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Crime, harm and the state

The central question you’ll explore in this module is why some events which cause harm, of various kinds, are formally labelled and treated as crimes when others are not, and how and why this can vary by region and over time. You’ll focus on constructions of ‘harm’ or ‘social harm’, and how these are intimately linked to the state, as the key source of definitions of crime through law. Through a variety of engaging and thought-provoking case studies, you'll explore the processes of criminalisation and definitions of crime, harm and justice, as well as relationships between the Global North and the Global South. You’ll also critically consider the role and function of criminological theory and its proximity to state power, and have an opportunity to develop your own criminological imagination and identity through a range of virtual learning environment activities and assessments.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

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
3 10 6

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

You'll learn about a range of criminological perspectives and be introduced to a number of key concepts to help explore the relationships between crime, harm and the state.  Many of these are at the cutting edge of contemporary criminology, including, for example, zemiology, decolonial perspectives, and green criminology. You'll undertake a detailed interrogation of some key issues in contemporary criminology – through a variety of topics, including the global pharmaceutical industry, food production, harm to non-human animals, the global tourism industry, international warfare, the so-called ‘refugee crisis’, climate catastrophe, sexuality and eugenics – and all through the lens of social harm. In so doing, you'll interrogate key social scientific concepts such as discourse, power and the state.

This module is divided into the following blocks:

In Block 1, you'll be introduced to the concept of power to explore how and why certain harms come to be criminalised while others do not. 

Through Block 2, you'll explore the concept of discourse as an aid to investigating how and why some harms come to be constructed as crimes while other harms are, at best, neglected and, at worst, denied. 

In Block 3, you'll develop a deeper understanding of the concept of the state and examine further the role of states in both preventing and producing harm.

Finally, Block 4 gives you the opportunity to synthesise your understanding of the empirical, conceptual and theoretical material you have explored to this point. It introduces the concept of resistance and encourages you to consider the interactions between power, discourse, the state and resistance for understanding the relationships between crime and harm.

Due to the nature of exploring criminal harm 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 and welfare services, criminal justice services and community support services, among others. The key skills you'll develop are relevant to any job context. Among these ‘transferable’ skills are the ability to:

  • identify, select, interpret, analyse and critically evaluate evidence
  • communicate information about crime and criminalisation accurately and effectively to different audiences
  • plan, conduct and present an independent investigation of an issue in a reasoned and coherent way
  • work cooperatively with other learners in a group
  • reflect on your learning and apply it to non-module provided examples and situations.

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. This feedback will help to prepare you for the next assignment. Your tutor will also support you with the module activities and collaborative work.

We aim to provide online tutorials 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.

You will be required, at certain points, to work with other students and this is assessed in one of the tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). This includes looking at, and commenting on, others’ work, reflecting on others’ comments on your work, and/or working together with fellow learners on a project/task. There is a TMA activity that requires you to source images which will be assessed.

Future availability

Crime, harm and the state starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 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:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject.

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


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

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

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 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 books and have access to the module website, which includes:

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

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 DD311 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.