Criminology (MPhil / PhD)

An MPhil/PhD is an advanced postgraduate research degree that requires original research and the submission of a substantial dissertation of 60,000 to 100,000 words. Housed within Birkbeck's School of Law, the Department of Criminology provides an exciting research environment in which to pursue critical criminological scholarship at MPhil/PhD level. We offer an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing from social theory, philosophy, gender and sexuality studies, cultural studies, criminal justice, security and prison studies. We will provide a rigorous yet supportive environment to carry out theoretical or applied research in the broad area of criminology, but we encourage innovative interdisciplinary work. 

At Birkbeck, you are initially registered on an MPhil and you upgrade to a PhD after satisfactory progress in the first year or two. You need to find a suitable academic supervisor at Birkbeck, who can offer the requisite expertise to guide and support you through your research. 

Those students on the ESRC-funded programme who don’t have existing methodological training will be required to complete an MRes in Year 1. The MRes Criminology is offered by the Department of Criminology in collaboration with the Department of Politics.


  • Birkbeck has a rich tradition of rigorous, socially engaged research into critical criminological and criminal justice scholarship. Our Department of Criminology, founded in 2016, is a hub for this research and it is also home to the renowned Institute for Criminal Policy Research, a world-leading, influential research centre that produces the World Prison Brief
  • Research students in the School of Law are an important part of our research culture. We have succeeded in recruiting very high-quality research students and the number of UK and overseas PhD students has increased fivefold since 2001. This reflects the School's growing reputation as a training ground for early-career academics working from critical and socio-legal perspectives. 
  • We are among the top 10 law schools in the UK and in the top three in London in the Times Higher Education 2014 REF rankings, while our research environment was judged conducive to producing research of the highest quality.
  • In-house seminars, the Bloomsbury Postgraduate Skills Network and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Interdisciplinary Research Training Network provide additional training. Students have received awards from the AHRC, British Academy, Overseas Research Students Awards, ESRC, Natural Environment Research Council and internal Birkbeck and Law School Studentships.
  • Reading groups are encouraged, and there is an informal doctoral 'work-in-progress group' open to staff and research students, allowing the latter to develop their presentation skills and invite general comment on projects. There are a number of other events designed to support research students. Additionally, an annual postgraduate conference is held to showcase current doctoral research. The upgrade viva examination, whereby students progress from MPhil to PhD registration, gives students experience of a more formal arena in which they have to defend their work to academic staff. 
  • Entry Requirements

    Entry requirements

    Good honours degree in law or a related discipline from the humanities or social sciences.

    International entry requirements

    If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, the requirement for this programme is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 7.0, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.

    If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

    Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.

    Visa requirements

    If you are not from the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK, you may need to apply for a visa.

    The visa you apply for varies according to the length of your course:

    • Courses of more than six months’ duration.
    • Courses of less than six months’ duration.
    • Pre-sessional English language courses.

    International students who require a Tier 4 visa should apply for our three-year evening study BA/BSc/LLB degrees, as these are classified as full-time study and qualify for student visa status. If you are living in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you will not be eligible to enrol as a student on Birkbeck’s part-time evening study degrees.

    For full information, read our visa information for international students page.

  • Fees


    To be confirmed

    Fees and finance

    From 2018-19, PhD students resident in England can apply for government loans of up to £25,000 to cover the cost of tuition fees, maintenance and other study-related costs.

    Flexible finance: pay your fees in monthly instalments at no extra cost. Enrol early to spread your costs and reduce your monthly payments.

    Fees discounts: If you are a member of a union that is recognised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), you may apply for a 10% discount off your tuition fees.

    The School of Social Science, History and Philosophy attracts funding for studentships that ensure researchers of the highest standard can pursue their research with us. We offer a limited number of fully funded research opportunities.

  • Our Research Culture

    Our Research Culture

    The School of Law is an internationally recognised centre for critical and interdisciplinary legal research. It provides an exciting and innovative environment for a wide range of research with a strong theoretical and policy focus. The School publishes Law and Critique: The International Journal of Critical Legal ThoughtRead more about our research.

    Study resources include an induction programme for all postgraduate students, which offers classes on methodology, and regular research seminars, workshops and conferences.

    Birkbeck Library has an extensive collection of books, journals and electronic resources in law and related disciplines such as economics, politics and sociology. For example, it provides access to over 17,000 electronic journals, which are available online 24 hours a day. You can also take advantage of the rich research collections nearby, including those of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Senate House Library, the British Library of Political and Economic Science (LSE Library) and the British Library.

    Birkbeck is also home to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) and the Centre for Law and the Humanities

  • How to apply

    How to apply

    You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course. 

    With your application, you must include a research proposal of 300-1000 words that outlines the main themes of your proposed research project. Please include: a section addressing questions of methodology; an overview of the literature in the field; and a statement relating to the project's intended contribution to legal scholarship. 

    Application deadlines and interviews

    You can apply throughout the year. If you wish to apply for funding, you will need to apply by certain deadlines, so consult the websites of relevant funding bodies for deadlines. 

  • Finding a supervisor

    Finding a supervisor

    Before applying, you will need to find a supervisor within the Department of Criminology who shares your intellectual and research interests and who can support you through the researching and writing of your thesis. Read more about the research expertise and areas of supervision of our academic staff