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Home>Study at York>Undergraduate>Courses>Social Policy, Crime and Criminal Justice (BA)

Overview Real-world social science with a focus on crime and criminal justice

UCAS code


Typical offer

BBB (full entry requirements)


3 years full-time

A BA in  Social Policy, Crime and Criminal Justice will give you a broad introduction to a range of social sciences as well as an understanding of the development of the criminal justice system and the welfare state.

A fundamental part of the degree is the work placement, offering you a chance to learn from professionals in a crime or criminal justice field.

This degree is ideal if you're interested in how crime is defined and how governments can deal with it, as well as how policies on crime and criminal justice relate to other areas of social policy.

Graduates are well equipped for careers in the police service, probation, the voluntary sector and agencies dealing with youth offending and other forms of crime.

Brilliant social life, awesome staff, great course content. The staff make the experience even better.
Jake (2016)

Understanding Social Policy

Our academics explain how their research influences social policy at a national and global level.

Course content What you’ll study


You will receive a thorough grounding in social sciences, including sociology, social policy, economics and politics. You'll also study the development of the criminal justice system and the welfare state.

You'll study core modules designed specifically for this course and choose from a wide selection of optional modules developed specially by the Department, or choose from a wider range offered by other departments such as Politics or Sociology.

Between Years 2 and 3 you will undertake a placement, shadowing a professional working in a field relating to crime and criminal justice.

Year 1

In your first year you'll study a range of core modules that give you a broad introduction to a range of applied social science, with specialist study introduced as part of the two modules Sociology of Crime and Deviance and Introducing Criminal Justice.

  • Introducing Criminal Justice: the politics of the criminal justice system and an introduction to the agencies of the criminal justice system. It will introduce you to key institutional knowledge about how justice is delivered and the challenges this poses in the 21st century.
  • Sociology of Crime and Deviance: how criminal behaviours and trends can most usefully be understood and explained. It explores key questions like what counts as crime and how can we make sense of why it happens in society.
  • Introducing Social Policy: key areas of social policy provision and the role of different actors in the production and distribution of welfare in the UK and beyond.
  • Politics and Economics of Social Policy: the exercise of power, political ideas and policy outcomes in the context of British political institutions. It will introduce you to key concepts in economics and their application to social policy problems.

Academic integrity module

In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module. This covers some of the essential skills and knowledge which will help you to study independently and produce work of a high academic standard which is vital for success at York.

This module will:

  • define academic integrity and academic misconduct
  • explain why and when you should reference source material and other people's work
  • provide interactive exercises to help you to assess whether you've understood the concepts
  • provide answers to FAQs and links to useful resources.

Year 2

In your second year you'll study three core modules as well as choosing one of our other second year modules.

Core modules

Our core modules cover cultural aspects of criminology, criminal justice policy and social research methods:

  • Debates in Criminal Justice
  • Victimisation and Social Harm
  • Social Research Methods.

Optional modules

Module options change on a regular basis to reflect the teaching and research interests of staff, as well as to ensure the degree is up-to-date. Examples of past modules for the second year include:

  • Citizenship, Difference and Inequality
  • Comparative Social Policy
  • The Policy Process
  • Understanding Childhood and Youth.

Year 3


In the summer holiday before the third year starts you will undertake a work-shadowing placement that lasts around 80 hours. This will allow you to learn from professionals in a field related to crime and criminal justice. Examples of previous placements include: shadowing a criminal barrister, a youth offending team and workers in a drug rehabilitation unit. Watching professionals at work is a completely different learning experience which many students find useful in developing their dissertation and follow in the development of their own careers.


You'll choose three modules from our third year modules, these change regularly to reflect the teaching and research interests of our staff. Previous modules include:

  • Criminal Justice and Policing
  • Death and Policy
  • Gender and Youth Cultures
  • Gender, Citizenship and the Welfare State
  • Housing Policy
  • Illicit Drug Use
  • Prisons and Penal Policy
  • Poverty and Inequality
  • Sustainable Development and Social Inclusion
  • The Well-Being of Children and Young People
  • Understanding Families and Family Life
  • Vulnerability, Deviance and Social Control
  • Welfare States in Crisis
  • Youth Justice.


The third year dissertation is a great opportunity to apply your knowledge and understanding in independent supervised research on a topic of your interest. Previous dissertation titles include:

  • Legal high groups on the internet - the creation of new organised deviant groups
  • Mad, Bad or Sad? Theories of why women kill
  • Fear of violent victimisation among young men
  • To what extent is the use of discretion exercised by the British Police detrimental to ethnic minorities
  • Crime in the NHS: how does it affect ethical policy and practice
  • The protection of sex trade victims in South Korea
  • Surveillance: 'nineteen eighty-four' and beyond.

Study abroad

There are many international opportunities for you to get involved with, including Worldwide Exchange at partner universities, Erasmus+ study placements in Europe, International Study Centres, Summer Schools and Travel Awards for independent projects.

This course gave me skills to analyse and further understand social issues as well as different perspective and ideologies. The placement helps you to choose what career path you would want later on.
Josefina (2016)

In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework the Department of Social Policy and Social Work was placed third in the UK for research activity, with 100 percent of its research impact rated at the highest rank of 4*.

Teaching and assessment How you’ll be taught and assessed

Teaching format

We emphasise small-group working: you'll mainly be taught in lectures of 50-100 students and take part in seminars of 12-15 people. In the second and third years the lecture groups will be smaller as you begin to specialise. 

You'll also take part in group-based workshops and hear from external speakers about the latest issues in policy and practice. 


You'll be assessed in a variety of ways, with emphasis on continuous assessment.  The most common form of assessment is by essay, and you'll be supported with seminar sessions on writing academic essays. You may also be assessed by presentation, group workshop reports, data analysis exercises and portfolios of work. There is minimal use of closed examinations. 

Your dissertation will be 10,000 words long and you'll be supported by a supervisor who specialises in the subject you're interested in. 


Careers Where you’ll go from here

A high proportion of our graduates are employed within six months. The nature of our degree means you can pursue career-related interests throughout your study and the work-based placement is a useful opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to future employers.

Career opportunities

Typical career paths in crime and criminal justice systems include:

  • police
  • solicitor or barrister (via Law conversion courses)
  • probation officer
  • prison service
  • courts service
  • government departments and agencies
  • youth offending teams.

Transferable skills

  • Communications skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Data analysis
  • Time management
  • Project management
  • Independent study and research
  • Teamwork skills.

Entry requirements How to get here

Course entry

All applications must be made through UCAS.

We pay particular attention to your personal statement and we look for students who have an academic interest in society. This could come through family circumstances, employment or other contribution to society such as school clubs or volunteering.

You will not be invited to interview, but we invite you to attend a visit day in Spring term to give you an opportunity to learn more about us.

A-levels and GCSEs


  • BBB (A level General Studies and Critical Thinking are accepted)

Other UK qualifications

Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers
AABBB at Higher level

Cambridge Pre-U
M2, M2, M2

Access to Higher Education
30 credits achieved from units awarded Merit or higher

BTEC Extended Diploma (QCF)

International options

International Baccalaureate
31 points overall

Irish Leaving Certificate


European Baccalaureate
75 percent overall

English language

Applicants whose first language is not English are normally asked to provide evidence of English language ability. Exceptions may be made where an applicant's other qualifications provide sufficient evidence of ability to use English in an academic setting at degree level.

  • IELTS: score of 6.5 overall, with 5.5 or better in each section
  • Pearson PTE Academic: 61 overall with no less than 51 in all components
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): grade C
  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE): grade A

Other accepted tests and qualifications

Unistats for this course

Enquire Contact our admissions tutors if you have any questions