Dr John Kerr is our Head of Policing and Criminology. We caught up with John to discuss his career journey and how an early role as an art installer fuelled his fascination in crime and led him to criminology and policing.
By Cara Fielder. Published 27 February 2023. Last updated 6 March 2023.
Before joining the University in January 2022, I was Deputy Head of Social Sciences at the University of Roehampton. I have also worked at City, University of London and London South Bank University. Before choosing to become an academic, I taught English in Brazil, Mexico, Spain and Venezuela. I also worked as an art installer in London.
I was drawn to criminology and policing for a couple of reasons. When I worked as an art installer, our team delivered and installed a wide variety of art in London and across the UK. Some of this art was extremely high value in cultural, heritage, historical and financial terms. When you are holding a painting worth over £10 million, you inevitably start to think about the levels of security protecting it, why and how a person might steal or damage or create a forgery of it, and how the crimes might be detected. I also heard fascinating stories about the links between art crime and other crimes.
Secondly, I have always been fascinated by ideas concerning crime; for example, why is one activity deemed to be a crime but another is not, and who decides this and in whose interests. Furthermore, I am interested in how some criminal activities evolve to take advantage of opportunities. In addition, I have always had an interest in how policing works. This interest grew further when I was living in countries with very differing policing approaches to the UK.
I was drawn to this new position at the University as I would be able to take a leading role in growing the Criminology and Policing undergraduate programmes and create new undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. I am excited to take a leading role in The University of Law’s Criminology and Policing programmes and to create pathways for students, from foundation to postgraduate study. These programmes will generate opportunities for students to fulfil their potential and progress into graduate jobs in which they can use their skills and knowledge to help society. I believe in the transformative power of higher education for individuals and societies. Nelson Mandela summed it up well, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
I have only been at the University for a short time, but I am currently working with colleagues on new programmes and a project in a range of areas. I have also been busy creating links with police forces to generate graduate opportunities for students, for example, the City of London Police and their fraud and cyber detective pathway.
My long-term ambition is to to see thousands of graduates have a meaningful impact on societies in the UK and abroad.
Universities have a central role in improving diversity in the professions as they provide students with the skills, knowledge, experience and opportunities to succeed in Policing and Criminology related fields. Policing and Criminology (in the field and academia) needs to reflect society. Unfortunately, in 2023, this is still not the case.
I do not have one particular highlight of my career. Some highlights include the publication of my book, speaking at international conferences, attending Parliamentary meetings, and appearing on television. However, I think probably the biggest highlight for me has been receiving teaching awards from students.
I encourage prospective student to consider Policing and criminology as they are fascinating subjects. Studying either (or both in our joint degree) will help you see society through critical eyes. The courses will enable you to challenge ‘taken for granted’ concepts and give you the tools and expertise to make positive change within society. Whether you choose to work in the criminal justice sector or other sectors you can use the array of skills you have acquired studying at university.
We have modules designed and taught by expert criminologists and policing scholars (many of whom also have years of professional policing experience) who carry out leading, cutting-edge research. We also have excellent student support across a wide range of areas, ranging from academic support to helping you find and prepare for your future career.