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Postgraduate Masters Programme, Department of Public Law

Masters Programme in Criminology, Law & Society

- Masters by Coursework & Mini-Dissertation

The Masters Programme in Criminology, Law and Society is offered jointly by the Centre for Law and Society and the Centre of Criminology, both based in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town.

Programme Convener: A/Prof. Julie Berg

The interdisciplinary LLM / MPhil Programme will appeal to students with interests in law and society, criminology and social justice. It aims at developing interdisciplinary skills in theory and research methods, and offers a range of specialised courses, including:

Law & Society in Africa; Social Justice; Law & Development; Forensic Science; Punishment & Human Rights; Policing; Non-State Organised Violence; Victimology & International Criminal Law.


A key focus of the programme is on equipping students with the methodological skills necessary to understand and deal with ‘Law in Action,' linking them to two of the Law Faculty’s most innovative and accomplished research centres, as mentioned above. The programme is therefore designed as such:

  • All students are therefore required to register for and pass 'Law in Action: Research Methods' (PBL5849F).

  • Students can then choose a specialisation in either Criminology or Law and Society by registering for Theories of Crime & Social Control or Law & Society in Africa, respectively. 

  • A suite of complementary courses are available to choose from in the second semester.

  • All students are required to write a compulsory minor dissertation on a relevant topic.


Compulsory Courses

LAW IN ACTION: RESEARCH METHODS (PBL5849F)  This course aims to prepare students to properly understand empirical research and methods, and to engage in empirical research projects of their own. Lawyers and legal scholars increasingly use empirical evidence to understand the legal system and its role in society, to unpack complex legal and policy questions, and to support their positions in the courtroom and business environment. Students who aim to undertake careers in academia (in the social sciences and in law) are increasingly required to undertake primary research. This course will familiarise you with the research process from design to implementation. The course is built on the view that empirical research is a craft that requires practice to implement effectively. The class is therefore hands-on, and will provide students with the opportunity to learn qualitative techniques by completing written assignments and classroom assessment activities.  



Law shapes and is shaped by our social, political, and cultural institutions and practices. In this course, you will engage in some of the key theories and concepts, such as legal consciousness and legal pluralism, that help us to understand the relationship between law and society. Explicitly interdisciplinary in orientation, the course will consider questions that arise - and are best addressed - at the intersections of legal, social, political and economic fields. Theses include why some laws are made (or enforced) and others are not, the institutional barriers to effective implementation, the reasons why citizens turn to the law (or not) to address their problems, the functioning of police, prosecutors, course and prisons - and the other forms of social regulation that fill the gaps in between.   



The course will help you to gain an understanding of the theoretical ideas that have shaped and are shaping criminal justice policy and the way in which both implicit and explicit policy agendas are realised in practice. You will explore the history of criminological theory on understandings of crime and social order and consider the thinking of seminal criminological theorists and schools of thought. 

Specialty Courses



This course aims to provide students with a sound theoretical understanding both of the justifications of punishment as well as human rights constraints in the context of sentencing. Students then apply this understanding to practical examples in order to assess how/if the theory translates into practice. In so doing it is hoped to transcend a common-sense approach to sentencing and punishment and to build firm opinions/ approaches based on acquired knowledge.



The course aims to track the development of victimology as a field of theoretical and empirical enquiry; consider policies and practices associated with victim studies; and examine the impact of post-conflict political processes of truth seeking and reconciliation on a victim-centered approach to justice.



The course explores what trends in governance can tell us about policing and what policing can tell us about developments in governance. It focuses on the impacts that global and local governance developments of global and local governance developments, new risks, spaces and technologies have on state and non-state policing, and the regulatory and human rights implications of new trends in policing.



The course engages with questions of evidence and criminal procedure, as well as criminology and criminal law through a focus on the crime scene investigation process; forensic evidence that may be collected and presented in court; the identification, documentation and collection of physical evidence; biological evidence; forensic anthropology and odontology; fire investigation and forensic accounting.



This course provides an introduction to specialist studies in international criminal law. It covers the history and development of international criminal law, detailed analysis of the core crimes of international criminal law, and the procedural and jurisdictional rules governing the domestic and international prosecution of international crimes. The prosecution of international crimes by the International Criminal Court, and States’ cooperation with the Court are given a special focus throughout the course. Students will require a background in either international or criminal law.



The vast majority of African countries frequently experience organised violence, such as belligerent street protests, riots, vigilante action or militant labour strikes. In some African countries, street and/or prison gangs, violent organised criminal groups, death squads, militias and rebels are active. This interdisciplinary course will provide you with an opportunity to familiarise yourself with the concepts, manifestations, agents and theories of organised violence in Africa.



UCT Law Admissions

Tel: +27 (0)21 650 2128/2130



For more information on the courses, contact the Centre at:

For further information you can also visit the Centre for Legal Studies site:

*Please note that courses marked with an asterisk are NOT administered via The Centre of Criminology - details for these courses can be obtained via Rene Francke from The Department of Public Law

**Students may register for other second semester courses at the discretion of the course convener.

***Closing dates for the programme in Criminology, Law and Society: 30th September (in the year preceding the student’s anticipated commencement).