Scales of justice

LLM/MSc/PgDipCriminal Justice & Penal Change

Why this course?



Study full or part-time with the option of early evening classes.

The LLM/MSc in Criminal Justice & Penal Change examines the range of legal, political and social responses across the world to what is widely known as 'the penal crisis'.

Blending a rigorous understanding of fundamental theory with evidence about real world problems you’ll analyse recent innovations in theory, policy and practice.

Drawing on a range of disciplinary approaches, the course will enable you to develop a rational and just response to crime.

The LLM/MSc in Criminal Justice & Penal Change is unique in both its approach and its flexibility.

Key features

  • our focus is on pressing contemporary national and international issues of policy and practice
  • you can choose to graduate with either an LLM or MSc
  • study full-time or part-time
  • learn from a world-class teaching team
  • students are from a range of nationalities and disciplinary backgrounds
  • you'll benefit from the work of the Centre for Law, Crime and Justice

Who is the course suitable for?

  • practitioners working in a wide range of law, justice and welfare areas
  • professionals developing justice policy
  • members of the third /voluntary sector
  • recent graduates in law, social sciences and humanities

Flexible study options

You can choose to graduate with either an LLM or MSc or complete the course early with a PGDip/Cert.

You'll have the option of studying full or part-time and attending classes in the early evening.

Centre for Law, Crime and Justice (CLCJ)

You’ll benefit from the work of the CLCJ, which brings together expertise in the study of law, crime, criminal justice as well as interdisciplinary areas between law, sociology, social work, psychology and computer and information science.

As well as providing distinctive postgraduate courses and research opportunities, it conducts internationally leading research and helps to shape public policy, discourse and practice.

Find out more about the CLCJ.

Teaching staff

You'll be taught by some of the world’s foremost experts not only in academic research but also from the fields of policy and practice.

The course is run by Strathclyde Law School’s Centre for Law, Crime and Justice. It brings together world leading research expertise with some of the most accomplished practitioners and policy officials.

Course content



The LLM/MSc in Criminal Justice and Penal Change provides students flexibility within an overall framework.

In addition to the core and optional classes listed below, you may also be able to take options from a range of postgraduate courses including:

  • Human Rights Law
  • Internet Law & Policy
  • Mediation & Conflict Resolution

Compulsory classes

Criminal Justice & Penal Decision-Making

In this module we examine the moral and empirical bases of decision-making around the globe. How are traditional theories of justice being challenged, and what are the alternatives?  In the light of the international evidence, is it time for a re-think?  Illustrative topics include:

  • legitimacy
  • discretion
  • rehabilitation & desistance
  • restorative justice
  • public attitudes to and knowledge of criminal justice
  • the trial
  • access to justice
  • prosecution & defence
  • sentencing
  • parole
  • release from prison
  • community sentences
  • human dignity
  • participation
  • rights
  • therapeutic jurisprudence
  • criminal procedure
  • predictive justice
  • equality
  • reform & democratisation

Learning is conducted through a range of methods including student-led debates, role plays, scenarios and simulations. The module is accompanied by visits to key institutions, including courts, prisons, new Third Sector projects, innovations such as the Drug Court as well as conferences with key practitioners and policy makers. 

Punishment & Processes of Penal Change

The western world’s “penal crisis” has, over the past thirty years, posed specific challenges to the reform tradition.

In this module we explore the nature, dimensions and national permutations of that crisis, putative solutions to it and likely obstacles to their realisation. We draw on theoretical developments in the study of justice and punishment and explore their potential to illuminate and inform processes of progressive penal change.

The module examines contemporary changes, international evidence and policy transfer, and technological challenges and considers reform across the globe. The module draws on insights and perspectives including law, the sociology of punishment, history and the social sciences

Learning is conducted through a range of innovative methods such as debates and media representations. The module is supplemented by visits to key institutions' prisons, women’s justice centres, as well as conferences with key practitioners and policy makers.

Research Methods

In this module you'll gain and develop a secure knowledge and understanding of the range of legal, social scientific and other research methods. This will better equip you not only to undertake your dissertation in your chosen field of study, but also add a further dimension to your skill set, increasingly sought after by employers.

In this newly enhanced module as well as legal research, there will be a strong emphasis on how social science and other disciplines can be used to study criminal justice.  The module will help you to be better placed to create your own study. Also you'll be well equipped to evaluate the claims made by a range of governmental, non-governmental, media, academic and other bodies.   

Dissertation Research Project

Your Master’s will culminate in a dissertation. This is an extended project of enquiry into an area of your own choice. You'll create knowledge in answer to a question which really intrigues you.

While you'll be very much in the driving seat, your work is nurtured and guided by a member of our academic staff team. You'll be guided by some of the world’s foremost experts.

Elective modules

Choose from a range of advanced option modules including:

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice as applied to criminal harms, has grown and spread rapidly across the world in the last twenty years or so. Research indicates that in comparison with formal or retributive justice there can be more positive outcomes for both offender and victims. Yet the adoption of restorative justice within or alongside criminal justice systems has been patchy.

Experience has shown that restorative justice is a popular topic and this module provides an opportunity for advanced learning. Your learning will be accompanied by practical exercises, such as simulations led by leading practitioners.

Childhood & Crime

Youth justice attracts interest across society, politically, socially and legally. Some issues – from the murder of two year old James Bulger in 1993 by two 10 year old children to the riots in 2011 in England – spark moral panic and demonstrate the extent to which such matters cut across disciplinary boundaries and influence legal and societal responses to children who offend.

Youth justice generates its own philosophical approaches eg in the welfare / justice debate. It also provides a context within which to examine broader issues affecting criminal justice as a whole such as the need to balance the rights of the accused against the public interest.

This class will provide an opportunity for you to critically examine some key aspects of youth justice law, policy and philosophy from a number of perspectives. Your learning will be supplemented by visits to custodial and innovative community settings, as well as a visit to and a simulation of Scotland’s unique system of ‘Children’s Hearings’ (a decision-making system based on the best needs of the child).

Surveillance, Technology & Control

Surveillance and the use of technology in criminal justice is becoming increasingly important.

This module focuses on aspects of surveillance studies that inform the study criminal justice and penal change. If it's true that surveillance is ethically and politically problematic, how can or should it be used? Contemporary forms are stimulated by technological developments that were unavailable in earlier eras, whose deployment and consequences are, as yet, only beginning to be understood. Is increased surveillance inevitable? What is its impact on privacy and patterns of social exclusion? How can it be used for benign, even progressive objectives?

The module focuses on theoretical understandings of surveillance, selected substantive aspects of it, patterns of resistance to it, and forms of regulation of it that have emerged in relation to it, including privacy and human rights concerns. Learning is supplemented by visits to the CCTV monitoring centre and Electronic Monitoring centre.

Offender Supervision & Management

In this module you'll gain a critical understanding of core contexts and critical arguments, theories and debates in offender supervision and management. It's designed to provide you with relevant knowledge, understanding and skills to critically engage with theory, research and contemporary debates about the management of offenders and to apply this knowledge to professional and practice contexts.

We'll address 'real world' policy and practice issues from a range of perspectives. This module specifically focuses on current policies and practices in an era of penal change. We'll also engage in critical debates on contemporary practices in order to encourage you in thinking more critically about more radical approaches to penal change in the context of offender management and criminal justice.


This module examines the legal, historical and social science perspectives on homicide.

As well as legal-philosophical scrutiny of key issues in criminal law and procedure, technology and homicide, you'll also gain the latest evidence on homicide.

Learning & teaching

As well as seminars, you’ll be asked to take part in role play exercises, presentations and other forms of learning.

We've an active programme of public lectures from eminent visiting speakers on contemporary topics. There'll be a programme of visits to local justice agencies designed to stimulate your academic learning.

Entry requirements

Normally a first or upper second-class Honours degree (or equivalent) in law, one of the social sciences, business or humanities, though other disciplines will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Applications are judged on their individual merits and entry may be possible with a relevant lower second-class Honours degree, and/or relevant professional qualifications and/or appropriate experience. 

Please explain your motivation and suitability in your application.

Please note: a Law degree is not a prerequisite for entry to this course

English language requirements

You're required to have a suitable minimum level of competency in the English language if your first language is not English or if you have not been educated wholly or mainly in the medium of English.

For postgraduate studies, the University of Strathclyde requires a minimum overall score of IELTS 6.5 (no individual test score below 6.0) or equivalent. Tests are valid for two years.

Pre-sessional courses in English are available.

If you’re a national of an English speaking country recognised by UK Visa and Immigrations (please check most up-to-date list on the Home Office website) or you have successfully completed an academic qualification (at least equivalent to a UK bachelor's degree) in any of these countries, then you do not need to present any additional evidence.

If you are from a country not recognised as an English speaking country by the United Kingdom Vis and Immigration (UKVI), please check our English requirements before making your application.

Pre-Masters preparation course

The Pre-Masters Programme is a preparation course held at the University of Strathclyde International Study Centre, for international students (non EU/UK) who do not meet the academic entry requirements for a Masters degree at University of Strathclyde. The Pre-Masters programme provides progression to a number of degree options.

Upon successful completion, you will be able to progress to this degree course at the University of Strathclyde.

Fees & funding


All fees quoted are for full-time courses and per academic year unless stated otherwise.


  • £8,100

Rest of UK

  • £8,100


  • £15,700

How can I fund my course?


Several scholarships are available to Scottish, UK, EU and international students. Each scholarship has different eligibility criteria and deadlines so you're encouraged to apply early. To find out what scholarships you may be eligible for please go to our scholarship search.

Dean's International Excellence Award

To recognise academic achievement, the Dean's International Excellence Award offers international students a merit-based scholarship of up to £4,000 towards the first year of tuition fees of a full-time Masters programme in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Scholarship application advice

When applying for a scholarship it's important that you've already applied to the Criminal Justice & Penal Change course. Some scholarship applications require you to be in receipt of an offer.

Make sure you look at not only the eligibility criteria but also the aims and objectives of the scholarship. Do you know what a particular scholarship fund is most concerned about? Some are based only on academic merit but others have additional priorities.

Funding opportunities for students already on course

Here's a list of some of the scholarships which Strathclyde Criminal Justice & Penal Change students on the course may be eligible for:

ScholarshipEligibilityApplication deadline
Strathclyde Law School Community Bursary Strathclyde Law School is offering a £700 fee reduction for applicants to the LLM Criminal Justice & Penal Change or LLM Human Rights Law degrees who are working at one of our community partner organisations.   August
John Fitzsimons Memorial Scholarships
  • Mature students who are aged 25 years plus
  • Evidence of interest in criminal law and/or jurisprudence ‘or cognate areas’
  • Financial need and academic merit
  • UK or international students
The Scottish International and Education Trust

Up to £2000. Priority to scots by 'birth or formation' and who can evidence a good first degree or equivalent. 

Santander Scholarships   For citizens of 12 countries in the Santander scheme applying to Strathclyde: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Spain, Portugal and the USA  May 
Scotland Saltire Scholarships For citizens of Canada, USA, India and the People's Republic of China, (Mainland China only)  March 
Aga Khan Foundation For nationals (under 30 years of age) of: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar and Mozambique. In France, Portugal, UK, USA and Canada, applications are accepted from those who are originally from one of the above developing countries. The Foundation seeks to promote development. Development of criminal justice can be seen as one aspect of that. Deadlines vary by country but typically March
Carnegie Cameron Postgraduate Bursaries For applicants with Scottish connection (including studying in Scotland). Strathclyde is administering/selecting body. You need to have been in receipt of an offer from the course.  
Glasgow Educational & Marshall Trust Residents of the Glasgow area  
Leverhulme Trade Charities Trust Up to £5,000 – specific eligibility rules to benefit the sons and daughters of certain occupations  
McGlashan Charitable Trust Scottish charity offering small grants including for pg course in Law eg Criminal Justice  
Strathclyde University Progression Scholarships All Strathclyde UG students progressing to the LLM/MSc in Criminal Justice can benefit from a 10% fee reduction  
Commonwealth Scholarships  For citizens of developing commonwealth countries  
Chevening Scholarships Available to international applicants. Strathclyde is a partner.  
Pakistan 50th Fund    
Asylum Seeker Scholarship    

Funded internships for current students and recent graduates

Graduates of the LLM/MSc in Criminal Justice and Penal Change will also have the opportunity to undertake a funded international internship with a key criminal justice non-governmental organisation (NGO).

We have a funded partnership with Reprieve which may be available to students/recent graduates of the course to study in the USA.

Similar partnerships with other NGOs have been established by Criminal Justice & Penal Change Course Director, Professor Dr Cyrus Tata.

Scottish and non-UK EU postgraduate students

Scottish and non-UK EU postgraduate students may be able to apply for support from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). The support is in the form of a tuition fee loan and for eligible students, a living cost loan. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Students coming from England

Students ordinarily resident in England may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance England. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Students coming from Wales

Students ordinarily resident in Wales may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance Wales. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Students coming from Northern Ireland

Postgraduate students who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland may be able to apply for support from Student Finance Northern Ireland. The support is a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

International students

We have a large range of scholarships available to help you fund your studies. Check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Strathclyde Alumni

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Alumni Discount

10% tuition fee discount is offered to all Strathclyde alumni completing a full-time postgraduate taught course in the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.

Please note

The fees shown are annual and may be subject to an increase each year. Find out more about fees.


Students on the Strathclyde Masters (LLM or MSc) in Criminal Justice and Penal Change come from a range of backgrounds.

Some are recent graduates in law, humanities and the social sciences from around the world. Many are current practitioners, policy-makers in different fields of criminal justice. They find the course of invaluable assistance in gaining a step up the career ladder.

Where are they now?

Occupations which criminal justice students may (and do) take up include:

  • Advocacy
  • Central Government Criminal Justice Research Manager
  • Council of Europe Analyst
  • Criminal Barrister
  • Defence law
  • European Union Policy Analyst
  • Forensic Services
  • Judiciary
  • Local Government Criminal Justice Policy Manager
  • Lecturer in Criminal Justice
  • Parliamentary Advisors on Criminal Justice
  • Prosecution Service
  • Prison Management
  • Prison Psychologist
  • Prison-based Social Work
  • Victim Support

What do employers say?

I’m pleased to endorse this exciting and well thought through new course. It’s encouraging to see for the first time the direct, upfront link between Criminal Justice and Penal Change. One area in particular I welcome is the practical focus on risk assessment, defensible decision making, multi-agency partnership working and effectiveness of interventions to address offending behaviour."

D E Gunn O.B.E. M.A. M.Soc.Sc. MSc, has been Governor of HM Prisons Greenock, Polmont YOI, Edinburgh and Glenochil and is Director of Operations for the Scottish Prison Service

I welcome this course at a time when investment in community supervision is being cut, prisoner numbers are rising, and the Service is threatened with privatisation. Its focus on desistance and restorative justice is central to the maintenance of an ethically sound approach to interventions. In turn its emphasis on prison reform by encouraging more therapeutic approaches for those in custody is an essential way to ensure community and prison-based interventions are both complementary and successful.”

Jonathan Ledger, General Secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, UK

As Chair of the Howard League in Scotland I welcome the growth in interest in penal reform but can see that it needs some focus and further stimulation in order to see it translated into action and change. I would expect the course to be of great interest to practitioners in various areas of criminal justice, with the diverse methods of study an essential attraction."

John Scott, QC, Solicitor Advocate, Vice President (Crime) of the Society of Solicitor Advocates, Chair of the Howard League for Penal Reform in Scotland and former Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Centre

Contact us


As well as the LLM and MSc, there’s also the option of a shorter course graduating with a Postgraduate Diploma or Certificate.

Criminal Justice and Penal Change

Qualification: MSc, Start date: Sep 2020, Mode of delivery: attendance, full-time

Criminal Justice and Penal Change

Qualification: MSc, Start date: Sep 2020, Mode of delivery: attendance, part-time

Criminal Justice and Penal Change

Qualification: PG Certificate, Start date: Sep 2020, Mode of delivery: attendance, part-time

Criminal Justice and Penal Change

Qualification: PG Diploma, Start date: Sep 2020, Mode of delivery: attendance, full-time

Criminal Justice and Penal Change

Qualification: PG Diploma, Start date: Sep 2020, Mode of delivery: attendance, part-time

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