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Programme & Unit Catalogues

SP20341: Theorising crime, justice and punishment

[Page last updated: 04 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 12 [equivalent to 24 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 240
Level: Intermediate (FHEQ level 5)
Academic Year
Assessment Summary: EX 50%, PF 50%
Assessment Detail:
  • PF 50% (PF 50%)
  • Exam 50% (EX 50%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Aims: This unit aims to:
1) Equip students with a firm understanding of a range of criminological theories related to crime, justice, and punishment
2) Enable students to assess and compare the merits of different criminological theorisations of crime, justice, and punishment
3) Foster an understanding of the development of criminology as a discipline, and its canonical texts and theories - as well as to appreciate what might have been excluded from the discipline, and why.

Learning Outcomes: By the end of the unit students will be able to:
* Identify and evaluate a range of criminological theories on crime, justice, and punishment
* Compare and contrast criminological conceptions of crime, justice, and punishment, and assess the merits of these different approaches
* Appreciate the role of theory in the research process, and critically evaluate the contributions of key criminological thinkers.

Skills: The unit will foster the following intellectual skills:
* The ability to draw on and synthesise evidence from a range of sources
* The ability to assess the merits and appropriateness of different explanations for crime and deviance
* The ability to develop a reasoned argument and exercise critical judgement The unit will foster the following professional/practical skills:
* The ability to critically reflect on different theoretical/methodological approaches within criminology
* Written and oral communication skills The unit will foster the following transferable/key skills:
* The ability to develop and present a well-structured, coherent essay.
* The ability to marshal evidence and theory to support or challenge an argument in such a way as to demonstrate a critical awareness of the origin and bases of knowledge
* The ability to apply key concepts in criminology and cognate disciplines to a range of problems
* The ability to work and communicate as individuals, as well as in a team
* Skills in information technology
* Critical and analytical skills.

Content: This core, second year unit aims to deepen students' understanding of criminological theory. The unit explores and evaluates different conceptions of 'crime', 'justice' and 'punishment', and provides an overview of different theoretical approaches in criminology, setting these in critical, historical perspective. We give due consideration to the key questions in criminology - concerning the causes of crime, the function of punishment, and the purpose of justice - and explore how different theoretical approaches have been put to work to answer them. A range of approaches are considered - from early criminological approaches to penology and explanations for crime, to strain theory, sub-cultural theories of deviance, social learning theory, critical criminological approaches, and cultural criminology.

Programme availability:

SP20341 is a Designated Essential Unit on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences

SP20341 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • UHSP-AFB16 : BSc(Hons) Social Policy (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AKB16 : BSc(Hons) Social Policy with Year long work placement (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AFB05 : BSc(Hons) Social Sciences (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AKB05 : BSc(Hons) Social Sciences with Year long work placement (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AFB04 : BSc(Hons) Sociology (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AKB04 : BSc(Hons) Sociology with Year long work placement (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AFB10 : BSc(Hons) Sociology and Social Policy (Year 2)
  • UHSP-AKB10 : BSc(Hons) Sociology and Social Policy with Year long work placement (Year 2)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.