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Criminology

Criminology photo, visit to a prison in Northern Ireland

Criminology is the study of crime, and the ways in which the criminal justice system responds to crime.  Criminologists also consider how certain behaviours come to be defined as criminal or deviant in the first place, and how definitions of a 'crime' and a 'criminal' differ significantly across time and space.

The undergraduate Criminology programme at Queen’s was introduced in 2007 and since then, the programme has emerged as a popular course of study among students.  In first year, criminology students are introduced to important criminological debates and issues, in classes that incorporate lectures, small-group discussions, documentaries/films, guest speakers from the criminal justice system, field trips and a host of other creative teaching strategies.  Our second- and third-year modules are more focused on particular criminological topics (e.g., Green Criminology, Crime and the Media, Sociology of Drugs, Youth Crime and Criminal Justice) and in the final year, students are involved in independent criminological research under the guidance of a staff supervisor (link>Research Dissertation, Criminology).  The new McClay library has an outstanding provision of criminological resources to assist students with their dissertation and other coursework.

Course Content:

The following introductory modules are offered in the first year:

  • Introducing Criminology
  • Exploring Criminology
  • Digital Society
  • Sociological Imagination
  • Choice of other modules in Social Policy Psychology, Anthropology, or Politics

In Stage 2, students take modules such as Crime and Society (covering violent crime, corporate crime and state crime), Crime and Disorder, and Criminological Theory.  In Stage 3, students enrol in modules such as the Development of Policing, Penal Policy, Youth, Crime and Criminal Justice.

Special Features:

The course provides opportunities for visiting criminal justice agencies and studying criminology in one of the most challenging research environments in Europe. Modules often draw on international comparisons with a strong Irish (North and South) emphasis.
The programme is delivered by staff with internationally-recognised expertise in criminal justice policy, prisons/prisoners, human rights, teenage drinking, criminological theory, fear of crime, drug use/misuse, policing, and youth crime.  We also work regularly with various criminal justice and voluntary agencies.

In general, the criminology students achieve high marks in our academic setting.  The highest achieving students on BA programmes within the School are awarded the Lockheed prize annually. Criminology students either won or shared the prize in 2010 and 2011.

Opportunities for Careers and Further Study:

Public and private sector organisations involved in the control of crime continue to expand and the demand for criminology graduates is strong. The number and variety of career opportunities related to crime control have increased in recent years. In addition to the traditional criminal justice agencies such as the police, probation service and the prison service, criminology graduates are employed in a range of occupations including restorative justice, victim support agencies, rape crisis units, social care agencies, the media, civil service, research, teaching, business and management. A degree in criminology trains students to work with a wide range of information, including statistical data. Students learn how to work with people to analyse and solve problems, and they gain experience with planning and managing complex tasks and ideas.

Our final-year criminology students participate in a School-based career workshop which is designed to help them search for job openings in criminology and devise effective resumés/CVs when applying for jobs.  We have close ties with the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Queen’s and several of our criminology graduates have pursued MA degrees in criminology or criminal justice in the Institute.  Some of our other graduates have pursued a Ph.D. in our School or elsewhere.

Entrance Requirements:

A- and/or AS-levels ABB or BBB + B (AS-level).
There are no specific subject requirements at A-level. For more information on entry to the programme, please contact the Admissions office.

For other information about the criminology programme, please contact:

Dr Andy Percy
Programme Director, Criminology
School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work
Tel: +44 (0) 28 9097 5261
E-mail: a.percy@qub.ac.uk

Research Dissertation, Criminology:

The research dissertation module is offered over two semesters in the third year.  Students choose a criminological topic in which they are interested and collect and analyse data that relates to the topic.  Staff supervisors provide dissertation guidance during the year. 
Since 2010, student dissertation topics have focused on such topics as:

  • Media portrayals of murder cases
  • Environmental crime
  • Attitudes and experiences with restorative justice
  • Media coverage of “legal highs”
  • Attitudes about rape
  • Violence and film
  • Knowledge of drugs among school children
  • Mediation surrounding Orange parades
  • Experiences of drug treatment providers
  • Stigma and former prisoners
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy in prisons


In 2010-2011, one of our final year students (joint honours criminology and sociology) spent a semester in Sweden and later focused her dissertation research on cross-cultural comparisons of crime rates in Sweden and the UK. A few other students chose their dissertation topic based on their volunteering or work experience.