School of Law

Catherine Donnelly

BA Criminal Justice and Criminology | 2010 - 2013

Photo of Catherine Donnelly

About Me

I grew up in a close-knit spa town in Warwickshire. I came to university straight from sixth form and haven't looked back since.

Why I Chose Criminal Justice and Criminology at Leeds

When I was seven I told my mum and dad I wanted to be a “police lady”. That aspiration stuck with me through secondary school and sixth form, and ultimately shaped my degree course decision.

For some unbeknown reason I was drawn towards studying at two large northern university's – one of which was Leeds. Having attended open days at both and considered the courses offered in depth, my instincts told me that the University of Leeds was where I'd be happiest. I was not wrong.

Unlike the course offered by the other university I considered, at the University of Leeds the course is intimate and based within the law school. This means you get to know the vast majority of people in your year and can develop personal relationships with the lecturers and other teaching staff. It also means that you can take your degree in a direction which interests you most, be it legal or sociological.

What makes me passionate about my subject

The fact that it is always current and constantly developing. Whether it be a high-profile case, a proposed policy change or the latest media “scandal” I have been able to use my knowledge to analyse current affairs.

Crime and society's response are provocative topics and everyone has an opinion. But I feel that my own opinions have become better developed and informed by studying criminal justice to a degree level.  

My Course

Whilst there are no modules I have found uninteresting or tiresome, the aspect of my course which I have enjoyed the most has also been my biggest challenge – writing my dissertation. Unlike the majority of my peers I chose to conduct an empirical research dissertation. Although, the 2nd year module “Criminological Research Methods” provided me with  theoretical knowledge, this was my first practical experience of conducting research. However, thanks to the support and advice of my supervisor and the excellent array of helpful texts in the library the challenge was manageable. I have always thrived from a challenge and completing my own research provided me with a real sense of achievement which I can thankfully say were not misplaced!

University Facilities and School Support

Within the Law School there are spaces to both study and relax. The common room is great for access to computers and if you like studying with activity going on around you then there are plenty of tables. Additionally, there are specific “quieter” facilities for dissertation and research students. All the lecturers have “open door” hours where you can get help if you need it. However, more often than not, the lecturers are more than happy for you to just turn up if you've only got a quick question. Plus the amazing hot chocolate from the vending machine in the common room makes study days that little bit easier.

Whilst on rare occasions it can be difficult to access certain books on 7-day loan periods, the high-demand sections of the library tend to stock copies on shorter loan lengths. Additionally, many of the compulsory texts are accessible online which makes last minute seminar preparation easier.

I have been known to be a bit of a worrier, so when I sent a panicked email regarding my dissertation a few days before deadline I was hardly expecting a response in time. Yet a short while later on the same day I received a reassuring reply which put me at ease. I have typically received replies to emails within 24 hours be it from lecturers or the law school staff generally. Personal Tutors are a first point of call for personal concerns and can help direct you towards more specific support if needed.

Outside of Studying

Leeds University Union has hundreds of societies for students to get involved in. I am not particularly sporty yet there are tons of non-sport related societies which I have tried out or been a member of such as CrimSoc, Sub Aqua, SocieTEA or Oxfam. Additionally, I helped establish the Howard League for Penal Reform society at Leeds.

Within the School volunteering opportunities have been advertised, through which I have worked with West Yorkshire Police as a Student Volunteer. Additionally, I have been able to get involved with open day and freshers week activities.

Leeds as a city

Compared to my home town Leeds is much more culturally diverse and that is what stands out most. It has a large student population which has meant the city caters to all tastes and interests. I am a coffee geek and there are some truly brilliant independent coffee shops which I frequently go to.

My advice to prospective students

It's not CSI. But if you want a course which allows you to explore law modules as well as sociological ones then choose Leeds.

My Future

Since coming to university my aspiration of joining the police has faltered, but my interest in criminal Justice and criminology has remained. I am currently looking into working within the criminal justice policy arena. However, I have not ruled out further study later down the line.

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