Forensic Science

Forensic Science - MSc

This programme is for graduates with a strong grounding in forensic science who wish to advance their knowledge of the field.


It prepares you for a professional role in forensic science within the criminal or civil judicial system, police or forensic practice, or research. You develop command, control and management skills that will enable you to present expert evidential incident reports to the highest standard at court.

You also develop your knowledge and understanding of advanced laboratory analytical methods applied to forensic investigation. This enables you to select the most appropriate analytical techniques for forensic investigation and to use a wide range of advanced analytic apparatus to evidential standards.

This programme helps you to develop an integrated and critical understanding of forensic science to prepare you to undertake a PhD in any associated discipline.

About The School of Physical Sciences

The School offers postgraduate students the opportunity to participate in ground-breaking science in the realms of physics, chemistry, forensics and astronomy. With strong international reputations, our staff provide plausible ideas, well-designed projects, research training and enthusiasm within a stimulating environment. Recent investment in modern laboratory equipment and computational facilities accelerates the research.

Our principal research covers a wide variety of topics, theoretical, experimental and applied – you can see a list of example topics on our available research projects page. We also offer taught programmes in Forensic Science, studied over one year full-time, and a two-year European-style Master’s in Physics (one year taught, one year research).

Entry requirements

Minimum 2.1 degree in forensic science or a forensic-related subject.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.


Keep updated

Sign up here to receive all the latest news and events from Kent  

Sign up now

This field is required
This field is required
Please enter a valid email address
This field is required
This field is required
This field is required

View our Privacy Notice

Course structure

Duration: 1 year full-time

The programme provides a broad and balanced foundation of the science and law that underpins forensic practice and methodology in modern society.

This includes detailed knowledge of the physical techniques and methods of assay, analysis and examination used by forensic scientists, together with the essential chemical and biological knowledge required for understanding forensic evidence and its presentation.

Please note that it is compulsory for students to register and attend from the beginning of the first week of the academic year, for Health and Safety training. Laboratory work cannot take place until training has been completed.


The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Compulsory modules currently include


Students will develop a number of skills related to the Investigation and planning of research. Students will learn how to search and retrieve information from a variety of locations (databases, websites, journals, proceedings etc). They will learn how to compile professionally-produced documents such as the report of their own investigation in a direction of their choice. In addition, students will subsequently provide an outline proposal for funding for future research activity.

Through two Colloquium Reports, students will learn to write high-impact articles with a critical analysis of research presented by others. They will exercise presentation skills and present critical reviews and referee's reports of the research of others.


The Research Project (60%)

Identification of a research area and the issues to tackle

Investigation of an unresolved issue comparing experiments and models, comparing approaches, assumptions and statistical methods.

Production of a dissertation

Proposal for future novel work as a short Case for Support for a PhD or research outside university environment

Project Management: Scheduling research programmes, Gantt, PERT charts.

Project Management: Costing of research, full economic cost, direct and indirect costs.

Poster presentation of the research

Research Review and Evaluation (40%)

Evaluation of Research: Colloquium attendance/viewing.

Science Communication: Preparation of two colloquium reports as a science magazine article with impact

Referee report on the colloquiums: strengths, weaknesses of both the speaker and the research quality.

Details of the work to be done will be announced by the convenor during the first two weeks of the academic year.

Find out more about PS700

This module enables students from a variety of backgrounds (e.g. graduates in Forensic Science, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Forensic Biology etc.) to develop their expertise within selected areas of forensic science. Areas for development (e.g. crime scene analysis, ballistics, drug analysis, face recognition, DNA, etc.) will be identified during an initial meeting of the module convenor with each student.

Students will then be assigned a supervisor in the appropriate area who will guide them towards appropriate learning resources such as lecture and practical materials within the School’s portfolio of modules, textbooks and research journals, as well as providing tutorial guidance throughout the module. Guidance will be also given in preparing the dissertation and the presentation. Students will be expected to present verbally, and in writing, the background and advances (focussing on the last ten years) in their selected area of expertise.

Find out more about PS702

  • Elements of synthetic organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry which are relevant to substances of abuse.

  • The theoretical chemistry and principles of analysis and identification of several substances that are substances of abuse. The following are indicative:

    o amphetamines and related compounds

    o LSD and related compounds

    o Cannabis and Cannabis products

    o opiate compounds

    o cocaine and related compounds

    o certain controlled pharmaceutical drugs.

    Find out more about PS713

  • The module is designed to give students experience of a range of advanced laboratory methods with wide application in the Chemical Industry and modern Forensic Science. These methods will underpin Stage 4 research projects (PS740 and CH740) as well as advanced concepts in the Stage 4 program.

    The module will be in two sections. In the first section, taught in the Autumn Term, students will receive training in a range of advanced chemical and physical laboratory methods. This section of the module will be assessed by a report written on each experiment. In the second section, beginning towards the end of the Autumn term and continuing throughout the Spring Term, students will select a topic for an extended self-directed literature review. This will evaluate the available literature on a subject and allow the student to develop critical thinking. This section of the module will be assessed by oral presentation and a written dissertation.

    Experiments will include such as (NB this is an illustrative list):

  • Gas chromatography – mass spectrometry

    Important example of modern hyphenated analysis techniques. Used in analysis of accelerant and explosive traces at scenes of fires and explosions, also in analysis of drugs of abuse.

  • Atomic absorption spectroscopy

    Used in the analysis of trace metal content. Experiment to compare flame and graphite furnace methods.

  • NMR spectroscopy

    Universally used in analysis of organic substances. Experiment to manipulate FID curves, to explore peak resolution and detect contaminants in samples such as counterfeit medicines.

  • X-ray fluorescence

    Used in analysis of metal artefacts, including bullet casings and forged coins.

  • X-ray diffraction

    Used in analysis of materials with crystalline lattices, including metals and inorganic explosives residues.

  • Electron microscopy

    SEM, TEM and Electron Probe Microanalysis (EPMA) in the analysis of gunshot and explosives residues.

  • Raman spectroscopy

    Used in forensic analysis of ink pigments, street drugs and counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

  • HPLC

    Widely used method of separating and identifying substances in forensic science.

  • UV-visible/fluorescence spectroscopy

    Used in comparison of pigments and paper in questioned documents; also chemical tests for explosives and drugs of abuse.

  • Image processing

    Facial recognition software, signature comparison, and the reconstruction of CCTV images.

    Find out more about PS720

  • Optional modules may include

    The module will cover incident management from a tactical/regional and national/strategic perspective using the four stage model: Identification, preparation, mitigation, and recovery.

    A range of actual and potential incidents will be covered including air accidents, marine accidents, rail accidents, terrorist attacks, and industrial, nuclear and chemical incidents.

    This will be achieved using lectures, critical evaluation of case studies, real time and simulated incident exercises using our new crime scene house and garden, and the preparation and presentation at court of incident command reports.

    Students will be required to examine all aspects of scene and major incident management, disaster planning and related legislation. This will encompass emergency management and planning legislation, damage limitation, evacuation plans, logistical support, inter-agency operation and cooperation, personnel management, evidence prioritisation, preparing incident reports, and presenting such reports at court.

    Find out more about PS717

    The module will cover incident management from a tactical/regional and national/ strategic perspective using the four stage model: Identification, preparation, mitigation, and recovery.

    A range of actual and potential incidents will be covered including air accident, marine accident, rail and road incident, terrorist attacks, and industrial and chemical incidents.

    This will be achieved using lectures, critical evaluation of case studies, and real time simulated incident exercises.

    Students will be required to examine all aspects of scene and major incident management, disaster planning and related legislation.

    This will encompass emergency management and planning legislation, damage limitation, evacuation plans, logistical support, inter-agency operation and cooperation, and personnel management.

    Find out more about PS704

    Evidential practice and law in relation to location, recovery, preservation, and interpretation of a wide range of forensic samples.

    Statement and report writing, and witness interview to evidential standard.

    Incident assessment and management in a wide variety of forensic environments.

    Location, recovery and preservation of a range of forensic samples using our new crime scene house and garden, including: Fingerprints, DNA, fibres, trace samples, blood distribution patterns, gunshot residues, tool marks and impressions, foot shoe and tyre prints, sexual offence samples.

    Incident mapping and photography.

    Document and forgery analysis.

    Find out more about PS501

    Physics and chemistry of fires and explosions:

    Fire and arson – occurrence and importance. Combustion – definitions. Thermodynamics and enthalpy. Flammability limits, flash point, fire point, ignition temperature. Pyrolysis of wood and plastics. Fuels and accelerants. Propagation and spread of fires. Sampling and laboratory analysis of fire scene residues.

    Explosions – definitions. Vapour phase and condensed phase explosions. Detonation and deflagration. High and low explosives. Primary and secondary high explosives. Molecular design of explosives. Survey of important explosives. Stoichiometry, oxygen balance, gas volumes, thermodynamics and enthalpy. Sampling and laboratory analysis of explosives residues. Preventative detection of explosives in contexts such as airports.


    Fire dynamics. Propagation and spread of fires – flames, fire types, flashover. Fire investigation. Forensic Science Service procedures at the scene. Damage observation and assessment. Fire and smoke patterns. Sources of ignition. Injuries and fatalities. Evidence recovery: sampling and laboratory analysis. Establishing the origin : the seat of the fire. Finding the cause: natural, accidental, negligent or deliberate? Indicators of arson. Evidence procedures. Case studies.


    Control of the explosion scene and procedures for recovery of evidence. Damage observation and assessment. The work of the Forensic Explosives Laboratory. Identification of explosives: organics and inorganics. Bulk analysis. Trace analysis of explosives: recovery, extraction and analysis of samples. Physical evidence: detonators. Preventative detection. Precursor identification. Explosives evidence in court: legal definitions and procedures. Terrorism. Case studies.

    Find out more about PS601

    Chemists and physicists are now playing an important role in the growing field of materials research. More recently, there has been a growing interest, driven by technological needs, in materials with specific functions and this requires a combination of physics and chemistry. For example, new materials are needed for the optics and electronics industry (glasses and semiconductors). The aim of this module is to introduce students to this area of modern materials and associated techniques. Examples of the topics that might typically be covered are: Crystals and crystallography; Molecular materials; Glasses; Magnetism and Magnetic Materials; Multiferroics; X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS).

    Find out more about PS604

    The module lectures will cover the following topics:

    • Historical methods

    • DNA sample collection, processing and storage

    • DNA theory

    • DNA databases and statistical interpretation

    • Quality Assurance, management and control

    • Legal aspects

    • Forensic case studies

    • Future trends

    Find out more about PS637

    Compulsory modules currently include

    Students will undertake a project from an available project listing and will work under the guidance of a supervisor. The student will be encouraged to develop some level of research independence within the project remit appropriate of a postgraduate master’s student.

    The project will be assessed on a number of criteria which will include the project work (the amount, quality etc appropriate for the level), effort put in by the student, the preparation of a written report and an oral presentation session. The student’s progress will be assessed mid way through the research project through some form of progress report. This will also involve some degree of forward planning such that the students assess their own project requirements for the following term allowing the student to learn time management and forward planning skills.

    Find out more about PS780

    Teaching and assessment

    Assessment is by examination and coursework.

    Programme aims

    This programme aims to:

    • develop your integrated and critically aware understanding of forensic science and to prepare you to undertake a PhD in any associated disciplines
    • prepare you for a professional role in forensic science within the criminal or civil judicial system, police, or forensic practice or research                                  
    • develop your command, control, and management skills in relation to major incidents, and to prepare and present expert evidential incident reports at court to the highest standard
    • develop a clear recognition of the constraints and opportunities of the environment in which professional forensic science is carried out
    • develop a variety of Masters’ level intellectual and transferable skills
    • equip you with the learning skills to keep abreast of developments in the continually evolving field of forensic science and forensic investigation
    • enable you to realise your academic potential.

    Learning outcomes

    Knowledge and understanding

    You gain knowledge and understanding of:

    • advanced theory, concepts, and practice in relation to laboratory analysis and substances of abuse                                    
    • the command, management, logistics, and forensic implications of major and minor incidents such as air or rail accidents and crime scenes. Emergency and disaster planning, theory, practice, legislation, and implementation                     
    • advance laboratory analytic methods and apparatus as applied to general analysis and forensic investigation
    • the forensic application of DNA analysis, fire investigation, explosives and accelerants.

    Intellectual skills

    You develop intellectual skills in:

    • critical thinking, reasoning and reflection
    • the ability to recognise and solve forensic-related problems at an advanced level
    • the ability to select the most appropriate techniques for a given analysis and to use a wide range of advanced analytic apparatus to evidential standards
    • the ability to manage personnel and logistics in demanding and highly fluid environments.

    Subject-specific skills

    You gain subject-specific skills in:

    • the ability to source funding for, plan, and implement research projects
    • the ability to identify, plan for and manage actual and potential threats in a range of environments
    • the ability to prepare and present an incident management report to evidential standards, and to present such reports at court under hostile cross-examination
    • the ability to perform advanced level analysis on a range of apparatus and to document such to evidential standards
    • familiarity and competence to an advanced level in key items of forensic analytic apparatus.

    Transferable skills

    You gain the following transferable skills:

    • personal and interpersonal skills, working as a member of a team and as a team leader.
    • effective research costing and planning
    • skills relevant to a career in forensic science (practice or judiciary) and forensic research
    • the ability to learn effectively for the purpose of continuing your professional development
    • the ability to generate, analyse, interpret and present in a range of environments
    • the ability to manage time and resources within an individual project and as a team manager.


    The 2021/22 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

    • Home full-time £8100
    • EU full-time £15400
    • International full-time £20500

    For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

    For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact

    Your fee status

    The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

    Additional costs

    General additional costs

    Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 


    Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:

    The Complete University Guide

    In The Complete University Guide 2021, the University of Kent was ranked in the top 10 for research intensity. This is a measure of the proportion of staff involved in high-quality research in the university.

    Please see the University League Tables 2021 for more information.

    Complete University Guide Research Intensity

    Independent rankings

    In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Physical Sciences was ranked 7th in the UK for research impact and a demonstration of its importance to industry and the public sector.

    An impressive 100% of our physics research and 98% of our chemistry research was judged to be of international quality, with 75% physics and 78% of chemistry research judged world-leading or internationally excellent. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of research of international excellence.

    Research areas

    Applied Optics Group (AOG)

    The Group’s research focuses on optical sources, optical configurations and signal processing methods for optical measurements and imaging. The Group developed the first en-face OCT image of the eye and now works with national and international institutions to extend OCT capabilities. They also conduct research on coherence gated wavefront sensors and multiple path interferometry, as well as Fast Fourier transformations on graphics cards, supercontinuum sources and fast tunable lasers.

    Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Science (CAPS)

    The group’s research spans observation, experimentation, simulation and modelling. The major topics are star formation, planetary science and early solar system bodies, galactic astronomy and astrobiology. The group uses data from the largest telescopes in the world and in space, such as ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the New Technology Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory. They also use our in-house facilities, including a two-stage light gas gun for impact studies.

    Forensic Imaging Group (FIG)

    The Group’s research has an applied focus. They explore mathematical and computational techniques and employ a wide variety of image processing and analysis methods for applications in many areas, including forensics and cyber security. The Group holds major grant funding from EPSRC. It has spawned a very successful spin-out company, Visionmetric Ltd, and was central to the School’s excellent REF 2014 rating for impact; placing the School equal 7th nationally in this category.

    Functional Materials Group (FMG)

    Research in the multi-disciplinary FMG encompasses the synthesis, characterisation, theory and computer modelling of cutting-edge materials. Researcher are interested in finding new optical, mechanical, electronic, magnetic or biological properties that challenge present understanding or can give rise to new innovative technologies. The Group is unique nationwide in that it integrates both physicists and chemists, and its research benefits from this exchange of ideas and expertise.


    All programmes in the School of Physical Sciences equip you with the tools you need to conduct research, solve problems, communicate effectively and transfer skills to the workplace, which means our graduates are always in high demand. Our links with industry not only provide you with the opportunity to gain work experience during your degree, but also equip you with the general and specialist skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workplace.

    Typical employment destinations for graduates from the physics programmes include power companies, aerospace, defence, optoelectronics and medical industries. Typical employment destinations for graduates from our forensic science and chemistry programmes include government agencies, consultancies, emergency services, laboratories, research or academia.

    Study support

    Postgraduate resources

    The University has good facilities for modern research in physical sciences. These include: NMR spectrometers; powder X-ray diffractometers; X-ray fluorescence; atomic absorption in flame and graphite furnace mode; gel-permeation, gas, analytical and preparative high-performance liquid chromatography; mass spectrometry; scanning electron microscopy and EDX. We also have various microscopes, differential scanning calorimetry and thermal gravimetric analysis, dionex analysis of anions and automated CHN analysis. For planetary science impact studies, there is a two-stage light gas gun.

    Interdisciplinary approach

    Much of the School's work is interdisciplinary and we have successful collaborative projects with members of the Schools of Biosciences, Computing and Engineering and Digital Arts at Kent, as well as an extensive network of international collaborations.

    National and international links

    The School is a leading partner in the South East Physics Network (SEPnet), and benefits from £2.5 million of funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The School has collaborations with universities around the world, particularly in Germany, France, Italy and the USA. UK links include King's College, London and St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. Our industrial partners include BAE Systems, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, and Ophthalmic Technology Inc, Canada. We also have collaborations with NASA, European Southern Observatory (ESO) and European Space Agency (ESA) scientists.

    Dynamic publishing culture

    Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: NatureScienceAstrophysical JournalJournal of Polymer ScienceJournal of Materials Chemistry; and Applied Optics.

    Global Skills Award

    All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

    Apply now

    Learn more about the applications process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.

    Once started, you can save and return to your application at any time.

    Apply for entry to:

    Contact us


    United Kingdom/EU enquiries

    MSc at Canterbury

    Admissions enquiries

    T: +44 (0)1227 768896


    Subject enquiries

    T: +44 (0)1227 823759

    F: +44 (0)1227 827558 



    International student enquiries

    Enquire online

    T: +44 (0)1227 823254