Course content

This course is an introduction to criminology, i.e., the measurement, prediction, explanation and prevention of crime. The course begins with an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the four primary measures of crime (police data, victim surveys, self-report surveys, emergency room statistics) and then examines the volume of crime cross-nationally and over time within these measurement contexts. Criminal events (crimes) are distinguished from criminal propensity (criminality) and the distributions of both are discussed in terms of their primary correlates (e.g., age, gender, social class, prior history) and manifestations in criminal careers. Theories concerning the causes of crime and criminality are examined from their 18th century Classical roots (e.g., Bentham, Beccaria) through 20th century sociological positivism (e.g., Merton, Sutherland, Hirschi), as well as within biological and Neo-Classical perspectives. The history of punishment is outlined and its stated philosophical aims (deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, retribution) are considered in terms of logic and effectiveness. The Danish prison system is described in an international context and argued to be just as effective, yet far more humane, than many of its non-Scandinavian counterparts. A class tour of a Danish prison brings these discussions to life by highlighting the qualitatively different nature of “Scandinavian exceptionalism” as seen from an international perspective. The relationship between drugs, alcohol and crime is discussed, and anti-drug policies are considered in light of both abolitionist and harm reduction philosophies. The “criminal careers of places” are compared to those of persons both epidemiologically and in terms of amenability to treatment. Possibilities for crime prevention are discussed from a standpoint of reducing offender motivation, reducing the pool of motivated offenders, and/or reducing the physical opportunities for crime (e.g., Situational Crime Prevention; CPTED). The lectures consistently compare Scandinavian aspects of crime and crime policy to conditions and practices in the USA and other countries. This is done partly because of the diversity of student backgrounds and partly because of the unique nature of the Scandinavian criminological context, which is characterized by high social cohesion, low socio-economic disparity and very low rates of imprisonment.


MA Theory and Themes (MSc Curriculum 2015)

Course package (MSc Curriculum 2015):

Welfare, inequality and mobility
Knowledge, organisation and politics
Culture, lifestyle and everyday life

BA-Undergraduates from foreign countries can sign up for this course.

Learning outcome

By the end of the course, students will have


- the measurement and causes of crime and

- the aims and effectiveness of punishment



- critically evaluate the primary methods used to measure crime volume

- to explain the historical evolution of criminology as a science

- to apply the most recent theories regarding the causes of crime

- to distinguish the underlying aims of punishment

- to express an evidence-based opinion on the effectiveness of punishment

- and to articulate the scientific and philosophical obstacles to effective crime prevention.



- think critically about crime and its causes and

- to evaluate the logic and effectiveness of criminal justice responses.

Lectures; class discussion; prison trip

ECTS 7,5 students are responsible for circa 650 pages of reading.

Readings are comprised of peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and occassional newspaper clippings.


The course relies heavily on quantitative data and therefore assumes a working knowledge of research methods and an ability to deal with basic descriptive statistics.

OBS! Dette kursus har adgangsbegrænsninger.
Kurset vil som udgangspunkt ikke blive udbudt igen. Du kan således ikke planlægge efter, at det udbydes i senere semestre, end hvad der fremgår af denne kursusbeskrivelse.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individual/group. Free written take-home essays are assignments for which students define and formulate a problem within the parameters of the course and based on an individual exam syllabus. The free written take-home essay must be no longer than 10 pages. For group assignments, an extra 5 pages is added per additional student. Further details for this exam form can be found in the Curriculum and in the General Guide to Examinations at KUnet.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Internal examiners.
Criteria for exam assessment

Pleas see learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Course Preparation
  • 90
  • Project work
  • 20
  • Exam Preparation
  • 68
  • English
  • 206