Alumni Services

Susan McVie

Susan McVie’s decision to switch from a science degree to studying Law at Edinburgh proved to be life changing. She tells us why.

Name Professor Susan McVie
Degree Course MSc Legal Studies
Year of Graduation 1992
Susan McVie

Your time at the University

I was studying for an undergraduate degree in biological sciences in Edinburgh (at a rival institution) and had decided that my career path lay in a different track.

I had become inspired by notions of abnormal psychology and deviant lifestyles, studying the works of scholars such as Matza and Freud, and wanted to find out more. Thankfully, the University of Edinburgh was one of very few institutions at that time that offered a course in criminology (then called Legal Studies), and some of the finest criminologists in the country were teaching there - David Garland, Derek McClintock, Peter Young and Richard Kinsey - as well as philosophers such as Neil MacCormick.

It was a no-brainer: I signed up for the MSc and never looked back.

My favourite memories of studying at Edinburgh are the many stories of empirical research that many of the lecturers used to base their lectures on. They made it all so real and they inspired me to want to do my own research. The other students were from all over the world and it led to some really interesting debates and discussions on criminal justice practices in China, the USA and Europe, as well as other places.

While I was on the course, I met some researchers from the Scottish Office who invited me to apply for some summer work. Even before I had finished my Masters, I had written my first publication on Housebreaking in Scotland, using data from the Labour Force Survey.

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

There is no doubt that my Masters degree has contributed to the rest of my career. Two weeks after finishing my course, I started work for the government and spent seven happy years there researching all manner of things criminological.

Working my way up from Research Fellow to Senior Research Fellow, I was able to build on my social research methods skills training and take on responsibility for a range of projects that touched on areas that I had learned about at Edinburgh.

I eventually became project manager for the Scottish Crime Survey, which is a national survey of victimisation in Scotland and the main source of information on crime next to the police recorded crime statistics.

There is no doubt that my early grounding in criminology, which focused very heavily on the application of research, has contributed to who and where I am today.

Professor Susan McVie

After a few years, I got the opportunity to come back to the University of Edinburgh to lead a large-scale project on youth offending called the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime. It felt like coming home.

I have now been working for the University of Edinburgh for 16 years and worked my way up from a Senior Research Fellow to Professor of Quantitative Criminology in 2010.

I have continued with my true love, which is research, and in addition to continuing with the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, I have contributed to or developed a number of other research centres, including the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research and the Applied Quantitative Methods Network.

There is no doubt that my early grounding in criminology, which focused very heavily on the application of research, has contributed to who and where I am today.

Alumni wisdom

Follow your heart and stick with the subjects your love - it will pay dividends in the future.