A line of police officers, photographed from the back

Mode of Study



4-7 years

Start date

October 2023

Benefits of a Professional Doctorate in Criminal Justice

Our Professional Doctorate in Criminal Justice (DCrimJ) is a structured 4-year programme. The first two years are focused on workshop-based teaching in Portsmouth, while the latter two years are focused on supervised research, leading to a thesis.

Established in 2007, this course offers a framework for criminal justice professionals to reflect on and contribute to practice in their area of work. And unlike the more traditional PhD route – which aims to develop professional researchers – the Professional Doctorate in Criminal Justice develop researching professionals.

Students are drawn from a variety of backgrounds in criminal justice – including policing, counter fraud, the private security industry, the voluntary sector, youth justice, prisons, probation, the legal profession, and forensic mental health.

The aim of the course is to develop criminal justice professionals whose work informs and is informed by original research in the field. Previous graduates have followed research projects into profession-related subjects such as:

  • Reform and the Garda in the Republic of Ireland
  • The National Intelligence Model and reduced risk in the public sector
  • Gender within specialist police departments

Structure and teaching

You'll be studying with the same cohort of people over the whole four years – and the interaction this provides will give you the opportunity to work, learn and develop together. 

The taught element of the Professional Doctorate in Criminal Justice consists of 8 campus-based workshops in the first year (taught over 4 sessions) and 6 campus-based workshops (taught over 3 sessions) in the second year of the programme. Students are required to plan accordingly and attend all of the workshops in the taught phase of the programme.

For students who require a Visa to enter the UK then it must be noted that ID checks will take place at the start of the academic year on campus with the University UK Visa and Immigration Team as part of the normal student registration process. 

Stage 1

This stage comprises 180 M level credits which is the direct entry level to Stage 2.

Stage 2

This stage comprises Parts 1 and 2.

Part 1 (years 1 and 2)

This is the 'taught' component of the course and last for two years. During this part you will earn 120 D level credits in assignment work.

  • outline
  • professional development and review
  • advanced research techniques in criminal justice
  • publication and dissemination in criminal justice
  • criminal justice project proposal

Part 2 (years 3 and 4)

Part 2 comprises the professional research and development, leading to a thesis of up to 50,000 words.

This will earn 240 D level credits and is mainly independent study and research combined with supervision meetings and opportunities to meet with your peers to review and gain critical comment on your progress.

Changes to course content

We use the best and most current research and professional practice alongside feedback from our students to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry. If a module doesn't run, we'll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative module.

Teaching and assessment

The Professional Doctorate in Criminal Justice aims to develop your research ability to an advanced level and promote evidence-based practice development. The development of the quality and value of your practice and research will be enhanced through:

  • seminars and workshops on critical research and criminal justice issues specifically focused on the development needs of criminal justice professionals
  • support from peers and staff to ensure your work reaches the necessary (doctoral) standard
  • supervision from a team with a very wide range of development and research interests and many years of professional experience
  • access to University of Portsmouth library facilities including a large number of e-books, journals and databases accessed electronically
  • the use of an online learning environment enabling you to keep in easy touch with your peers and the course team
  • development of wider national and international perspectives through networking with the peer group
  • building ongoing productive links between criminal justice organisations
  • raising the profile, credibility and influence of your profession in both academic and practice contexts

How you'll be assessed

You will be assessed on the strength of your thesis, which is up to 50,000 words.

The assessment includes two elements:

  • a 50 minute presentation with an invited audience (plus 10 minutes of Q&As)
  • followed by a Viva Voce conducted by external and internal examiners

Entry requirements

A master's degree in a relevant subject, preferably of Merit level. It is essential that applicants are professionally engaged in one of the many areas of criminal justice. Applicants should be working at a senior level and/or have strong relevant criminal justice experience. All applicants are subject to face-to-face or telephone interview. 

English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

If you don't meet the English language requirements yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.

Tuition fees

2023 start

  • Home/CI students: £5,100 p/a*
  • EU students: £5,100 p/a* (including Transition Scholarship)
  • International students: £8,600 p/a*

*All fees are subject to annual increase

This course is eligible for the Government Doctoral Loan.


Before you start your application, you'll need to have the following documentation ready:

  • A personal statement
  • Proof of your first degree and grades (officially certified and translated copies if not in English)
  • Proof of a relevant postgraduate degree with at least 60 credits having been completed
  • Details of 2 referees or 2 references on official headed paper, one of which should ideally be an academic reference
  • Proof of your English language proficiency (if English is not your first language)
  • An up-to-date copy of your CV

Apply now for our Professional Doctorate in Criminal Justice