History

About the School

Psychology at the University of Melbourne has a long and distinguished history. The first paper set in Psychology was in February 1888 and the Department of Psychology was founded in 1946. The Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences has been ranked in the top four nationally for the quality of its research, and recently rated 14th in the world and number one in Australia by QS global rankings.

The School in its current structure was established in 2012, when the The Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences announced the creation of its fifth school: the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences (MSPS).

Formerly known as the School of Behavioural Science, and subsequently as the Psychological Sciences Academic Centre within the Melbourne Medical School, the School is home to a vibrant community of more than 70 academic, teaching, research and professional staff, 100 honorary staff and 150 PhD students.

In 2012, there were more than 2000 students enrolled in undergraduate subjects offered by Psychological Sciences, mainly through the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science, but also in breadth subjects in the Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Biomedicine, Bachelor of  Environments, and Bachelor of Music. There were more than 200 students enrolled in the Graduate Diploma of Psychology, 55 in Fourth Year and 130 in professional postgraduate programs.

The School's teaching is underpinned by excellence in research across a range of fields, including cognitive psychology and behavioural neuroscience, social and developmental psychology, clinical psychology and clinical neuropsychology, and quantitative psychology.  Research links extend across 25 departments, centres and institutes within the Faculty of  Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, as well as across seven other faculties in the University.

A Seventieth Anniversary History Publication

In his preface to the 50th anniversary history of psychology at the University of Melbourne, then head of psychology Professor Roger Wales quoted Mark Twain on how Australian history reads “like the most beautiful lies”. Twenty years later another Twain quote seems apt: “If you find you can’t make seventy by any but an uncomfortable road, don’t you go.” Rod Buchanan’s new history provides a splendid chronicle of the often uncomfortable road that psychology has taken at Melbourne since the department was formed in 1946, and indeed since the subject was first taught by the University’s first professor of philosophy in 1886. It is a story of relentless growth, innovation and transformation, but also one of serious challenges and threats from within the University and without. Along the way several larger than life characters are brought vividly to the page. Psychology’s own complexities – its tensions between basic science and applied professional practice, its often fraught intermediate position between bioscience, medicine, social science and the humanities – are very much in evidence.

Professor Nicholas Haslam, August 2016

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