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Introduction to criminology

This module is an ideal introduction to one of the key areas of social sciences as it offers you an informed understanding of how criminal law is applied and its connection to social order/disorder, as well as criminal justice. On a week-by-week basis, you are introduced to different case studies encouraging you to think critically about the relationship between state, power and crime and the factors influencing the definition, contestation and deconstruction of crime in modern societies. Your studies are integrated with a range of skills that'll also provide a solid basis for progression to an OU level 2 module in this subject. 

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
1 7 4

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

Criminology is closely allied to other social sciences subject areas such as sociology, social policy, political science, geography, psychology and history as well as law, criminal justice and police studies. This module brings together a variety of approaches and understandings from many of these disciplines to develop what is termed as the criminological imagination. You'll explore the different definitions, understandings and ways of thinking about crime and justice in society and develop your own critically informed approach that questions the role and effectiveness of criminal justice in contemporary society.  

This module is organised into four main blocks of study. The first block gives you an overview of the module and helps you to think about different ways of approaching the definition of ‘crime’. Through high profile case examples, you'll explore in detail the importance of considering the ‘power to define’ when it comes to how society sees perpetrators and victims of ‘crime’.

In Block 2 you'll look at how power, influence and social standing impact on how we decide if and when avoidable and premature deaths should be defined as a murder. You'll be asked to consider the backgrounds of both the victims and perpetrators, and consider why, when the actions of states result in many avoidable deaths, people only rarely use the language of crime to define such deaths.

Block 3 introduces you to some of the key foundations of the criminal justice system: the law, the police, the courts, prisons and resettlement services. However, rather than seeing them as static or neutral you will explore how the criminal justice system is dynamic and contested. This will allow you to start questioning whether the criminal justice system is able to deliver ‘justice’ for all.

The final block invites you to look again at many of the ideas and examples you have considered over the previous three blocks. Practical examples are provided to allow you to explore more deeply how the concepts of crime, power and the state influence understandings of crime and justice and how they can be ‘deconstructed’. You'll also be encouraged to use your criminological imagination to reimagine complex crime and justice problems and their potential solutions.

Due to the nature of exploring criminal harms and state violence, you may find a number of the topics discussed in this module difficult and challenging.  If you feel that increased awareness of such issues will be unduly distressing, then please think carefully before enrolling for this module.

Vocational relevance

This module is relevant to a wide range of jobs in the public, voluntary, community and commercial sectors. The module content is directly relevant to a variety of jobs in public administration, social welfare services, criminal justice services, community support services among others. The key skills you will develop are relevant to any job context. Among these ‘transferable’ skills are the ability to:

  • identify, gather and assess evidence
  • present reasoned and coherent arguments
  • write clearly for academic and non-academic audiences
  • apply learning to non-module provided examples and situations
  • plan and reflect on your own work and learning.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll be assigned a dedicated tutor who will provide you with advice and guidance throughout the module. They will help and work with you across the different kinds of learning materials, as well as marking, commenting and offering feedback on your written assignments. Your tutor will also support you with the module activities and collaborative work.

A range of online tutorials will be offered to students and recordings of these will typically be made available.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Future availability

Introduction to criminology starts twice a year – in February and October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024 and February 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2031.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment

Entry requirements

This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you progress to modules at OU level 2. 

This module is available for standalone study and is an ideal starting point if you are considering going on to study one of our qualifications. Its integrated teaching of key study and skills will give you a firm foundation for further study.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

There is no requirement for you to undertake any specific preparatory work prior to starting this module. Our short criminology taster module An introduction to crime and criminology will give you a clearer idea of the content and focus of this module. It will help familiarise yourself with navigating the OU Criminology website.

You may benefit from reading the recent books of the investigative journalist Naomi Klein, who writes for a general audience and covers themes, such as social justice, environmental harms, the harms of brands and advertising, and social and economic inequalities, covered in this module.

You will also find very helpful short overviews of criminological ideas, such as those provided in The Sage Dictionary of Criminology (most recent edition is 2019, edited by Eugene McLaughlin and John Muncie, published by SAGE).


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 05/09/24 (places subject to availability)

01 Feb 2025 Sep 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 09/01/25 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2031.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you receive a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Joint loan applications

If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and, therefore, the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 12/07/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of not more than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

You’ll be provided with two printed module books, each covering two blocks of study and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment guide
  • online tutorials and forums.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD105 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.