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MA Psychology in the Arts - Student Q&A with Sinead Hill

The MA Psychology in the Arts (Music) programme is one of RCS’s most unique programmes. It explores the role music plays within our lives, its significance in society, and its influence on us. It is one of two part-time, online masters programmes at RCS; this enables students from across the globe to study alongside their professional commitments without needing to relocate. We caught up with Sinead Hill, an MA Psychology student from New Zealand, to hear all about her experience studying for this degree whilst living on the other side of the world.

Q. Where are you based?

A. I am based in Cambridge, New Zealand (that’s 11,194 miles / 18,016 kilometres from RCS!) – it’s town on the banks of the Waikato River about 90 minutes south of Auckland (on a good day!). I’m from the UK but moved to New Zealand 22 years ago.

Q. Why did you choose to study this programme at RCS?

A. I had been investigating the possibility of an MA Psychology course for about a year. The universities closer to home in New Zealand could not easily combine all the aspects I was interested in – Performance Psychology, Music and Education – as the subjects sat across different faculties, making it logistically difficult. I came across this course when looking for short conducting courses I could do while visiting my parents (they live in Fife). I signed up for the online introductory session, met with Jill and Rachel, and immediately knew I had found what I was looking for. They were both so welcoming and could talk me through what would be covered, putting my mind at ease about the commitment. I put in my application, crossed my fingers, and the rest, as they say, is history!

A big plus for me was that the course was set up to be done remotely. The time difference means that all the seminars and lectures are in the evening after work, so it has been pretty straightforward to balance work and study thus far. Completing this locally would have been more challenging, as I would have had to take time off work to attend on-campus sessions.

Q. What do you enjoy most about this course?

A. There have been many positives, from the range of subjects covered to the wonderful cohort I am lucky to be a part of. Still, the most enjoyable aspect for me has been digging deep into performance psychology, where my passion lies.

I would also say that I have enjoyed discovering completely new areas within the psychology realm – so many times I have written “follow this up” beside a nugget of information!

Q. How have you found online learning, what have you found most helpful for staying engaged and motivated?

A. As a teacher who had to learn how to navigate the online educational platform quickly during lockdown, the logistics of working remotely have been pretty straightforward. With the exception of the block courses at the start of each unit of work, everyone is online, so it feels natural. Before starting, I spent some time organising a space in my house so that I had everything set up to promote good habits and not disturb the rest of my family when I had a late-night lecture. I’ve been preaching to the students in my classes for years about the importance of creating a workspace and managing workflow effectively, so it has been fun to see if I can walk the talk myself! So far, so good, and it has definitely enhanced my teaching practice as I can share tips and tricks I am learning along the way with my students. Probably one of my proudest moments so far has been submitting the first batch of assignments two days ahead of schedule – my undergraduate self would be completely in awe!

It has been several years since I have had to do any academic writing, and things have changed considerably. A significant reason why I have been able to manage full-time work and this course has been the support from Jill Morgan, my mentor on the MA Psychology course. She has been invaluable in guiding me during the writing process. I was nervous about whether I would be able to meet the required standard, but Jill has been incredibly supportive, gently nudging me in the right direction.

Q. Can you tell us about any interesting topics or assignment(s) you’ve worked on in this course?

A. For me, anything connected to performance psychology is of particular interest. At the moment, I am knee-deep in researching music teacher self-efficacy and the role it plays in students’ perceptions of teacher effectiveness. I have also really enjoyed delving deeper into performance anxiety management strategies, and I am fascinated by the use of virtual reality in developing performance skills. Connected to performance psychology but coming at it with a different lens, I was also really taken with how the nature of a performance space influences the composition process.

Q. How have you been able to stay connected with your coursemates?

A. Rachel and Jill created “Action Learning Sets”, which are small groups of students within the class that you can contact for support and information. The class itself has also created a Whatsapp group, which seems to light up in the two weeks before the deadline!

Beyond that, a couple of us got together to create a smaller group of mature students. We chat most days via Whatsapp and meet up via Zoom on the weeks when there are no lectures. This group support has been critical as we set each other deadlines to keep the motivation going. It has been an unexpected highlight of the course, making connections with people on the other side of the world that I have never met in person but who are part of my daily life. As we are on opposite sides of the clock, this group is often one of the first interactions of the day while I eat breakfast and one of the last as I wind down at night.

Q. What are your highlights so far?

A. There have been two significant highlights so far for me. The first was a guest lecture from Sacha Kyle and Giles Lamb about the psychology behind Hushabye Moon. Living in New Zealand, this was not a programme I was familiar with. However, I found it fascinating to have them discuss the developmental psychology theory in which their creative process is grounded.

The second has been learning more about Rachel Drury’s work as a community musician and composer, particularly her work with BabyO and with families in Rachel House. I don’t think I had honestly considered the power of community musicians until this course – it has been quite inspirational.

Beyond my course, I have appreciated the amount of effort RCS has made in terms of accessibility for online learners. This was highlighted to me during Diversity Week, where I could attend several lectures as they were streamed live. Things like this add up to make the overall experience so rewarding.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who is considering this course, especially if they are planning to study remotely?

A. I cannot speak highly enough of Rachel, Jill and the RCS team. From matriculation to library use, everything has been so well-organised and easy to navigate – I have never once felt out of my depth. The course lends itself to remote learning, and aside from going out for coffee with my cohort in person, I feel very connected to everyone involved. I sit in my little office in a small dairy-farming town in New Zealand and can access all that RCS has to offer. I feel slightly fanatical, but I cannot recommend the experience highly enough.

Interested in the MA Psychology programme? Want to find out more? Get in touch with Rachel and Jill directly at or and they’ll be more than happy to provide you with specific details about this part-time programme.