MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice | University of Oxford
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A row of books
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MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice

About the course

A stimulating and demanding programme, involving intensive learning in small groups, the MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice will equip you with an advanced understanding of crime and criminal justice, comprising courses in criminological theory, the study of criminal justice, and training in research design and methodology.

The MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice is offered on both a full-time (one-year) and part-time (two-year) basis. The degree and expectations for both modes of study are equally rigorous. Part-time students take their classes with the full-time students, but spread over two years to accommodate work and personal circumstances. 

The MSc is comprised of three components (the timings refer to the full-time course, please see the Law Faculty website for details of the part-time course):

1. Core course and compulsory research methods course

The compulsory core course runs weekly for the first eight weeks of the first two terms. 

Explanation and understanding in criminology

In the first term, this theme 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, and to understand the nature of ‘theory’ and ‘explanation’ within criminology. Part-time students take this course in the first term of their first year of study.

Understanding criminal justice

The second half of the course offers you a thorough grounding in the criminological understanding of criminal justice/penal institutions and processes. The core themes of classic research on these processes are introduced, before you are introduced to contemporary issues and controversies in criminal justice and punishment. The course introduces you to competing theoretical perspectives on the criminal justice process and 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 can choose to take this compulsory course in the second term of either their first or second year of study. 

Research design and data collection

This course 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.

2. Optional subjects

Full-time students will take five optional modules over the first and second terms of the year. Part-time student s 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:

  • Race and gender
  • Sentencing
  • Public and private policing 
  • Research Methods
  • Prisons
  • Comparative, Criminal Justice, Security and Human Rights
  • Politics of Crime Control
  • Comparative and Transnational Justice
  • Criminal Justice, Migration and Citizenship
  • Crime and the Family
  • Violence and Civilisation
  • Criminal Justice in Transitional Settings
  • Risk, Security and Criminal Justice
  • The Death Penalty
  • Youth Justice

As a full-time student, you will be expected to spend at least 50 hours studying each week during term, and to undertake some further study during vacations. During Michaelmas and Hilary term students you will be advised to divide your time between the core course and your other courses as follows:

  • At least 18 hours per week preparation for the core course
  • At least 10 hours per week preparation for each option/compulsory course
  • 4.5 to 6 hours per week in seminars (90 minutes for each course)

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

3. Dissertation

In addition to the options you take, you will write a dissertation during Trinity term.  Part-time students will write their dissertations in Trinity Term of their second year, but will be encouraged to start planning their dissertation in Trinity term of year one.  This 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 Skills Workshop for Criminologists, attended by both full-time and part-time students.

Assessment

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

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

Each option is examined by means of an assessed essay, also to be submitted at the end of the term in which the option runs.

Graduate destinations

Graduates from the programme have recently gone on into the following areas:

  • research careers
  • government departments
  • voluntary organisations in the crime and justice field

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in law, sociology, politics, economics, social policy, psychology, history, or another subject relevant to criminology.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

Extensive employment experience within the broad field of criminal justice may be regarded by the Board of Admissions as compensating for a lack of an undergraduate degree to the required standard. 

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Publications

Potential applicants should identify any relevant publications which may enhance their application.  

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Centre for Criminology to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work;
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Centre for Criminology and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Centre for Criminology .

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

Resources

In addition to a range of University libraries and centrally provided electronic resources, you will have access to the Bodleian Law Library and Bodleian Social Science Library. Training on how to use the library’s legal and journal database is jointly provided by the Faculty of Law and the Bodleian Law Library.

You will be encouraged to attend the term-time seminars organised by the centre. The All Souls Criminology Seminars are fortnightly seminars with invited speakers held during term time. The Criminology Informal Research Seminars are lunchtime seminars at which centre staff, visiting fellows and research students present their work in progress. You will be welcome to attend and take part in these sessions.

The centre arranges several events throughout the year to which all MSc students, along with other members of the centre such as MSc course tutors, MPhil and DPhil students, research officers and associates are invited.  You will also have the opportunity to broaden your knowledge via the great number of lectures in other courses and public seminars offered by both the centre and other departments and colleges within the University. 

You will have the opportunity to meet, and hear presentations from leading scholars from around the world, as well as practitioners working in criminal justice through the centre’s active academic visitor’s programme.

You will also be able to draw on the many resources and provisions of the Faculty of Law and the Social Sciences Division.  Throughout the term, the Faculty of Law and various departments in the Social Sciences division host lectures, seminars and social events of interest to criminology students.  Students also have the opportunity to pursue their interests through Oxford Pro Bono Publico, Oxford Transitional Justice Research and a number of interdisciplinary student bodies. 

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

A number of Research Council awards are available each year from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Full-time study

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£8,715£3,021£11,736
Overseas£15,755£3,021£18,776

Part-time study

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£4,360£1,511£5,871
Overseas£7,880£1,511£9,391

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

Full-time study

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Part-time study

Please note that this course requires that you attend in Oxford for teaching, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Further, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page. If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.

How to apply

It is not necessary to contact academic members of staff before you apply. 

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
One to two pages

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • capacity for sustained and intensive work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts from longer pieces are welcome but should be prefaced by a note which puts them in context and it should be indicated with square brackets what elements have been omitted from the original piece of work.

Ideally the works should relate to the proposed area of study. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for comprehensive understanding of the subject area; understanding of problems in the area; ability to construct and defend an argument; powers of analysis; and powers of expression.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Normally, references will be provided by individuals familiar with the applicant's academic performance. In exceptional circumstances, other professional references will be accepted.

Your references will support exceptional academic motivation; capacity for sustained and intense work; developed ability to organise time and set own agenda for study; and an intrepid attitude towards investigation and learning.