Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Forensic Issues - MA


You develop a critical understanding of forensic issues as they affect individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Graduates will be able to take leading roles in public services for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and issues.



You share modules with others taking postgraduate programmes in intellectual and developmental disabilities while taking specialist modules on forensic issues. The programme encourages values-based, ethically stringent practice and/or research in the subject area.

About the Tizard Centre

The Tizard Centre is part of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) and has excellent links with health and social care organisations, and other relevant establishments.

The Centre is at the forefront of learning and research in autism, intellectual disability and community care, and in 2013 received a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of its outstanding work in these areas.

The Centre has excellent links with health and social care organisations, and other relevant establishments. Our primary aims, through research, teaching and consultancy, are:

  • to find out more about how to effectively support and work with people with learning disabilities
  • to help carers, managers and professionals develop the values, knowledge and skills that enable better services
  • to aid policymakers, planners, managers and practitioners to organise and provide enhanced services.

The Tizard Centre is recognised as leading the field in deinstitutionalisation and community living, challenging behaviour, quality of staff support, sexuality and autism, and has had a significant impact on national policies in these areas. We are committed to addressing issues arising from social inequality.

National ratings

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%.

Course structure

Teaching includes lectures, guided study using Moodle, with seminars and group exercises to enhance understanding of the underlying concepts. The MA is awarded for the achievement of 180 credits from taught modules and the successful completion of the dissertation.


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.

Compulsory modules currently include Credits

The aim of this module is to teach students about research methodology and the knowledge needed to access and interpret the research literature. For those who take the statistical analysis element, the aim is also to teach appropriate statistical techniques for the analysis of quantitative data. The emphasis will be on methods of data collection and analysis which will be useful in practice settings, so that advanced multivariate techniques will not be taught.

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All students will write one 6000 word essay on a topic which requires them to draw on material from the service issues, social psychology and behavioural analysis and intervention modules. This will be done over the course of the year for full time students and in the second year for part time students and will be submitted during the third term of the final year.

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This module provides students with in-depth understanding of the definitions and causes of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), the epidemiology of IDD and of offending, issues of screening for IDD in criminal justice setting, transitions between settings, and the effects that IDD and offending can have on the family. It will consider social relationships, social networks and sexuality issues (attitudes of staff, issues of abuse etc.) in people with IDD and forensic issues, as well as the vulnerabilities of people with IDD (to physical and sexual abuse, exploitation, and wrongful conviction). In addition, behaviour phenotypes and offending (including specific diagnosis- e.g. autism, Klinefelters syndrome, Foetal Alcohol syndrome etc.) as well as mental health issues and offending will be considered.

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This module will provide students with an in-depth understanding of service issues in intellectual and developmental disabilities and forensic issues, including an understanding of normalisation/Social Role Valorisation (and race/gender issues), deinstitutionalisation, current services for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including forensic services. Students will learn about the Mental Health Act and other relevant legislation, the role of the police, courts, prisons, and probation. They will consider how to assess quality of care, quality of life and service user views, and will examine advocacy and self-advocacy movements, organisational issues and interventions to improve quality of life and care.

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This module provides students with in-depth knowledge and understanding of assessment and treatment methods for people with IDD and forensic issues. It considers the definitions, measurement and epidemiology of challenging behaviour, the distinctions between challenging behaviour and offending, and the causes of challenging behaviour and offending behaviour. It also covers assessment, including rating scales, interviews and observations, for challenging and offending behaviour, and functional analysis for challenging and offending behaviour, treatment interventions (behavioural and cognitive behavioural approaches) for offenders with IDD in forensic and community settings, and risk assessment and risk management of offenders with IDD in forensic and community settings.

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During the first term of the course students will develop ideas for their research project and will be given the opportunity to choose a research project proposed and supervised by members of the course team or other Tizard staff (see Appendix 4 of course handbook for the list of topics for the current year). Students who choose to design their own project will be allocated a dissertation supervisor. Students following the MSc in Analysis and Intervention in Intellectual and Developmental Disability are required to do an empirical dissertation. All other students can choose between either an empirical or a non-empirical (e.g. policy or research review) dissertation.

Students develop a proposal (assessed) for their research project with advice from their supervisor and 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.

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Teaching and Assessment

The assessment methods include unseen examinations, mixture of essays and assignments.

Programme aims

The aims of this programme are:

  • to provide students with detailed knowledge of intellectual and developmental disabilities and forensic issues
  • to develop an evidence-based critical understanding of intellectual and developmental disabilities and forensic issues
  • to encourage values-based, ethically stringent practice and/or research in intellectual and developmental disabilities and forensic issues
  • to produce graduates equipped to play a leading role in public services for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and forensic issues

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain the following knowledge and understanding:

  • Definitions and epidemiology of intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • Definitions and prevalence of challenging behaviour and offending in IDD
  • Cognitive, communicative and social characteristics of people with IDD at risk of offending
  • Biological, social and environmental factors in the causes of IDD and offending
  • Values & ethical principles underpinning professional practice
  • Methods of assessment and intervention for IDD and offending
  • Ideology, policy and service development in IDD and offending
  • Definition and measurement of service quality
  • Relationships between service organisation and quality
  • Research methodology and basic statistical analysis

Intellectual skills

You will develop intellectual skills in:

  • The ability to present critical, balanced and conceptually-informed arguments
  • The ability to appraise and interpret evidence from academic literature and personal/work experience
  • The ability to critically analyse data with reference to issues of method, reliability and validity
  • The ability to generate and interpret evidence through research 

Subject-specific skills

You will develop skills to: 

  • Conduct assessments, design interventions, monitor outcomes and adjust interventions at individual and service levels.
  • Behave in an ethically correct and professional manner, working collaboratively with users and colleagues, using supervision and recognising limitations.
  • Conduct applied research on a topic relevant to IDD and forensic issues.

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

  • Communication: organise information clearly, respond to written sources, present information orally
  • Numeracy: make sense of statistical materials, integrate quantitative and qualitative information
  • Information Technology: produce written documents, undertake online research
  • Working with others: work co-operatively on group tasks, understand how groups function
  • Improving own learning: explore personal strengths and weaknesses, time management, review working environment
  • Problem solving: identify and define problems, explore alternative solutions and discriminate between them


Our postgraduate courses provide detailed knowledge of intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Graduates will have gained a very good understanding of the matters arising within this population and will be able to analyse and conduct relevant research.  

Our postgraduate courses improve employability prospects for both those with established careers and new entrants to the field.  Many of our students already work with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in professional, management or supporting capacities. Our programmes support their continuing professional development and enhance their opportunities for career advancement.

Other students, who are at the beginning of their careers, move on to a range of professional roles in health and social care including:

  • Working as psychologists in learning disability or behavioural specialists in community learning disability teams
  • Service management of development roles
  • Clinical psychology training or a PhD

This particular programme will also provide the necessary skills to work in secure services or forensic community teams. 

Study support

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.

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.  

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 experience will also be taken into account. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.  Please note that international fee-paying students cannot undertake a part-time programme due to visa restrictions.

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.

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.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Professor Julie Beadle-Brown: Professor in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Autism and social impairment in learning disability; the implementation of active support in services; the effect of grouping people in services; personcentred approaches; exclusion of people with challenging behaviour from services.

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Dr Jill Bradshaw: Lecturer in Learning Disability

Staff attributions; communication and personcentred active support; communication environments; total communication approaches; augmentative and alternative communication.

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Dr Mecca Chiesa: Lecturer in Learning Disability

Behaviour analysis; precision teaching; fluency building; autism and learning disabilities.

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Professor Rachel Forrester-Jones: Professor in Social Inclusion; Director of the Tizard Centre

Community care outcomes (mental health, learning disabilities); social networks and social support relating to all client groups, including university students; social inclusion; social environments; supported employment; death, bereavement and spirituality.

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Dr Nick Gore: Senior Lecturer in Learning Disability

Relational Frame Theory; acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT); challenging behaviour; supported employment.

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Professor Peter Langdon: Professor of Clinical and Forensic Psychology

Adapting, developing and evaluating psychological therapies for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; forensic mental health problems including sexual offending and their treatment; information processing models; use of technology in psychological therapies.

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Dr Michelle McCarthy: Reader in Learning Disability

The sexuality of people with learning disabilities, in particular women with learning disabilities, and sexual abuse; sexual and reproductive health; the menopause for women with learning disabilities.

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Professor Peter McGill: Professor of Clinical Psychology of Learning Disability

Applied behaviour analysis; challenging behaviour; positive behaviour support; family support.

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Professor Glynis Murphy: Professor of Clinical Psychology and Disability

Effectiveness of cognitive behavioural treatment for men at risk of sexual offending; effectiveness of treatment for people with untreated phenylketonuria (PKU); symptoms of abuse for people with severe learning disabilities; capacity to consent to sexual relationships; early development of self-injurious behaviour; effectiveness of early intervention in autism.

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Tony Osgood: Lecturer in Learning Disability

Positive behaviour support for challenging behaviour; behaviour analysis; person-centred planning; autism and asperger’s; organisational influence on human services outcomes.

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Dr Paraskevi Triantafyllopoulou: Lecturer in Learning Disability

Sleep functioning and sleep problems in children and adults with learning disabilities and/or autism; sleep and challenging behaviour; offending in people with learning disabilities; person-centred active support.

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The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Forensic Issues - MA at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Part-time £3750 N/A

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

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