Policing and Criminal Justice BSc (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years, 4 years with foundation year)



You can choose to study this course over four years, with a foundation year. If you choose this option, the first year of your study will be delivered by our partner, Cambridge Ruskin International College (CRIC) on our Cambridge campus. In years 2 to 4 you'll study with us in Chelmsford.


Thinking of joining the police or working in the wider criminal justice sector? Get first-hand experience of the day-to-day life of a criminal justice professional before you join up.

Full description


We work with employers to make sure you graduate with the knowledge, skills and abilities they need. They help us review what we teach and how we teach it – and they offer hands-on, practical opportunities to learn through work-based projects, internships or placements.

The skills and knowledge you gain on this course will prepare you for work with many criminal justice organisations, such as the police, the prison service, local government and the security industry.

Our work-based learning module ‘Working in the Criminal Justice System’ will let you experience first-hand what it is like to work for one of these services, giving you a valuable insight into their working cultures and practices.

Modules & assessment

Level 3 (foundation year)

  • Foundation in Law and Policing
    This module will provide students with the necessary skills to begin studying at level 4 in courses related to Law, Policing and Criminology. Students will be introduced to the core skills necessary to succeed in higher education, including thinking critically, researching and referencing appropriately, demonstrating appropriate numeracy and ICT skills, and communicating effectively verbally and in writing. Students will also be introduced to specific concepts related to their degree programmes including an introduction to the English legal system, business law, criminal law and the criminal justice system and ethics. Real-world examples of the law in action will be highlighted, and students will practice applying the law to case studies. The module is made up of the following eight constituent elements: Interactive Learning Skills and Communication (ILSC); Information Communication Technology (ICT); Critical Thinking; Composition and Style; Ethics; Fundamentals of Law; Business Law; Criminal Law.

Year one, core modules

  • Introduction to Policing
    This module will develop your understanding of the origins of the modern Police Service and the nature of Police work in the broadest sense, including the social and political environment from which modern policing emerged and in which it currently operates. You will learn how and why the Police Service developed, the cultural and political ethos behind the service, and the legal and ethical frameworks that inform the sector. You will also study the demands placed on Police Forces and their officers, staff and volunteers, including potential developments in the future, and critically consider how the internet and digital media will effect changes to the policing landscape by facilitating the commission of existing crime types. You will also consider emerging types of new criminal activity, and responses that may be required from law enforcers to combat these, grounding this academically through a critical engagement with the debates and controversies that surround policing. To support this module and your continuing studies, you will develop and maintain a reflective learning log that will be used as the basis of tutorial work and your formative assessment. Throughout the Semester you will be assessed via a portfolio of tasks that will provide opportunities for formative feedback, including traditional assessment methods such as a short essay, in-class test and a presentation, as well as maintaining a blog as a reflective diary. You will be taught by weekly lecture and seminar.
  • Criminology: Theory and Concepts
    On this module, you will examins explanations for crime and deviance since the 19th century. You will explores key questions at the core of criminology, such as whether offenders choose to commit crime, or whether they are driven into crime by structural forces outside their individual control, and examine whether social, biological or psychological factors can help explain crime, and can be regarded as ‘rational’ in their approach to offending. You will also explore sociological approaches to crime and consider whether some individuals, groups or offences are more likely to be called criminal than others. You will analyse the major contentions of and disagreements between each of these approaches, and learn to use these theories to illuminate contemporary debates and social problems. During the course of the module, you will gain a sense of the historical development of criminology as a discipline, and the relevance of each of these theoretical approaches to practical considerations of social policy, effective and legitimate policing, and the operation of the criminal justice system. You will be taught through a two-hour workshop each week, and assessed through a ten-minute presentation and 2,000-word essay.
  • Basic Criminalistics
    Criminalistics is the core discipline of forensic science; in many uses, especially North America, it's synonymous with forensic science. The study is built on one basic premise: that every contact or action leaves some trace (Locard's Principle). As scientific methodologies have improved over the years, so the nature of what constitutes a trace has changed considerably. This module will introduce you to the main categories of trace evidence (finger and other body prints, fibres, hairs, glass and paint fragments, impressions of tools, gun discharge residues, and body fluids) and will emphasise the importance of rigorous crime scene management and proper methods of evidence recovery. You'll also learn about recent developments in enhanced evidence recovery, and evaluate the relative evidential value of various kinds of recovered trace material. This will lead on to a brief introduction to the statistical interpretation of such evidence.
  • Policing Ethics
    This module will introduce you to the ethical issues that might be encountered within the field of policing and the wider criminal justice system. You will examine key principles including accountability, fairness, integrity and respect, and look at the corresponding standards of professional behaviour and their development and application within the UK police force, with particular reference to ethical issues that have specific importance for policing, such as procedural justice, police conduct, confidentiality, corruption, and the use of force. You will explore the foundational ethical questions, including accountability, ideas of democratic policing, the ‘Peelian’ principles, and the ongoing debates about the purpose of policing and who is being policed. You will also look at ideas of professionalism and explore police culture. Through an examination of actual practice and the drivers behind change, you will consider the causes and effects of prejudice, the social problems that can arise from discrimination within and without the police service and criminal justice system itself, and the theoretical and legislative responses that have been developed in response to these issues. How do general social and academic ideas and legal frameworks impact upon the work of the police and public services? How have such services responded with initiatives of their own? You will attend a one hour lecture and one hour seminar each week for the whole semester, and your assessment will consist of an essay and a case study report.
  • The Criminal Justice System
    This module will introduce you to key components of the criminal justice process. You will explore and analyse sections of the Criminal Justice System, paying particular attention to how it fits together (under the National Offender Management System – NOMS) within five main sub-systems: Law Enforcement, Courts, Youth Justice, Prison and Probation. Each week, you will examine and develop a portfolio relating to the following issues within the Criminal Justice System: freedom, human rights, net-widening, retribution, rehabilitation, politics and prevention of crime. The portfolio will allow you to recognise and begin to critically evaluate the effectiveness of the criminal justice process, based on contested evidence and research. As a result, you will be able to demonstrate a critical appreciation of the complicated position and treatment of offenders and victims in England and Wales, as well as the challenges faced by policy-makers and criminal justice staff. You will attend a one-hour lecture/workshop and one-hour seminar each week for the whole semester. Your assessment will comprise a structured portfolio, through which you will address and evaluate strengths and weaknesses of the criminal justice process.
  • Policing Practice
    This module will give you a basic introduction to the skills used in police work. It will give you a real insight into the day to day work of policing and the skills and knowledge required, and will also directly address employability and joining the police force. The module will introduce you to practical ‘real world’ issues for the Police Service and individual officers within it. It builds on issues and material studied in the module ‘Introduction to Policing’, which focused on the more general evolutionary, developmental and cultural issues that set the scene for modern policing. This module will cover the work environment for a warranted officer, including eligibility, entry requirements, initial training, conditions of service, restrictions on private life and professional standards. It will also provide an awareness of possible career development opportunities. You will then move on to examine practical policing skills and issues, from attending incidents, scene management and crime scene awareness, to arrest, interviewing and detention; public order policing; managing and using intelligence; and the practical and legal issues around stop, search and entry; dealing with major incidents; the principles of investigation; and a specific focus on public protection, violence, abuse and neglect. You will also explore preparing for prosecution and court. Your weekly lectures will be supplemented by smaller group seminars, where you may be asked to prepare material in order to contribute to effective learning. There will also be a number of practical exercises and regular contributions from serving officers as guest lecturers. your assessments for this module will comprise three pieces of coursework: a report of 3,000 words, a Personal Development Plan of 500 words and a Reflective Commentary.

Year two, core modules

  • Working in the Criminal Justice System
    This module will allow you to experience working life in the Criminal Justice sector, preparing you for the transition from education to work in a number of ways: identifying your skills and aptitudes in relation to employment; giving you an insight into the working cultures and practices of organisations within the Criminal Justice sector and allowing you to explore potential careers that would be relevant with a degree in Policing and Criminal Justice. You will explore how work and learning interact, encouraging your self-managed learning and enhancing your employability with knowledge of the sector, your self-reliance and your confidence. There will be two models of work placement in this module. Firstly, if you already have a role with the CJS, whether paid or unpaid, you will be able to use this as your placement. For example, you may be a Special Constable or volunteer for a charity working in this sector. Secondly, if you have a particular interest or contacts in an organisation, you may organise an opportunity for yourself, supported by the module tutor. You will be required to undertake 70 hours of activity in an appropriate placement and, along with your allocated supervisor and/or module tutor, you will draw up a placement proposal outlining your expected duties, hours of work and expected outcomes. You will keep a reflective diary outlining your activities and your learning from the experience, which will be assessed, along with your report on an aspect of the organisation or role (which must be agreed with the module tutor). You will also give a presentation outlining the ways in which your employability has developed over the course of the module. You will be supported throughout the module by weekly workshops and lectures.
  • Researching Policing
    Evidence-based policing relies on 'strong' evidence, but what is evidence and how do we decide how strong it is? How is it created? What are the different types? Is it ethical? This 'hands-on' module will allow you to develop practical skills and knowledge and not only understand evidence-based policing but also conduct and evaluate research in a wide range of social and criminal justice settings. You will carry out and present a piece of qualitative research and critically evaluate a study using quantitative methods of analysis. Your teaching will focus on the development of evaluative skills and practical competence in both qualitative and quantitative methods, giving you the kind of understanding that can only be gained through personal experience. It will also enhance your ability to critically assess published research findings and train you to select and apply appropriate methods in dissertations or projects as well as in your future employment. Your assessment will comprise a 2,000 word research report and a 15 minute presentation, and you will be taught by a weekly lecture and seminar.
  • Evidence-Based Policing
    Evidence-Based policing as a concept is not new: it draws on the same principles as the medical profession, in which doctors make decisions on how to treat patients based on the most up-to-date evidence. However it is widely accepted that policing and police practices as a whole are not based on rigorous evidence. Due to growing demand and financial pressures Evidence-Based Policing has become an attractive option for police agencies with its promise of using limited resources more efficiently and effectively by focusing on those strategies and tactics that reduce crime. This module will give you an overview of the 'rise' of Evidence-Based Policing, and a theoretical understanding of Evidence-Based Policing by allowing you to explore its three key principles: Targeting, tracking, and testing. You will discover what 'evidence' is by taking part in an in-depth discussion and an analysis of recent experiments on 'hotspots' policing and the use of body-worn video. You will also explore the steps agencies can take to embed Evidence-Based Policing in organisations and the challenges they face. You will be taught by weekly lecture and seminar, and assessed through an essay examining the implementation and effectiveness of Evidence-Based Policing and a case study report evaluating a research project.

Year two, optional modules

Choose 1 from:

  • Understanding Crime through the Media
    Media representations of crime, law and order have always been a matter of public interest, as well as debate amongst people involved in the criminal justice system. Most people have limited experience of the criminal justice system, and the way the media treats crime has important implications for the public perception of crime and its management. Should crime always be newsworthy? How objective is the media presentation of crime? Is crime reporting concerned only with issues of good and bad, justice and the law? You will explore the ways in which media shapes our perception of crime and policing and be provided with an overview of the theoretical perspectives on media within criminology. In addition you will explore the construction of crime news, the role of politics and ideology and the concept of "moral panics". You will also examine how the police are represented in the media, and examine ways of analysing available statistics on criminal activity, and the fear of crime and its relationship to the media representation of crime. Finally, you will evaluate how the fear of crime in the United Kingdom has been shaped by media reports. You will be taught in lectures and seminars, and assessed via an in-class presentation (10 min) and an essay (2000 words) that builds on the case presented in class.
  • Resilience and Emergency Management
    Bringing together all the skills you've learned on the Public Service Foundation Degree course, this module will task you with identifying and understanding how the emergency services prepare for and operate at major disasters. You'll look at the ways government and emergency services prepare for and react to major disasters, and consider the advantages and difficulties of the multi-agency approach. Working in teams, you'll solve problems and come up with innovative preparations for, and take part in, major disaster exercises. You'll need to take a reflexive and critical view on the work of government and the emergency services to identify strengths and weaknesses in the current preparation for disasters.

Choose 2 from:

  • Law for Police Officers
    This module will introduce you to the principal law governing the procedures used by the police in England and Wales. You will consider the main functions of police officers, and the legal parameters within which they should work, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and its Codes of Practice. You will take part in critical debate about the ethical considerations of police officers that surround the day-to-day application of powers, in particular critically evaluating the issues that surround some of the more controversial elements of policing such as 'stop and search' and bail. Through this you will gain an understanding of the ethical and procedural difficulties faced by officers in front-line policing, and will be better prepared for a role in the police or the wider criminal justice system. You will attend a series of lectures and seminars, and your assessment will comprise two assignments: the first, a role-play scenario involving an interaction between the police and the public, the second a critical analysis of a chosen article that criticises the police and the use and alleged abuse of powers to stop and search/bail, or another controversial policing element.
  • Leadership and Management
    On this module you will develop your critical view of the Criminal Justice Sector in a broad sense, by studying current perspectives on leadership and management in the public sector and how these relate to the ever-changing political, social and economic contexts in which they operate. You will discuss the importance of effective management and leadership, and the impact of these on an organisation, starting by investigating leadership and management as concepts and tracking their history and development, before considering how they currently impact on the public sector as a whole and on individual organisations such as the police and how this is related to contemporary issues and debates. You will also consider debates about equality and diversity relevant to leadership. You will attend weekly lectures and seminars, and your assessment will comprise an in-class test, in which you will demonstrate your understanding of some of the key issues and topics, and a case study of a particular aspect of leadership and/management in the criminal justice sector.
  • Victims and Violence
    There are many forms and conceptions of violence, as well as a variety of motivations and meanings for it, yet it is often conceived as a single phenomenon. In addition, what constitutes victimhood and victimisation is contested at every stage of our legal system. In this module, you will approach the study of violence and violent victimisation through a variety of theoretical explanations, including cultural, theoretical, criminal and legal, psychological, medical and biological. You will explore different expressions of violence, and the measures employed by the criminal justice system to define, criminalise and regulate them. You will examine situations in which aggressive behaviours arise - from everyday assaults to homicide - from a range of situational contexts such as vengeance, mass media, alcohol and drugs, loss of control, psychopathy, cultural settings, social context and gender stereotypes. You will also evaluate the impact that the effects of aggression and violence can have on victims, witnesses and society. Through the study of victimology, you will explore how we have come to recognise the relationships between victims and offenders, as well as interactions between victims and the criminal justice process, contrasting offender motives with concepts such as victim-precipitation, victim-blaming, victim reliability, and 'ideal' victim stereotypes. You will attend a one hour lecture and one hour seminar each week for the whole semester, and be assessed through a group presentation and individual report, plus a 2000 word essay.
  • Digital Policing
    This module will provide you with a solid foundation in a broad range of current digital issues across policing, for example the growing threat of terrorism and organised crime, and issues of cyber security and online fraud. It will help you to understand the key elements of these issues in terms of digital intelligence and investigation, and will provide both context and knowledge. In particular you will focus on Big Data and the implications and opportunities for intelligence and investigation as well as consideration of concepts of ethics, privacy and consent. Concentrating on academic theory and wider reading across other sectors, you will discover how this is then applied to and practised in law enforcement. Through the combined elements of the module you will gain an insight into some of the ‘art of the possible’ for future police practice, as well as the changing nature of the threat, harm and risk, and the impact of technological change on the society being policed. The early insights will be invaluable as you begin your career and start to move into leadership roles. The module will be taught by lectures and seminars, and assessed by a structured portfolio. Due to the fast pace of change in this area the module will be regularly updated and refreshed in line with developments.

Year three, core modules

  • Politics and Public Service
    On this module, you'll address the ideas that lie behind political approaches to public services and explore the relationship between these ideas and policy. You'll also examine the development of ideological approaches to public services, focusing on some broad approaches, namely, Welfarism, Neoliberalism and 'modernisation', each of which results in the eventual application of political ideology.
  • Policing Policy
    On this module, you'll concentrate on how national, local and internal politics operate in the organisation of the police service in England and Wales. The police service exhibits a wide range of groups that represent competing ways of seeing the development of this service. You'll seek to identify these groups, to identify their roles and to assess their relative importance in relation to the internal and external political environment of the public services. In this respect, conflicts in public services will be a theme of the module. In particular the focus is on up-to-date reporting on the police service by government, interested parties, key stake holders and representative bodies and how these reports follow a pattern that leads to public service development. The module will be taught by lectures, seminars and workshops throughout the semester. You will be required to give an oral presentation to the whole class group based on the materials used in preparation for the written assessment. Where possible and appropriate, guests from the public service will be invited to attend oral presentations to create a realistic conference environment. Students will also be required to submit a written case study of the operation of public services policy in relation to the police service. This case study will make reference to the various groups studied in the module and to some selected examples of issues or conflicts that have arisen or are currently taking place in the police service.
  • Major Project
    The individual Major Project will allow you to undertake a substantial piece of individual research, focused on a topic relevant to your specific course. Your topic will be assessed for suitability to ensure sufficient academic challenge and satisfactory supervision by an academic member of staff. The project will require you to identify/formulate problems and issues, conduct research, evaluate information, process data, and critically appraise and present your findings/creative work. You should arrange and attend regular meetings with your project supervisor, to ensure that your project is closely monitored and steered in the right direction.

Year three, optional modules

Choose 2 from (including Anglia Language Programme, see below):

  • Investigating Sexual Offences
    Sex offending has become a major concern for governments, academics, policy analysts and pressure groups around the world, yet in the British criminal justice system the issues remain poorly understood, unsatisfactorily recognised and the offences inadequately condemned. In this module you will examine the way certain sexual activities have come to be defined and categorised as sex crimes and how particular definitions generate specific legal responses and treatments. You will learn to recognise specific types of sexual offending, and study theories about motivations and consequences, as well as examining the issues from the perspectives of offenders, victims, society and the law. Rape ‘myths’ and ‘stereotypes’ will be discussed, and juxtaposed against case attrition throughout the criminal justice process. You will also examine the potential impact of the media, and how advances in internet technologies contribute to the increasingly problematic policing of sexually explicit materials, as well as aspects of the international sex trade will, particularly the problem of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. You will attend a one-hour lecture and one-hour seminar each week for the whole semester, and be assessed through two essays of 1000 and 2000 words.
  • Race, Racism and Cultural Identity
    On this module, you'll explore the sociology of 'race', racism and ethnic divisions. You'll consider three related themes: the social origins and significance of racial and ethnic divisions, the varied causes, contexts and consequences of racism and antiracism, and the cultural consequences of migration. Although your primary substantive focus will be on race relations in contemporary Britain, you will also draw insights from historical and international comparisons. You'll also attend a series of student-led workshops, in which you'll apply sociological knowledge and understanding to current questions of 'race' politics and policy. The topics of these workshop will relate to key module themes, such as: the collection and use of racialised data in the criminal justice system, debates about the usefulness of the concept of institutional racism, and globalised Islam.

Choose 2 from:

  • Policing and Counter-terrorism
    Perceptions of rising extremism and growing insecurity have increased the opportunities for tighter and arguably more invidious forms of social control in western societies in the rhetorical 'war on terror'. On this module you will identify and critically examine terror-related issues through criminal justice, criminological and legal perspectives. You will investigate the shift from 'old' terrorism to 'new' terrorism, and apply a range of theoretical perspectives to selected cases of 21st century domestic and international terrorism. You will contrast various typologies of terrorist, such as the 'home-grown', the 'lone-wolf', religious extremist, animal rights activist or neo-Nazi, and consider the various types of media coverage that each category attracts. Counter-terrorist measures will be evaluated in relation to a number of factors, such as prejudice, propaganda, nationalism, xenophobia and religion. You will critically evaluate concepts such as universal human rights, freedom of speech, radicalisation, axis of evil and war on terror, and apply them to examples of strategies that have been utilised and justified in the international 'war against terror'. You will attend a one hour lecture and one hour seminar each week for the whole semester, and be assessed through two essays, one of 1000 and one of 2000 words.
  • Investigating Serious Fraud
    The cost of fraud for the UK is substantial. Fraud is believed to be responsible for almost half the estimated value of all criminal activity investigated by the police, "but the police devote less than 3 percent of their staff to its investigations" (Doig, 2006). In order to understand what fraud is and the scope of the problem, it is important to understand two overlapping categories of crime: organised crime and white-collar crime. We will begin with a discussion of organised crime and 'white-collar crime' in order to establish an informed framework for understanding the issue of fraud, before considering the organisation of organised crime policing at the international and national level, and response to fraud in the UK. You will discuss how different agencies in the UK cooperate to prosecute fraud, drawing on the experience of a number of the UK professional and public sector groups involved in fraud advice, prosecution and regulation. You will attend a one hour lecture and one hour seminar each week for the whole semester, and be assessed through an in-class presentation of a selected case of fraud, and an essay of 2000 words.
  • Presenting Evidence
    This module will introduce you to the principles of gathering evidence and conducting interviews, case building and management, and presenting evidence in Court. You will gain an insight into how crimes are investigated, including when and how investigations are discontinued. Your focus will be on the theories of effective interviewing using the PEACE model as it applies to both suspects and witnesses, developing your knowledge of Court procedures and types of evidence. You will learn the principles of the PEACE model and apply it by conducting a mock interview, producing an evidential document and presenting evidence in a mock Court setting (based on your own investigation). This module will build on your prior learning from Years 1 and 2. This material is essential if you hope to become a Police Officer, but also valuable if you to are looking for employment as Police Staff or in the wider Criminal Justice System. You will attend a weekly lecture and seminar, and be assessed through a report outlining your case and a critical reflection on your presentation of evidence in the mock courtroom.

Optional modules available in years two and three

  • Anglia Language Programme
    The Anglia Language Programme module will allow you to study a foreign language as part of your course. You may choose to take two language modules in place of options on your course from the second semester of your first year, or in the second or third year. You can choose from the following: Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Japanese, or Spanish. In order to experience the learning of a new language, you must select one that you have not learned before.


For a full breakdown of module options and credits, please view the module structure.

Modules are subject to change and availability.

You’ll demonstrate your learning in various ways across our modules, ensuring that you develop the essential knowledge and skills needed to complete the course. Our assessment methods include essays, presentations, case study reports, group work research and, finally, your major project.

Where you'll study

Your faculty

In the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, we use our expertise and connections in Cambridge and beyond to nurture creativity through experimentation and risk-taking, and encourage critical thinking, in order to educate, entertain, inspire and understand, as well as to improve people’s lives.

Where can I study?

Tindal Building on our Chelmsford campus

Our striking, modern campus sits by the riverside in Chelmsford's University and Innovation Quarter.

Explore our Chelmsford campus

You’ll study on our Chelmsford campus, home to our Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (PIER). PIER facilitates and leads research that will improve policing practice across the region and contribute to reshaping the professional development of police officers and staff, helping them prepare for future challenges.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students starting 2019/20 or 2020/21 (per year)


International students starting 2020/21 (per year)


Fee information

For more information about tuition fees, including the UK Government's commitment to EU students, please see our UK/EU funding pages

Entry requirements

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