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, this programme prepares you for professional practice or postgraduate study.
We have experts from different areas, very strong chemists, specialists in ballistics, DNA and crime scene investigation.
Choosing Kent as your firm choice for this programme could result in a lower tariff offer than those listed below. Please contact the School for more information at email@example.com.
The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice.
Please note that meeting this typical offer/minimum requirement does not guarantee an offer being made.Please also see our general entry requirements.
If you’ve taken exams under the new GCSE grading system, please see our conversion table to convert your GCSE grades.
|Qualification||Typical offer/minimum requirement|
BBB in 3 subjects including Chemistry or Biology
Mathematics grade C
|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.
|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. A typical offer would be Distinction*, Distinction, Distinction.
34 points overall or 14 points at HL including Biology or Chemistry 5 at HL and Mathematics 4 at HL or SL
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.
For more advice about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.
Please see our English language entry requirements web page.
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. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme.
Duration: 4 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.
This module introduces and revises the basic concepts of chemistry that underpin our understanding of the stability of matter. This starts with introducing atomic and molecular structure, with a focus on understanding the electronics of bonding in the molecular compounds around us. You will then study the laws governing the behavior of gases and origins of other interactions that hold solids and liquids together, alongside describing some of their basic properties such as conductivity, viscosity, and the way in which ions behave in solution. In the final aspect of this module we cover the critical role thermodynamics plays in determining the stability of matter, including the fundamental laws of thermodynamics and the importance of equilibrium in reversible reactions.
This module reintroduces the basic concepts of organic chemistry that are vital in understanding pharmaceutical and biological substances. You will study the basics of the chemistry of carbon, the element critical to underpinning life, including its basic building blocks and functional groups. We also cover the mechanisms by which basic organic reactions including elimination, substitution and oxidation processes occur. This module concludes with studying aromatic compounds and chirality, which crucially influence how organic molecules interact within living systems.
Chemistry in context
Using an organic chemistry perspective, you will study the fundamentals of biochemistry, the chemistry of life, including enzyme reactions, protein chemistry, DNA, lipids and carbohydrates. These topics are underpinned by the role chemical phenomena such as thermodynamics and intermolecular interactions play in a biological context. We then explore the nature and discovery of drugs, how they work, and the potential effects of their misuse.
Forensic Science; Evidence and the Scene of the Crime
What is forensic science? Historical and legal background of forensic science – exchange principles and linkage theory. Forensic science in the U.K – inductive and deductive reasoning. Identification, characterisation, recovery and weighting of trace evidence types. Crime scene searching methodologies; the integrity and continuity of evidence. Introduction to laboratory testing dealing with glass, tool-mark, shoe-mark and tyre impressions. The management of scientific support at crime scenes. Procedures at crime scenes illustrated by reference to crimes of burglary, murder and sexual offences. Fingerprint history, classification, recovery and chemical enhancement of fingerprints. Blood pattern analysis supporting the advances in DNA techniques. Firearms classification, internal & external ballistics, trajectory, mass and velocity. Firearms injuries at crime scenes. Introduction to DNA analysis and the functioning of the National DNA Database. Sexual offence investigation and body fluid identification. Clinical indicators of death and murder scene investigation.
Drug Abuse, Alcohol and Forensic Toxicology
Drugs of abuse and their identification. Drugs, alcohol poisons and their metabolism. Toxicology and the role of the forensic toxicologist. Qualitative and quantitative laboratory analysis.
Signature and handwriting identification. Paper, inks and printed documents. Damage characterisation.
Fires and Explosions:
Arson. Fire and combustion. Types of explosives and the nature of explosions. The crime scene investigation: sampling and laboratory analysis.
Quantitative skills beginning with GCSE mathematics through to algebra, data analysis, graphical treatment of errors, logarithms, basic probability, trigonometry and applications in forensic science.
Incident scene assessment, management and mapping, including working in our new crime scene house and garden.
Induction to the English legal system and laws of evidence.
The structure and composition of DNA, genetic analysis and applications relevant to forensic science.
Mathematical Concepts for Impact Studies
Newton's laws of motion
Introduction to ballistics
Categories of weapons
Overview of Forensic Ballistics
The 1968 Firearms Act (as amended)
Categorisation of firearms and ammunition
Shooting case studies
Laboratory safety: lectures on laboratory safety including safe handling of chemicals, electrical supplies, solvents and gases both within and outside fume cupboards, safe disposal of chemicals, CoSHH and risk assessment, accident prevention.
Laboratory skills: the completion of a set of experiments in a lab environment within the safety structure as laid out by lab risk assessments. To include: fundamental organic chemistry methodology, chemical handling, use of equipment (including calibration and accuracy), infra-red spectroscopy, analytical chemistry and titrations, colorimetry, gravimetric analysis, solvent extraction.
Data presentation methods: the correct and succinct planning and preparation of scientific reports, correct referencing, data manipulation and presentation, literature searches and library catalogues, academic integrity and referencing styles.
Periodic table and inorganic chemistry: Periodic trends in the periodic table: chemical properties, reactivity and compounds across periods 1 and 2, introduction to diagonal relationships; hydrogen and its compounds; Group 1 – the alkali metals, their compounds and reactivity; Group 2 – the alkaline earth metals, their compounds and reactivity; introduction to redox chemistry; the p-block: Group 13 elements, their properties and reactivity, the inert pair effect, the chemistry of boron; Group 14 elements, properties, compounds and reactivities, carbon and its allotropes; Group 15: the chemistry of the pnictogens, nitrogen, phosphorus and its allotropes; Group 16: the chemistry of the chalcogens; Group 17: the chemistry of the halogens; extension to MO and VSEPR theory; introduction to groups 12 and 18.
Molecular graphics: use of MarvinSketch to represent and draw chemical structures and calculate molecular properties, using J-mol and J-ice to present molecular and crystal structures graphically, use of HULIS software to calculate energy levels from Hückel theory.
Maths for physical scientists: basic mathematics and functions used in physical sciences, curve sketching and plotting simple functions, differentiation and integration, examples of physical science applications including chemical reaction rates.
You will develop an understanding of the theory and application of techniques for chemical identification. You will study symmetry, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), gas chromatography (GC), mass spectrometry (GCMS), infrared and Raman spectroscopy, spectrophotometry/fluorimetry, basic diffraction methods and electron spin resonance.
This module seeks to provide a sound knowledge and understanding of the concepts and principles underlying the criminal law, including a grounding in its historical development and underlying philosophy; to provide a detailed grasp of key concepts and general principles; and to promote a critical discussion about the nature, function and effects of the use of criminal law in given contextual situations.
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.
Dating : Radioactive decay and detection of radiation, radiocarbon dating and related methods, accelerator mass spectrometry, uranium series dating, potassium-argon dating, radioactive tracers, isotope dilution, neutron activation, stable isotope techniques with forensic applications, electron spin resonance spectroscopy, thermoluminescence dating and thermal history, Lindow Man, detection of irradiated food.
Detection : Magnetometry, metal detectors, resistivity surveys, ground penetrating radar, aerial photography, and remote sensing.
Osteology : The study of human osteology is fundamental to the discipline of forensic anthropology. This series of lectures begins by examining the structure, growth, and function of bones and teeth. Methods of skeletal analysis in forensic anthropology are then examined, including age, sex, stature, trauma, disease, and race. Applications in biological anthropology will also be reviewed. This section of the course will include a laboratory practical.
Facial reconstruction, facial composites, description by witness – cognitive interview - Turnbull’s rules (R v Turnbull, 1976), identity parades – psychology of facial identification – video identity parades, facial mapping, automated recognition technologies, age progression.
Digital Image Analysis
Image formation, image storage, image distortion, image restoration methods, the digital image in crime detection, steganography (implementation and detection).
Encryption, fallacies about hiding and destroying data, where to find data and methods for retrieving it, disk imaging, file integrity, cryptographic hashing, privacy vs need for investigation.
Trace analysis: definitions, methods and problems. Sampling, storage and contamination. Quality control. Random and systematic errors; statistical treatment of data. Accuracy and precision. Signal/noise ratio. Sensitivity and detection limits. Choice of methods for trace analysis.
Units, dimensions, exponentials and logarithms:
Decimal places and significant figures. Units and dimensions: SI units, dimensional analysis. Manipulation of exponentials and logarithms. Power laws. Exponential decay and half-life. Beer-Lambert law, Arrhenius equation, Boltzmann distribution, Gaussian functions.
Balancing chemical equations. Amount of substance, molar quantities, concentration and volumetric calculations, gravimetric analysis, gas pressures and volumes.
Equilibrium calculations, strong and weak electrolytes. pH, acid-base equilibria, buffer solutions. Solubility. Chemical kinetics: reaction rates, rate constants and orders of reaction.
Probability and Statistics:
Elementary probability, probability spaces, Venn diagrams, independence, mutual exclusion, expectation. Quantitative treatment of the effect of evidence: Bayes’ Theorem and conditional probability Samples and populations, mean, standard deviation, moments, standard error. Probability distributions: binomial, normal, poisson. Limiting cases. Use of normal tables. Significance testing and confidence limits. Hypothesis testing. The chi-squared test. A brief look at probability-based arguments used by expert witnesses, recent controversies and challenged convictions. Regression and correlation
Analysis of alkaloids by HPLC
Accelerant analysis by gas chromatography
Analysis of metal cartridge cases and counterfeit coins using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy
Determination of copper by atomic absorption spectroscopy
Quantifying substances in a mixture using UV-visible spectroscopy
Isolation & purification of caffeine from tea leaves
Stereochemistry of metal complexes: geometrical, optical, structural, ionisation/hydration, linkage, coordination isomerism.
Bonding in transition metal complexes. Crystal field theory: crystal field splitting, factors effecting crystal field splitting, the spectrochemical series, low spin and high spin complexes, crystal field stabilisation energy (CFSE), hydration energy of M2+ ions, site selection in spinels and the Jahn Teller effect. Thermodynamic and kinetic stability of metal complexes. Stability constants. The chelate effect. Lability of ligands. Preparation and reactivity of transition metal complexes.
Colours of complexes: d?d spectra, spin and Laporte selection rules, intensities of absorptions. Measurement of ligand field splitting energy. Charge transfer absorptions. Diamagnetism, paramagnetism, magnetic moment.
Comparison with the d-block elements. Position of lanthanides and actinides in the periodic table. Electronic configuration, oxidation states and chemistry. The lanthanide contraction. Separation of lanthanide elements. f?f spectra. Chemistry of actinides: uranium.
Fibres and Microscopy:What is a fibre and associated polymers and how are they made? Cellulose and other natural polymers. Synthetic polymers and fibres such as nylon. Overview of methods of identification and analysis. A particular emphasis will be on polarized light microscopy for comparative analysis various materials including fibres, paper and soils.
Experiments in preparative and analytical inorganic chemistry, to include: the separation of nickel and cobalt by ion-exchange chromatography; measurement of the ligand field splitting energy in a titanium (III) complex; preparation and properties of complex ions; isomerism in coordination complexes.
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.
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
The role of evidence in a courtroom is technical but its rules reflect core principles of the due process of law. These are becoming more significant with the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998 and it is important for forensic scientists, who may act as expert witnesses, to have an understanding of these rules and their operation in the trial process. This module considers the position of forensic evidence within the trial process, rules governing the recognition of such evidence and the perception of its value in the trial. In addition matters such as the function of the judge and jury, burden and standard of proof, and hearsay are considered from a central focus of how they relate to forensic evidence.
Here, you will be introduced to a variety of modern techniques used to understand the structure, properties and potential applications of materials. Analytical techniques include: atomic emission/absorption spectrometry, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), capillary zone electrophoresis (CZE), ion chromatography, mass spectrometry and gas chromatography (GCMS), electro-analytical chemistry, optical microscopy, electron microscopy.
This module will include the principles of application, quality and legal aspects of analysis and identification using several evidence types – entwined with case examples of major crimes. The module is intended to cover the most up to date topics within forensic science and will be supported with a wide range of contemporary case studies. The module will include the following subject areas:
• Case Assessment & Interpretation
• A selection of contemporary case studies demonstrating the application of forensic science
• Quality standards in forensic science
• Ethics in forensic science
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):
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.
Used in the analysis of trace metal content. Experiment to compare flame and graphite furnace methods.
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.
Used in analysis of metal artefacts, including bullet casings and forged coins.
Used in analysis of materials with crystalline lattices, including metals and inorganic explosives residues.
SEM, TEM and Electron Probe Microanalysis (EPMA) in the analysis of gunshot and explosives residues.
Used in forensic analysis of ink pigments, street drugs and counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
Widely used method of separating and identifying substances in forensic science.
Used in comparison of pigments and paper in questioned documents; also chemical tests for explosives and drugs of abuse.
Facial recognition software, signature comparison, and the reconstruction of CCTV images.
The 2020/21 annual tuition fees* for this programme are:
For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.
*The 2020/21 annual tuition fees for Home/EU undergraduates have not yet been set by the UK Government. As a guide only full-time tuition fees for Home and EU undergraduates for 2019/20 entry are £9,250.
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.*
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.
Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details.
You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.
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.
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 AAA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages.
The scholarship is also extended to those who achieve AAB at A level (or specified equivalents) where one of the subjects is either mathematics or a modern foreign language. Please review the eligibility criteria.
Teaching involves a combination of 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.
Please note that there are degree thresholds at stages 2 and 3 that you will be required to pass in order to continue onto the next stages.
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.
The programme aims to:
You gain knowledge and understanding of:
You gain intellectual skills in how to:
You gain the following subject-specific skills:
You gain the following transferable skills:
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.
Forensic Science at Kent was ranked 4th in The Complete University Guide 2020.
In The Guardian University Guide 2020, over 94% of final-year Forensic Science students were satisfied with the overall quality of their course.
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:
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.
You graduate with excellent forensic skills, including:
In addition, you develop the key transferable skills that graduate employers look for, including:
You can also enhance your degree studies by signing up for one of our Kent Extra activities, such as learning a language or volunteering.
The University has a friendly Careers and Employability Service which can give you advice on how to:
Full-time applicants (including international applicants) should apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) system. If you need help or advice on your application, you should speak with your careers adviser or contact UCAS Customer Contact Centre.
The institution code number for the University of Kent is K24, and the code name is KENT.
If you are applying for courses based at Medway, you should add the campus code K in Section 3(d).
Discover Uni is designed to support prospective students in deciding whether, where and what to study. The site replaces Unistats from September 2019.
Discover Uni is jointly owned by the Office for Students, the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Scottish Funding Council.
Find out more about the Unistats dataset on the Higher Education Statistics Agency website.