Positive Behaviour Support

Positive Behaviour Support - MSc

Open Event - 23 February

Join our next Postgraduate Open Event on 23 February to find out why you belong at Kent. You can choose to visit us in-person, or attend virtually.

Our Positive Behaviour Support MSc seeks to develop a critical understanding of concepts and principles underpinning the subject. You'll gain detailed knowledge of intellectual and developmental disabilities and experience of practice or conducting research in this field.


Aimed at recent graduates and experienced practitioners, this postgraduate qualification opens up a range of career opportunities. It also provides the necessary coursework for you to apply to sit the international examination and become a certified behaviour analyst.

Deadline for Tizard Postgraduate Taught Applications for entry in September: 1 JULY

Due to a high number of applicants we have been forced to put in place a deadline for receipt of applications for those wishing to be considered for entry to September intake.

Please therefore ensure that your full application (containing reference, all required documentation and evidence of English Language qualifications if relevant) is submitted online via the “Apply Now” link no later than 23:59 BST on 1 July.

Incomplete applications, or applications received after 1 July, will be considered for next year's September cohort.

Reasons to study Positive Behaviour Support at Kent

  • Study alongside some of the UK’s leading academics working in autism, learning disability and community care.
  • You will study the coursework required to apply to sit the international examination for certification as a behaviour analyst.
  • We offer a range of funding opportunities to fund your studies.
  • As a student or graduate, you can join the Tizard Practitioners’ Network of experts in the field.
  • Receive academic and professional support from leading applied behaviour analysts and intellectual and developmental disability researchers.
  • Benefit from our excellent links with health and social care organisations, and other relevant establishments.

What you’ll learn

You'll benefit from academic and professional support from some of the UK's leading positive behaviour support and intellectual and developmental disability researchers. Through our research, teaching and consultancy, you'll find out more about how to effectively support and work with people with learning disabilities.

BACB Announcement

Please read this important document regarding the recent BACB announcement.

ABAI Verified Course Sequence for Fifth Edition Task List

The Association for Behavior Analysis International has verified the following courses toward the coursework requirements for eligibility to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® or Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst® examination. Applicants will need to meet additional requirements before they can be deemed eligible to take the examination.

The latest VCS pass rates are available here. Pass rate data are not published for sequences with fewer than six first-time candidates in a single year or for sequences within their first four years of operation., meaning that the latest pass rates for the course currently relate to the 4th edition task list.

Entry requirements

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You are more than your grades

For 2022, in response to the challenges caused by Covid-19 we will consider applicants either holding or projected a 2:2. This response is part of our flexible approach to admissions whereby we consider each student and their personal circumstances. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

Entry requirements

We welcome applications from applicants who have obtained at least a Second Class Honours degree including all the required examinations at a university in the United Kingdom or at another approved university.

Mature applicants without a degree are asked to provide evidence of their ability to complete a postgraduate programme successfully, and are eligible to enter the programme following the completion of an assessed task.

We encourage international applicants with the relevant academic/professional background and competence in spoken and written English. However, we require them to have some experience of UK services. We also require applicants to have 7.5 IELTS, minimum 6.5 in any element or equivalent in other tests.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.

English language entry requirements

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.


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Course structure

Duration: One year full-time, two years part-time

The course is taught in workshop weeks across the year, and each workshop week is either 4 or 5 days long (09:30-16:30hrs). Workshop weeks are held roughly twice per month for full time students (with students expected to work on assignments and their dissertations outside of these weeks) and once per month for first year part time students.

There are fewer workshop weeks for second year part time students but outside of these weeks students are expected to be working on their assignments and their dissertation or work based learning project. There may also be additional single sessions outside of workshop weeks. An indicative timetable can be provided on request.


The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Compulsory modules currently include

The aim of this module is to develop an advanced understanding of elements of the philosophy, concepts and principles underpinning applied behaviour analysis.

Indicative topics include:

Philosophical assumptions including selectionism, determinism, empiricism, parsimony and pragmatism

Rule-governed and contingency-shaped behaviour

Radical behaviourism

Verbal behaviour and private events

Derived stimulus relations

Behaviour analysis of intellectual and developmental disability.

Find out more about TZRD9000

The curriculum will include, at an advanced level:

• Behavioural intervention for challenging behaviour

• Assessment and analysis of systemic factors in relation to behaviour described as challenging and the use of setting-wide positive behaviour support

• Specific intervention areas in autism and IDD (e.g. language, sleep issues, feeding problems, toilet training, social skills, and vocational skills)

• Models of consulting to family and service settings

• Staff training methodologies

• Organisational behaviour analysis and management in a human service context

Find out more about TZRD9010

The aim of this module is to develop advanced understanding of the design and implementation of positive strategies to improve the behavioural and psychological functioning of vulnerable populations, and their support by carers and others.

Topics will include:

Approaches to increasing the frequency of behaviour

Approaches to developing new behaviour

Using assessment information to inform intervention planning

Design of behaviour support plans, instructional strategies and appropriately prosthetic environmental arrangements

Precision teaching, direct instruction and group contingencies

Barriers to implementation

Procedural reliability

Generalisation and maintenance

Find out more about TZRD9020

The aim of this module is to develop competencies in the assessment of both adaptive and challenging behaviour in the repertoires of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Teaching on assessment starts from an appreciation of the importance of social validity and referral dynamics. Specific assessment strategies relating to challenging behaviour (including structured descriptive assessment and experimental functional analysis) are considered. The application of similar strategies are also considered with respect to adaptive behaviour and associated instructional technologies. Further, the curriculum includes methods of preference assessment to determine appropriate reinforcers. In all topics there is attention both to the development of practical understanding and skill and to the development of a critical appreciation of the underpinning evidence base. Following consideration of these assessment strategies, attention is given to the development of formulations of the behaviour of people with intellectual/developmental disabilities that can inform the development of behaviour support plans, instructional strategies and appropriately prosthetic environmental arrangements

Find out more about TZRD9030

The curriculum will include, at an advanced level:

• Ethical and legal issues

• Philosophical underpinnings of ethical practice

• The role of ideology in the development of intellectual disability services

• The development of approaches to individual planning and needs assessment, particularly the role of "person-centred planning"

• Ethical codes and guidelines – does Behaviour Analysis raise special ethical issues?

• Codes of professional practice

• Discrimination and abuse

• Adopting person-centred, values-based approaches to children and adults with complex needs.

• Evidence based practice and practice based evidence

Find out more about TZRD9040

The aim of this module is to develop an advanced understanding of elements and characteristics of the concepts and principles underpinning applied behaviour analysis (ABA). The module will start from an appreciation of the roots of ABA in the experimental analysis of behaviour. Operant and respondent conditioning will be considered, starting from fundamentals but proceeding to an advanced understanding of the necessary concepts and their underpinning in research. Particular attention will be given to elucidating both the conceptual basis and the applied implications of reinforcement, extinction and punishment, avoidance and escape, stimulus control and generalization, establishing operations and setting events. The interpretation of complex behaviour will be considered both with respect to the integrated application of fundamental concepts and the conceptual extensions and developments required.

Find out more about TZRD9050

The aim of this module is to develop competencies in the definition, observation, recording and analysis of behaviour and its controlling variables. While the module provides an introduction to research methodology more generally, the focus is primarily on those data collection methods and experimental designs used in applied behaviour analysis. Topics will include:

Observational methods of data collection

Reliability and validity of observational data

Practical approaches to checking and calculating reliability

Visual representation of data

Internal and external validity

Practical and theoretical aspects of using reversal, multiple-baseline, alternating treatments and changing criterion designs

Visual and statistical interpretation of single case data

Comparative, component and parametric analyses.

Find out more about TZRD9070

Optional modules may include

During the first term of the course students will develop ideas for their dissertation and will be given the opportunity to choose an empirical or non-empirical research project proposed and supervised by members of the course team or other Tizard staff. Subject to staff agreement, students may choose to design their own project and will be allocated a project supervisor. Students may complete either an empirical or a non-empirical (e.g. policy or research review) project. Students are expected to complete a dissertation on a topic relevant to their degree title.

Students develop a proposal for their dissertation with advice from their supervisor and, where applicable, apply for ethical approval either to the Tizard Ethics Committee (Ethical Review Checklist available on web-based resources) or to another ethics committee such as those in the NHS.

Find out more about TZRD8890

Teaching and assessment

Teaching includes lectures, guided study using Moodle, with seminars and group exercises to enhance understanding of the underlying concepts. Knowledge of the various topics is assessed by unseen examinations. Understanding is assessed by a mixture of essays and assignments in which students have to apply the concepts covered to practical topics.

Where modules are taken by distance learning, lectures are captured using Kent Player and made available via Moodle and more Moodle-based activities are undertaken.

Programme aims

  • Develop a critical understanding of concepts and principles of positive behaviour support.
  • Encourage values and evidence based, ethically stringent, advanced practice or research in positive behaviour support.
  • Provide graduates with in-depth knowledge of intellectual and developmental disabilities and experience of practice or conducting research in this field.
  • Produce graduates whose critical understanding, in-depth knowledge and advanced practice/research skills equip them to play a leading role in public services for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Provide a programme of study capable of being certified as approved coursework for Board Certified Behaviour Analyst status by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

  • Critical understanding of concepts and principles of positive behaviour support
  • In-depth knowledge of values and ethical principles and how to apply these in professional practice
  • Advanced knowledge of methods of observing, recording and analysing behaviour
  • Advanced and in-depth knowledge of methods of assessing and intervening to manage challenging behaviour and support adaptive behaviour
  • Practical understanding of cognitive, communicative and social characteristics of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities whose behaviour is described as challenging and the impact of these characteristics on assessment of challenging behaviour
  • In-depth knowledge and critical appreciation of biological, social and environmental causes of challenging behaviour in intellectual/developmental disability
  • Advanced knowledge of methods of applying positive behaviour support practices in working with individuals whose behaviour is described as challenging
  • Advanced knowledge of use of positive behaviour support to understand, assess and intervene in systems/settings for people who have intellectual/developmental disabilities (e.g. schools, residential settings, families, communities, workplaces etc.)
  • Critical understanding of research methodology and basic statistical analysis

Intellectual skills

  • In-depth review and critical discussion of literature at the forefront of the discipline
  • Critical analysis of data with particular reference to issues of method, reliability and validity
  • Interpretation of data in the light of in-depth appreciation of theoretical and methodological considerations
  • Presentation of critical, balanced and conceptually-informed arguments
  • Critical conception, design, analysis and interpretation of primary or secondary research investigations (where following the research route)
  • Design of interventions informed by in-depth assessment and advanced, theoretical understanding (where following the practice route)

Subject-specific skills

  • Conduct primary or secondary research on a positive behaviour support topic relevant to intellectual/developmental disability (where following the research route)
  • Design interventions for people with intellectual/developmental disability (and their carers/families/schools etc.) that are applied, behavioural, analytic, technological, conceptually systematic, effective and generalizable (where following the practice route)

Transferable skills

  • To use an advanced range of communication skills including organising information clearly, critically responding to written sources, presenting information orally.
  • To develop advanced numeracy skills enabling the sophisticated presentation of statistical materials and the integration of quantitative and qualitative information.
  • To use information technology to an advanced level to produce high quality written documents and undertake online research.
  • To work with others co-operatively on group tasks showing a good practical understanding of group functioning.
  • To be critically reflective on personal learning and organisational performance, drawing on an analysis of strengths and weaknesses to improve future practice.
  • To problem solve at an advanced level, identifying and defining problems, exploring alternative solutions and reaching reasoned judgements about appropriate ways forward.


The 2022/23 UK fees for this course are:

  • Home full-time £9300
  • EU full-time £13000
  • International full-time £17400
  • Home part-time £4650
  • EU part-time N/A
  • International part-time N/A

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk.

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 


Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:

We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.

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Independent rankings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research was ranked 2nd for research power in the UK. The School was also placed 3rd for research intensity, 5th for research impact and 5th for research quality.

An impressive 94% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 99% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research, gaining the highest possible score of 100%.


Research areas

Current research areas include: social inequalities and community care; IDD and challenging behaviour; offending and IDD; early intervention; autism; abuse; service quality.

View details of current research on the Tizard website.

Study support

All teaching takes place at the Tizard Centre. Postgraduate research students have a shared office space with a computer and telephone.

Acclaimed active department

The Tizard Centre runs an annual seminar series where staff or guest lecturers present the results of research or highlight recent developments in the field of social care. The Jim Mansell Memorial Lecture invites public figures or distinguished academics to discuss topics that could interest a wider audience. The Centre also publishes the Tizard Learning Disability Review (in conjunction with Emerald Publishing) to provide a source of up-to-date information for professionals and carers.

The Tizard Centre provides consultancy to organisations in the statutory and independent sectors, both nationally and internationally, in diversified areas such as service assessment, person-centred approaches, active support and adult protection. The Centre also teaches a range of short courses, often in conjunction with other organisations.

The Tizard Centre also hosts two journal clubs, relating to behaviour analysis and to autism. Journal club events are held regularly where speakers are invited to discuss key research papers or topics in the field.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Journal of Mental Health; Journal of Applied Research and Intellectual Disabilities; American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities; and Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Apply now

Learn more about the applications process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.

Once started, you can save and return to your application at any time.

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United Kingdom/EU enquiries

MSc at Canterbury

Admissions enquiries

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E: information@kent.ac.uk

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International student enquiries

Enquire online

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E: internationalstudent@kent.ac.uk