Thomas Murtagh at Graduation in 2016Thomas Murtagh

MA International Criminology (2015)

Where did you study before starting your MA in International Criminology?

I did my bachelor’s degree at another UK University where I studied sociology/criminology as a joint degree. I then developed an academic interest in restorative justice. It was this interest which informed my decision to move to the University of Sheffield and take an MA in International Criminology with a focus on the restorative justice pathway.

The reputation of the lecturers in this field was another major factor for applying to Sheffield. Quite simply, I wanted to learn from some of the foremost experts in restorative justice and they were at Sheffield. Studying criminology, one very quickly becomes aware of the work of criminologist Anthony Bottoms. That this scholar is linked to the University of Sheffield is no coincidence and it was an extra incentive for me to apply to Sheffield. So you can imagine that winning the Professor Sir Anthony Bottoms prize in criminology was a huge honour for me and it is one that I was immensely proud to receive. Sheffield staff who teach on the course and who shape its academic standing have tremendous reputations in this area and I was grateful to have been taught by them.

How did you find the application system at Sheffield?

The application process was simple and straightforward. All the information I required was easily accessible. Any extra questions that I had were responded to efficiently and in a friendly manner.

What are your impressions of Sheffield?

The city of Sheffield was a good host to me during my time as a student. The people were warm and friendly. There was always something interesting happening in the city; it was difficult to be bored. I also liked the fact that the countryside was just on the doorstep. The University of Sheffield has an excellent support network for students. Allied to a very good Students Union, I would say that the student experience was a really positive one for me.

What did you gain during your course to help you in your career?

The ability to use critical thinking to assimilate information and produce high standard written work is the most practical thing I gained from my degree. However, on a personal level, I gained an enormous amount of self-confidence from being able to tackle the requirements of a higher level degree and exceed all my expectations.

How did you find the quality of teaching staff?

The quality of the teaching staff was excellent. As I mentioned previously, the reputation of the teaching staff was one of my reasons for applying and they did not let me down. On a professional level all the lecturers were approachable, responded promptly to emails and other enquiries, and listened to my questions and gave clear answers. On an academic level I found that all of the lecturers were exceptionally knowledgeable in their fields. This came across in lectures and seminars with a high quality of teaching.

On a slightly different note, the support staff to the teaching side of the university were also excellent. Sometimes we forget the people who have to move mountains of paperwork in order for the university to run smoothly. Yet I found all of the backroom staff to be unfailingly friendly and helpful. This support does make a difference to the student experience and at Sheffield it was excellent.

What’s next for you?

Going forward from Sheffield I am interested in taking the next academic step and doing a PhD. I am minded to continue my research in restorative justice. My first option is to remain in academia as I write my PhD and I am considering going into lecturing or teaching. My second option is to become a restorative justice facilitator. Of course, these two options are not mutually exclusive and I will consider combining them.