount and level of study that is needed.

One credit is equal to 10 hours of directed study time (this includes everything you do e.g. lecture, seminar and private study).

Credits are assigned to one of 5 levels:

  • 0 - equivalent in standard to GCE 'A' level and is intended to prepare students for year one of an undergraduate degree programme
  • 1 - equivalent in standard to the first year of a full-time undergraduate degree programme
  • 2 - equivalent in standard to the second year of a full-time undergraduate degree programme
  • 3 - equivalent in standard to the third year of a full-time undergraduate degree programme
  • M - equivalent in standard to a Masters degree

Credit rating

The overall credit-rating of this programme is 180 for the MA over three years, 120 credits over two years for the Post-graduate Diploma, 60 credits over one year for the Post-graduate Certificate

Typical duration

The Post-graduate Diploma programme is part-time over two years. Progression to Year 2 may be deferred to accommodate students’ personal circumstances. The MA programme is part-time over one academic year after successful completion of the Diploma.

How the teaching year is divided

The teaching year is divided into three terms of 10 weeks.

The teaching year begins in September and ends in July.

Students study one day per week (Friday) with additional reading and preparation in between and complete 60 credits per year. In the third year teaching takes place on 4 Fridays each term with additional individual dissertation supervision.

In the December or January of year 2 there is also a requirement to attend a one week non-residential group relations conference.

What you will study when

Students must complete 60 credits in each year.

Year I

  • One lecture per week in Terms 1 and 3: 20 Credits
  • One Nursery Observation Seminar in Term 2: 20 credits
  • One work discussion seminar per week: 20 Credits
  • One Experiential group per week: Not directly assessed

Year 2

  • One lecture per week in Terms 1 and 3: 20 Credits
  • One Organisational Observation Seminar in Term 2: 20 Credits
  • One work discussion group per week: 20 credits
  • Group Relations Conference (one week): Not directly assessed
  • One Experiential group per week: Not directly assessed

Year 3

  • Dissertation: 60 credits (Includes: Dissertation Skills Seminars, Dissertation Supervision, Practice Supervision Seminars, Reading Seminars)
  • Experiential Component: (Includes: Residential Group Relations Conference, Review and Application Groups)
LevelUnitTaught ComponentCourseAssessmentCredits



Lecture Series Year 1






Work Discussion Seminar  Year 1


Work Discussion   Paper 1




Nursery Observation Seminar


Nursery   Observation Paper




Experiential Group Year 1


Not directly assessed



Lecture Series Year 2


Practice Paper




Work Discussion Seminar      Year 2


Work Discussion   Paper 2




Organisational Observation Seminar Year 2


Organisational Observation Paper




Experiential Group Year 2


Not directly assessed



Dissertation Supervision & Practice Supervision Seminars Year 3





Requirements for gaining an award

  • In order to gain a Postgraduate Certificate, you will need to obtain 60 credits at Level M.
  • In order to gain a Postgraduate Diploma, you will need to obtain 120 credits at Level M
  • In order to obtain a Masters, you will need to obtain 180 credits at Level M. These credits will include a 60 credit level M core module of advanced independent research.

Masters Award Classification

Where a student is eligible for an Masters award then the award classification is determined by calculating the arithmetic mean of all marks and applying the mark obtained as a percentage, with all decimals points rounded up to the nearest whole number, to the following classification

70% - 100%


60% - 69%


50% - 59%


0% - 49%

Not Passed


Teaching, learning and assessment

Teaching and learning

Knowledge is developed through

  • In depth study of basic psychoanalytic, systemic and developmental concepts as applied to groups
  • The study of the theoretical knowledge of group, institutional and organisational dynamics
  • The study of the basic knowledge of the processes involved in healthy development and some of the factors that interfere with it

Thinking skills are developed through

  • The enhancement of thinking and discussion skills in small seminars
  • The preparation of case material from students own work settings.
  • The preparation of the dissertation
  • Opportunities for self-reflection

Practical skills are developed through

  • Discussion with relevant lecturers
  • Group discussion
  • The planning and evaluation of their chosen group

Skills for life and work (general skills) are developed through

  • Opportunities for self-reflection and understanding of how students themselves take up roles in groups.
  • The development of the capacity to link theory with practice
  • Discussion based seminars
  • The production of written material


Knowledge is assessed by

  • In year 1, two seminar papers of 3,000 words each, one based on a presentation made to the Work Discussion Group, and one based on a presentation to the Nursery Observation Seminar
  • An essay of 4,000 words in Year 1 devoted to the understanding of group processes
  • A second Work Discussion paper in Year 2
  • An Organisational Paper of 4,000 words in Year 2 describing learning from the experience of observing in an organisation
  • A Practice Paper of 4,000 words in Year 2 describing the setting up and running of a supervised group and/or its development over the year, incorporating theoretical ideas.
  • In Year 3 a Dissertation of 14,000 words based on students’ own work with their chosen group.

Thinking skills are assessed by

  • Discussion within the groups
  • Students will self assess through the process of tutorials
  • Capacity for reflection and self-awareness will be developed through the experiential groups and group relations events

Practical skills are assessed by

  • The developing capacity to observe and record
  • Essay writing
  • Planning, preparation and writing of the dissertation

Skills for life and work (general skills) are assessed by

  • The ability to develop thinking based on different points of view
  • Developing capacity for thoughtful observation and reflection

The dissertation in particular will be assessed on the following:

  • Clear exposition of the background and context to the work
  • Full and thoughtful account of the process of the group
  • Capacity to observe and reflect on own experience and to use this in the service of the group
  • Comprehensive understanding of relevant theory
  • Capacity to make links between theory and practice
  • Evidence of personal learning and development


How we assure the quality of this programme

Before this programme started

Before this programme started the University checked that:

  • there would be enough qualified staff to teach the programme
  • adequate resources would be in place
  • the overall aims and objectives were appropriate
  • the content of the programme met national benchmark requirements
  • the programme met any professional/statutory body requirements
  • the proposal met other internal quality criteria covering a range of issues such as admissions policy, teaching, learning and assessment strategy, and student support mechanisms

This is done through a process of programme approval which involves convening a panel of academic experts including some subject specialists from other institutions. Each panel scrutinises available documents and talks to the staff who will teach the programme before deciding whether it can be approved

How we monitor the quality of this programme

The quality of this programme is monitored each year through evaluating:

  • external examiner reports (considering quality and standards)
  • statistical information (considering issues such as the pass rate)
  • student feedback

Drawing on this and other information an Annual Quality Improvement Plan is drawn up by the staff who teach the programme that is reviewed at departmental and faculty level.

Once every five years the University undertakes an in-depth review of the whole subject area. This is undertaken by a panel that includes at least three external subject specialists. The panel considers documents, looks at student work, speaks to current and former students and speaks to staff before drawing its conclusions. The result is a report highlighting good practice and identifying areas where action is needed.

The role of the programme committee

This programme has a programme committee comprising all relevant teaching staff, student representatives and others who make a contribution towards the effective operation of the programme (e.g. library/technician staff). The committee is responsible for the quality of the programme. It oversees preparation of the Annual Quality Improvement Plan and proposes changes to improve quality. The programme/subject area committee plays a critical role in the University's quality assurance procedures.

The role of external examiners

The standard of this programme is monitored by at least one external examiner. External examiners have two primary responsibilities:

  • To ensure the standard of the programme
  • To ensure that justice is done to individual students

External examiners fulfil these responsibilities in a variety of ways including:

  • Approving exam papers/assignments
  • Attending assessment boards
  • Reviewing samples of student work and moderating marks
  • Ensuring that regulations are followed
  • Providing feedback to the University through an annual report that enables us to make improvements for the future

Listening to the views of students

The following methods for gaining student feedback are used on this programme:

  • Student feedback on individual modules of the programme
  • Student representation on annual programme committee meetings
  • Regular review meetings

Students are notified of the action taken through:

  • circulating the minutes of the programme committee
  • feedback at review meetings

Listening to the views of others

The following methods are used for gaining the views of other interested parties:

  • regular meetings of all staff working on the programme
  • discussion with the external examiner

Further Information

Alternative locations for studying this programme

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Where you can find further information

Further information about this programme is available from:

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