MSc Applied Criminology and Forensic Psychology

Postgraduate, Full-Time

Develop a deep insight into crime and criminal behaviour by studying this uniquely practical and applied course in criminology and forensic psychology.

  • Napier code:


  • Course type:


  • Duration:

    1 year

  • Award:


  • Location:

    Sighthill campus

Ask about this course

About you
Enter first name
Enter last name

Course introduction

Studying applied criminology and forensic psychology at postgraduate level will allow you to develop a range of analytical and practical skills benefitting you as a practitioner or researcher.

You’ll have the opportunity of a work placement alongside specialised modules covering mediation, international criminology, assessment of offenders, child protection and advanced quantitative and qualitative research methods. These modules will give you a valuable set of skills for both employment and further research.

Your tutors will be research-active staff who are experts in their field. You’ll also benefit from external practitioners who bring their practical skills and experience to the course.

We encourage you to submit your application for September 2018 entry by 31st July 2018.

You’ll develop a critical awareness of topics at the forefront of criminology and forensic psychology, and the contexts and theories that influence practice in these areas.

The applied focus of this course provides an excellent foundation in risk assessment of offenders, methods of rehabilitation, use of forensic interviewing strategies, mediation skills and facial composite construction.

Alongside these skills you’ll also learn directly from leading experts about current research and debates in criminology and forensic psychology which directly affect people at all points in the legal system.

Additionally you'll acquire excellent transferable research skills in both quantitative and qualitative methods which will enable you to carry out high quality research in a variety of contexts and with ethical integrity.

This is a one year full-time course delivered over three trimesters. You’ll learn by a variety of teaching methods including lectures, tutorials, laboratory sessions and independent study.

Subjects include

  • Practical Forensic Psychology (assessing offenders and working with witnesses)
  • Advanced Forensic Psychology (therapeutic jurisprudence and neuroethics)
  • Criminal Justice in Practice
  • Current Topics in Crime
  • Comparative and International Criminology
  • Advanced Research Skills
  • Community Safety and Mediation
  • Investigative Journalism
  • Work Placement
  • Dissertation

Study modules mentioned above are indicative only. Some changes may occur between now and the time that you study.

Full information on this is available in our disclaimer.

With a mix of subject specific knowledge, practical skills and technical abilities graduates will have the opportunity to develop a career in a range of occupations including:

  • HM Prisons and secure units
  • Probation service
  • Police services
  • Social work
  • Court services
  • Legal services
  • Voluntary sector
  • Community development
  • Adult guidance
  • Local and central government
  • Academia and research
  • Health services
  • Forensic services
  • Private practice

We encourage you to submit your application for September 2018 entry by 31st July 2018. 

The entry requirement for this course is a Bachelor (Honours) Degree at 2:1 (or equivalent) in a related subject (e.g. social sciences, criminology, psychology, sociology, law, humanities, forensic nursing, policing). Those wishing to apply with a 2:2 should contact the programme leader.

We may also consider lesser qualifications if you have sufficient relevant work experience within the industry. 

English language requirements

If your first language isn't English, you'll normally need to undertake an approved English language test and our minimum English language requirements will apply.

This may not apply if you have completed all your school qualifications in English, or your undergraduate degree was taught and examined in English (within two years of starting your postgraduate course). Check our country pages to find out if this applies to you.

Our entry requirements indicate the minimum qualifications with which we normally accept students. Competition for places varies from year to year and you aren't guaranteed a place if you meet the minimum qualifications.

International students

If your qualifications aren't listed above, visit our country pages to get entry requirements for your country.

Please note that non-EU international students are unable to enrol onto the following courses:

BN Nursing/MN Nursing (Adult, Child, Mental Health or Learning Disability)

BM Midwifery/MM Midwifery

Admissions policies

We are committed to being as accessible as possible to anyone who wants to achieve higher education.

Our admissions policies will help you understand our admissions procedures and how decisions are made.

Tuition fees
Students from 2018/19 2019/20
Home/EU £5,850 tba
Overseas £13,000 tba

Frequently Asked Questions about Fees
Information of Bursaries and Scholarships

Modules that you will study* as part of this course

Advanced Forensic Psychology ( PSY11103 )

This module addresses three areas of advanced forensic psychology:

1) The development of neuroethics as a body of work to understand and monitor the implications of neuroscience in terms of legal and social responsibility.

2) Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ) including: how TJ is used at multiple points in the legal system with different types of offender; how TJ operates internationally and the benefits of internationalising this field of research and practice; and how TJ provides perspectives on psychological legal controversies (e.g. forced treatment, drug policy).

3) Biological aspects of criminal behaviour including the role of epigenetics in the development of psychopathology and offending, and how catathymic processes and crises drive an individual towards criminal action.

Further information

Advanced Research Skills ( PSY11102 )

This module introduces you to advanced research skills in psychology and the social sciences. You will learn about qualitative and quantitative research methods and you will have the opportunity to explore these methods across a variety of research examples. You will also plan a major piece of research and produce a successful application for ethical approval for this project. If you have not studied research methods before, additional support sessions will provide you with research skills to the relevant level. This module will equip you to undertake masters level research using a variety of advanced techniques.

The content of this module covers three related areas:
Quantitative Research
a) Applying multivariate statistical analysis techniques using SPSS (e.g. principal components analysis, ANCOVA, cluster analysis)
b) Applying multivariate statistical analysis techniques using appropriate software

Qualitative Research
a) Designing research instruments and collecting qualitative data (e.g. interviewing, ethnography, conducting focus groups etc).
b) Documentary analysis.
c) Analysing qualitative data.

Ethics in Research
a) You will study the importance of ethics in the design and implementation of research.
b) You will produce a successful application for ethical approval for a piece of research.

Further information

Child Protection in Context ( NMS11134 )

In this module, you will have the opportunity to explore children’s needs and rights, conflicting rights, as well as changing definitions and social constructions of childhood and child abuse. Also included in the module are a review of an ecological understanding of child development and attachment theory and both a theoretical and empirical understanding of the impact of abuse and neglect, which includes taking a critical approach to the concepts of resilience, adversity, and vulnerability. The importance of changing societies, international perspectives, and issues of equality and diversity will be highlighted.

You will be introduced to how we can learn from public inquiries and serious and significant case reviews, contextualising their impact upon legislation, policy, and practice, including multi-agency working, professional roles and responsibilities, and information sharing.
Working and making decisions with parents and families will be considered alongside exploring the factors which can promote and undermine positive parenting and the capacity for parenting, including in particular the role of environmental factors and the impact of poverty upon both parenting and child development. Both structural and individualist explanations of poverty are considered, as are some theories as to why abuse occurs. All of this sets the context for understanding primary, secondary and tertiary intervention and different paradigmatic approaches to child protection.

Further information

Community Safety and Mediation ( SSC11109 )

This module will explore: community safety, well-being and partnership working; the prevention of crime and harm; core differences, tensions and overlaps between the main forms of conflict management, transformation and resolution; Mediation within criminal justice (Victim-Offender mediation) and community settings, focussing on historical roots, theoretical justifications and operational models in international perspective; practical mediation techniques including conflict analysis, conflict and communication, and ethics in mediation.

Further information

Criminal Justice in Practice ( SSC11110 )

This module provides students with a critical introduction to the study of criminal justice institutions, practices and participants. It will examine some of the main elements of responses to crime and victimisation, focusing on theories of punishment, imprisonment, community justice, offender ‘management’ and youth justice in the UK. It will also focus on current developments and emphases in criminal justice practice with topics such as desistance, the reintegration and resettlement of offenders, victim-centred justice, restorative justice, privatisation of criminal justice, treatment of offenders and evaluation of interventions (e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy). Critical analysis and evaluation of theory, policy and practice will be embedded throughout the module.

Further information

Current Topics in Crime ( SSC11111 )

Current issues, debates, challenges and subjects in applied criminology and forensic psychology could include for example: managerialism and criminal justice; victims’ rights and protection; offender profiling; privatisation of prisons; male domestic violence; globalisation, terrorism and human rights; recent developments in youth justice; recent developments in restorative justice theories and practices (victim-offender mediation); power dynamics in criminal justice; ‘crimmigration’; identity fraud; lie detection; personality and crime; biological approaches in psychology. Where relevant, topics will be underpinned by explanations of offending behaviour and victimisation. The module content will flexibly adhere to the different policy/practical developments at a national and international level.

Further information

Dissertation [40 Credits] ( SSC11112 )

The dissertation is the culmination of the Masters Programme and will draw on the students’ learning over the course of the Programme. The dissertation is studied independently with the assistance of a supervisor and is a chance for the student to academically pursue an area of Applied Criminology/Forensic Psychology of particular interest. Dissertations can take a range of formats such as empirical research, an improvement project or a systematic review. The dissertation requires the student to put into practice a range of skills developed over the course of the Programme such as: searching and critically reviewing national and international literature, applying theoretical frameworks, research design and ethics, data collection (qualitative, quantitative and mixed), data analysis, research writing and dissemination.

Further information

International and Comparative Criminology ( SSC11113 )

The first part of the module aims to engage students in the critical analysis of local and global responses to crime concerns and will explore: cybercrime; organised/corporate crime; terrorism; drugs and crime; human trafficking; international/global policing.

The second part of the module aims to engage students in the critical analysis of specific responses to crime within different jurisdictions, including Anglo-America, Scandinavia and low crime countries such as Saudi Arabia and Japan. Topics will include: how to conduct comparative research on crime and control; comparing criminal justice systems; comparative criminal justice policy making; comparative penal politics; comparative youth justice; comparative responses to victimisation.

Further information

Practical Forensic Psychology ( PSY11100 )

This module comprises two work streams.
Work stream 1:
Offender Assessment will explore tools that are used to assess offenders, evaluate interventions and treatments intended to rehabilitate offenders, and you will investigate risk management planning and communication of risk in relation to violence. In each practical session you will develop a critical understanding of the practical aspects of clinical/forensic assessment and decision making, social and ethical issues concerning interventions and offender assessment, and current risk assessment practices and research. You will also critically explore the past and present of clinical/forensic assessment and decision making, the current state of risk assessment practice and research, and how this may impact on ‘real life’.
Work stream 2:
Witnesses will explore three investigative applications that are employed to obtain information from eyewitnesses: investigative interviewing, facial composite production, and eyewitness memory and identification from CCTV footage. In each practical session you will develop a critical understanding of the psychological theories that underpin prescribed interviewing and identification practice. You will expand on this knowledge to explore and evaluate current trends in forensic research. In addition to your practical classes, you will engage with forensic policy and practice via three guest lectures delivered by professional forensic practitioners.

What you will learn:
This module will consist of lectures, group discussion and practical skill development tasks. Students will engage in six two-hour sessions for Workstream 1 and three three-hour practical sessions and three one –hour lectures for Workstream 2.

Work stream 1: Offenders
These sessions will be focused on skill building. The sessions will cover:
1) The history and current practice of forensic assessments of violence risk. Students will learn about: the theoretical background of, and current practice of, violence risk assessment; key risk assessment measures; and will conduct their own ‘mock’ risk assessment using a case file adapted from real practice.
2&3) The most recent thinking on the practice of risk management. This links directly into the assessment of risk and is often viewed as the ‘second stage’ of a risk assessment. Students will have the opportunity to develop and hone practical skills in risk management, by working on a mock risk management plan.
4) This session will explore the next stage of offender assessment: strategic interventions, treatment, and rehabilitation. It will explore offender treatments and the underlying psychology behind these. Interventions aimed at two distinct populations (juvenile and sexual offenders) will be critically considered, with a focus on the validity of outcome measures and formal evaluation.
5) This session will explore a useful and important element of offender assessment: communication. The way in which offender assessment outcomes, management plans and interventions are communicated is of the utmost importance, and varies across different stakeholder groups. The psychology of communication and the most current thinking on the communication of offender assessment to different stakeholders will be discussed, with hands on, practical activities at the heart of this session.
6) This session will consolidate the learning across the previous five classes. It will discuss the more psychological aspects of human decision making, and how and where biases and common errors in decision making in judgement may occur. This will be applied to judgements and decisions made during offender assessments.

Work stream 2: Witnesses
Practical 1: Witness Interviewing – Exploration of eyewitness interviewing techniques and the underlying psychology. Indicative content includes Cognitive Interview, Holistic Cognitive Interview, Self-Administered Interview. Actual content will vary depending on current research but may focus on factors such as timeline and drawing memory retrieval; encoding specificity; verbal overshadowing v’s spatial or temporal memory reinstatement; effects of post-event and co-witness information.

Practical 2: Facial composite construction – Exploration of models of memory and communication using EvoFIT and PROfit software. Actual content will vary but may focus on topics such as holistic v’s featural encoding and interface; encoding/storage/retrieval of face memory; encoding specificity; holistic or spatial recall; cultural effects.

Practical 3: Eyewitness memory and ID from CCTV footage – This practical will explore human factors influencing identification judgements. Topics will be influenced by current themes in identification research, for example the use of biometric interfaces or cultural influences. Where possible, eye-tracking technology will be utilised to highlight individual differences in human performance on identification tasks.

Guest lectures (3 x 1 hour) will be delivered by practitioners able to provide first-hand accounts of current procedures and technologies. Attention will be paid to the complex relationship between forensic research, development of policy and forensic practice. Lectures will be delivered by professional practitioners from organisations such as Police Scotland, Forensic Services, Scottish Police Authority.

Further information

Specialist and Investigative Journalism ( JAC11140 )

12. Module Content
This module will provide you with the opportunity to conduct an in-depth journalistic investigation into a specialist journalism topic of your choice. You will be introduced to advanced tools for investigative journalism, including modern technology and database journalism, computer assisted research and consulting public records, but also freedom of information legislation and social networking. You will learn how to access contacts, gain the trust of witnesses and evaluate tip-offs and information from human sources such as insiders, whistle-blowers, axe grinders, corporate representatives or consumers. You will discuss ways to check the authenticity of documents, to uncover miscarriages of justice and carefully guarded evidence for political and corporate corruption, and to see through inaccurate claims made by professional propaganda machineries.
Following the money is key to any journalistic enquiry, so you’ll be introduced to the global world of business and finance, gain an insight into the impact markets thousands of miles away can have, and gain an understanding of political risk and why it matters. You’ll be introduced to key issues in global economics and to the way organisations report their finances, and you’ll learn what to look for in financial statements. You’ll learn to track the financial trail of international criminal networks, unearth financial secrets buried in tax havens and to understand and unpick company and stock market records with a view to informing your investigation.
You’ll receive tips for building a sturdy case, formulating a strong story and managing an investigation over a sustained period of time. You will be introduced to strategies for finding exclusives, for identifying ideal interviewees, and learn to digest complex information and to package stories to appeal to non-specialist audiences. You will also compare ethical, regulatory and legal frameworks for investigative journalism around the world, including press freedom and censorship, the rise of super-injunctions, libel laws, privacy laws, anonymity, confidentiality and the protection of sources in different world regions. You’ll debate the value of going undercover, taking on a false identity, fabricating set-ups, employing private investigation agencies and check book journalism. Finally, you’ll also learn about the practical and legal implications of cross-border investigations.

Further information

Work Placement ( PSY11101 )

There are three ways in which you can engage with this module.
You should select one approach.
a) Edinburgh Napier University has sourced a number of work placements relevant to the MSc Applied Criminology and Forensic Psychology (ACFP) programme. These placements can be applied for through a competitive process involving the placement provider and the MSc programme staff.

b) You may already be working or volunteering in a role relevant to the MSc ACFP and you may wish to use your ongoing employment (or volunteering) to complete the assessments for this module.

c) You may want to pursue a new employment or volunteering opportunity once you have built up experience on the programme and decided where your interests lie.
You could take this approach instead of doing a) or b). The programme staff, in conjunction with employability staff at Edinburgh Napier, will offer support to you in doing this.

Through engaging in a work placement, or relevant voluntary work, related to your course you will explore the concepts, debates, policies, initiatives, and funding related to the area in which you’re working. You will also relate your work experiences to the academic content of your course where possible and reflect on the value of your prior learning. You will undertake self-assessment and write personal learning outcomes to enhance your employability and confidence. Reflective and critical thinking will be a key part of your submissions.

Further information

* These are indicative only and reflect the course structure in the current academic year. Some changes may occur between now and the time that you study.