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Research degrees
Research areas
Social policy and criminology
Crime, harm, criminalisation and criminal justice

Crime, harm, criminalisation and criminal justice

Social Policy and Criminology at The Open University has an established reputation for critical scholarship, which is informed by a dynamic and thriving research environment. Our research programmes take a critical approach to ‘taken-for-granted’ assumptions about ‘crime’, ‘the criminal’ and/or ‘justice’, including a critical interrogation of the meaning of Criminology as a discipline.

The discipline spans a diverse range of research areas. In the area of policing, our research has included studies of policing and gender, and occupational culture as well as violence and police brutality and an ethnographic study of homicide detectives. Current research projects in this area include studies of police corruption, integrity and ethics. With respect to imprisonment/punishment our research ranges from empirical examinations of prison life (such as the harms experienced by women and young people) to broader questions surrounding penal policy, the use of punishment and the concept of justice, including the Scottish context. Another research area is the incidence, nature and regulation of corporate and state crimes and harms, academic criminological and socio-legal responses to the economic crisis, corporate and state power and the research process. The way in which urban culture intersects with crime and justice has featured in research on bouncers and the night-time economy, gentrification, licensing and planning law in the shaping of nightlife, and local government health and safety regulation.

This is not an exclusive list of research areas. Other ongoing research projects relate, for example, to: the criminalisation of young people’s non-participation in work, education or training and of homelessness; sexual and other forms of violence; the governance of disengaged youth; gendered harms in social justice movements; music subcultures, countercultures and social movements, and the implications of Scottish nationalism for criminal justice policies.

Our department has an international reputation for methodological innovation, with particular strengths in qualitative mixed-methods research, visual methods, biographical and life-story research, discourse analysis, historical methods and ethnography.

Research students connected to this area are encouraged to participate in the supportive and collegial research culture in the department and the School of Social Sciences and Global Studies.

Staff in this research area are members of the Harm and Evidence Research Collaborative (HERC).

Qualifications available

PhD or MPhil


For detailed information on current fees visit Research degree fees.

Entry requirements

An applicant seeking admission to the degree of MPhil or MPhil with the possibility of transfer to PhD should normally hold the minimum of an upper second class honours degree, or a Master’s degree in an appropriate cognate area from a UK University or other recognised degree-awarding body. Other entry routes are possible.

Potential research projects

We are open to receiving proposals on a wide range of research projects on this broad topic. Please see guidance on choosing a research project. Information there will help you identify and articulate your research project, and tells you who to contact to discuss it with before writing your proposal and submitting an application.

Potential supervisors


Police officer with suspect

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research topic, please contact:

Nicola Yeates, SPC Postgraduate Convenor
Email: FASS-SocialPolicyCriminology-Enquiries
Phone: +44 (0)1908 654534