MSc Criminology Detailed Course Structure

Compulsory courses

Compulsory courses run weekly during the first two terms: The Core course - Criminological Theories and Criminal Justice in Michaelmas and Hilary terms - and Research Design and Data Collection in Michaelmas Term. A further compulsory (but non-examined) course is run weekly in the third term.

Criminological Theories and Criminal Justice

The course begins by exploring the key cross-cutting themes of race, gender, and global approaches in criminology. In the first term, this course develops understanding of the organising categories and central claims of a range of modern criminological perspectives of crime and social control. It will equip you to recognise the main problems, questions, dichotomies and ideas that have shaped modern criminological thought, to understand the nature of ‘theory’ and ‘explanation’ within criminology, and to both appreciate and critique the history and development of criminological thought.

In the second term, the course explores criminological and global understanding of criminal justice/penal institutions and processes. The course introduces you to research on these processes, their underlying competing theoretical perspectives, and contemporary issues and controversies in criminal justice and punishment. The course encourages you to think about the role of the state/criminal law in the regulation of human behaviour and the place and limitations of criminal justice interventions in producing safe societies.

Part-time students take this course in their first year of study.

Research Design and Data Collection

This compulsory course, which runs in the first term, is focused on the challenges and the opportunities that different methods of data collection have for validity and reliability of data. Methods include experiments and quasi-experiments; questionnaires and survey research; field research, and the collection of written documents. The scientific method, theory testing and research design will also be discussed. Ethical concerns are given special emphasis. Part-time students take this course in the first term of their first year of study.

Communication Skills for Criminologists

This final compulsory course runs in the third term. Once a week, for the first 6 weeks, academics, practitioners and researchers from the University and beyond will present to the class. Each week, a different small group of the MSc cohort will take responsibility for hosting the seminar (under the guidance of the tutors). By the end of the 6 weeks all of the MSc cohort should have had the chance to take on one of these ‘communication’ roles.

Optional subjects

Full-time students will take five optional modules over the first and second terms of the year. Part-time students take a total of five options across the two years of study. Option courses run for eight weeks in each term. Recent option modules have included:

  • Theorising Punishment
  • Sentencing
  • Public and Private Policing 
  • Prisons
  • Politics of Crime Control
  • Transitional Justice
  • Criminal Justice, Migration and Citizenship
  • Crime and the Family
  • Risk, Security and Criminal Justice
  • The Death Penalty
  • Youth Justice
  • Victims
  • Restorative Justice 
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Analysis for Social Scientists

Please note that not all options run every year.

As a full-time student, you will be expected to spend up to 40 hours studying each week during term, and to undertake some further study during vacations. During the first two terms you will be advised to divide your time between the core course and your other courses as follows:

  • At least 10 hours per week preparation for the core course
  • At least 8 hours per week preparation for each option/compulsory course
  • 6 to 10 hours per week in seminars (90 minutes for each course)

Part-time students will be expected to commit to a proportional workload.  


In addition to the options you take, you will write a dissertation during the third term. Part-time students will write their dissertations in the third term of their second year, but will be encouraged to start planning their dissertation from their first year. The dissertation will be researched and written independently, with only minimum guidance from your dissertation supervisor. This is also supported by a compulsory but non-assessed Academic Communication Skills sessions, attended by both full-time and part-time students.


In addition to the dissertation submitted at the end of Trinity Term there one unseen examinations of the core course. 

Research methods courses are examined by means of an assessment to be submitted at the end of the relevant term. These courses also have some term-time assignments which are assessed on a pass/fail basis.

All other options are examined by means of an assessed essay, also to be submitted at the end of the term in which the option runs.

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