BASS Politics and Sociology / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Serious and Organised Crime

Course unit fact file
Unit code CRIM30811
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Social Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Countering organised crime has been accorded high priority by many states and intergovernmental bodies, however, the concept is ill-defined and often subject to clichéd, analytically weak discourse. This course reframes the debate to think in terms of how serious crimes are organised. We analyse the nature and organisation of criminal activities such as modern slavery and money laundering (i.e. the crime commission process) and think about how the actors involved cooperate and work together to accomplish their goals (i.e. how their networks are socially organised). In this sense, we consider how the criminal behaviours of groups of illicit actors are shaped by wider social conditions.

Indicative content: (1) Introduction to the course; (2) Offending & victimisation explained; (3) Organising serious crimes for gain; (4) Regulating and controlling organised crime; (5) Drugs and cryptomarkets; (6) Modern slavery; (7) Organised criminal networks; (8) Cybercrime; (9) Illicit financial flows; (10) Course summary and assignment support.



This course unit aims to (1) Engage students with debates concerning contemporary organised and serious crimes and their nature, organisation, causes and control, (2) understand how crimes are organised across time and space, by whom, and under which conditions, (3) provide students with state of the art research materials on the concept of organising serious crimes for gain, (4) understand how the concept of organised crime is utilised as a means of defining policy and intervention at the national and international levels.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to (1) understand the academic and policy debates concerning organised crime, (2) demonstrate a critical understanding of organised crime and associated issues, (3) demonstrate a critical understanding of (inter/trans-national) state and non-state responses to organised crime.

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will be flexible and allow us to adapt to changing conditions, however, the common intention across units is to provide a blended offer of the best in online and on-campus teaching that includes: (1) whole-class sessions used for a range of exercises and activities; (2) high quality online learning materials; (3) a tutorial; (4) 1:1 support via a subject-specific contact hour.

Knowledge and understanding

Understand the debates concerning organised crime

Demonstrate a critical understanding of organised crime

Demonstrate a critical understanding of official responses to issues of organised crime and migration

Intellectual skills

Develop a coherent argument in relation to the main areas of study Independence of thought and the ability to critically appraise the quality of one's own reasoning;

Practical skills

Effective use of literature and the use of appropriate referencing / bibliography in essays

Clear and accurate use of language with appropriate grammar / punctuation / spelling

Transferable skills and personal qualities

A number of personal and transferable skills will be developed including independent learning skills, time management skills, and critical analytical skills. Students will be required to work co-operatively in order to maximise their learning

Employability skills

(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.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 20%
Written assignment (inc essay) 80%

This unit is summatively assessed by a 3000-word essay worth 80% of the overall mark, and a 1000-word blog post worth 20%.

Feedback methods

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

Chapter 20 on ‘Organised Crime’ in Newburn, T. (2017) Criminology, 3rd Ed. Abingdon: Routledge pp. 431-462.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 70

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rosemary Broad Unit coordinator
Nicholas Lord Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Across their course units each semester, full-time students are expected to devote a ‘working week’ of around 30-35 hours to study. Accordingly each course unit demands around 10-11 hours of study per week consisting of (i) 3 timetabled teacher-led hours, (ii) 7-8 independent study hours devoted to preparation, required and further reading, and note taking.

This course is available to final year students only

Restricted to: BA (Criminology), BA (Econ) (all pathways), BA Social Sciences (BASS) and LLB (Law with Criminology) students.

This course is also available to incoming study abroad students university wide.

Pre-requisites: It is desirable for students to have taken 20 credits of any level 1

Criminology module


Please refer to your personalised Criminology timetable    

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