About the course
Our course gives you an excellent understanding of the global patterns increasingly found in criminal justice policies and criminal offences. We take a social view of crime, a view which links crime to issues of power, resources, rights, (in)equality, governance and culture. This leads us to ask, for example, why certain groups of people are more likely than others to become offenders, why certain kinds of offenders are more likely than others to be caught, how some governments commit ‘state crime’ and why so many people are simultaneously fearful of, yet fascinated by, crime.
Crucially, you also have the opportunity to spend either a term or a full academic year studying in the United States, so you can explore and become immersed in American culture.
The degree is built to be extremely flexible and student-led, and as you progress through the course you can choose from an enormous range of options from across the humanities and social sciences, including:
- Contemporary social issues, such as the struggles for racial justice
- The legacies of slavery and the civil rights movement
- Environmental protection of the ‘wilderness’ of the Far West
- Native American histories and rights
- Organised crime, surveillance and counter-terrorism
- Environmental harm
- Visual criminology
- Social history and crime
Based within our Interdisciplinary Studies Centre (ISC), American studies offers a truly multidisciplinary approach, giving you knowledge of the many ways to understand key areas of the American experience. You draw on multiple perspectives in order to reach a deeper understanding of the world we inhabit, opening up exciting possibilities to discover the American continent. The cities, vast open plains, mountains and deserts shape diverse and intriguing ways of life.
By encouraging you to think and operate across traditional boundaries, our course has produced confident, assertive and intelligent graduates who have become successful in many professional fields.
Our criminology modules are taught by our Department of Sociology, which is rated Top 10 in the UK for research quality (REF 2014).
Your education extends beyond our University campus. In your third year, you can spend either one term or one year at one of the American universities with whom we have an exchange agreement, depending on whether you take the three- or four-year variant of this course.
The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend your third year studying abroad at no extra cost, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.
We have exchange partners with fifteen excellent academic institutions across the United States, from New Mexico to Massachusetts, including upstate New York, the Deep South, Miami and California.
Studying abroad allows you to explore and become immersed in American culture, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.
Our expert staff
We are a team of internationally recognised writers and lecturers with expertise across the arts, humanities and social sciences. As well as being one of the UK’s leading universities for social science and the highest ranking institution for political science, Essex academics are world leaders in human rights and pioneers in the literature and arts of the Americas.
Our American studies staff teach in departments across the university, and specialise in a wide range of topics including American history, law, literature, film, politics, and sociology.
Current research is exploring American politics and the electorate, cinematic images of the American Pacific, politics and land rights of the native Innu of Labrador in Canada, civil rights and African American history, and American crime fiction.
All our criminology staff are actively researching at the cutting edge of their respective disciplines and bring the very latest research findings into the classroom. All are prominent writers and the criminology team collectively authored the best-selling criminology textbook, ‘Criminology: A Sociological Introduction’, used on undergraduate courses across the country.
Our staff have worked at local, national and international level with bodies like local councils, the Home Office, Amnesty International and the United Nations.
- Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is the largest of its kind in Europe
- Attend an exciting programme of events
- Our Centre for Criminology hosts expert speakers and practitioners
- Links with the Institute of Social and Economic Research, which conducts large-scale survey projects and has its own library, and the UK Data Archive, which stores national research data like the British Crime Survey
- Our students’ Sociology Society, a forum for the exchange of ideas, arranging talks by visiting speakers, introducing you to various career pathways, and organising debates
Graduates from our BA Criminology and American Studies can be attractive to employers both inside and outside the criminal justice sector because of their well-developed critical thinking and analytical skills.
Careers linked to criminology are varied. Our course provides excellent training for work within the criminal justice system and beyond. Our recent graduates have gone onto pursue careers in a wide range of high-profile companies including:
- Institute of Public Finance
- Guardian Professional
- Home Office
- Synergy Healthcare Research
We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.
For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.
Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.
In your final year you choose between American Society: Ethnic Encounters in the Making of the USA and Globalisation and Crime. You don't take both.
Certain ideas shape the way we see ourselves and the world around us—ideas like democracy, free speech, individualism, free markets, and humans rights. These ideas took their definitive modern form during a politically and intellectually revolutionary stretch of history known as the Enlightenment (1650-1800). This interdisciplinary module examines this period and thus serves as an essential prerequisite for students who want to understand the intellectual currents that run through the world they live in. Graduating students often rank it among the most useful modules they’ve taken.
What are different forms of crime? What is the role of criminal justice? And how effective are penal sanctions? We provide a critical introduction to the problem of, and responses to, crime. You examine the history of criminological ideas, Britain’s criminal justice system, and current debates on crime and control.
American politics have long dominated the global stage; these are crucial times for the study of the United States. Discuss policymaking and contemporary political events in order to gain a basic introduction to the politics and government of the United States.
Who were the key sociologists studying the United States? And how have issues like democracy, inequality, gender roles, poverty, gangs and guns become sources of enchantment and disenchantment in the US? Studying one sociologist per week, we explore important and exciting interpretations of American society.
Are you ready for graduate employment? Like to improve your core skills? Wish you had some relevant work or volunteering experience? Attend workshops, events and activities at the University and elsewhere to build your knowledge, abilities and experience. Polish your CV, while developing your employability, citizenship and life skills.
Gain a firm grasp of US history by studying key historical events as well as important social movements. Topics covered range from the early settlements in Plimoth and Jamestown, through the American Revolution and expansion, Industrial Revolution, slavery and Civil War, up to the 1950s and 60s civil rights, women's and youth movements. Engage with novel and exciting debate about the history of the United States.
What is US literature? What makes it different from other writing in the English language, particularly work from the UK? Study classic texts that have established US literature as a distinct tradition in itself and gain an understanding of the issues surrounding this.
From a variety of perspectives, including history, literature, politics, sociology, art and architecture, you will examine the structural relationships of America and American culture at its core and at its (geographic, cultural) edges. Lectures cover topics including the USA's political, cultural and subcultural relationships with its Native communities and with Mexico, Puerto Rico and Latin America more broadly; various subcultural movements including gay rights, the Harlem Renaissance and activist art movements; race relations; the politics of war; the architectural fabric of American cities; and more.
You will examine key theories and trends in criminological thought, including the historical development of criminology and some of the more recent critiques. The themes of causation, criminalisation, correction and control run throughout the theoretical perspectives and are considered alongside some specific examples of criminal activity and organisation. Examples range from the individually-experienced through the structural inequalities relevant to understanding gender, ethnicity and crime and include the global dimensions.
What is wrong with using punishment as a criminal justice institution? How is punishment a social phenomenon? What are the formal elements of punishment? And how does punishment fit into our wider social world? Study the problem of punishment in a philosophical, social and contemporary context.
Got an idea for a project, job or not-for-profit enterprise that will enhance local well-being? We study the concept and practice of social entrepreneurship, using case studies of work that has helped local communities, people or the environment. From this, you develop your project proposal or business plan.
Want to do a dissertation in your final year? Have a great idea for a topic that you wish to study in depth? The short lectures, practical research exercises and discussion opportunities on this module help you develop your own coherent research project.
What is it to be an American Indian today? Has the slavery legacy contributed to contemporary debates on criminal justice? What are the politics for a Latino presence? Examine social, political and economic encounters between European settlers, American Indians, African-Americans and Latinos that shaped the USA, from colonisation to today.
Are you doing a dissertation in your final year? Need help and advice on your research findings? Our workshop module lets you present your work to academic staff and your peers, gaining valuable feedback and guidance while you write your dissertation.
Gain a detained insight into the history of sexuality in the United States from the colonial period to the present, with an emphasis on women. You will understand how the social construction of sexuality changed throughout time. Although women's historical experiences are positioned as central to this module, you also investigate concepts of masculinity and manhood. In addition to gender, race, class, free/un-free status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and the body, are crucial sites of analysis.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree. Our Programme Specification gives more detail about modules on your year abroad.
- American Studies modules taught through one-hour lectures plus one-hour classes of about twenty students
- Spend either a term or a full year experiencing the American education system
- Criminology teaching is arranged to allow a lot of freedom in how you organise your learning experience, with a focus on discussion and problem-solving
- Other Criminology modules include lab sessions to improve technical research skills
- Assessed through a combination of written coursework and end-of-year examinations
- Criminology assessment weighting is 50% coursework and 50% examinations
- Complete a supervised dissertation on the topic that most inspires you
If you already have your results and want to apply for 2016 entry through Clearing, complete our Clearing application form
and we’ll get back in touch with you or give us a ring
to discuss your grades.
IELTS entry requirements
English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)
If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.
If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.
Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.