Forensic Science - BSc (Hons)

If you excel at science, are keen to develop your investigative skills in a variety of scenarios and have meticulous attention to detail, you will enjoy studying Forensic Science at Kent. Fascinating and challenging, it opens up a wide range of career opportunities.

Overview

At Kent, you study all aspects of forensic science, developing scientific and analytical skills. We create ‘crime scenes’ - including using our brand new crime scene house - for you to examine and conduct ‘major incident’ exercises, where you react in real time to an unfolding event. We also demonstrate how your forensic skills can be used within archaeology and in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

This programme is fully accredited by The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences. All students on the programme are offered free student membership for the duration of their degree.

Our degree programme

In your first year, you get to grips with the broad base of knowledge on which forensic science is built, including biochemistry, drug chemistry, and ballistics. You also develop your investigative and laboratory skills.

In your second and final years, you expand your knowledge to cover analytical chemistry, forensic archaeology, digital forensics, fires and explosions, and firearms. You also study criminal law (taught by Kent’s highly ranked Law School) and are trained in forensic expert witness skills. In certain modules, you are taught by industry specialists.

If you do not have the grades for direct entry on to the Forensic Science BSc, you can take Forensic Science with a Foundation Year. It is also possible to take a four-year programme, which leads to an MSci.

Forensic Science student Sophia Warner explains what it's like studying at the University of Kent.

Year in industry

Many students choose to take a year in industry. You don’t have to make a decision before you enrol at Kent but certain conditions apply: see Forensic Science with a Year in Industry.

Study resources

We recently invested £10 million in our laboratories and improved our general study spaces. Facilities to support forensic science include:

  • dedicated ballistics and firearms kit
  • scene-of-crime facilities that allow you to apply the theory of crime scenes, evidence recovery and fingerprinting
  • a document examination instrument used in the detection of forged documents
  • a full analytical suite for forensic chemical analysis, including:
    • Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)
    • High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
    • Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (AAS)
    • Raman Spectrometry
    • Fourier Transform Infra-Red Spectrometry (FTIR)
    • Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM).

Extra activities

The School of Physical Sciences is home to an international scientific community of forensic science, chemistry, physics and astronomy students. Numerous formal and informal opportunities for discussion make it easy to participate in the academic life of the School. All students have an academic adviser and we also run a peer mentoring scheme.

You are encouraged to participate in conferences and professional events to build up your knowledge of the science community and enhance your professional development. The School also works collaboratively with business partners, which allows you to see how our research influences current practice.

You can also take part in:

  • the School’s Physical Sciences Colloquia, a popular series of talks given by internal and external experts on relevant and current topics
  • the student-run Forensic Science Society, which organises talks with top industry professionals, practical demonstrations and social events

Professional network

All students are offered free membership of The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.

The School of Physical Sciences also has links with:

  • the Home Office
  • the Forensic Explosives Laboratory
  • forensic science services
  • local health authorities
  • biotechnology, chemical and pharmaceutical companies in the UK and Europe
  • Interpol.
5th
Forensic Science at Kent was ranked 5th in The Complete University Guide 2021.

Entry requirements

You are more than your grades

At Kent we look at your circumstances as a whole before deciding whether to make you an offer to study here. Find out more about how we offer flexibility and support before and during your degree.

Entry requirements

Please contact the School for more information at study-forensics@kent.ac.uk

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Some typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice. Please also see our general entry requirements.

The University welcomes applications from international students. Our international recruitment team can guide you on entry requirements. See our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country.

If you need to increase your level of science ready for undergraduate study, we offer a Foundation Year programme which can help boost your previous scientific experience.

Meet our staff in your country

For more advice about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.

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    A level

    BBB in 3 subjects including Chemistry or Biology

  • medal-empty GCSE

    Mathematics grade C

  • medal-empty Access to HE Diploma

    The University will not necessarily make conditional offers to all Access candidates but will continue to assess them on an individual basis. 

    If we make you an offer, you will need to obtain/pass the overall Access to Higher Education Diploma and may also be required to obtain a proportion of the total level 3 credits and/or credits in particular subjects at merit grade or above.

  • medal-empty BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC National Diploma)

    The University will consider applicants holding/studying BTEC Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF;OCR) in a relevant Science subject at 180 credits or more, on a case by case basis. Please contact us via the enquiries tab for further advice on your individual circumstances.

  • medal-empty International Baccalaureate

    34 points overall or 14 at HL including Chemistry or Biology 5 at HL and Mathematics 4 at HL or SL

  • International Foundation Programme

    N/A

English Language Requirements

Please see our English language entry requirements web page.

If you need to improve your English language standard as a condition of your offer, you can attend one of our pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes before starting your degree programme. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme.

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Course structure

Duration: 3 years full-time

The course structure below gives a flavour of the modules and provides details of the content of this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.

At all stages in this programme, the modules listed are compulsory.

Stage 1

Compulsory modules currently include

This module presents a unified understanding of the structure of matter, linking physical properties to bonding and energy, and providing the tools necessary to begin to describe and analyse chemical problems. Key concepts such as mass balance and bonding (ionic, covalent, metallic, and intermolecular) are linked to analytical methods to show how these fundamental ideas can be measured and used.

Find out more about CHEM3600

Organic chemistry underpins not only much of the chemistry of living things but also modern materials, dyes, medicines, and more. This module discusses the structure of organic molecules in detail, showing the shape of molecules dictates their properties, and how Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy (NMR) can exploit this to determine the structures and thus properties of unknown molecules. Fundamental modes of reactivity of organic molecules are discussed, showing how simple mechanisms can be used to build complex and useful compounds.

Find out more about CHEM3610

Chemistry, as one of the physical sciences, is rooted in careful observation of the natural world and experimentation. This module teaches the key skills required to work in a chemical laboratory, analysing unknown systems and synthesising new ones, and learning how to apply the theories and ideas from lecture modules to socially and industrially relevant problems.

Find out more about CHEM3900

This module introduces students to the mathematical, physical, social and legal concepts that underpin academic study in the field of forensic ballistics.

Find out more about FSCI3080

Students will experience a broad overview of evidence categories and crime types commonly encountered within the criminal justice system. Students will also be taken through a range of techniques associated with the delivery of forensic science to support this system.

Find out more about FSCI3010

This module will provide forensic science students with some of the core understanding in inorganic and physical chemistry. These aspects will underpin students’ understanding of Analytical Techniques and the Chemistry related to various forensic processes, leading to an enhanced understanding of Forensic Chemistry.

Find out more about FSCI3030

This module introduces a range of forensically-relevant practical techniques from the initial processing of incident or crime scenes through to carrying out relevant laboratory analyses of evidence collected.

Find out more about FSCI3020

An introduction to the core Mathematical skills required within the Chemical and Forensic Sciences. These core skills will be complemented with a variety of problem-solving applications in Chemistry and Forensic Science.

Find out more about CHEM3640

Stage 2

Compulsory modules currently include

Analytical chemistry underpins all other aspects of the discipline, and covers not only how to find out what a thing is but how to design experiments and confirm results to quantify just how confident you can be that your answer is useful. This module takes a pragmatic, applications driven approach to sample preparation, analysis, and data validation.

Find out more about CHEM5720

This course will introduce students to the key ideas and fundamental molecular components of biochemistry. The course will cover simple biomolecules and non-covalent interactions, building up to biological oligomers. This will lead to introductory pharmacology and pharmacokinetics, illustrated with medicinal chemistry case studies.

Find out more about CHEM5710

This module will develop the 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.

Find out more about FSCI5010

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.

Find out more about FSCI5030

This module offers students experience in a wide range of important forensic investigative and analytical skills relating to other taught and practical modules in the forensic programme. Students will also have the opportunity to build computational skills through the use facial composite software.

Find out more about FSCI5040

This module covers a range of techniques that can be applied to the discovery, aging and identification of buried and ancient remains or artefacts.

Find out more about FSCI5020

This module covers a broad range of established and emerging, computer based, forensic methods. It is organised into three units: Facial Identification Techniques, focusing on facial composite construction; Image Processing, Photo Forensics and Digital Forensics.

Find out more about FSCI5110

This module will give students a background in forensic ballistics, including the investigation of shooting scenes, firearms law and wound ballistics.

Find out more about FSCI5560

Stage 3

Compulsory modules currently include

Analytical chemistry underpins all other aspects of the discipline. This module discusses modern methods in data analysis and processing, Cheminformatics and “Big Data”, and describes advanced analytical methods used for analysing complex systems.

Find out more about CHEM6720

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.

Find out more about FSCI6010

This module discusses the legal processes associated with the submission of evidence in the courts of law alongside providing training in the delivery of expert witness testimony. Students will undergo a mock courtroom exercise in which they will deliver expert testimony in a courtroom environment.

Find out more about FSCI6020

This module intends to illustrate the contemporary topics, underpinning professional practice those students wishing to enter the forensic science profession. The indicative content draws upon much of the guidance, published by the Forensic Science Regulator, UKAS, ENFSI, CSOFS as well as academic and professional commentary. The module covers several broad topics – namely, evaluative reporting, case assessment and interpretation (CAI)CAI, quality standards, ethics in forensic science and bias.

Find out more about FSCI6120

This module will provide Forensic Scientists with an understanding of the chemistry behind the analysis of trace evidence. Students will be introduced to how complex instrumentation is used in these analyses and provide the background concepts needed to understand and interpret data.

Find out more about FSCI6030

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.

Find out more about FSCI6370

This module will provide students with the skills necessary to propose, develop, perform and report on a project. The emphasis of this module will focus on not only academic research projects but also on future employability skills related to working in industry.

Find out more about FSCI6200

Fees

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

  • Home full-time £9250
  • 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.* 

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 accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

Funding

University funding

Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details. 

Government funding

You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.

Scholarships

General scholarships

Scholarships are available for excellence in academic performance, sport and music and are awarded on merit. For further information on the range of awards available and to make an application see our scholarships website.

The Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence

At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence. 

The scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of A*AA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages.

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

Search scholarships

Teaching and assessment

There are approximately eight one-hour lectures each week, laboratory classes, project work and problem-solving seminars.

Assessment is by a combination of written examinations, continuous assessment and other assignments. You must pass the Stage 1 examinations in order to go on to Stage 2. Coursework assessments include incident analysis, evidence preservation, presentation skills and expert witness testimony.

Contact hours

For a student studying full time, each academic year of the programme will comprise 1200 learning hours which include both direct contact hours and private study hours.  The precise breakdown of hours will be subject dependent and will vary according to modules.  Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.

Methods of assessment will vary according to subject specialism and individual modules.  Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • Instil enthusiasm for forensic science, an appreciation of its application in different contexts.
  • Provide a broad and balanced foundation of the science and law that underpins forensic practice and methodology in a modern society.
  • Develop the ability to apply knowledge and skills to the solution of forensic problems.
  • Teach you the use and understanding of a variety of scientific and quantitative techniques applied to forensic science problems.
  • Provide a knowledge and skills base from which you can proceed to further studies in the forensic and scientific area or in aspects of chemistry, physics or bioscience that are relevant to forensic and related practices.
  • Provide a stimulating, research-active environment for teaching and learning.
  • Provide an understanding of scientific methodology and the ability to undertake and report on an experimental investigation.
  • Generate an appreciation of the importance of forensic science and its practice in a judicial, industrial, economic, environmental and social context, and of the importance of chemistry in an industrial, economic, forensic, and social context.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • Core and foundation scientific physical, biological, and chemical concepts, terminology, theory, units, conventions, and laboratory methods in relation to forensic science.
  • Areas of chemistry as applied to forensic analysis, and areas of bioscience, including cells, biochemistry, human DNA.
  • Numeracy, forensic investigation and interpretation and apply them to forensic examination and analysis.
  • Incident investigation, evidence recovery, preservation, and presentation as an expert witness within the judicial environment.

Intellectual skills

You gain intellectual skills in how to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge, understanding and application of essential facts, concepts, principles and theories relating to the subject to find the solution of qualitative and quantitative problems.
  • Recognise and analyse novel problems and plan strategies for their solution by the evaluation, interpretation and synthesis of scientific information and data by a variety of computational methods.
  • Recognise and implement good measurement science and practice and commonly used forensic laboratory techniques.
  • Write essays and present scientific material and arguments clearly and correctly, in writing and orally, to a range of audiences including legal contexts.
  • Communicate complex scientific argument to a lay audience.

Subject-specific skills

You gain the following subject-specific skills:

  • Safe handling of chemical materials, taking into account their physical and chemical properties, including any specific hazards associated with their use and to risk assess such hazards.
  • Conduct of standard laboratory procedures involved in analytical work and in the operation of standard forensic instrumentation.
  • Competence in the planning, design and execution of investigations, from the problem-recognition stage through to the evaluation and appraisal of results and findings.
  • Safe handling of firearms, ammunition, and propellants; analysis of forensic evidence related to firearms, firearm discharge, and ballistic theory; collision analysis: mathematical interpretation, field application and reconstruction.
  • Ability to interpret data derived from laboratory observations and measurements, and to present such data to an examining body in the role of expert witness.

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

  • Communication skills covering both written and oral communication.
  • Self-management and organisational skills with the capacity to support lifelong learning.
  • Problem-solving skills, relating to qualitative and quantitative information.
  • Information-retrieval skills, in relation to primary and secondary information sources.
  • IT skills.
  • Interpersonal skills.
  • Time-management and organisational skills.
  • Study skills needed for continuing professional development and preparation for employment as a practising forensic scientist.
  • Ability to plan and implement independent projects at degree level.

Teaching Excellence Framework

All University of Kent courses are regulated by the Office for Students.

Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that the University of Kent delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Please see the University of Kent's Statement of Findings for more information.

TEF Gold logo

Independent rankings

Forensic Science at Kent was ranked 5th in The Complete University Guide 2021.

Over 90% of final-year Forensic Science students were satisfied with the quality of their course in The Guardian University Guide 2021.

Careers

Graduate destinations

Forensic skills are used in a range of professions and industries, for instance at disaster scenes, within archaeology and in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

Our graduates go into areas such as:

  • government agencies
  • forensic service providers
  • consultancies
  • emergency services
  • local authorities
  • contract laboratories
  • research or further vocational training.

Some of our graduates have gone on to work at the Forensic Explosives Laboratory, which is part of the Ministry of Defence and provides scientific support to the Police and Crown Prosecution Service.

Career-enhancing skills

You graduate with excellent forensic skills, including:

  • scene-of-crime skills
  • laboratory skills
  • document examination
  • criminal law and forensic expert witness skills.

In addition, you develop the key transferable skills that graduate employers look for, including:

  • excellent communication skills
  • teamworking
  • the ability to analyse problems
  • time management.

You can also enhance your degree studies by signing up for one of our Kent Extra activities, such as learning a language or volunteering.

Help finding a job

The University has a friendly Careers and Employability Service which can give you advice on how to:

  • apply for jobs
  • write a good CV
  • perform well in interviews.

Apply for this course

If you are from the UK or Ireland, you must apply for this course through UCAS. If you are not from the UK or Ireland, you can choose to apply through UCAS or directly on our website.

Find out more about how to apply

All applicants

Apply through UCAS

International applicants

Apply now to Kent

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T: +44 (0)1227 823254
E: internationalstudent@kent.ac.uk

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