Forensic Science

Forensic Science - MSc

Forensic Science is a truly multidisciplinary field that is crucial to the investigation of crime, the analysis of evidential samples and the generation of intelligence in support of the criminal justice sector. Gain advanced skills in practical incident investigation and scene management, and the core scientific skills in analytical chemistry to go on to a range of careers in the judicial systems, the police, or as a scientist or researcher.

Overview

Our one-year taught Master’s course in Forensic Science develops an integrated and critical understanding of forensic science and prepares you for a professional role in a range of related areas. Our students go on to important and exciting careers within the criminal or civil judicial system, the police or forensic practice, as well as broader scientific areas and further research.

Reasons to study Forensic Science at Kent

  • Forensic Science at Kent is ranked 1st in the UK in The Guardian University Guide 2023.
  • Choose from a large range of exciting and interesting optional modules to enable further specialisation in your chosen areas of expertise, including DNA analysis and interpretation, fires and explosions, and forensic taphonomy.
  • Build on your knowledge and understanding of advanced laboratory analytical methods, essential to forensic investigation.
  • Our state-of-the-art facilities allow you to gain hands-on practical experience of advanced laboratory analytical techniques and incident management, including in our optional modules in crime scene investigation and forensic taphonomy.
  • Develop the command, control and management skills that will enable you to present expert evidential incident reports to the highest standard.
  • Expert training in a range of research skills modules to prepare you for independent research, including a summer-long practical research project.
  • Small-class teaching with academic staff who have extensive experience in their fields.
  • A highly supportive community of forensic science and chemistry postgraduate students and staff.

Entry requirements

A first or second class honours 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.

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Course structure

Duration: 1 year full-time

Our one-year taught Master’s course in Forensic Science develops an integrated and critical understanding of forensic science and prepares you for a professional role in a range of related areas. You will gain detailed knowledge of the physical techniques and methods of assay, analysis and examination used by forensic scientists, together with the essential chemical knowledge necessary to understand a range of forensic analytical techniques.

Modules

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.

You must take all the following compulsory modules (75 credits) and then 45 credits from the optional modules. 

You may only take PSCI7040, Major Incident Management OR PSCI7170, Modern Approaches to Incident Management. FSCI5030 can only be taken when taken with FSCI5010.

Compulsory modules currently include

Students will develop a number of skills related to the investigation and planning of research such as analytical skills, critical thinking and ability to understand and communicate scientific information in graphically. Students will learn how to search and retrieve information from a variety of locations (colloquia, websites, journals, proceedings etc). They will learn how to compile professionally-produced scientific documents such as colloquia reports, posters and applications for funding of future research activities/research job applications. The Group research investigation strengthens these skills, adding experience of working in a team.

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.

This module will allow students to develop knowledge of elements of synthetic organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry which are relevant to substances of abuse, and the theoretical chemistry and principles of analysis and identification of several substances that are substances of abuse. The following are indicative:

• Amphetamines and related compounds

• LSD and related compounds

• Cannabis and Cannabis products

• Opiate compounds

• Cocaine and related compounds

• Certain controlled pharmaceutical drugs.

This module comprises a range of contemporary topics covering methods of analysis and the interpretational issues associated with forensic DNA profiling. The materials take students through the evolution of forensic DNA; RFLP, Quad and the progression of DNA multiplexes to the present day and the practical issues of sample collection, processing and storage, DNA theory and practical DNA processing.

Students will appreciate the difficulties associated with mixed samples and the statistical interpretation associated with both single source and mixture interpretation. The module draws upon the latest materials published by the Forensic Science Regulator and the latest quality and legal standards associated with DNA profiling. The module is contextualised throughout using a range of contemporary case studies.

Optional modules may include

This module will develop students' appreciation of a range of physical techniques applied to the collection of bulk and trace evidence materials in forensic science. Students will look more deeply into aspects of physical evidence and will deal with the practical issues of item examination, legal process and general procedure associated with the collection and submission of a range of forensically-relevant materials.

This module introduces students to a range of scene investigation and evidence processing techniques through a combination of laboratory-based training exercises and simulated scene investigation scenarios.

This module covers a range of core chemical science that relates to fire and explosive events. The applied investigation of such events is also discussed to give students a wider appreciation of previous case studies and the complexities of post-fire and post-blast investigations.

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).

This module comprises a range of contemporary topics covering methods of analysis and the interpretational issues associated with forensic DNA profiling. The materials take students through the evolution of forensic DNA processes and the practical issues of sample collection, processing and storage, DNA theory and practical DNA processing. Students will appreciate the difficulties associated with mixed samples and the statistical interpretation associated with both single source and mixture interpretation. The module draws upon the latest materials published by the Forensic Science Regulator and the latest quality and legal standards associated with DNA profiling. The module is contextualised throughout using a range of contemporary case studies.

This module will cover the core principles behind the management and investigation processes that may relate to a range of forensically-relevant incident types. Indicative areas of discussion may include investigation of civil infrastructure incidents, disaster victim identification (DVI), acts of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) as well as managing forensic resources over a range of major and smaller incidents.

This module will cover the core principles behind the management and investigation processes that may relate to a range of forensically-relevant incident types. Indicative areas of discussion may include investigation of civil infrastructure incidents, disaster victim identification (DVI), acts of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) as well as managing forensic resources over a range of major and smaller incidents. Students will also manage a team of scene investigators as part of a simulated incident investigation.

This module is fundamental to this MSc where students learn various stages of post-mortem decay to human remains, focusing largely on environmental effects—including decomposition in soil and interaction with plants, insects, and other animals. Other topics covered are; PMI methods (time elapsed since death), biotaphonomy, and geotaphonomy.

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 a progress report. This will also involve some degree of forward planning such that the students assess their own project requirements for the following period allowing the student to learn time management and forward planning skills.

Find out more about PSCI7800

Teaching

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 in areas such as:

  • 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.

Fees

The 2023/24 annual tuition fees for this course are:

  • Home full-time £9500
  • EU full-time £16400
  • International full-time £21900

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 information@kent.ac.uk.

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. 

Funding

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

We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.

Search scholarships

Independent rankings

Forensic Science at Kent was ranked 1st in The Guardian University Guide 2023 and 3rd in The Complete University Guide 2023.

Forensic Science at Kent was ranked 10th for research quality The Complete University Guide 2023.

Research

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.

https://research.kent.ac.uk/applied-optics/

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.

https://research.kent.ac.uk/caps/

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.

https://research.kent.ac.uk/fig/

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.

https://research.kent.ac.uk/fmg/

Careers

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 emission spectrometry; 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: NatureScience; Forensic Science International, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine; Astrophysical 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 application process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.

You will be able to choose your preferred year of entry once you have started your application. You can also save and return to your application at any time.

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