Back to: Criminology major Criminology major

Criminology draws knowledge and perspectives from a range of disciplines such as law, sociology, psychology, psychiatry and history. Initially, criminology had a strong practical focus: its role was to advise governments on issues such as policing, the management of prisons, sentencing and offender treatment. Concern with policy and practice remains, but criminologists now work in a much wider range of fields including crime prevention, corporate and white-collar crime, business regulation, drug policy and consumer and environmental protection.

Criminology doesn’t take crime and criminal law for granted. As an academic discipline it continually questions why different societies define and respond to crime in different ways, and why approaches to punishment and other forms of social control have varied so much from era to era. Increasingly criminologists also study the ways cultures depict crime: whether in newspapers, television and other mass media or in films, novels and art.


  • Defence
  • Government
  • Legal adviser
  • Policing
  • Policy development
  • Social justice

Subjects you could take in this major

  • This subject explores the motivations underpinning particular types of criminal behaviour. It begins with an overview of various definitions and ways of measuring crime and then looks at the causes of specific offences ranging through graffiti, to animal cruelty, to armed robbery, to illicit drug use, to terrorism. Wherever possible, the words and rationales of offenders are used to give a more grounded insight into the reasons for criminal behaviour. Overall, the course has been designed to facilitate: discussion of criminal events which feature prominently in the public mind and/or the popular media; discussion of the relationship between the perceived causes of crime and responses to criminal offending by police, courts and corrections; and discussion of the implicit models of personhood, choice, gender, economic position, geographic location, peer group dynamics and other variables underpinning particular theories of criminal behaviour and formal and informal mechanisms for controlling such behaviour.

  • Law in Society introduces students to theories, concepts, forms and practices of law in contemporary Australian society. It will provide a foundation both for socio-legal studies subjects in later years and for subjects in disciplines such as politics, criminology and law. In preparing students to engage critically with law, the subject looks at the ways that "harm" is constructed as a legal category. It encourages students to ask who is able to name something as either harmful, or not worthy of state intervention, and how this capacity to name effects socio-political relations. To develop this analysis, the subject discusses the norms that underpin the capacity to name particular practices as harmful, and engages critically with certain historical and current harms. Examples of such harms might include treachery, riot and disorder, terrorism, payback, the Northern Territory Emergency Response, torture, sado-masochistic sex acts, or female circumcision.

  • The subject studies Australian indigenous politics in the comparative context of settler societies. First, it explores their historical dispossession and exclusion that left Indigenous people as citizens without rights, and economically and socially marginalized in their own country. Second, it evaluates the ongoing processes of recognition and inclusion, including anti-discrimination measures, land rights, state and federal policy measures, social policy and Indigenous initiatives that have marked the uneven path to reconciliation and recognition of the full rights and entitlements of Indigenous people, including special group rights and compensation.

  • Criminal law has a central importance in criminology, since it is the criminal law which determines the legality or illegality of behaviours. This subject studies social and political dimensions of the criminal law as it governs institutional processes and the construction of criminality. The first section of the course covers differences in the ways that criminal law and criminology construct social issues as crime, with particular emphasis on the legal processes of criminal justice. The next sections provide substantive examinations of different aspects of the social and political dimensions of criminal law with particular emphasis on topical areas currently subject to contestation and change: such as the regulation of public space; and the ways in which the criminal law seeks to regulate the production of images.

  • This subject introduces students to the fundamental analytic skills that are used in social science research. It provides an introduction to the theoretical and epistemological foundations of social science research, familiarises students with the different methods of inquiry in the social sciences and provides an overview of key historical and contemporary debates and trends. Different theoretical approaches and their associated methods of inquiry will be introduced through practical examples in order to show their strengths and limitations.

  • Contemporary cultural and political conflicts are increasingly articulated with the body, bodies, gender and sexuality at the heart of their concerns. This subject brings insights from contemporary theory and social research to our understanding of how and why this occurs. The subject begins by examining ways to think about the gendered body. It then moves to a consideration of the links between gender, sex, sexuality, cultural difference, class, popular culture and politics.

  • Law, Justice and Social Change examines the ways in which law can be seen as both an instrument of positive social change and yet also as a means of confirming existing social arrangements and resisting social change. It considers what access to justice entails, investigating a series of case studies and theoretical perspectives concerning the struggles for access to justice and involvement in legal processes and institutions by particular groups and individuals. It looks at a selection of issues such as gender politics, ethnicity, race, disability, indigenous politics, non-English speaking background, class and economic struggles, sexual orientation and social dissent. Students choose a current law reform issue to consider in light of the issues discussed in the course and interview a staff member from a community legal centre or government body involved in writing a report or submission that advocates for legal change. These issues and organisations have in the past included the Disability Discrimination Act (The Office of the Public Advocate), Racial and Religious Vilification (Victorian Office of Multicultural Affairs), the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement (Department of Justice Victoria), Same Sex Relationships and the Law and Reproductive Technology and Adoption (Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria), Homelessness and Poverty (Public Interest Law Clearing House), Electro Convulsive Therapy (Mental Health Legal Centre), Unfair Dismissal Protection for Casual Workers (JobWatch), Refugee Rights (Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre), Child Custody Arrangements (Women's Legal Service Victoria), a Children and Young People's Commission (Youth Affairs Council of Victoria), Right to Silence (Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service).

  • This subject analyses the nature of social order and how need for order brings an inevitable consequence that deviance and non-conformity will result. Classical and contemporary sociological and criminological theories are explored that help explain the nature of social order and crime and deviance. Each theory is developed through grounded examples that can illustrate both its strengths and weaknesses. Topics covered in the course include suicide, industrial disasters, religious cults, sexual assault, racism, terrorism and the witchcraze of the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe.

  • This subject introduces students to the historical, political and social forces which shape police organisations, policies and practices. The subject covers the origins, functions and structures of contemporary policing , and identifies key emerging issues and challenges in policing such as the effectiveness of policing in crime control, the emergence of community policing, police culture, police misbehaviour and accountability, organisational change and organisational renewal. The emphasis is upon public (state) policing sector and to 21st century developments in multi-agency policing. Upon completion of the subject, students should be able to analyse critically current developments in policing in terms of their historical, theoretical, political and functional contexts.

  • This subject is designed to introduce students to the major forms and structures of punishment in our society. The subject examines why we punish individuals, how we do so, and how the punishment process can be viewed in a wider social context. The first part of this subject considers the broad justifications for punishment, and experiences of imprisonment with particular emphasis on hidden groups such as female and indigenous prisoners. We consider the process of punishment, from sentencing to imprisonment and punishment in the community. The second part of the subject examines the work of major writers who have provided a theoretical critique of punishment and the role it plays in our society. By the end of the subject students should have a good understanding of the correctional system and be familiar with the work of important theorists like Foucault, Cohen and Garland.

  • This subject examines the various dimensions of terrorism and its manifestations. This includes the nation state's capacity to authorise and to create the conditions for the practices known as terrorism. In this subject we interrogate the role of the nation state and the rhetoric/s of anti-terrorism that both produce and contain acts known as terrorism. We look at the psychology of both the nation state and the terrorist through different anaytical approaches. To this end we examine the function of different terrorist acts - including suicide bombing in Iraq, Israel/Palestine, London and New York, assassinations and bombings in Northern Ireland and England, and practices of state terror in the context of acts of genocide, disappearance and torture. All of these examinations are used to assist in trying to think about a new way of conceptualizing violence performed by the state, the individual and the group.

  • This subject provides students with training in applied social science research methods. Students will learn how to connect a research question with appropriate research design and methodology and acquire practical skills in utilising different research methods and tools, including analysing data and presenting results. The subject will enable students to develop a critical understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods and the practical skills to carry out social science research.

  • Cinema and television have become immensely popular and influential cultural forms. This subject investigates the relationship between crime and culture by focusing on representations of crime and justice in film and television. The subject considers these representations in the context of recent debates about the cultural construction of crime in criminology, socio-legal studies, cultural studies and film theory. It will develop the skills necessary for analyzing images of crime and justice in film and television and will also examine a number of case studies (including television crime drama, police procedurals and trial movies, cinematic fascination with the serial killer, cinematic representations of 9/11, and the cinematic depiction of violence and gender).

  • Many criminology graduates find themselves researching, developing and applying crime policy in government, political and other contexts. This subject helps prepare students for such work. As well as providing an overview of factors shaping policy in Australia and other countries, it reviews challenges associated with making theory relevant in practical contexts. Emphasis is on exploring contemporary issues of public policy such as control of the sex industry, drug law reform, HIV policy, public drunkenness, multiculturalism and the interlinking themes of these public issues. The subject also draws on sociological, psychoanalytic and philosophical theory to help understand opportunities for, and obstacles to, the introduction or reform of public policy. Specific theorists used include Foucault, Zizek, Marx, Butler, Deleuze and poststructural feminist theory. These theorists are used to consider the philosophies that underpin rationales for deciding what is deserving of state intervention and comment as either public policy or criminalization.

  • Crime in a Globalised World examines crime and deviance from global and comparative perspectives and on a global scale. A new area of criminological research, this subject focuses on crime problems that have typically gone below the criminological radar. The subject will ask students to think about the problem of crime outside the traditional parameters of criminological study. This will include crimes that cross national borders, new forms of organised crime, crimes committed by nation states and new, trans-national, definitions of criminal conduct. In this subject students will encounter case studies of crimes from a variety of global and comparative locations and will engage with up to the minute criminological research and theorising that attempts to understand and explain this new phenomenon of global crime. On completion of the subject, students should have an understanding of how 21st century crime challenges traditional ways of thinking about crime, defining and penalising criminal conduct and establishing a global notion of 'justice'.

  • This subject analyses the crimes and harms of the powerful. The subject examines the relationship between government, business and law both theoretically and through a series of case studies to explore why business harms and crimes are so difficult to tackle. These case studies of corporate and white-collar crime include complex financial fraud, industrial disasters, professional misconduct, tax avoidance and corruption in the context of business. This theoretical and case study material is used to demonstrate the challenges associated with deciding whether harmful behaviour by the powerful should be defined as crime and the difficulties inherent in using criminal law to curb such activities. Students will explore a range of criminological theories that can help explain the harms perpetuated by the powerful as well as the techniques employed by the state in regulating white-collar and corporate misconduct.

  • This subject offers an examination of the relationships between indigenous people and the major systems of social control such as the criminal justice system, education, welfare and health. It explores the experiences and outcomes of Indigenous exposure to selected agencies within those systems. It considers different theoretical perspectives on the processes of Indigenous marginalisation, criminalisation and victimisation, and examines specific issues such as exclusion, racism, differential policing, over-representation and access to justice. It explores and evaluates institutional reforms designed in partnerships with relevant communities to redress Indigenous disadvantage.

  • Law in Social Theory builds upon issues introduced in Law in Society, and Law, Justice and Social Change. It examines the theories of the function and role of law propounded by a range of social and legal theorists and movements, including Habermas, Luhmann, Critical Race Theory, Feminist Legal Theory, and others. Students examine these different theories of how law works and law's role in relation to society. Each week these theories are considered in light of and tested against contemporary criminological and socio-legal problems selected by the students and the lecturer. Students conceptualise their chosen case study through the perspective of particular theorists. Case studies in the past have included the David Hicks trial, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, closure of live music venues, Aboriginal customary law in the courts, corporate manslaughter, criminal record legislation, sex discrimination in the workplace, the use of art experts in the courtroom, prostitution legislation. The purpose of the course is thus two-fold: to become familiar with different theories of the function of law in relation to society, and to consider the insight these theories bring to different criminological and socio-legal problems.

  • This subject examines the intersections between social justice and criminal justice in the state's management of individuals and groups it considers to be at risk of harming, or being harmed, by others. Its core interests are to explore the relationship between different agencies and the state in the management of criminal justice in Victoria; the broader socio-political and historical context in which they operate; and the theory-practice nexus. To complement scholarly perspectives on complex social issues, (including, for example, in relation to youth justice; family violence and sexual assault; mental illness; drug and alcohol use; imprisonment detention), guest lecturers from local agencies and institutions will discuss the contemporary practice of criminal justice management in Victoria and implications for social justice more broadly. Students are encouraged to theorise, historicise, analyse and reflect upon these matters including with reference to a particular case study. The subject is of general relevance to social science students and of particular interest to those intending to work in the field and/or pursue internships at undergraduate Honours, Postgraduate Diploma or Masters level.

  • This subject charts the experiences that young people have as subjects and resistors of social control, victims of crime and young offenders. These experiences are contextualised by an appreciation of youth crime and justice as products of historical, theoretical and political junctures which have variously sought to protect, treat or punish. The first part of the subject critically explores young people and social control; considering the boundaries between rights and responsibilities, anti-social behaviour and crime and adolescence and adulthood. The second part of the subject considers young people in relation to crime- as victim-survivors and offenders. The third part of the subject analyses the system and process of youth justice in Australia.

Entry requirements & Prerequisites

This major is available through more than one course, both of which have their own separate entry requirements.

You can read more on the the Bachelor of Arts & Bachelor of Arts Extended pages.