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Postgraduate course

Criminal Justice MA

Enhance your understanding of criminal justice and its interaction with criminology.

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The Criminal Justice MA will challenge you to engage with the contemporary issues faced by the Criminal Justice System. You will develop a deeper understanding of how our justice and penal systems work. There will be many opportunities to develop your understanding of key themes, issues and debates concerning crime, crime control and criminal justice.

  • Location – York campus
  • Duration – 1 year full-time | 2 years part-time
  • Start date – September 2019, September 2020
  • School – Psychological & Social Sciences

Minimum Entry Requirements

    2:2 undergraduate degree

    6.0 IELTS International students only

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2020-21 £6,500

    International 2020-21 £12,750

Course overview

A key focus is the complex interplay between criminal justice and criminology. For over two decades, rapid change has been endemic in criminal and penal justice. Procedural stability has been absent as the traditional roles of prisons and probation have been changing. This has led to major changes.

The swift and relentless changes in the nature of the criminal and community justice systems in the UK have presented significant challenges for policy makers, managers and front-line practitioners. The MA Criminal Justice programme aims to respond to these challenges, and provide detailed analysis of the complex problems that crime poses for society today.

Modules will be structured around a diverse range of criminal justice, penological and criminological analyses and debates, covering issues such as theory and practice in criminal justice; civil liberties and human rights; gender; race and ethnicity; theoretical criminological frameworks; contemporary issues in the international justice arena and research methods and skills.

You will gain understanding of criminal justice and penal institutions and processes and the core research themes surrounding these processes will be comprehensively addressed. You will also gain greater knowledge of contemporary issues and controversies in criminal justice and punishment.

There is a need for innovative thinking on criminality and offending behaviour, informed by high-quality research. This programme will expose you to diverse and intellectually stimulating material.

The expertise of our academic staff will enable you to make links between cutting-edge criminal justice and criminological theoretical scholarship and the competing demands of contemporary practice.

Course structure

Level 1


Credits: 20

Compulsory module

Engage with the theories that underpin research in criminology and criminal practice and learn the principles of interpreting and conducting research. We will encourage you to use your curiosity to develop research questions. You will then answer these questions using the most appropriate methods. This could include primary empirical work (quantitative and qualitative), or analysing secondary sources.


Credits: 20

Compulsory module

Focus on the theoretical perspectives that shape our understanding of crime. These will include pre-modern, modern and post-modern explanations. Engaging with these will help you to understand crime and criminalisation in contemporary society. Explore the relationship between different theoretical perspectives, for example a feminist perspective. Analyse implications of these perspectives on criminal justice and social policy.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

Critically consider the institutions that deliver criminal justice in England and Wales. Investigate their processes, policies and the philosophical and ideological foundations of these institutions. We will introduce some of the controversial issues that confront the criminal justice system. Some of these include the treatment of offenders and victims. You will learn to recognise how miscarriages of justice occur and where the pressure for reform comes from.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

Gain a critical appreciation of contemporary policies, practices, and theories of punishment. Consider how those in prison or in the community experience these punishment practices. We will encourage you to think about contemporary modes of punishment and their effectiveness. Reflect on what society hopes to achieve when it punishes offenders. Why do some theorists argue punishment has ‘hidden functions’? Why do approaches to punishment vary between countries? 

Credits: 20

Optional module

Explore the notion of ‘ideal’ and ‘non-ideal’ victims. You will analyse and critique the current nature and impact of victim identity and learn about the various debates around victim involvement in the criminal justice process.

Credits: 20

Optional module

Explore key theoretical perspectives, critical issues and debates in the study of the police. Use case studies and topical issues to examine key concepts in police studies. These include police discretion, the use of force, police accountability, and plural policing. This module will focus on policing in England and Wales. However, You will draw on literature and case studies from a range of countries. This will allow you to put policing practices into an international context.


Credits: 20

Optional module

Studying global crime means investigating terrorists, drug cartels and trafficking gangs. You will assess what these groups have in common and what their differences are. This will allow you to understand the dynamics of global crime, its actors, groups, activities and organisation and their geographical aspects. We will explore the approaches used to explain and understand global crime, as well as the policy responses to it. You will do this from a theoretical and practical perspective, using case-based approaches to explore these issues.

Credits: 60

Compulsory module

Apply your knowledge as you produce a substantial piece of written work in an area of your choosing. Conduct research and master the literature of a particular field of study relating to criminal justice. An academic tutor will support your independent research, meeting with you on a one-to-one basis to discuss your research.

Teaching and assessment

This is a taught MA programme with significant emphasis on independent learning. The course is wholly assessed by coursework. There are no exams.

Our teaching, learning and assessment philosophy aims to promote independence of direction, thought and approach. Multiple formative and summative feedback points are offered across the programme. A key learning focus will be the analysis of the complex interplay between criminal justice and criminology.

Taught classes offer you the core information for the module and provide a platform where your ideas can be clarified and challenged. There will be discussion, debate, and presentations - often these will be related to readings of key literature or related materials. Modules are underpinned both by our research and our relationships with the police, probation, prison service and other criminal justice agencies.

You will receive regular formative feedback as you progress. Assignment tasks include essays, reports, and presentations. The aim is to give you the opportunity to react to feedback and develop relevant workplace skills, such as report writing and presentations.

You will be supported by an academic supervisor who you can book tutorials with and gain guidance from. Tutorials allow discussion of various topics in a focused manner. In this forum you will be able to explore your individual ideas, arguments and experiences.

The dissertation enables you to, in discussion with your supervisor, design a research project to showcase your interests in an area relevant to yourself and your work. 

Entry requirements


Minimum Entry Requirements

    2:2 undergraduate degree

    6.0 IELTS International students only


Entry onto this postgraduate course requires a minimum of a 2:2 undergraduate degree in a related subject.

If your undergraduate degree is not in a related field but you have extensive experience of arts practice, your application will be considered.

International Students

If you're an international student, you'll need to demonstrate experience, or qualifications equivalent to those above.

If your first language is not English you must show evidence of English Language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.


We may invite you for interview to discuss your application further and clarify your eligibility for the course. 

APEL policy

If you can't meet these minimum requirements it may be possible to take into account evidence of Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) as an alternative method of meeting the programme’s entry requirements. In such a case, appropriate references and records of employment might be presented to support the applicant’s case for admission.

Fees and funding

UK & EU 2020 - 21

The tuition fee for 2020 entry to this postgraduate course is £6,500 for full-time UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

For UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students studying part time, the tuition fee for 2020 entry to this postgraduate course is £3,250 per year.

Postgraduate loans are available to help you pay for your master’s course. Find out more about postgraduate funding opportunities.

International (non-EU) 2020 - 21

The tuition fee for 2020 entry to this postgraduate course is £12,750 for international students.

For international students studying part time, the tuition fee for 2020 entry to this postgraduate course is £6,375 per year.

Due to immigration laws, international students on a Tier 4 visa must be studying full-time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

More information about funding your studies is available on our International Fees and Funding page.

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2020-21 £6,500 per year

    International 2020-21 £12,750 per year

Alumni Scholarships

If you are continuing to postgraduate study directly after studying at undergraduate level with us, we offer a reduction in fees depending on the classification of degree you achieve.

If you are graduating from an undergraduate degree at York St John University this year you could be entitled to:

  • a 50% reduction in course fees if you achieve a 1st
  • a 35% reduction if you achieve a 2:1
  • a 20% reduction if you achieve a 2:2

These reductions apply to all York and London-based taught MA, MBA, MSc and MRes courses, except for Physiotherapy (Pre-registration) MSc, Occupational Therapy (Pre-registration) MSc and all PCGE courses.

All York St John University alumni are eligible for a 10% reduction on their postgraduate course fees regardless of when you graduated. The 10% alumni discount will not be added on top of these reductions.

Additional costs and financial support


Whilst studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.


View our accommodation pages for detailed information on accommodation and living costs.

Apply for this course

You can apply directly to the course via our Apply Now links. Please select the variant of the course that you intend to undertake (e.g. full-time or part-time) as the link will take you to a customised form for the specific course. You will need to create a login and password and complete the online form. Please contact two referees in advance of submitting your application as an automated request will go out as soon as you submit, and your application will not be reviewed until both references are in place.

Apply Now: Full-time

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Fees and funding

Tuition fees

UK & EU 2019 - 20

The tuition fee for 2019 entry to this postgraduate course is £5,000 for full-time UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

For part-time options, see the Fees & Funding webpages for more information

Postgraduate Loan: A Postgraduate Loan is available to help you pay for your Master’s course. Find out more about the postgraduate loan.

A 10% discount is applicable to all YSJU Alumni (subject to a minimum of 120 credits and achievement of a recognised award) undertaking PG level study (excludes PGCE).

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2020-21 £6,500 per year

    International 2020-21 £12,750 per year

International (non-EU) 2019 - 20

The tuition fee for 2019 entry to this postgraduate course is £12,750 for international students.

Due to immigration laws, International Students on a Tier 4 visa must be studying full-time. For more information about Visa requirements and Short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration webpages.

International Fees & Funding

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