Criminology and Geography

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Turn on the television, open a newspaper or open a web browser and you are very likely to encounter images, reports, films and programmes about crime, justice and punishment. Crime saturates our media and popular culture, suggesting an enduring public fascination with wrong-doing and its consequences, as well as crime being an on-going problem in contemporary society.

But what is the background story to all of these representations of crime? Criminology tells it through close and in-depth research into crime and victimisation and the responses to crime that come in the form of justice, law enforcement and punishment. This covers a broad terrain, as there are multiple forms of crime covered by laws at local, national and transnational levels of society. Criminologists have studied crime from a variety of different approaches making this a multi-disciplinary field of knowledge, making it a diverse field of study, and also a dynamic one, as change in social conditions, norms, and laws have an impact on trends in crime.  

Why study Criminology?

'Crime scene, do not cross' tape

Students of criminology will explore the causes and motivations underlying criminal conduct and the social conditions and problems which are associated with criminality. The criminal justice system is also a key aspect of your studies and you will critically investigate and scrutinise the policies, processes and practices of criminal justice and punishment at local, national and global levels of society.

Not only do the central questions of Criminology reflect some of the fundamental issues of social science concerning human behaviour, they also tap into some of the key cultural and political debates about the kind of societies we live in and how we would like them to be.

A degree in Criminology will also provide you with the knowledge and skills to pursue a career in one of a number of areas of criminal justice including policing, crime prevention, working in courts and legal services, youth justice and the penal system.

Course structure

As a field of study, criminology has developed with contributions from a range of disciplines including sociology, psychology, law, geography, media and literary studies, biology and history amongst others. This is reflected in the BSU Criminology programme which draws on expertise in a number of fields enabling you to look at the problem of crime from different angles. At the core of the programme is a suite of modules that will give you a foundational knowledge of the main theories, debates, issues and research problems of criminology and criminal justice that are grounded in the traditions of social science. Criminological research has had an impact on public policy, but criminologists also have a responsibility to analyse and question forms of governance and social control. You will interrogate the balancing act that criminology plays between contributing to government policies that control and punish crime and critical exploration of them.

In your first year of study you will learn about the theoretical and research traditions of criminology and be introduced to key concepts, theories and issues as well as be given grounding in criminal law and criminal justice. These are taught through investigation into different types of crime – such as property crime, sexual and violent crime, homicide, terrorism, corporate crime, anti-social behaviour and drug use. Your first year also takes in study and research skills, including an optional module that focuses on finding and managing data.  The remainder of your programme will consist of optional modules of your choice, including a complementary subject (such as psychology, sociology or geography).

In your second year of study you will develop your knowledge and understanding through study of contemporary criminological theories, research and debates on criminal justice. You will also develop your applied knowledge and practical skills with training in research methods and crime mapping techniques and enhance your understanding of criminality by studying the psychology of crime. You can select from a number of modules to put together the remainder of your programme and develop your studies according to your personal interests.  You can investigate the ecology of crime and the problem of environmental justice. You can develop your understanding by delving more deeply into the social divisions and social problems that are linked to crime. Or you may wish to pursue the cultural study of crime by examining representations of crime in film and literature

In your third and final year of study, you will undertake an original piece of criminological research in an area which interests you and undertake comparative study of criminal justice and penalty in global context. Again, you can design your final programme with your own selections from a number of modules, a number of which also highlight the global dimensions of crime and justice. You will also have the opportunity to undertake a voluntary placement in an organisation that works within the criminal justice sector.


Year 1:

  • Criminology: An introduction * **
  • Visualising Society
  • Global development

Year 2:

  • Contemporary and critical issues in crime and justice * **
  • Researching People and Organisations*
  • Criminological and Investigative Psychology*
  • Social Diversity and Divisions
  • Crime Fiction
  • Film Noir
  • Growing up and Living in Communities
  • Climate Change and Sustainability
  • Work Placement

Year 3:

  • Criminology dissertation* **
  • Punishment and Penology in Global Context*
  • Young people, Identity and Subcultures
  • Identities and Inequality
  • Crime Fiction in the Contemporary World
  • Gender: Mind, Body and Cultures
  • Community Engagement
  • Migration, Diversity and Racism
  • Mobility, Risks and Environmental Justice

* Compulsory modules for Single Honours Awards

** Compulsory modules for Combined Honours Awards

Course assessment

The Criminology degree programme employs a range of assessments to enable your tutors to measure both your subject knowledge and your skills. Many assessments are designed with ‘authentic’ components that enable you to apply your learning to situations, problems and tasks that would arise in working environments. Assignments may include essays, book  reviews, examinations, portfolios, outline proposals, contributions to on-line resources, presentations, reports, in-class tests, creative projects, reflective writing and individual and group projects. The content, format, weighting and assessment criteria of assignments is outlined is provided at the start of each module in its handbook and on Minerva, the BSU virtual learning environment.


Teaching staff at Bath Spa are encouraged to – and take pride in – designing and delivering innovative and engaging modules that seek to inspire you, challenge you and confront how you think about a particular topic. Staff are also there to guide you through your studies, give you support and help you make the most of your academic studies. Though based in the Department of Social Science, the Criminology programme also contains contributions from staff in other disciplines across the university with specialist interests that will expand your criminological knowledge in a truly multidisciplinary programme.

Teaching methods

In the Criminology programme, learning is encouraged through participation in a wide variety of activities including lectures, seminars, workshops, group and individual projects, the Minerva virtual learning environment, volunteer placements and sessions with visiting speakers. Project work is built into all three levels of the Criminology degree programme to enable you to focus on and develop particular interests as well as employment-related skills including research and analysis, time management, problem-solving and planning.

The programme also includes use of a number of resources and technologies. You will be taught how use software for conducting crime research including ArcGIS and SPSS. All modules have a site on the BSU virtual learning environment (‘Minerva’) which gives you unlimited on-line access to learning materials such as handbooks, lecture slides, assessment information, discussion boards and other resources, as well as helping you keep in contact with staff and other students. Bath Spa library holdings include books, academic journals and DVDs and an extensive range of electronic services (such as e-books, on-line journals, digital news and magazine archives) which can be accessed on-line on and off campus through its website. It also provides a place for individual study and collaborative work.

Application method

Applications are via UCAS.

Course enquiries

Please email

Entry requirements

260–300 UCAS Tariff points.

Career opportunities

A qualification in Criminology will prepare you for working towards a career in a variety of relevant fields in criminal justice and associated social and welfare professions including:

  • Policing
  • Crime prevention and security
  • Crime reduction initiatives
  • Law
  • Offender management and interventions
  • Prisons
  • Probation
  • Youth justice
  • Social work
  • Community development

As  a social sciences degree, it will also furnish you with a range of transferable skills which you can take into a career in a number of others sectors such as health and social care, marketing, HR, teaching or the media.

The Criminology programme emphasises the development of practical and analytical skills that are relevant to working in this field, with opportunities to learn digital crime mapping, risk evaluation, write reports, develop proposals and scrutinise case studies. The programme also provides opportunities for work experience and placements to apply your learning in the real world contexts of criminal justice, whilst visiting speakers and field trips such as to local courts will also provide opportunities to learn more about potential careers.

What students say...

Students have said the following about studying Criminology at Bath Spa:

"Fantastic, interesting and engaging"

"Definitely challenging"

"Fab teaching!"

"[Staff have been] so supportive, if I ever need help and guidance"

"The field trip to Court was valuable to understand the criminal justice system" 

"Varied seminars, always interesting, lots of group discussion"

"Learnt a lot more about crime, in much more depth than I knew"



Geography is about places and people. It is about understanding why 'here' differs from 'there', how people's lives vary in these different places, and how our own lives are dependent on people and places, near and far. 

Geography is the 'best of both worlds', as it combines the earth and social sciences through exploration of themes including sustainability, development, climate change and geomatics (GIS) methods.



Why study Geography?

Studying Geography expands your understanding of the interactions people have with the environment, both physical and human. An ability to link environmental processes and social and spatial behaviours is a defining feature of geographical practice. As a result, Geography is clearly important in understanding today’s pressing global and local issues from climate change to sustainable development. At Bath Spa you learn geographical concepts, theories and knowledge and also gain skills that can improve your career prospects. Geography graduates are valued by employers for this unique combination.

At Bath Spa, we take an integrated approach to Geography, so you will gain an understanding of both the human and physical aspects of the subject. However, a key feature of our course is that you can specialise more in the physical or in the human side as your interests, abilities and career plans evolve.

Course structure

The course allows you to do both physical and human Geography or to specialise in one or the other after Year 1.

Fieldwork is an integral part of your learning and underpins our commitment to a relevant, interesting and useful degree. There are various field days during modules, as well as residential fieldwork options in the UK and overseas in Years 2 and 3. You will visit places and landscapes such as Avebury, Mendip, the Somerset Levels, the Welsh National History Museum, the Royal Geographical Society in London, and the Jurassic Coast of Dorset. Residential courses currently go to Spain, the Lake District and Northern India. 



A special feature of our course is the opportunity to gain valuable experience, and academic credit, through volunteering in the local community. You can also study abroad for one term, either in a European university or further afield in Australia or the USA. 



Year 1

Your first year (level 4) is centred on a core double module (40 credits) Environment, People and Place. This deals with what makes Geography an exciting, varied and applied subject. The module offers an integrated approach to the study of the geo-social and earth sciences and what makes this module special lies in our attention to developing skills as well as knowledge: you will learn how to use the technologies, methods, techniques and equipment that geographers need to use, with increasing confidence. You will also start to build your employability profile under our guidance. The practical application of subject knowledge is the underlying philosophy of this module.

In addition to the core module we usually offer these options (all 20 credits) from which you can choose one or two:

  • Investigating Earth Environments;
  • Global Development;
  • Visualising Society;

The remainder of level 4 is made up with at least 40 credits from a complementary module of your choice, such as Biology, Sociology, Criminology, or an interdisciplinary module focusing on Sustainability in Life and Work.

Year 2

Your second year (level 5) also centres on a core double module (40 credits) titled The Enterprising Geographer. The aim here is for you to acquire specialist skills in geographical research methods, human and physical, and to extend your abilities as a team player and as a professional. The Enterprising Geographer puts the subject and the sectors it serves in historical context and highlights the relevance of geographical knowledge to many different professional sectors. Your research skills are developed through two extended research projects where you will apply your growing mastery of your subject to real-world problems and issues. This module also gives you the chance to engage with the Royal Geographical Society and other professional bodies as we begin to help you map out potential career paths. The rest of your studies are optional, and the usual module choices are (you can choose four):

  • River and Coastal Systems;
  • Climate Change and Sustainability;
  • Environmental Hazards;
  • Geographical Fieldwork (includes a residential fieldtrip to Northern India);
  • Global Cities;
  • Criminology and Criminal Justice;
  • Work Placement;

All optional modules are 20 credits each.

Year 3

In your final year (level 6), you take the skills and knowledge perfected throughout the degree to design, conduct and write up your very own geography Dissertation (40 credits). There is a huge variety in choice in what you do for a dissertation and throughout the study you will benefit from one-to-one tuition and expert guidance. The rest of the third year is made up from 20 credit optional modules such as these (you can choose four):

  • Climatology;
  • Coastal and River Management;
  • Advanced Geographical Fieldwork (includes a residential fieldtrip);
  • Development and Disasters;
  • Globalisation and Work;
  • Global Mobility, Risks and Environmental Justice;
  • Identities and Inequalities;
  • Community Engagement (includes a local volunteering placement).

Course assessment

You will experience a variety of different assessment methods throughout your degree. These include essays, industrial project reports, scientific project reports, presentations, posters, field-craft assessments, reflective items, time-constrained tests and examinations. These will give you a rich and diverse skills learning experience, be of real benefit in the search for a good career, and be useful in your professional activities.

Each module will have a different set of assessment items, and not all will include an examination. These assessment items enable you to demonstrate that you have achieved the learning outcomes.

Good teaching is important to us, and our graduates and consistently rate the quality of teaching on the course highly. In our friendly department you will benefit from small classes, specialist expertise, and up-to-date technologies, including ArcGIS, GPS survey instruments, campus river gauging and digital ‘met’ stations. Our rural site is a superb ‘natural laboratory’ where you will learn a range of scientific techniques including field sampling and the use of laboratory instruments for sediment and water analysis. Through your degree you will also develop 'people' skills such as communication, team work and critical thinking - skills that are highly valued by employers.

Teaching methods

Geography encourages your learning through a variety of formats: lectures, seminars, team work, laboratories, IT workshops, and in the field - for 'hands on', real life experience.

Our location, nestled in a parkland valley setting just outside Bath, is a beautiful and unique 'natural laboratory' in which to pursue environmental education and we make the most of the setting. We have all the latest technologies and learning resources and Geographers have access to IT laboratories with geographical software such as ArcGIS and Idrisi. In addition there is a comprehensive stock of field and laboratory equipment. Practicals take place in well-equipped science laboratories or out in the grounds of the Newton Park campus. You will find free wireless internet access is available in the Department and across our campus. We subscribe to an extensive range of online journals so you can access the latest geographic research in seconds. 

Other resources available include Leica Smart Rovers, handheld Global Positioning System devices, survey seismograph, Russian and standard sediment corers, teaching microscopes, stream flow meters, particle size analysis kits, digital Schmidt hammers, digital weather station, campus stream gauging station, digital dictaphones, digital video cameras and laptops. Do please note that not all field courses are run every year and that all off-campus events and their funding are subject to annual review. Also, module availability may vary over time - if a particular module is of interest and you want to know more, just get in touch with us and we'll be happy to help!


Departmental Research

The Department hosts two active research groups covering physical and human geography, ensuring that your teaching is informed by up-to-date, specialised staff expertise. The research groups often inform dissertation ideas for students and you will benefit from our annual Research Seminar Series which includes external guest speakers and is open to all.

All our academic staff are professional geographers who undertake research and scholarship at the cutting edge of their discipline, publishing papers in international journals, textbooks for undergraduate use, and speaking at international conferences, as well as making media appearances. All research undertaken is of direct benefit to students. Indeed, some of our work is about enhancing the learning of geography at university. Students have co-authored papers with members of staff, and some have remained with us to carry out postgraduate research leading to doctorate level.

Teaching quality excellence

We are proud of the quality of our teaching in Geography at Bath Spa. During your degree you will taught by experienced, specialist staff, who undertake research in their specific areas of expertise, as well as into the learning and teaching of different aspects of geography.

Subject tutors regularly attend Professional Development Workshops that inform curriculum development and we regularly attend academic and commercial conferences. We subscribe to industry societies and their journals, such as the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG), the Association for Geographic Information (AGI), the Development Studies Association (DSA), Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society (RSPSoc), American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), the British Cartographic Society (BCS), GIS Professional, GIM International.

Application method

All full time applications are through UCAS

Course enquiries

Want to know more about studying Geography at Bath Spa? We have Open Days and Visit Days throughout the year. If you can't make any of those, we are also happy to arrange individual visits for you to have a look around at the facilities and ask any questions you may have. You can get in touch using the contact details adjacent. We hope to see you here soon!

Please contact Dr Rebecca Schaaf, Subject Leader for Geography: 

Have a look at our related courses:

BSc Global Development and Sustainability

BA Geography (Human)

BSc Geography (Physical)

Entry requirements

260–320 UCAS Tariff points with minimum 80 points from geography or a related subject such as science, sociology, economics.

We welcome applications from mature students with an Access to HE qualification. If you have non-standard qualifications we will consider any prior learning and professional experience in your application.

Career opportunities

Our graduates possess a diverse range of skills, knowledge and expertise, suitable for many careers and occupations. This is due to the great appeal of your geographical skill-set to employers. Environmental bodies, utilities, planning, police and armed forces, retail and financial services, heritage management, local government and school teaching are typical destinations. Many geography graduates are hooked on the subject and undertake further study, including doctoral research here in the department.

The opportunity to undertake a work placement as part of your degree is an excellent way of gaining some experience in the workplace, while guest speakers from industry contribute to your learning experience throughout the course. This engagement with potential employers will stand you in good stead for making those all-important career decisions when you move into the world of work.

Since 2010, employers such as Geomatics Group, At-Bristol, Discover Battle, Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre and The Ministry of Defence have recruited graduates from this course. Students have also gone into roles including  Assistant Geomatics Surveyor, Renewables Developer, Business Analyst, Oceaneer and Press Officer.

What students say...

 Tim Johns, Geography, graduated July 2012:

“I thoroughly enjoyed my course at Bath Spa University and would recommend it to anyone interested in pursuing a career in the environmental industry. Academically, the course was fantastic and offered the opportunity to learn a diverse range of skills that would equip anyone with the necessary attributes to enter the world of work, or pursue postgraduate studies. At Bath Spa my learning was not just restricted to the classroom; I had the opportunity to undertake a live Dissertation project working in conjunction with the Environment Agency. This was an invaluable experience giving me the opportunity to work with industry professionals. My advice to those starting their studies would be to take full advantage of the facilities Bath Spa has to offer, including the excellent support from staff and tutors. Just remember from the offset… you have to work hard to play hard and all things are achievable no matter what!”

We take the views of our students very seriously, and evaluations of each module are undertaken each year, incorporating feedback from all students. You will also have the opportunity to represent your peers at committee and board meetings that meet regularly to discuss the shape and evolution of your course.

Please look at the video clips to see what our students have said about studying Geography at Bath Spa University.

Alice - second year Geography student

Read about the activities and achievements of our students and staff in our annual Geography Newsletter:

Geography 2013

Geography 2014

newsletter 2015.pdf