Forensic Science with a Foundation Year - BSc (Hons)

Overview

Our foundation year gives those without the relevant scientific background, or who don't meet the entry requirements, the knowledge and skills needed to take on any one of our Forensic Science degrees. Fascinating and challenging, this course opens up a wide range of career opportunities.

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.

As a foundation year student, you are a full member of the University and can take part in all student activities.

Our degree programme

This programme is for science students who do not meet the requirements for direct entry to Stage 1 of our degree programmes. It is also an excellent conversion course for applicants who have shown academic ability in non-science subjects. We also consider applicants without traditional academic qualifications who have relevant professional experience. 

In your foundation year, you study chemistry, mathematics and take part in practical classes. On successful completion of your foundation year, you will have reached a standard above A level and so be fully equipped to tackle the BSc degree course.

In your first year of the BSc, 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.


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

Year in industry

Many students choose to extend their degree programme with 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
  • new crime scene house with a number of rooms set up with a number of scenarios to 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.

Entry requirements

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 spsadmissions@kent.ac.uk.  

All applications will be considered individually but will vary depending on whether or not you have a relevant science qualification. 

Home/EU students

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.

New GCSE grades

If you’ve taken exams under the new GCSE grading system, please see our conversion table to convert your GCSE grades.

  • Certificate

    A level

    For those with a relevant science qualification our standard offer is CD/ DD with one of these to be Chemistry or Biology. For those without a relevant science qualification, our standard offer is BB. 

  • Certificate

    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.

  • Certificate

    BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC National Diploma)

    The University will consider applicants holding BTEC National Diploma and Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF;OCR) at 120 credits or more, on a case by case basis. Please contact us via the enquiries tab for further advice on your individual circumstances.

  • Certificate

    International Baccalaureate

    34 points overall or 11 at HL including HL Chemistry or Biology at 4 or SL Chemistry or Biology at 5.

International students

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. 

However, please note that international fee-paying students cannot undertake a part-time programme due to visa restrictions.

If you need to increase your level of qualification ready for undergraduate study, we offer a number of International Foundation Programmes.

Meet our staff in your country

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

English Language Requirements

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. 

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Course structure

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.

After successfully completing the foundation year you can transfer on to any three or four year Forensic Science courses. Please refer to the BSc Forensic Science, BSc Forensic Science with a Year in Industry or Forensic Science MSci course for more information about specific modules for stages 1-4. 

Foundation year

Compulsory modules currently include

  • Arithmetic

    Calculations

    Significant figures

    Standard form

    Fractions

    Simplification of fractions

    Percentages and fractional changes

    Indices

    Logarithmic and exponential functions

  • Algebra

    Basic rules (operations and indices).

    Solving equations (substitution and order of operation).

    Changing subject of a formula

    Inverse operations

    Rules of indices

    Long division

    Expansion and Factorisation

    Quadratic equations

    Solving linear and simultaneous equations

    Partial fractions

    Binomial Theorem

    Find out more about PH020

  • Graphical methods are powerful, visual tools to illustrate relationships in theories, and in experimental quantities, pertaining to physical phenomena. They involve knowledge of, and visual representation of mathematical functions frequently encountered in the physical sciences. The topics covered are expected to include:

    Graphs of functions including straight lines, quadratics, 1/x and 1/x2.

    Parametric equations for curves, including use in modelling phenomena in physical sciences.

    Coordinate geometry of lines and circles, including calculations with angles in radians.

    Trigonometric functions (sine, cosine, tangent), and reciprocal and inverse trigonometric functions.

    Formulae involving small angles, sums of angles, and products of trigonometric functions.

    Solving trigonometric equations in the context of modelling phenomena in physical sciences.

    Vectors in one, two and three dimensions, and notations for representing them.

    Algebraic operations of vector addition and multiplication by scalars.

    Use of vectors in modelling phenomena in physical sciences.

    Find out more about PH022

    The mole; chemical equations; titrations; atoms and molecules; energy levels; acids and bases; orbitals; bonds; molecular shapes; spectra; bond energies, hydrogen bonding.

    Find out more about PS021

    Lattice energy; polymorphism; chemical equilibrium; the Periodic Table; solubilities; transition metals; isomerism; organic chemicals; shapes of organic molecules; organic analysis; optical activity; basic reactions of organic compounds; organic problem-solving; reaction kinetics.

    Find out more about PS022

    States of matter; radioactivity; real and ideal gases; water. main group inorganic chemistry; phase diagrams, ideal solutions; miscibility, electrochemistry, forensic science techniques.

    Find out more about PS023

    Stage 1

    Compulsory modules currently include

    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.

    Document Examination:

    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.

    Find out more about PS301

    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.

    Find out more about PS318

    Mathematical Concepts for Impact Studies

    Newton's laws of motion

    Vectors

    Energy considerations

    Introduction to ballistics

    Categories of weapons

    Weapon mechanisms

    Ammunition construction

    Internal ballistics

    External ballistics

    Terminal ballistics

    Overview of Forensic Ballistics

    The 1968 Firearms Act (as amended)

    Categorisation of firearms and ammunition

    Shooting case studies

    Find out more about PS324

    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.

    Find out more about PS381

    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.

    Find out more about CH308

    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.

    Find out more about CH309

    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.

    Find out more about CH314

    Fees

    The 2021/22 annual tuition fees for UK undergraduate courses have not yet been set by the UK Government. As a guide only full-time tuition fees for Home undergraduates for 2020/21 entry are £9,250:

    • Home full-time £9250
    • International full-time £20500

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

    Full-time tuition fees for Home undergraduates in 2020 were £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.* 

    EU students

    Kent is supporting its EU students as the UK leaves the EU with a special EU fee offered for students joining in 2021 for the duration of their programmes. EU, other EEA and Swiss nationals will no longer be eligible for home fee status, undergraduate, postgraduate and advanced learner financial support from Student Finance England for courses starting in academic year 2021/22. It will not affect students starting courses in academic year 2020/21, nor those EU, other EEA and Swiss nationals benefitting from Citizens’ Rights under the EU Withdrawal Agreement, EEA EFTA Separation Agreement or Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement respectively. It will also not apply to Irish nationals living in the UK and Ireland whose right to study and to access benefits and services will be preserved on a reciprocal basis for UK and Irish nationals under the Common Travel Area arrangement.

    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 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 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.

    Please note that you must pass all modules of the foundation year in order to progress onto stage 1.

    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 knowledge of the key skills, concepts, theories and practice that underpin forensic science in order to prepare you for stage one of the undergraduate programme.
    • 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 life-long 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 practicing 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.

    Independent rankings

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

    In The Guardian University Guide 2020, over 94% of final-year Forensic Science students were satisfied with the overall quality of their course.

    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 Forensic Science with a Foundation Year - BSc (Hons)

    Full-time applicants

    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.

    Application deadlines

    See the UCAS website for an outline of the UCAS process and application deadlines. 

    If you are applying for courses based at Medway, you should add the campus code K in Section 3(d).

    Apply through UCAS

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    Enquire online

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

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