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Criminology research

We are internationally renowned for our critical and interdisciplinary research on criminological theory, policy and practice. The pursuit of innovative research lies at the heart of our activities, feeding into our teaching programmes and informing our interactions with policy-makers, public bodies, the legal profession and criminal justice practitioners, NGOs, campaign and pressure groups, and the wider public. Intersectional approaches to the study of criminal justice, law enforcement, and intersectionality (race, class, gender and sexuality) are key features of our research. We are committed to critically examining the production of both crime and criminal justice, alongside law enforcement policies and practices, taking into account their political and social contexts, with a view to supporting understanding of and engagement in social change, and promoting social justice. 

We also host a number of high-profile research centres and participate in Birkbeck-wide centres, institutes and networks, which support and promote the cross-fertilisation of scholarship across the College.

We are surrounded by other University of London colleges, world-class resources such as the British Library, and one of the greatest concentrations of legal research and practice – the Inns of Court and the Royal Courts of Justice.

Research projects

Our research clusters




Much of our research is funded by bodies including research councils (mainly the ESRC and AHRC); charitable foundations (including the Dawes Trust, the Wellcome Trust, Stiftung Auxilium, Porticus Global and the Nuffield Foundation); the Open Society Foundation; and professional bodies (e.g. the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board). 

Research staff often work closely with stakeholders, for example Paul Turnbull is a member of UK and European advisory groups related to drug use and drug law enforcement; and our Centre for Research on Race and Law organises events with grass-roots anti-racist stakeholders. Our staff have also been contracted to undertake formal evaluations of some significant operational programmes such as the Offender Engagement Programme for the National Offender Management Service (Paul Turnbull); and previously the What Works Centre for evidence-based policing for the College of Policing (Emeritus Professor, Mike Hough).

Our biggest network is that created by our World Prison Research programme which works with more than 50 civil society organisations and reform champions domestically and worldwide, including the European Prisons Observatory, Penal Reform International, the Prison Policy Initiative, Fair Trials, Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, the Helsinki Committee bodies, and the Criminal Justice Network. And in 2018, the department hosted the International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA), thanks to Dr Sarah Lamble, who is also active in several prison reform action groups. 

Our Visiting Judge, Visiting Professor and Research Fellowship initiatives have led to substantive relationships with eminent practitioners such as Juliet Lyon CBE, Chair of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody; and barrister Dr Penny Cooper.

Birkbeck is a member of the UCL, Bloomsbury and East London (UBEL) Doctoral Training Partnership, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC); and the AHRC funded Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) Doctoral Training Partnership.

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