Applied Criminology & Forensic Psychology MSc

Develop a deep insight into crime and what causes criminal behaviour by studying this uniquely practical and applied course

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

You’ll have the opportunity of a work placement alongside specialised modules covering areas including the psychology of evidence, international criminology, assessment of offenders, responses to crime, 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 are all experts in this field. We also invite external practitioners who bring their practical skills and experience to the course throughout the year.

Due to the competitive nature of this programme, we advise you submit your application as early as possible.



Students at work at Merchiston campus

Mode of Study:

Full-time (available as Part-time)


1 year

Start date:




Course details

You’ll develop a critical awareness of topics at the forefront of criminology and forensic psychology, as well as 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, 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.

What you study

Compulsory modules include:

  • Practical Forensic Psychology
  • Current Topics in Crime
  • Criminal Justice in Practice
  • Advanced Research Skills
  • Dissertation

Optional modules include:

  • Evidence and Investigation
  • Understanding and Responding to Crime
  • Advanced Forensic Psychology
  • International and Comparative Criminology
  • Advice and Consultancy
  • Work Placement

Additional costs

Students enrolling in the optional Work Placement module are expected to pay for travel costs

Lead academics and short bio 

Faye Skelton:

  • Completed PhD at Lancaster University
  • Worked for over ten years at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) before moving to Edinburgh Napier University in December 2014. 
  • Research interests focused on face recognition. Collaborates with Dr Charlie Frowd (UCLan) on improving Police facial composites using both feature-based (PROfit) and evolutionary (EvoFIT) software systems. Faye has also worked with Dr John Marsh (UCLan) on the effects of auditory distraction on face processing. 
  • Faye is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and has extensive teaching experience in applied cognition: eyewitness memory and identification procedures, facial composites, false and recovered memories, false confessions and police interviewing.
  • calendar How you’ll be taught

    This is a one year full-time course delivered over three trimesters. You’ll learn by a variety of teaching methods including face-to-face lectures, guest lectures, tutorials, laboratory sessions and independent study. You will be required to attend classes on our Sighthill Campus which will all take place Monday to Friday between 9am and 6pm. Some modules may also include some online teaching or support sessions.

  • note and pen Assessments

    You will be assessed by a range of applied coursework including policy briefings and reports, risk formulations, individual and group oral presentations, alongside more traditional assessments such as essays and the dissertation.

  • briefcase Work placement

    Through engaging in an optional work placement related to your course you will explore the concepts, debates, policies, initiatives, and funding related to the area in which you’re working.

    The Work Placement module is flexible. We have programme-sourced placements with a wide variety of organisations, however it is also possible to find your own placement or to use your existing work. 


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) A critical appreciation of some of the ethical dilemmas that are faced by forensic psychologists in their practice within criminal and civil contexts, and an understanding of how research has informed changes in specific aspects of forensic psychology practice over the last 50 years.

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. The content of this module covers three related areas:

1) Quantitative research, including applying multivariate statistical analysis techniques using appropriate software (e.g. principal components analysis, SEM, cluster analysis)

2) Qualitative research, including methods for collecting and analysing qualitative data (e.g. interviewing, focus groups, documentary analysis etc.).

3) Research ethics

You will have the opportunity to explore these topics across a variety of research examples from criminology and forensic psychology.

Further information

Criminal Justice in Practice ( SSC11110 )

This module will provide you 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

Evidence and Investigation ( PSY11104 )

1. To develop knowledge of UK criminal justice systems and the differences between them.
2. To consider the role of psychologists within UK criminal justice systems.
3. To provide a comprehensive overview of the interaction between psychology and the criminal justice system.
4. To develop a critical understanding of the role of psychological research in informing and enhancing practice.
5. To consider differences between adversarial and inquisitorial legal systems.

Indicative content includes: Eyewitness memory and identification of suspects; false and recovered memories; interviewing witnesses and suspects including vulnerable individuals; false confessions; false allegations; detection of deception; investigative and jury decision making; expert witnesses.

Further information

International and Comparative Criminology ( SSC11113 )

The first part of the module aims to engage you 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 you 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: Risk in Forensic Populations
Risk in Forensic Populations will explore the biological, social, and psychological risk factors that contribute, both individually and through interacting with one another, to risk of violence and other anti-social behaviours, which may manifest in criminal and/or family law cases. You will learn about the Structured Professional Judgement (SPJ) approach to risk assessment in both criminal and civil cases, including the application of at least one SPJ risk assessment tool to a sample forensic case. You will develop the skills to construct, orally present, and be questioned in a mock multi-disciplinary risk management setting about, a formulation of a sample forensic case. A guest lecturer, who is an expert practitioner in their field, will present a critical evaluation of how risk is assessed, treated and managed in serious offenders in the UK. You will learn how to think and speak reflectively about your practice, and you will write a reflective diary entry relating to risk assessment and to risk management strategies in the UK.

Work stream 2: Witnesses
Witnesses will explore three investigative applications that are employed to obtain information from eyewitnesses: investigative interviewing (including UK models such as PEACE and PRICE), facial composite production, and eyewitness 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 guest lectures delivered by professional forensic practitioners.

Further information

Understanding and Responding to Crime ( SSC11124 )

This is indicative content and may change from year to year based on staffing and student feedback:
This module provides a critical examination of the interweaving of politics, criminological theory and responses to crime (including but not limited to those in the criminal justice system). We begin with an overview of key criminological understandings of the causes of crime, setting the scene for theory which will be integrated throughout the module, before discussing the political dimensions of crime and the changing politics of crime control. The module then discusses policing and crime prevention, before addressing radical and recent ‘zemiological’ (the study of social harm) and abolitionist perspectives on crime. The module then considers policing, community safety, and criminal justice in their social, historical and political contexts, as well as policy developments in these fields and more radical and abolitionist perspectives. It concludes with a critical evaluation of ‘evidence-based’ responses to crime, helping to set the scene for you to start thinking about dissertation projects in Tri 2 and 3.

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.


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

Full information is available in our disclaimer.

Entry requirements

The entry requirement for this course is a Bachelor (Honours) Degree at 2:2 (or equivalent) in a related subject (e.g. social sciences, criminology, psychology, sociology, law, humanities, forensic nursing, policing). Where possible, you should also seek to gain some relevant experience before applying.

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.

International students

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
Entry requirements by country

Please note that international students are unable to enrol onto the following courses:
  • BN Nursing/MSc Nursing (Pre-registration) (Adult, Mental Health, Child, Learning Disabilities)
  • BM Midwifery/MM Midwifery
  • All Graduate Apprenticeship courses.

See who can apply for more information on Graduate Apprenticeship courses.

Admissions policies

We’re committed to admitting students who have the potential to succeed and benefit from our programmes of study. 

Our admissions policies will help you understand our admissions procedures, and how we use the information you provide us in your application to inform the decisions we make.

Undergraduate admissions policies
Postgraduate admissions policies

Fees & funding

The course fees you'll pay and the funding available to you will depend on a number of factors including your nationality, location, personal circumstances and the course you are studying. We also have a number of bursaries and scholarships available to our students.

Students From 2022/23 2023/24
Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Republic of Ireland £6,530 £6,725
Overseas and EU £14,410 £15,420

Please note tuition fees are subject to an annual review and may increase from one year to the next.
For more information on this and other Tuition Fee matters please see Frequently Asked Questions about Fees

Click this link for Information of Bursaries and Scholarships

Please note that the tuition fees liable to be paid by EU nationals commencing their studies from 1 August 2021 will be the Overseas fee rate. The University offers a range of attractive Tuition Fee bursaries to students resident in specific countries. More information on these can be found here.


Our past graduates have gone on to work with Police Scotland, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies, third sector organisations such as Includem, to work in counter-terrorism, and others have gone on to study for PhDs. Several of our students have gained employment as a direct result of the work they have completed on their work placement.

Careers include: 

  • HM Prisons and secure units
  • Probation service
  • Police services
  • Social work (requires further study)
  • Court services
  • Legal services
  • Voluntary sector
  • Community development
  • Adult guidance
  • Local and central government
  • Academia and research
  • Health services
  • Forensic services
  • Private practice
Police Scotland student placements at Torphicen Street Station sitting at a table talking to an officer