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Paul Kay

Middlesbrough, UK

MSc Leadership in Criminal Justice and Policing

Paul Kay was looking for a master’s degree that he could study for whilst working full-time as a criminal justice practitioner. He enrolled onto the MSc Leadership in Criminal Justice and Policing and since graduating, is now using what’s he’s learned on the course in his current practice while applying for more senior roles where he can utilise his leadership skills more effectively.

I completed my undergraduate degree over ten years ago and had wanted to progress onto a master’s degree at the time. However, even though I was accepted at another university, I decided to decline my place and concentrate on work. It wasn’t until I completed my Graduate Diploma (GDip) that I was reminded of how much I enjoy studying and I figured that if I didn’t go for it now, I likely never would – or it would be another ten years!

I studied for my GDip during the global pandemic, so all the learning was done online. I knew that I wanted to pursue further study, but it had to be face-to-face where I could be amongst peers and talk through ideas. I also needed to fit studying for my master’s degree around working full-time as a criminal justice practitioner, which is one of the reasons I chose Sunderland, as teaching mostly took place on an evening. Another reason I chose the MSc Leadership in Criminal Justice and Policing course is that it's unique and offers a wider focus beyond criminology. I knew that the degree would allow me to examine the skills I developed in my previous career and apply them to a criminal justice setting.

I really enjoyed the leadership module, which allowed me to reflect on my own leadership style, exploring my strengths and the areas I needed to work on. More broadly, each of the modules challenged me in my thinking and application of knowledge, with the added benefit of studying alongside other practitioners, international students, and those with lived experience of the criminal justice system. This is such a unique aspect of the course as it helps to prepare you for stepping into leadership roles within criminal justice, giving you a more holistic view outside of your own area of practice.

Having just graduated, I’m continuing to work as a criminal justice practitioner, but I’m now applying for more senior roles in the hope of being able to effect change and improve services for those who work within, and the users of, those services. The MSc has helped me to understand and utilise the skills I already had, for example, when working with trainees, I can now adapt my approach to better support their learning journey. Having a greater understanding from studying alongside those with lived experience has also been invaluable when working with service users.

This has been my third time studying at university and the third university I’ve studied at. My advice to anyone thinking of coming to Sunderland would be to not hesitate and apply now. From the communication before I submitted my application to getting my final grades, I can’t offer anything but praise to the University – it’s a welcoming and enabling environment. The teaching team on the MSc Leadership in Criminal Justice and Policing course inspires, encourages, challenges, and supports you, which is reflective of the feeling I got when studying at Sunderland. Speak to the staff before you apply, even if you think there are any barriers to your learning, and they’ll explore ways to overcome them.

Quite simply, it has been the best university experience I’ve had, on a course that was both relevant and challenging, which has undoubtedly impacted my own practice positively.”

Published 21 March 2024

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