Criminology is a popular undergraduate course amongst UK students, with many going onto careers such as being a solicitor, a civil servant or even a journalist. As a course that is present in most UK universities, criminology can also be combined with other course options such as sociology or forensic studies. If your course choice is your main priority when picking a university, you won’t be in short supply! But with so many options to choose from, how do you know which is the best course? Luckily for you, we have summed up the best universities for criminology in the UK below!

What is criminology?

what is criminology

Criminology is a multifaceted discipline that delves deep into the realm of crime and its far-reaching implications. It’s not just about understanding the acts of crime themselves but also about exploring the intricate layers of societal, psychological, and legal aspects that influence criminal behaviour. This field examines why crimes occur, how they can be prevented, and the best ways to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes.

At its core, criminology blends sociology with psychology, law, and even anthropology to provide a comprehensive understanding of crime and criminal behaviour. It investigates various factors such as the impact of societal structures, family backgrounds, economic conditions, and individual psychology in shaping criminal tendencies.

A degree in criminology opens doors to a wide array of career paths. For those inclined towards action and direct involvement, law enforcement roles such as police officers, detectives, and federal agents are prominent options. On the other hand, if you’re drawn to the study and analysis side, roles in academic research, policy development, and criminal psychology await. Additionally, criminology graduates find opportunities in legal professions, working as criminal lawyers, legal analysts, or probation officers.

The field also offers a chance to make a tangible difference in society. Criminologists play a crucial role in shaping public policies, developing crime prevention strategies, and contributing to the rehabilitation of offenders. Their work not only helps in understanding the current crime landscape but also in predicting and preventing future criminal activities.

Factors to consider when choosing a university for criminology

which are the best criminology unis

Selecting the right university for criminology is a decision that shapes not just your academic journey but also your future career path. It’s about finding an institution that not only imparts knowledge but also fosters critical thinking, innovation, and practical skills in the field of criminology.

The academic reputation of a university is a typically a good indicator of the quality of education you can expect. But there’s also other aspects to consider. For example, are they the best criminology universities if you want to do lots of research? What kind of published work have the lecturers done? Institutions with strong ties to law enforcement, legal firms, and government bodies can also provide students with practical training, internships, and networking opportunities, bridging the gap between academic learning and professional practice.

The curriculum and specialisations offered by a university are also vital to consider. Criminology is a diverse field, and different courses may focus on various aspects such as sociology, law, or psychology. It’s important to choose a course that aligns with your interests and career goals.

Additionally, the location of the university can influence your study experience. Being in a city with a diverse socio-economic landscape or near legal and governmental hubs can offer practical learning opportunities outside the classroom.

Top 10 criminology universities in the UK for 2024

1. Durham University

best universities for criminology
Source: Kristupas Kemeža, Pexels

Durham University is also renowned for having a great criminology department. The collegiate university ranks as the sixth best university in the UK, as reported by The Complete University Guide. Although only offering two criminology courses, both of which are Criminology BA (hons) but one with an additional foundation year, Durham is a solid choice for your undergraduate degree.

2. Loughborough University

Loughborough University
Source: Loughborough University

Known primarily across Britain as a sporty university, Loughborough also run a well-developed set of criminology courses. Loughborough is currently ranked as the seventh best university in the UK. Regarding criminology, there are seven related courses to choose from, including a Psychology with Criminology BSc. The Guardian voted Loughborough as their top UK university to study criminology in 2022, reporting a student course satisfaction rate of over 80%. With plenty of options, Loughborough is a good option for those looking to do a joint criminology degree. Especially if you enjoy watching or playing sports as well!

3. Staffordshire University

best universities for criminology uk - staffordshire university
Source: Staffordshire University

Offering nine criminology-related courses, Staffordshire University has a well-deserved place of third on The Guardian’s rankings. 83.2% of students reported being satisfied with the teaching received from their course. The promise of satisfactory teaching and a range of enticing different courses to choose from makes Staffordshire University stand out.

4. The University of Leeds

best universities for criminology
Source: The University of Leeds,

As one of the largest universities in the country and a leading research university, The University of Leeds is profound in Britain. Although only offering one criminology course (BA Criminal Justice and criminology), they have a range of similar courses that are applicable to the same subject area of criminology, such as Sociology. The University of Leeds held a 74% employment rate for post-graduate students from their criminology courses. This, alongside other factors, is encouraging for those considering this university for criminology.

4. Swansea University

Swansea best for studying criminology

Offering multiple combinations of criminology courses, it is easy to see why so many students enjoy Swansea University. Having been given a 4.4 out of 5-star student rating on WhatUni, Swansea University consistently provides a good quality balance for students between work and play. Through courses such as Criminology and Criminal Justice BSc, you will venture forth into post-graduate life with a dynamic understanding of your subject area. Situated right on the beach, Swansea University is a great criminology option for those who also want to live the surf life. Alongside three year courses, Swansea University also offers four year courses with year abroad options!

5. Bangor University

best universities for criminology
Source: Kuriakose John, Pexels

Additionally, if you want to keep your search focused in Wales, look no further! Bangor University in North Wales also offers a wide variety of criminology degrees. This allows you to develop skills in other areas as well as criminology. Thus, benefitting those wanting more choice in their post-university job opportunities. Courses such as Modern Languages and Criminology and Criminal Justice BA (hons) provide opportunities to explore other subjects whilst having criminology as your primary focus.

6. University of Bath

University of Bath
Source: University of Bath

Bath offers an undergraduate degree in criminology that focuses on crime and criminal justice issues in modern society. It covers topics such as human rights, terrorism, social justice, contemporary social issues, and globalisation of crime. The programme aims to provide students with an understanding of how criminal justice agencies work and interact and how criminal justice policy is created. Graduates work for huge organisations, such as Save the Children, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Rolls Royce and more. So you know you’re in good hands!

7. UCL

Source: UCL

Instead of a broad criminology degree, you can specialise in crime and security science at one of the best universities in London. UCL’s course is a three-year programme that provides students with a solid grounding in the principles of security and crime science in the first year. In the second and third year, you’ll have the opportunity to choose from a range of optional modules, including a work placement module. The programme is structured around specific strands, such as Crime Theories, which explores the causes and responses to crime through modules like Understanding the Crime Event and Psychology and Crime. You’re taught by academic experts in security and crime reduction, with input from practitioners and policymakers to provide real-world relevance and impact.

8. Lancaster University

best universities for criminology uk
Source: Lancaster University Facebook Page

The criminology degree programme at Lancaster University provides students with a critical understanding of crime and criminal justice through a social justice lens. Students can shape their studies with optional modules that cover a range of topics, such as drugs, sex crimes and organised crime. The programme is taught by world-leading academics at the prestigious Law School, ranked as 55 in the world by The Times in 2022. Graduates have gone on to work for criminal justice agencies, charities, youth offending services, and more. So it’s a diverse degree course, as well as being one of the best universities for criminology in the UK.

9. University of Southhampton

Southampton university

A huge 91% of students claimed staff were great at explaining things on the criminology course. This means you’re most likely going to come away understanding everything easily. That’s a huge plus, and one of the key reasons why Southampton is one of the best universities for criminology around the UK. It’s quite a complex subject, so knowing what’s going on is crucial. You’ll be able to study things such as delivering social justice, historical concepts and everyday inequalities.

10. University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham focuses on understanding crime and related issues of punishment and victimisation, with a unique emphasis on social harm and social drivers of crime. This focus on complex social problems and human rights makes Birmingham one of the best universities for criminology in the UK, as it provides a different approach to some others. You’ll study traditional criminological questions and contextualise the causes of crime within societal contexts, while also examining contemporary debates around harm and crime.
The UK offers plenty of variation in criminology courses at different universities. Despite rankings from prestigious sites such as The Guardian and the Complete University Guide, the best universities for criminology are relative to the attending students. It is important to consider your own priorities when choosing a university course or indeed university to attend. Whether this is from university rankings, course recommendations or lifestyle choices, we wish you all the best in your decision-making!