Police tape at a crime scene

Policing and Investigation (Distance Learning) BSc (Hons)

Start or level up your career on this Policing and Investigation degree course. Study part-time around other commitments, anywhere that suits you. 

Key information

Typical offer:

There are no specific qualification requirements

See full entry requirements
Study mode and duration
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Explore and analyse areas critical to policing and investigation – such as criminal justice, intelligence, major crime and public protection – that you can use to:

  • develop or enhance your general academic interest in policing and criminal investigation
  • qualify for the degree-holder entry programme to the police service in England or Wales (if you're thinking of joining the police as an officer)
  • level up from your current role to a senior or specialised role (if you're already working in a police force in any capacity)

This BSc (Hons) Policing and Investigation degree course is a part-time, distance learning course, which you can study around your other commitments, anywhere that suits you. 

It's open to anyone with an interest in how policing works and the theory of investigation. If you're planning a career in policing, criminal justice or related areas (such as investigation, police oversight bodies, or financial investigation in banking), you'll develop the practical skills you'll need in your future career.

If you’re already a serving police officer, this relevant and flexible degree will enable you to enhance your contribution to your organisation, increasing your potential to level up in a new role and achieve a higher salary.

Course highlights

  • Transform a passion for the criminal justice system into a rewarding career, with optional modules to suit your ambitions such as cybercrime, forensic psychology, contemporary terrorism and rehabilitation
  • Have the freedom to choose a final year project topic that suits your career goals – previous students have focused on areas including human trafficking, domestic abuse, terrorism, county lines drug trafficking and the retention of special constables
  • Be taught by leading academics from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, whose research areas include forensic interviewing and science, economic crime and cybercrime
  • Have the chance to use on-the-job experience as proof of relevant prior learning to complete the course quicker

Our distance learning courses in Criminal Justice

Enhance your career in criminology with our flexible distance learning degrees. Study online, part-time at a location that suits you.

Amy Meenaghan: In the Distance Learning Programme, you are able to be part of the Portsmouth community while studying at a time and place that suits you.

We have three different degrees. We have policing and investigation, criminology and criminal justice and risk and security management.

Anybody can study at a distance. We have students studying all over the world in different time zones. All of the learning materials will be available at a time to suit you so you can fit it in with your work commitments, you can fit it in with your family commitments.

Jessie Walker: I have two jobs. I also have a 13 year old son and I have a dog at home, and for me, distance learning just seemed like the right thing.

Paula Secree: The amount of resources that are available to you are on par with anyone that's doing a full time course.

Amy Meenaghan: Using our virtual learning platforms you can access everything you would possibly need. We do offer additional Zoom calls with our course leaders and our module coordinators.

Paula Secree: We had 24 hour chats online with library staff, which was handy for me because I worked shift work.

Jessie Walker: Theyll send you chapters from physical books, theyll scan it for you and they can send it to you.

Paula Secree: There were staff that were on hand for me to be able send my work to so that I could get advice on the work.

I had a lot of trust in them that the advice that they were giving was pretty much always sound.

Sometimes it can feel a little bit isolated. However, from speaking with the other students, it was quite inspiring to see how they were thinking and what route they were going down. There was still an element of working with your peers.

Amy Meenaghan: In terms of the career opportunities that are available from our degrees theyre very, very broad. Essentially, they give you a background in all criminological areas. So policing, probation, security, there's a whole range of different areas that you could go into with our degrees.

Jessie Walker: Because I have feelings about how the criminal justice system runs anyway and how it works for lots of different people, I think starting the degree really opened my eyes up to how it could be changed and it is manageable if you plan yourself, and I haven't come to the point where Ive thought, I can't fit this in because I want to do it.

Paula Secree: I would suggest to anyone that was considering doing this course to give it a go, it is going to give you an extra element of knowledge and understanding. I enjoyed so many different elements of it.

Benefits of distance learning

  • Work from anywhere, at your own pace, in your own time – with interactive online learning materials hosted on our virtual learning environment, Moodle, and available 24/7 on any device – find out how distance learning works
  • Access to over 600,000 ebooks, 55,000 online journals, digital newspapers and a postal loan service from our University Library – see all library support for distance learners
  • Invitations to online forums where you can discuss your studies with other students and your lecturers
  • Access to all student support services via email, phone, online chat or video call

Contact information


+44 (0) 23 9284 5566

Contact Admissions

Entry requirements

BSc (Hons) Policing and Investigation (Distance Learning) degree entry requirements

Typical offers

  • There are no specific qualification requirements, we will assess your application on its own merits.
  • Applicants without relevant Level 3 qualifications will be required to produce a short written artefact to better assist the course leader as to the suitability of the applicant.

You may need to have studied specific subjects – find full entry requirements and other qualifications we accept

English language requirements

  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.0 with no component score below 5.5.

See alternative English language qualifications

We also accept other standard English tests and qualifications, as long as they meet the minimum requirements of your course.

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.

We look at more than just your grades

While we consider your grades when making an offer, we also carefully look at your circumstances and other factors to assess your potential. These include whether you live and work in the region and your personal and family circumstances which we assess using established data.

Explore more about how we make your offer

Careers and opportunities

Society relies on the police force, and those that study effective policing, to keep communities safe.

This means there will always be a demand for the skills you develop on this course – whether you're just starting out, upskilling in your current role or planning to put your skills and knowledge to use through consultancy, investigation or research.

An in-year grant commenced in the financial year ending March 2020 to support the recruitment of new officers as a part of the Police Uplift Programme. The programme aims to deliver the manifesto commitment to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers in England and Wales by 31 March 2023.

Home Office, Police funding for England and Wales 2015 to 2022 (15 July 2021)

Visit the gov.uk website

Careers in the police

If you want a career in the police in England or Wales, this degree qualifies you for one of the College of Policing’s entry routes to the police service.

If you're planning to stay with your current force after graduating, you could use this degree course to secure a more senior or specialised role.

But you could also apply the skills and knowledge you develop on this course to any number of roles across multiple industries. As well as equipping you to become a confident police officer, this course opens up a range of other opportunities.


Do you need a degree to be a police officer?

There are three types of police officer training that enable you to become a police officer, but which one is right for you?

Find out in our blog post.

Read now

What areas can you work in with a policing and investigation degree outside the police force?

You could join the public sector, working for organisations including:

  • the Probation Service
  • the National Crime Agency
  • Department for Work and Pensions – investigating fraud
  • HMRC– investigating smuggling

You could join the private sector, working for organisations including:

  • banks and financial institutions – investigating fraud
  • insurance companies – investigating false claims
  • legal firms – assisting in legal cases
  • loss prevention and private security companies
  • private investigation firms

What jobs can you do with a policing and investigation degree?

You could take on various roles, both within and outside the police force, including:

  • crime scene investigator
  • police staff investigator within the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)
  • intelligence analyst and researcher
  • private investigator
  • security analyst
Female student at computer

Ongoing career support – up to 5 years after you graduate

Get experience while you study, with support to find part-time jobs, volunteering opportunities, and work experience.

Towards the end of your degree and for up to five years after graduation, you’ll receive one-to-one support from our Graduate Recruitment Consultancy to help you find your perfect role.

In a rapidly changing and evolving world with increasing demands upon the police, this course draws on very relevant and applied issues, and has helped me develop as a professional.

Eirikur Valberg, BSc (Hons) Policing and Investigation student


Each module on this course is worth a certain number of credits. As a distance learning student, you'll study modules worth a total of 80 credits each year. This will be a combination of core modules, worth 40 credits each, and optional modules worth 20 credits each.

A degree is split into three levels (level 4, level 5 and level 6), each made up of modules worth a total of 120 credits. Completing all three levels of this course takes 4 and a half years.

What you'll study

Core modules

You'll hone key skills like academic writing, APA referencing and critical source analysis, as well as research skills such as basic data analysis and presentation.

This module will help you feel confident about self-directed study, giving you transferable abilities to analyse complex issues, back claims with evidence, and convey multifaceted criminology topics clearly to diverse audiences.

You'll explore theories of justice and find out exactly how a criminal case makes its way through the legal system, from crime to verdict.

You'll focus initially on the processes in England and Wales before comparing these to alternative systems used globally.

By the end of the module, you'll have a comprehensive understanding of criminal justice principles and will be able to comfortably interpret complex legal terminology and materials.

Core modules

You'll first explore the historical developments leading to modern policing structures in England and Wales, before comparing different international models to consider wider contexts shaping police forces around the world.

You'll then learn methodologies for conducting police investigations, from initial crime reports to deciding when to charge a suspect.

You'll also explore the key legislation governing investigations, as well as conceptual models like due process versus crime control.

You'll explore how social, economic and political change has continually reshaped police roles, structures and governance over time.

You'll tackle issues around trust, legitimacy, culture and misconduct that contribute to tensions between police forces and their communities.

By evaluating evidence and perspectives from policing around the world, you’ll analyse major contemporary challenges, from crime complexity to governance accountability.

Core modules

You'll deepen your practical knowledge by planning and conducting research investigations, before practising how to communicate your findings in various different ways.

You'll work on your research projects both independently and in groups, keeping in mind the ethical dimensions of criminological research and how to uphold integrity.

Optional modules

On this module, you’ll learn how intelligence analysis and data protection principles are applied to inform investigative work, evaluating new technologically-enhanced techniques.

You'll discuss emerging challenges from digital evidence to community partnership approaches.

You’ll also examine examples of miscarriages of justice to spotlight critical failure points across the legal process.

You'll analyse how groups, from religious extremists to eco-activists, turn to violence, evaluating the psychological and social factors that lead to radicalisation.

You’ll look in-depth at the strategies created to address counterterror operations, building a nuanced understanding of challenges balancing security, rights and freedoms.

Through comparative case studies, you’ll appraise the effectiveness of initiatives tackling the root causes of terrorism versus policing tactics targeting threats directly.

You'll think critically about approaches for mitigating the risk of cybercrime, learning how best to respond to attacks and build resilience against constantly advancing threats.

By weighing up organisational policies, key theories and the dynamic technological landscape, you'll gain skills that can be used to help tackle cybercrime and enhance security.

You’ll consider this from a historical and theoretical perspective, and weigh up the efficacy of new innovations in forensic psychology.

You’ll learn how forensic psychology practices and decision-making impact upon the public, and key players within the justice system.

You'll access our crime scene simulations to learn practical forensic and crime science techniques, before learning how to assess the value of physical evidence in the context of criminal investigations.

You'll develop your understanding of key forensic principles so you can appreciate the real-world impact of forensic science across the criminal justice system.

By the end of the module, you'll know which scene processing methods to use in which cases, as well as how to compare analysis techniques and evaluate evidence.

You'll demystify concepts of organised crime while exploring the realities of gang culture through discussion, debate and case studies.

You'll analyse international syndicates trafficking everything from wildlife to weapons.

You'll also examine responses to these threats, from policing tactics to policies tackling the socioeconomic forces that lead to organised crime.

You'll examine the theoretical models that underpin diverse rehabilitation initiatives, from restorative justice to desistance promotion, and look at real-world case studies.

You'll also consider how rehabilitation works for different kinds of offenders - which rehabilitative methods effectively support specific groups and behaviours?

You'll assess the reforms that aim to support victims in the criminal justice system.

Analysing theoretical models, you’ll also gain insight into the factors that make becoming a victim more likely - from domestic abuse to hate crimes.

Core modules

You'll explore policing that involves individuals, teams and techniques not usually used to combat volume crime, as well as the contemporary investigation of crimes such as murder, child abuse and domestic abuse.

You'll also examine how and why things sometimes go wrong in high profile investigations, and look at strategies for improvement.

Optional modules

On this module, you'll learn how intelligence analysis and data protection principles are applied to inform investigative work, evaluating new technologically-enhanced techniques.

You'll discuss emerging challenges from digital evidence to community partnership approaches.

You'll also examine examples of miscarriages of justice to spotlight critical failure points across the legal process.

You’ll explore the nature of terrorism, the underlying root causes, enabling factors and strategic considerations of terrorist organisations, and the policy tools designed to pursue terrorist organisations and to prevent attacks.

Through historical and modern case studies, you’ll discover ways society can counter terrorism despite divergent international approaches.

You'll think critically about approaches for mitigating the risk of cybercrime, learning how best to respond to attacks and build resilience against constantly advancing threats.

By weighing up organisational policies, key theories and the dynamic technological landscape, you'll gain skills that can be used to help tackle cybercrime and enhance security.

From policy to policing, to convictions, learn how behaviour analysis and research solve and prevent crimes. You'll examine case studies to develop your ability to recognise and apply key psychological theories.

You'll learn how forensic science is applied in practice and how it fits into the broader context of criminal investigations and within the criminal justice system both nationally and globally.

You'll discover practical applications of crime science and forensic science techniques and learn the value of different types of physical evidence.

On this module, you'll look behind the stereotypical image of mobsters and gangsters to reveal the complex realities of contemporary organised crime.

Through lively discussions, debates, case studies, and practical exercises alongside your tutors and classmates, you'll gain insight into gang culture and the global forces driving today's adaptable and diverse criminal networks.

Exploring everything from local groups to transnational syndicates, you'll learn how authorities around the world are responding to curb these threats. By the end of the module, you'll understand the factors causing organised crime, and be able to identify international crime groups and evaluate global responses.

You'll examine the theoretical models that underpin diverse rehabilitation initiatives, from restorative justice to desistance promotion, and look at real-world case studies.

You'll also consider how rehabilitation works for different kinds of offenders - which rehabilitative methods effectively support specific groups and behaviours?

You'll trace the historical, social and political forces that have shaped current attitudes and policies that relate to victims of crime.

Weigh up how theoretical ideas on victimisation affect the way crime victims are treated. Through dynamic discussions and reflective writing, you'll evaluate the impact of reforms, legislation and support services on professional practices and victims' experiences.

Debating political issues around emerging victims' rights, you'll develop your own perspectives on the evolving role of victims in criminal justice.

Year 5

It's up to you what your dissertation is about – this will be your chance to showcase your passion for criminology and its associated disciplines by choosing a subject area or topic that most interests you.

You'll draw on everything you've learned so far to investigate, analyse, craft and refine your dissertation or project, using existing texts, sources and artefacts to support your arguments and give them context.

You'll have the support of a dedicated dissertation tutor to guide you throughout this module.

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.

How you'll spend your time

This distance learning course allows you to combine study and work, progressing at your own pace.


This course is delivered by supported distance learning. You will receive high-quality course materials via Moodle, our online learning environment.

You'll get to chat with fellow students, discuss and present your work and keep in touch with tutors. You'll get plenty of support throughout your studies, including help on writing and structuring essays, and how to undertake research.

You'll need access to a computer and a web connection. You may be able to access some of the resources through a tablet or smartphone, with limited functionality. You don't need to be especially computer literate, although typing skills are useful.

Teaching staff profiles

You'll be taught by active researchers from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the largest university criminology department in the UK.

Sarah Charman Portrait

Professor Sarah Charman

Professor of Criminology


School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

PhD Supervisor

Read more

Meet our staff members

Hear Dr Sarah Charman, coordinator of the Policing and Society module, and research colleagues discussing the issues that have come with police enforcement of temporary legislation during the pandemic, and the impact of this on the police and the public.

External Audio

How you're assessed

You’ll be assessed through essays and reports, with essay titles provided at the beginning of the academic year. You’ll be able to test your skills and knowledge informally before you do assessments that count towards your final mark.

You can get feedback on all practice and formal assessments so you can improve in the future.

Supporting you

As a distance learner, you can get support via video and phone from teaching and support staff to enhance your learning experience and help you succeed. You can build your personalised network of support from the following people and services:

Types of support

Your personal tutor helps you make the transition to independent study and gives you academic and personal support throughout your time at university.

As well as regular scheduled meetings with your personal tutor, they're also available at set times during the week if you want to chat with them about anything that can't wait until your next meeting.

You'll have help from a team of faculty learning development tutors. They can help you improve and develop your academic skills and support you in any area of your study.

They can help with:

  • Improving your academic writing (for example, essays, reports, dissertations)
  • Delivering presentations (including observing and filming presentations)
  • Understanding and using assignment feedback
  • Managing your time and workload
  • Revision and exam techniques

As well as support from faculty staff and your personal tutor, you can use the University's Academic Skills Unit (ASK).

ASK provides one-to-one support in areas such as:

  • Academic writing
  • Note taking
  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Presentation skills
  • Referencing
  • Working in groups
  • Revision, memory and exam techniques

If you have a disability or need extra support, the Additional Support and Disability Centre (ASDAC) will give you help, support and advice.

Our online Learning Well mini-course will help you plan for managing the challenges of learning and student life, so you can fulfil your potential and have a great student experience.

You can get personal, emotional and mental health support from our Student Wellbeing Service, in person and online. This includes 1–2–1 support as well as courses and workshops that help you better manage stress, anxiety or depression.

If you require extra support because of a disability or additional learning need our specialist team can help you.

They'll help you to

  • discuss and agree on reasonable adjustments
  • liaise with other University services and facilities, such as the library
  • access specialist study skills and strategies tutors, and assistive technology tutors, on a 1-to-1 basis or in groups
  • liaise with external services

Library staff are available in person or by email, phone, or online chat to help you make the most of the University’s library resources. You can also request one-to-one appointments and get support from a librarian who specialises in your subject area.

The library is open 24 hours a day, every day, in term time.

If English isn't your first language, you can do one of our English language courses to improve your written and spoken English language skills before starting your degree. Once you're here, you can take part in our free In-Sessional English (ISE) programme to improve your English further.

​Course costs and funding

Tuition fees

  • UK/Channel Islands, Isle of Man, and International students – £3,080 per year (years 1-4) and £1,540 a year (year 5) (may be subject to annual increase)
  • EU students – £3,080 per year (years 1-4) and £1,540 a year (year 5) (including Transition Scholarship – may be subject to annual increase)

Funding your studies

Find out how to fund your studies, including the scholarships and bursaries you could get. You can also find more about tuition fees and living costs, including what your tuition fees cover.

Applying from outside the UK? Find out about funding options for international students.

Additional course costs

These course-related costs aren’t included in the tuition fees. So you’ll need to budget for them when you plan your spending.

Additional costs

You’ll study up to 6 modules a year. You may have to read several recommended books or textbooks for each module.

You can borrow most of these from the Library. If you buy these, they may cost up to £60 each.

We recommend that you budget £75 a year for photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.


If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose.

You may need to pay additional travel, accommodation and subsistence costs, of £50–£500 to attend our optional campus induction events and study days.


How to apply

Apply for this part-time course using our online application form.

Our courses fill up quickly, so submit your application as soon as you decide which course you want to study.

Applying from outside the UK

As an international student you'll apply using the same process as UK students, but you’ll need to consider a few extra things. 

You can get an agent to help with your application. Check your country page for details of agents in your region.

Find out what additional information you need in our international students section

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

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to abide by our Student Contract (which includes the University's relevant policies, rules and regulations). You should read and consider these before you apply.