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MSc Criminology

Our Masters highlights international perspectives on criminology and criminal justice. We're ranked 1st in Scotland and top 10 in the UK for Criminology (The Guardian University Guide 2020).


Key facts

  • Award Masters / MSc, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate
  • Start date September
  • Duration MSc full-time: 12 months, MSc part-time: 24 months
  • Mode of study Part-time, Full-time, Campus based, Stand-alone modules

Our MSc Criminology course establishes clear connections between conceptual theories of crime and justice, and applied examples of how they affect contemporary societies. The course has an international focus that goes beyond UK or Scottish borders, making it appealing for a diverse student cohort.

The course content encourages the pursuit of innovative and socially just responses to the problem of crime, from crimes in the street or at home, to crimes of the powerful, crimes across borders, the much newer phenomenon of online crime, and the drug problem. Throughout the course, there's an emphasis on the need for a strong critical understanding of how research is framed, used and developed, which is delivered via modules in data analysis and research design, as well as criminological and socio-legal research methods. You’ll have the opportunity to explore concepts of criminal justice, the social contexts of crime, and a variety of criminological theoretical perspectives as well as applied insights.

With elective modules in specialist subjects you can acquire and develop a range of skills which will significantly enhance your confidence in criminology and your employability. Subjects include:

  • rehabilitation and criminal justice work
  • drug policy and interventions
  • criminalisation, social control and human rights

The course is ideal for those who are keen to continue their studies at postgraduate level, as well as for practitioners who wish to consolidate existing experience and training with a Masters qualification.

  • Top reasons to study with us
  • Course objectives

    This course offers interdisciplinary insights into pressing current social issues such as terrorism, ethical uses of technology in criminal justice, the issues faced by women in criminal justice, drug policy reform, emergence and regulation of psychoactive substances, or tracing the links between poverty and imprisonment.

    You'll gain a critical understanding of how research is framed, used and developed, and by whom, in criminology. Our academics are members of an internationally leading research centre; the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR), as well as being affiliated with the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIRP). Our research features in the media and is used by policymakers and practice leaders.

  • Flexible learning

    If you’re interested in studying a module from this course, the Postgraduate Certificate or the Postgraduate Diploma then please email Graduate Admissions to discuss your course of study.

  • Research

    When you study MSc Criminology at the University of Stirling, you’ll be introduced to leading-edge empirical and theoretical research in a vibrant, multi-disciplinary environment.

    Underpinning the expertise of our staff, the University of Stirling scored highly in the most recent Research Excellent Framework (REF 2014) – a UK-wide assessment of universities’ research output. In the Social Work and Social Policy unit of assessment, highlights included:

    • 78% of our overall research activity was assessed to be internationally excellent or world-leading
    • 100% of research environment factors assessed as internationally excellent or world leading
    • 100% of our research impact was assessed as world leading or internationally excellent
    • we were judged to have the 2nd highest research power in Scotland and 13th highest in the UK
  • Academic requirements

    A minimum of a second class honours degree (2:1 preferred) in a relevant subject or equivalent is required. Applicants without these formal qualifications but with relevant work or life experience are encouraged to apply.

    INTO University of Stirling offers a Graduate Diploma if you don’t meet the required criteria for this course. If you successfully complete the Graduate Diploma in Media, Humanities and Social Sciences and meet the required progression grades, you’ll be guaranteed entry onto this Masters degree.

  • English language requirements

    If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

    • IELTS 6.5 with 6.0 minimum in each sub-skill
    • Cambridge C1 Advanced (CAE) 176 overall with a minimum of 169 in each sub-skill
    • Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE) 180 overall with a minimum of 169 in each sub-skill
    • Pearson Test of English (Academic) 60 overall with 56 in each sub-skill
    • IBT TOEFL 80 overall with 18 in reading, 23 in writing, 19 in listening and 21 in speaking
    • Trinity ISE II Pass overall and Merit in all sub-skills, ISE III Pass overall and in all sub-skills, ISE IV Pass overall and in all sub-skills

    Last updated: 5 December 2019

    For more information on ways that you can meet our English language requirements, including options to waive the requirement, please read our information on English language requirements.

  • Pre-sessional English language courses

    If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this course, our partner INTO University of Stirling offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for entry to this degree.

    Find out more about our pre-sessional English language courses.


The modules listed below are those currently intended for delivery in the next academic intake of this course. These may be subject to change as the University regularly revises and refreshes the curriculum of our taught programmes.

Course Details

  • Teaching

    We emphasise participation, creativity and reflection in our teaching of this course.

  • Assessment

    Our course involves a wide range of assessment choices, providing stimulus and variety, but also stretching students with assessments that test a wide breadth of skills and competencies. In addition to conventional essays and critical report writing, you'll also be assessed through presentations, the production of poster presentations, blogs, observation-based reflective reports, drafting briefing papers, and a professional writing exercise.

    Also, you'll typically undertake a research dissertation that may involve a range of fieldwork activities depending on the student project (e.g. interviews, focus groups, visual research methods, survey design and administration, and secondary data analysis).

  • Classroom hours

    Teaching on this course generally takes place all day on a Friday, and on half a day on a Thursday, but certain modules may be taught on other days.

  • Course director
  • Key staff

    Dr Niall Hamilton-Smith: course lead for Socio-legal Research Methods.

    Prior to Stirling, Niall worked as a criminologist in the Home Office's research directorate, working both on crime reduction programme evaluations and on the organised crime research programme. Additional research interests include community policing, policing disorder and sectarianism.

    Dr Hannah Graham: course lead for Rehabilitation and Criminal Justice Work.

    Hannah’s research, writing and teaching centre on a few areas of recognised expertise:

    • Criminal justice and the sociology of punishment
    • Rehabilitation, desistance and re/integration
    • Innovation and justice

    Hannah’s research, writing and teaching centre on a few areas of recognised expertise, including: criminal justice and the sociology of punishment; rehabilitation, desistance and re/integration; and, innovation and justice.

    Dr Maria Fotopoulou: course lead for Drug Use, Policy and Interventions.

    Prior to joining the University of Stirling Maria worked in the field of policy and service evaluation of the health and social care of problem drug users and more broadly marginalised and minority groups in the UK and Greece.

    Dr Bill Munro: course lead for Criminological Perspectives; and, Criminalisation, Social Control and Human Rights.

    Bill’s research interests lie in critical theory; deviancy, social control and risk; justice in transition and alternatives to custody.

  • Fees and costs

    Fees shown are per year (fees are different for each course)


    Home/EU Students

    Fees shown are for full-time, one-year Masters course*

    If you’re domiciled in Scotland, you may be eligible to apply to the Students Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for a loan of up to £10,000 to cover your tuition fees and associated living costs. Students domiciled in the EU can also apply for tuition fee support, although may not be eligible to receive funding to support living costs.

    If you're domiciled in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you should be eligible to apply for a loan from your regional body.

    English students apply for a loan of up to £10,609 per year as part of the UK Postgraduate Loan Scheme, Welsh students can apply for a non-means tested loan of up to £13,000 from the Welsh Government and Northern Irish students are eligible to apply for support of up to £5,500.

    *Fees for students who apply for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate will be paid on a pro-rata basis.

    If the course is taken over two years then the fee will be split evenly over the two years. Fees are not pro-rated for students who enrol on a Masters course and decide to exit with a Postgraduate Diploma - the full fee is charged.


    Overseas (Non-EU) Students

    Fees shown are for full-time, one-year Masters course. Fees for students who apply for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate will be paid on a pro-rata basis.

    If the course is taken over two years then the fee will be split evenly over the two years. Fees are not pro-rated for students who enrol on a Masters course and decide to exit with a Postgraduate Diploma - the full fee is charged.


    Please note: You will be liable to pay tuition fees for every year you’re in attendance, and your fees will be held level upon entry. If you need to extend your period of study, you may be liable for an additional fee.

  • Scholarships and funding

    If you have the talent, ability and drive to study with us, we want to make sure you make the most of the opportunity – regardless of your financial circumstances.

    Learn more about available funding opportunities or use our scholarship finder to explore our range of scholarships.

  • Additional costs

    There are some instances where additional fees may apply. Depending on your chosen course, you may need to pay additional costs, for example for field trips. Learn more about additional fees.

  • Cost of living

    If you’re domiciled in the UK, you can typically apply to your relevant funding body for help with living costs. This usually takes the form of student loans, grants or bursaries, and the amount awarded depends upon your personal circumstances and household income.

    EU and overseas students won’t normally be able to claim living support through SAAS or other UK public funding bodies. You should contact the relevant authority in your country to find out if you’re eligible to receive support.

    Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

  • Payment options

    We aim to be as flexible as possible, and offer a wide range of payment methods - including the option to pay fees by instalments. Learn more about how to pay

As a Masters graduate in criminology, you’ll have the opportunity to pursue a number of career routes in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Graduates in criminology can go onto roles including:

  • police
  • prison service
  • probation and community justice
  • courts
  • human rights advocacy
  • youth work
  • women’s justice and recovery services
  • victim support
  • surveillance
  • intelligence services
  • services for individuals or families affected by drug use
  • drug policy and information organisations
  • charities and social enterprises

With a combination of specialist theoretical and methodological knowledge, as well as critical-analytical skills, our course is also a great platform for those considering research and policy-related roles.

  • Boost your employability by studying at Scotland’s top-rated university for criminology (The Guardian University Guide 2020).
  • Benefit from our links to the criminal justice sector and Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR).
  • Companies we work with

    The course is supported by staff from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR), which is a collaboration of several Scottish universities. It aims to produce excellent research and develop excellent researchers to enhance the development of policy, practice and public debate around crime and justice. The SCCJR carries international influence and works with fellow academics, policymakers, practitioners and others involved with justice all over the world. As well as benefitting from the expert input of the SCCJR, students studying this MSc Criminology course can also attend regular events hosted by the organisation.

    You'll also benefit from our strong links to the applied crime and criminal justice sector, including Police Scotland and the Scottish Prison Service.

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