Criminal Justice & Penal ChangeFrequently asked questions

Below we have listed answers to our most frequently asked questions. We hope that this helps to answer your query. If you have any further queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Before applying

I notice that there two kinds of Masters-level degree awards – LLM and MSc. What is the difference?

They are both Masters qualifications. 

An LLM is a Masters of Law.

An MSc is a Masters of Science.

Is one better than the other?

Definitely not. Academically, they're both Masters-level qualifications and of the same academic standard.  One is not objectively better than the other. They're equal but slightly different: an LLM qualification gives an emphasis on ‘law’ and the MSc qualification gives more of an emphasis on ‘science’.

So why have the two Masters qualifications?

Most courses only offer you an LLM or a MSc. Uniquely, at Strathclyde in the Graduate Programme in Criminal Justice & Penal Change, you can choose to graduate with either an LLM OR an MSc. We believe this is an advantage for students as it increases choice and flexibility for students who might find one award more useful for a particular career path.

What career paths have graduates pursued?

Some students who are building their careers in certain sectors (for example prison management, penal and justice policy-making, probation, social work) may prefer to graduate with an MSc as they may feel this has slightly more kudos in those fields. Other students who are building careers in law (especially legal practice for example prosecution, defence) may prefer to graduate with an LLM as that has more kudos in legal practice fields.

Equally, some students won't mind, as they know that most employers will still recognise both as Masters-level.

In my case I’m not certain what career path I might take. Do I have to decide now? I want to keep my options open.

No problem. You don't need to decide for definite which degree you take until the second semester (i.e. January). During the first semester this will be discussed we'll try to advise you in terms of your interests and aspirations as they develop during your studies. For now all you need to do (for administrative purposes) is to register for either an LLM or MSc (both are available part-time or full-time).

Remember: this can be changed at any point up until the early part of semester 2 (January). So if you register for an LLM now you can switch to an MSc and vice versa right until the second semester.

Is there a difference in the curriculum for the LLM and MSc?

The first semester is common to both the LLM and MSc. In the second semester there are small differences in terms of electives and also the character of the dissertation which students work on from around April onwards. Again, we'll take into account your interests and on that basis try to help you decide what is best for you.

Students on the programme

Who are likely to be the other students on the course?

There will be a mix of different criminal justice practitioners, policy-makers, Third Sector and NGO staff as well as recent graduates in one of the social sciences, law or humanities. They'll also be a mix of Scottish, UK, European and other international students. This mix can be a really good way in which students can learn from each other and also develop their own bonds and networks across the world and in different justice sectors.

Mode of study

Part-time or full-time: how long does it take and which is best?

Full-time is 12 months. Part-time is 24 months. Which you take really depends on your circumstances – best not to bite off more than you can chew. If you're in a demanding full-time job then it's best to opt for part-time study. If you're not working full-time or your job isn't so challenging then full-time may be good for you.

I already work as a practitioner in the criminal justice system so this should be quite easy for me, shouldn’t it?

You'll draw on your daily experience and this will be valuable. At the same time you're expected to rethink taken-for-granted routines and assumptions which one finds in any system. Practitioners who come to the classes having done the preparation and thought about it with an open mind are likely to find studying very rewarding and do very well.

The Dissertation

I see you undertake a dissertation if you want to graduate with a Masters (LLM or MSc). What is the subject?

The subject is a matter of your choice and you create your own academic inquiry in an area that interests you. The way it works is that you'll be allocated an experienced academic supervisor depending on the subject. We have a world-class teaching and supervision team based at the Strathclyde Centre for Law, Crime & Justice. All of them are active academic researchers and top experts in their own fields. You'll receive guidance on how to go about creating your dissertation inquiry, what's being sought by the Examiners. For those who may not have done this before we are on-hand guide you, though the work must be your own.

How do students study for the course?

We believe that people learn best when they learn actively. We want you to really enjoy the course and be as fascinated by criminal justice and penal change as we are. This means that our students are expected to be prepared and have done the necessary reading before class so that they explain it to others. This is a good thing as you'll get much more from the course and you'll find it more motivating too. As well as seminars, students will be asked to take part in role-play exercises, presentations and other forms of learning. We also have an active programme of public lectures from eminent visiting speakers on contemporary topics which you'll be invited to. In addition, there will be a programme of visits to local justice agencies designed to stimulate your academic learning.