Institute History

The Institute of Criminology has a worldwide reputation for excellence in both research and teaching.

Founded by Sir Leon Radzinowicz in 1960, it was one of the first criminological institutes in the UK and has exerted a strong influence on the development of the discipline. The tradition of competence and leadership continues to the present. The Institute's core academic staff (Sir Anthony Bottoms, Timothy Coupe, Ben Crewe, Manuel Eisner, David Farrington, Loraine Gelsthorpe, Adrian Grounds, Andreas von Hirsch, Friedrich Lösel , Alison Liebling, Katrin Müller-Johnson, Lawrence Sherman (Director), and Per-Olof Wikström) are all leading researchers in their fields. Additional distinguished academic and research staff complement and enhance the academic community, and Visiting Fellows from around the world often contribute to the teaching programmes.

Staff hail from multidisciplinary international backgrounds and have clear empirical and theoretical orientations. Their interests cover a broad range of topics: e.g., delinquent development, social contexts and crime, policing, criminal justice, penal theory, sentencing, prisons and corrections, sex offender treatment, forensic mental health, and criminological theories.

The Institute is home to five thriving Research Centres: the Jerry Lee Centre for Experimental Criminology, PADS+ (Peterborough Adolescent and Young Adult Development Study), Penal Theory and Ethics, Prisons Research and the Violence Research Centre. In recognition of their outstanding research, Cambridge criminologists have been awarded numerous prestigious international awards.


The Cambridge University Institute of Criminology was founded in 1959 by Sir Leon Radzinowicz, with the support of a donation from the Wolfson Foundation and the Howard League for Penal Reform. It has since flourished providing a range of different courses including a nine-month taught course in Criminology for the M.Phil. degree; the largest full-time post-graduate Criminology course in the UK.

Sir Leon Radzinowicz

Sir Leon Radzinowicz first came to Cambridge University in 1938 to work on the English Justice and penal system where he first established the Department of Criminal Science within the Faculty of Law during wartime Britain. With huge success across the UK in changing perceptions on criminology he was given a fellowship with Trinity College and approached about the foundation of a faculty devoted entirely to criminology. He was the first Director of the Institute, holding the position from 1959 to 1972. He also become the first Wolfson Professor of Criminology; a senior professorship within Cambridge University and created by the Wolfson foundation. He was knighted in 1970, just before his retirement from the Wolfson chair in 1973. Professor Lawrence Sherman became the Director of the Institute of Criminology in 2012 - succeeding Professor Friedrich Lösel - and has been a Wolfson Professor of Criminology for the Wolfson Foundation since 2007.

The Institute’s Radzinowicz Library of Criminology was named after Sir Leon Radzinowicz and the library holds the world’s largest collection of criminology material, holding around 60,000 books and maintaining stock increases of roughly 1000 a year.

Staff and courses

While the Insitiute is part of the Faculty of Law, it has staff recruited from a wide array of disciplines including psychiatry, psychology, sociology and various other aspects of law and history. The Institute is for Postgraduate research only and has approximately 80 students, with around 35 members of staff. The Institute of Criminology has been recognised for its teaching and research programmes with high grades in recent education evaluations. Other courses offered by the Institute include a twelve-month M.Phil. degree in Criminological Research; a 2 year MSt Degree in Applied Criminology and Police Management open to potential chief police officers and personnel working in senior positions within police forces and other parts of the criminal justice system; a 2 year Master of Studies Degree in Applied Criminology, Penology and Management open to senior prison officers and others who work or have interest in criminal justice systems; and a PhD programme in Criminology among many more.


The Institute runs a regular series of Seminars given by guest speakers, open to all staff and students and has become a world renowned centre of academic excellence within criminology. The Institute is next to the new Law Faculty and students and staff at Criminology are able to use a wide array of facilities available to them through other aspects of Cambridge University, such as the main University Library, housing one of the largest collections of material in Britain.


The Sidgwick Site is on the western edge of Cambridge city centre and is home to many of the university's arts and humanities faculties. It is one of the largest sites within Cambridge University and was named after the philosopher Henry Sidgwick, who studied at Cambridge in the 19th century.

Wolfson Foundation and Department Buildings

The Wolfson Foundation stated that its foundation grant for the Institute “was made on the understanding that suitable and permanent accommodation would be provided by the University” (Wolfson Foundation 1960, pp.16-17). The University, however, was initially unable to meet this requirement. Two interim steps were taken: First, the Institute was granted use of some existing University premises, initially from 1959-62 at 4 Scroope Terrace (pictured, left), and then from Easter 1962 at 7 West Road, part of the University's then developing Sidgwick Site, where a number of departments in humanities and social sciences were being housed. The building at West Road was explicitly assigned to the Institute as 'temporary premises', but this temporary occupation lasted over 40 years. The new building, in the heart of the Sidgwick Site and current premises, was opened in 2005.