MRes Criminology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Drugs: Markets, Policies and Consumption

Course unit fact file
Unit code CRIM70572
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course is concerned with issues related to the production, distribution and consumption of psychoactive substances, primarily those prohibited by law ('illegal drugs'). Indicative content:

1. Introduction: drugs, trends and explanations

2. Drugs-crime connection

3. Politics of drug policy making

4. Drug market changes and drug market violence

5. Cryptomarkets

6. Governing parents who use drugs

7. Regulation of drugs

8. Assessment guidance


The unit aims to:

(1) Introduce and explore cutting-edge research on emerging new developments in the field;

2) Develop a critical understanding of policy options and alternatives.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Understand and critique research on the evolving nature of the ‘drug question’ in the early twenty-first century;
  • Understand, analyse and evaluate ideas and evidence about drug policy;
  • Research, collate and evaluate primary and secondary materials on drugs and drug policy;
  • Develop their arguments in a logical, coherent and critically sophisticated fashion.

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning across course units consists of: (1) preparatory work to be completed prior to teaching sessions, including readings, pre-recorded subject material and online activities; (2) a weekly whole-class lecture or workshop; (3) a tutorial; and (4) one-to-one support via subject specific office hours.



Transferable skills and personal qualities

In addition to subject-specific knowledge and understanding, Criminology units foster highly employable skills such as the ability to (i) analyse, critique and (re-)formulate a problem or issue; (ii) rapidly and thoroughly review/rate argument and evidence from targeted bibliographic searches; (iii) plan, structure and present arguments in a variety of written formats and to a strict word limit, (iv) express ideas verbally and organise work effectively in small teams for a variety of written and oral tasks; (v) obtain, manipulate and (re-)present different forms of data; (vi) manage time effectively; (vii) reflect on and improve performance through feedback.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Oral communication
Problem solving
Written communication

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

This unit is summatively assessed by a 3000 word essay worth 100% of the overall mark.

Formative feedback (both individual and collective) will be given on (1) on tasks and contribution in class, (2) developing essay plans. Detailed summative feedback will be given on the submitted essay via Blackboard (Grademark).

Recommended reading

Barton, A (2011) Illicit Drugs: Use and Control. Abingdon: Routledge

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 16
Independent study hours
Independent study 50

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Lisa Williams Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Across their course units each semester, full-time students are expected to devote a ‘working week’ of 35-40 hours to study. Accordingly each course unit demands 9-10 hours of study per week consisting of (i) teacher-led activities and sessions, (ii) preparation, required and further reading. Part-time students study the same number of weekly hours per unit but take fewer units per semester. Further guidance will be given regarding study budgeting on this and other course units.

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