MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice | University of Oxford
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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 part-time MSc webpage for details of the part-time course):

Compulsory courses

Three compulsory courses run weekly during the first two terms. A fourth compulsory (but non-examined) course is run weekly in the third term

Criminological Theories

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, 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 compulsory 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. This course runs in the second term; 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 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.

During the final two weeks the cohort will work together to organise a two-day conference at which each MSc student will make a short presentation on their dissertation topic (work in progress), and other students will be expected to ask questions and make helpful comments. The presenters will also receive feedback on their communication and presentation skills from the tutors.

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:

  • Race and Gender
  • Sentencing
  • Public and Private Policing 
  • Research Methods
  • Prisons
  • Comparative, Criminal Justice, Security and Human Rights
  • Politics of Crime Control
  • Criminal Justice, Migration and Citizenship
  • Crime and the Family
  • Victims and Restorative Justice
  • Transitional Justice
  • Risk, Security and Criminal Justice
  • The Death Penalty
  • Youth Justice
  • Theorising Punishment

Please note that not all options run every year.

As a full-time student, you will be expected to spend around 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
  • 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.  

Dissertation

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 course, Communications Skills 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, one following the Criminological Theories course and one following the Understanding Criminal Justice 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.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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.

Graduate destinations

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

  • research careers
  • government departments and criminal justice agencies
  • voluntary organisations in the crime and justice field
  • international organisations, such as the UNODC.

Changes to this course and your supervision

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. In certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

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, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

All graduate courses offered by the Centre for Criminology

Oxford 1+1 MBA programme

This course can be studied as a part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. The Oxford 1+1 MBA programme is a unique, two-year graduate experience that combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours.

The qualification above should be achieved in one of the following subject areas or disciplines:

  • law
  • sociology
  • politics
  • economics
  • social policy
  • psychology
  • history; or
  • another subject relevant to criminology.

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.

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

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

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

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Part-time applicants will also be expected to show evidence of the ability to commit time to study and, if applicable, an employer's commitment to make time available to study, to complete coursework, and attend course and University events and modules. Where appropriate, evidence should also be provided of permission to use employers’ data in the proposed research project.
  • Potential applicants should identify any relevant publications which may enhance their application. Publications are not expected. They may, in certain circumstances, advantage an application but it is appreciated that the opportunity to publish may vary considerably depending on factors such as the stage the student has reached in their graduate career and the structure of the course(s) they have studied. Consequently, a lack of publications will not be assessed negatively. 

English language requirement

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

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

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

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

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

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

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 Social Sciences Library.

You will be encouraged to attend the All Souls Criminology Seminars with invited speakers, held fortnightly during term time.

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 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£14,765
Overseas£23,505

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,385
Overseas£11,755

Course 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 course fees). 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.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave 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 will 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 course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

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. It is not permitted to submit just one essay of 4,000 words. 

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.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply - Full time Apply - Part time

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