Our Forensic Investigation degree allows students without a traditional science background, or those with a specific interest in this field, to acquire knowledge relating to the use of forensic techniques in a wide range of criminal investigations.
Investigations could include sport and competition drugs testing, consumer protection and authenticity, DNA analysis in food testing, wildlife crime, and toxicological investigations linked to chemical and biological terrorism.
You’ll gain practical skills in volume crime scene examination, analysis of forensic evidence, and courtroom simulations, and undertake simulated investigations in our multi-room Crime Scene Training Facility.
The four-year MSci course allows you to advance your studies to a higher level in the areas of volume and serious crime scene management, and the analysis of evidence and intelligence. You will also complete a laboratory-based project.
You will study a diverse range of subject areas relevant to forensic investigation, including crime scene investigation, collection and analysis of evidence, the structure and processes which regulate the criminal justice system and laws associated with criminal investigation.
During the first year, you will receive an introduction to the various disciplines within the forensic science field and this will be complimented with practical experience gained through the examination of realistic simulated crime scenes from domestic burglaries to homicide within our suite of forensic laboratories and bespoke crime scene house. Other subject areas such as Policing, Health and Safety, Introductory Science and Mathematics will also be studied. Modules include:
Introduction to Forensic Science
This module will provide you with a comprehensive introduction to the technical and practical aspects of selected topics within forensic science. Areas covered include forensic geology; forensic odontology and anthropology; homicide investigation; criminal profiling; forensic entomology; accident investigation; current and anticipated crime trends and legal systems in England and Wales.
Introduction to Criminalistics
The practice of forensic science requires an understanding of a broad range of forensic topics and involves many investigative techniques. This module will provide you with the knowledge, practical understanding and technical ability relating to the investigation of crime. Here you will study introduction to crime scene investigation; documentation; collection and preservation of physical evidence; interpretation of crime scene evidence and crime scene reconstruction.
Police Duties and Law I
This module will provide you with an introduction to criminal law as relevant to England and Wales, covering areas currently incorporated within the training of police officers, such as evidence and procedure, road policing, crime and general police duties.
Science for Forensic Investigation
Within this module you will be introduced to the concepts of scientific investigation, measurement, accuracy and essential chemical and biological theories and practices involved in forensic investigation. This will include assisting you to develop good laboratory technique within these areas, but also an introduction to chemistry, cell and molecular biology, serology, genetics and DNA.
Crime Analysis, Criminal Justice and the Courts
This module will introduce students to the criminal justice system. This will include an overview of the major agencies involved and their legal powers and governance including the Police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and the Probation Service. Students will learn about the scientific tools used to evaluate crime, its origin and context, prevalence, and effects upon victims and society. There will also be an overview of the classification and recording of criminal offences and the forensic evidence associated with each.
Key Skills for Forensic Practice
This module will provide you with an appreciation of the principles of safe working in laboratories, accident prevention and the promotion of safety in the workplace and the consequences for health due to exposure to hazards. You will develop an understanding of the information concerning hazards in performing experimental work and in the calculation of the probability of an accident and to estimate risk. Additionally the use of IT for scientific working, accessing journals and referencing skills are provided.
During the second year of study, you will further enhance your skills through the analysis of evidence in the laboratory, learning about the various chemical and biological analyses that are used within forensic laboratories. Specialist disciplines such as photography, Forensic Earth Science, Computer Forensics and microscopy are introduced here. Modules studied include:
Through studying this module you will understand the role, duties and limitations of expert witnesses within forensic science provision. In addition to this, you will develop competence in analysing; summarising, presenting, organising and reporting on trace evidence types and receive instruction on the retrieval and evaluation of data and information from accident scenes.
Volume Crime Scene Examination
Within this module you will gain practical digital imaging, crime scene photography and video experience recording a variety of crime scenes scenarios. This will involve studying the theoretical aspects of photography, and equipment: Films and film speeds, camera formats, focal length, aperture and depth of field, lighting techniques and flash. In addition to this, you will gain practical training in core skills for the crime scene investigator within a series of simulated volume crime scenes including vehicle examination.
Police Duties and Law II
This module will enable you to interpret and relate current and new legislation to police practice and procedures. It will allow you to identify and analyse the effects of legislation on communities and partner agencies. Students will be given the opportunity to further develop knowledge, confidence and competence in application of law as a tool for problem solving.
Digital Forensics (e-crime)
You will develop knowledge and evaluate the tools and techniques associated with the creation and delivery of a computer forensic service within a team environment.
You will learn to demonstrate knowledge and skill in the processes required to manage a forensic project, from initial seizure to presenting evidence in the courtroom.
This module will introduce students to an understanding of the reactive and proactive approaches to criminal investigations. You will learn about Investigative Interviewing. This will include Interviewing victims, witnesses and suspects and evidence and intelligence gathering. You will also be given an introduction to the complex field of forensic psychology, to understand its role and uses in the criminal investigation procedure.
Practical Applications of Forensic Investigation
You will learn about the prevalence, abuse and effects and forensic examination of drugs and alcohol. This will include the sports doping, hair analysis and in the investigation of consumer products. In addition to this, you will gain an appreciation of the role of earth science data in the forensic examination of crime scenes or reported episodes.
You will be introduced to more complex Forensic Investigation areas such as Fire and Explosion and Specialist areas of Forensic Investigation. Emphasis will still be placed on the Policing strand of the course and the importance of crime scene processing, and evidence handling in the laboratory. You will also undertake an independent literature review research project. Modules studied include:
Research, Employability and Professional Skills
This will involve the scientific evaluation of cases and evidence and statistical evaluation of forensic evidence and professional ethics and standards. Cases will include forensic pathology, homicide, suicide and accidental death amongst others. In addition to this, you will be introduced to the court room processes and the role of the expert witness, barristers, cross-examination and evidence in chief. As part of this module, you will conduct a literature review which will involve a critical evaluation of primary information and data on a selected topic within forensic science.
You will develop an understanding of the optic principles involved in microscopy and appreciate the microscope as an instrument to examine and analyse specimens which are applicable to forensic science. In addition to this, you will develop a capacity to interpret images and draw conclusions from these observations. Samples may include textiles, fibres, food and drugs, soil, pollen and tissue samples. In addition to this you will gain an understanding in, and hands on experience of using the Scanning Electron Microscope.
Forensic Evidence II
You will acquire practical experience in trace evidence analyses using associated instrumentation and develop competence in case management and evidence interpretation. In addition to this, you will receive theoretical and practical instruction in traffic incidents and the use of GIS in the statistical analysis of crimes.
Police Duties and Law III
It will enable you to critically analyse complex legislation in the context of police practice and procedures. You will learn to differentiate and discriminate in analysing, summarising, interpreting and applying the nature and effects of complex legislation and it enhances knowledge, confidence and competency in the application of complex law involved in personal development and progression within policing.
Specialist Forensic Investigation
Within this module you will be provided with an understanding of a variety of specialist investigation fields including wildlife forensics, forensic engineering and the investigation of biological and radiological hazards. In addition to this, you will learn about bioterrorism and its’ investigation and wildlife forensics.
Fire and Explosion Investigation
This module provides an in-depth and detailed overview of fire science, fire scene investigation, fatal fire investigation, vehicle fire investigation, explosives and explosion scene investigation.
Advanced Physical Evidence Analysis and Crime Scene Management
This advanced module will provide you with an understanding and practical experience of advanced scene analysis and professional scene management using UK standard operational procedures in volume and major crime. Highly practical in nature supported by lectures and tutorials.
Interpretation, Evaluation and Presentation of Casework
This module trains you in a range of interpretation and evaluation skills that you will require in a future forensic practitioner role. You will understand the requirements of the role of an expert witness and reporting scientist. You will also be introduced to further Bayesian statistics, and the chemometric approach to data analysis.
This module focuses on the detection and quantitation of a range of drugs of abuse in biological matrices such as blood, urine saliva and hair. You will receive a high level of practical laboratory training in several drug extraction methods and confirmation techniques such as GCMS and ICP-OES. Practical laboratory work will include method development and validation techniques and in addition we will focus on the challenging area of hair analysis for clinical and forensic toxicology.
Project Design, Management and Enterprise
In this module, you will have the opportunity to complete an internationally recognised PRINCE2 foundation certificate. You will also prepare a full research proposal, and engage in activities alike Dragon’s Den where you will explore your entrepreneurial capabilities.
Laboratory Research Project
In this 40-credit module, you will complete an individual piece of research with a forensic context in one of our laboratories. There may also be an opportunity to work alongside a forensic science service provider on a collaborative project. You will produce a scientific dissertation, and a conference poster which will be evaluated in an end of year student conference.
The Forensic Investigation course will be delivered through a series of lectures, tutorials and practical classes. In addition to this, students are expected to undertake both directed and independent learning, reading around the subject area.
On an average week during years one to three nclusive, students may be expected to attend six lectures; three to four hours of tutorials or workshops; up to 10-12 hours of practical work and independent directed study.
The timetable may be spread over all five days of the taught week (Monday to Friday inclusive) or it may for example, allow students half a day or a full day free from contact classes. This is subject to change on a weekly basis depending upon when individual activities for modules are timetabled.
Guest lecturers are invited to speak to students on a range of topics. Previous topics have included Fire Investigation, Ballistics cases and Identification of Bodies from Mass Graves.
During year four, you will study your modules sequentially throughout the year. There are periods of self-directed learning where you will study online material including journals, research notes and recommended books before engaging in hands on laboratory training, lectures and seminars on campus.
You will complete a research project in your chosen area of specialisation. For laboratory based modules you will spend most of your time conducting research and experiments in our laboratories. We expect you to study approximately 100 hours in your own time for each 20 credit module during year four, to contribute to your learning.
We have developed long standing partnerships with several key employers in industry and these partners have contributed to the course, from helping to design the curriculum, to providing guest lectures and opportunities for student placements (subject to availability). There are usually opportunities for court visits to observe expert witness testimony and laboratory visits to our industrial partners.
Students will be assessed by various means. These may include (but are not limited to) written examinations, in class tests, essays, reports, practical exercises, presentations, research, assessed tutorials. Some modules will be continually assessed and others may have an end of year examination. The following values demonstrate approximate contributions of examinations and continuous assessment for each year of study:
Written end of year examination 20%
Continuous Assessment 80%
Written end of year examination 30%
Continuous Assessment 70%
Written end of year examination 25%
Continuous assessment 75%
Written end of year examination 8% (one exam for Analytical Toxicology)
Continuous assessment 92%
Written end of year examination refers to examinations formally taken at the end of the academic year. Other tests may form part of the continuous assessment element of the modules.
Our chemistry and analytical laboratories are of a standard you would expect to find in industry. If you choose to study one of our courses, you will make full use of the George Knox laboratories and gain hands-on experience using extensive analytical equipment. This will allow you to develop a portfolio of highly desirable practical skills that you can add to your CV. In particular, when using the more specialised equipment and facilities, you will find yourself working in groups of up to just four or five students.
Our laboratory facilities include a dedicated organic chemistry laboratory; a combined inorganic/physical chemistry laboratory; two large general instrument laboratories that house analytical instruments such as UV/visible spectrometers, infrared spectrometers, fluorescence spectrometers, optical emission spectrometers, and gas and liquid chromatographs; a dedicated student research laboratory and two specialist laboratories for performing nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometry and scanning electron microscopy In addition, students have access to the laboratories and instrumentation in the University’s Sustainable Environment Research Centre (SERC) which include ultra-high performance liquid chromatograph tandem mass spectrometers, ion chromatographs and headspace gas chromatographs. View our Forensic Science facilities
You will be taught by staff in our analytical and forensic science team which consist of specialist forensic science practitioners, experts in DNA analysis and bloodstain pattern analysis, experts in forensic toxicology, crime scene investigators and chartered chemists. In addition to this, you will be taught by experienced lecturing staff from the Policing and Criminology areas.
We also employ several specialists within the forensic field to deliver training on the Forensic Investigation course to enhance your study.
Entry criteria detail typical offers but USW considers all applications on an individual basis which means that we could make offers based on qualifications, personal profile and experience. Combinations of qualifications are acceptable and other qualifications not listed may also be acceptable.
BBC in any subjects
Grade C and BB at A Level in any subjects
BTEC Extended Diploma Distinction Merit Merit in any subject
Pass the International Baccalaureate Diploma with a minimum score of 30 overall including a score of 5 or above in English at standard level.
60 credits overall to include 45 level 3 credits equating to 18 Distinctions, 24 Merits and 3 Passes
GCSEs: The University normally requires a minimum 5 GCSEs including Mathematics and English at Grade C or above, or their equivalent but consideration is given to individual circumstances
We also welcome international applications with equivalent qualifications. Please visit the country specific pages on our international website for exact details.
In general, international applicants will need to have achieved an overall IELTS grade of 6.0 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component.
However, if you have previously studied through the medium of English IELTS might not be required, but please visit the country specific page on our international website for exact details. If your country is not featured please contact us.
Full-time fees are per year. Part-time fees are per 20 credits. Once enrolled, the fee will remain at the same rate throughout the duration of your study on this course.
Find out how to pay your tuition fees in full or by payment plan.
This course is eligible under the Enhanced Learning Credits scheme for Ex-Armed Forces personnel.
International Scholarships are available for self-funding international students.
Students have access to a wide range of resources including textbooks, publications, and computers in the University’s library and via online resources. In most cases they are more than sufficient to complete a course of study. Where there are additional costs, either obligatory or optional, these are detailed below. Of course students may choose to purchase their own additional personal resources/tools over and above those listed to support their studies at their own expense. All stationery and printing costs are at a student’s own expense.
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Students are encouraged to equip themselves with a suitable cotton laboratory coat, suitable for working in a chemical laboratory, and a pair of personal protective laboratory goggles, although the School does provide these items. Students who are successful in securing an industry-based project may, in a small number of cases, be required to purchase additional personal protective equipment as specified by the specific organisation or company.
Students who successfully secure a placement in industry to complete their major research project would be expected to pay their own travel costs to and from the venue during the period of placement. The cost of this will of course vary and some students have also paid for accommodation close to their place of work for the duration of their placement.
Apply via UCAS if you are a UK/EU residing applicant, applying for year one of a full-time undergraduate degree, Foundation Year, Foundation Degree or HND and you have not applied through UCAS before. If you are applying to study part-time, to top up your Foundation Degree or HND, or to transfer to USW from another institution, please apply directly.
Apply directly to the University if you live outside the UK/EU.
The MSci Forensic Investigation degree will help you develop the academic, vocational and personal skills needed to pursue a variety of careers. These include roles in crime scene and forensic investigation units, and in the wider criminal justice sector. The Forensic Investigation course is designed to also develop transferrable skills that you can apply to a range of occupations requiring a scientific analytical background.
As a USW student, you will have access to advice from the Careers and Employability Service throughout your studies and after you graduate.
This includes: one-to-one appointments from faculty based Career Advisers, in person, over the phone or even on Skype and through email via the "Ask a Question" service. We also have extensive online resources for help with considering your career options and presenting yourself well to employers. Resources include psychometric tests, career assessments, a CV builder, interview simulator and application help. Our employer database has over 2,000 registered employers targeting USW students, you can receive weekly email alerts for jobs.
Our Careers service has dedicated teams: A central work experience team to help you find relevant placements; an employability development team which includes an employability programme called Grad Edge; and an Enterprise team focused on new business ideas and entrepreneurship.