Criminology takes a social sciences approach to the study of crime as an individual and social phenomenon; this includes the incidence and forms of crime, as well as its causes and consequences. This course is designed to support learners to access Higher Education courses and careers in the criminal justice sector, social and probation work, plus sociology and psychology fields. The course contains a large vocational element which focuses on the application of knowledge to authentic case studies.

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What will I study?

During the Criminology course you will study a variety of topics related to the causes and consequences of crime.  We look at a variety of types of crimes, the influence of the media, and how famous cases have led to changes in the law.  We look at the process of a case from when a crime is committed through to conviction and sentencing - including police investigations, trial processes and ensuring the correct verdict is delivered.  Finally we will look at options for punishment and rehabilitation of offenders and discuss different options, including for example, looking at prisons across the world.


The Diploma runs over two years and all units are compulsory. Each unit must be passed individually in order to achieve the qualification.

Diploma in Criminology

The Diploma contains four compulsory units:

Unit 1: Changing Awareness of Crime
This unit will introduce a variety of crimes through a series of real life case studies.  You will compare the types of crimes and investigate the reasons why some crimes are not always reported.  The media will be considered as a source of information on crime.  The different portrayals of crime and accuracy of media reports will be analysed and compared.  These points will lead to an understanding of the complex social nature of crime which will be applied to a range of case studies.  You will analyse different social campaigns, and how they have bought about changes in the law, for example, Sarah's Law and the campaign led by Sara Payne.

By the end of this unit you will be able to tell crime myth from reality and identify common misleading misconceptions of crime.  You will also be able to plan a campaign for social and legal change on a range of issues.

Unit 2: Criminological Theories
In this unit you will use the knowledge you have gained from unit 1, and combine this with different theories of crime to understand how both can influence policy making.  You will consider a range of psychological and sociological theories to explain crime, and will apply them to different crimes.  For example, how can we explain why someone becomes a serial killer?  Can the same theories be applied to other crimes, e.g. burglary or fraud?  

By the end of this unit you will have a detailed understanding of a range of theories on why people commit crime, and be able to apply these to a range of case studies.  You will be able to use this knowledge to understand how changes in theories have shaped policy development.

Unit 3: Crime Scene to Courtroom

This unit will introuduce the concept of verdicts in the justice system and enable student to critically assess whether a verdict is safe and just, or if a miscarraige of justice has occurred. This unit will introduce you to the role of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and their place in the criminal justice system.  You will consider a range of legal personnel and their roles in the justice system, including forensic scientists, police officers, court officers and legal staff. The unit also considers the techniques available to these personnel, including assessing the use of methods such as DNA profiling, interview techniques, profiling, and the use of intelligence databases.  

By the end of this unit you will understand the strict rules surrounding the collection and processing of evidence.  This enables you to review the trial process and assess whether the aims of the criminal justice system have been met.   

 Unit 4: Crime & Punishment

This unit focuses on social control and the effectiveness of various social control techniques in society.  The majority of the population do not break the law, even when this goes against our own interests - so why do we?  This unit also examines what happens to those people who do break the law and why we punish them.  Breaking the law can happen in a number of ways, ranging from less serious crimes such as burglary to crimes such as murder and sexual violence.  You will examine the different crimes and how social control can prevent these crimes from occuring.  When a crime does occur, society has a number of options available to punish the offender and to protect the public.  You will assess these methods of social control and evaluate the effectiveness of the different mechanisms, ideologies and policies. 

By the end of this unit you will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the process of social control in delivering policy in different contexts.

How will I learn?

During the course you will engage in a variety of activities; the course has been designed to include a vocational element so there are practical tasks throughout the course.  You will learn through a mix of individual and group work; written tasks; presentations; research and interactive lessons.  A key element of this course is the application of knowledge to real case studies so you will research a wide range of cases across the topics.

How will I be assessed?

Diploma in Criminology

Each unit is worth 25% of the Diploma and is graded A-E.  To achieve an A* you need to achieve a Grade A in the overall qualification and at least 90% of the total marks for units 3 and 4.

Unit 1: Changing Awareness of Crime
This unit is assessed by a controlled assessment at the end of the unit. Students have a set amount of time to complete the tasks; this will be timetabled during college time.  

Unit 2: Criminological Theories
This unit is assessed through an external exam in the summer.  The exam is 90 minutes long and has a total of 75 marks.  There will be a mix of short and medium length questions that test your knowledge and how this can be applied to a range of scenarios.

Unit 3: Crime Scene to Courtroom

This unit is assessed by a controlled assessment at the end of the unit. Students have a set amount of time to complete the tasks; this will be timetabled during college time. 

Unit 4: Crime & Punishment

This unit is assessed through an external exam in the summer.  The exam is 90 minutes long and has a total of 75 marks.  There will be a mix of short and medium questions that test your knowledge and how this can be applied to a range of scenarios.

Are there any trips on this course?

Students have recently attended trips that include the following:

- Former prisons, e.g. Gloucester
- The Clink Restaurant
- Bristol Crown Court
- University taster days

A range of trips and conferences that focus on areas such careers, mental health and offending, rehabilitation and the causes of crime are currently being explored to potentially offer in the future.

Are there any extra costs?

Students are required to use booklets for the course, and these can either be purchased (approximtely £4) or electronic copies can be downloaded from Moodle.  There is no need to purchase any textbooks or other course materials.  There is a charge for each trip, although this is kept to a minimum where possible.

Are there any specific entry requirements?

Standard college entry requirements apply.

What enrichment activities are offered?

In addition to the trips that we currently offer, we also hold conferences and guest speakers at the college such as:

- Life Behind Bars: reformed offenders discuss their crimes, their experiences of prison life and the psychological effects of labelling.  
- Restorative Justice conference: academics, senior police officers and both victims and offenders who have taken part in restorative justice outline their experiences. 
- Hollie Gazzard Trust: Nick Gazzard has talked to the students about Hollie and the charity he is now running in her name.

What work experience opportunities are there?

Students are encouraged to seek out a wide range of work experience options throughout the criminal justice sector.  This could vary from shadowing solicitors, attending a local police Ride Along scheme to working with charities that support both victims and offenders outside prison.  Once students have identified a particular area of interest they will be supported to find relevant work experience.

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How can I keep up to date with relevant cases?

You will be expected to regularly read the newspapers and watch current affairs programmes on television.  We will often discuss high profile cases that appear in the media in class and relate our theoretical knowledge to these cases as they happen.

How similar is Criminology to Psychology?

Whilst there is some overlap between the subjects, e.g. psychological theories of crime, Criminology takes a broader view of the subject.  We take key ideas from a range of subjects such as Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Economics and Law and apply them to the specific context of crime.

Do I need any previous experience?

No - all that is needed is a strong interest in the study of crime from a social sciences perspective.

What other subjects does this go well with?

Criminology will enable students to develop a range of skills that complement their learning many different subjects.  Students often combine Criminology with a range of other subjects.  For those students interested in Forensic Science other suitable subjects would be Chemistry, Biology or Applied Science.  Other students combine Criminology with Psychology, Sociology and Law which provides an excellent foundation to future study in any of these areas.