Academic Spotlight: Mohammed Rahman

Dr Mohammed Rahman is a senior lecturer in Criminology in the School of Social Sciences. He has published internationally, including books and peer reviewed articles in his primary area of research – serious and organised crime. We spoke with Mohammed about his career so far, what studying a criminology degree is like and advice he has for aspiring criminologists.

What do you do at BCU and how long have you been part of the University?

I am a senior lecturer in Criminology in the School of Social Sciences and I am also a research lead at the Centre for Security and Extremism. I teach across various undergraduate and postgraduate criminology programmes. I started life at BCU in 2008 as an undergraduate. Between 2008 and 2018, I completed four degrees and two postgraduate certificates. 

What are some of the greatest achievements you have accomplished at BCU?

Academia has a lot to offer, but very little tops seeing students on graduation day, joyous and celebrating with their loved ones. Therefore, as cliché as this may sound, my biggest achievement year in and year out is contributing to the academic journey of students. 

One of the things that I’m proud of is the upcoming cohort of academics. I taught some of them during their undergraduate and postgraduate studies and they are currently working towards a PhD as well as teaching in some capacity. They all have fascinating research interests and are ideal role models for students. 

As far as my own education is concerned, the 2017/18 academic year is one that I have fond memories of. During that year, I was finishing off my PhD as well as working towards a second Master’s. Not many people work towards completing two degrees at the same time. I was also lecturing full-time and therefore a lot of sacrifices had to be made. It was a tough year, but as the saying goes, “tough times don’t last, tough people do!"

I am also an active researcher. I have been working on three major projects for the past several years. As such I have published several peer-reviewed journals, several book chapters, two books and I am currently working on my third and preparing for my fourth book. I’m proud to say that I’m now in a position where I can give back through my research. One of the ways that I do this is by getting students involved in research projects. This allows them to benefit from real-world research experiences as well as connect with local key stakeholders from various sectors. Some of my scholarly work has gained international recognition from peers and recently I became a network expert member for the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. Contributing intellectually to a discipline is always a great feeling. 

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What makes the courses you teach on distinct and what is the learning environment like? 

One of the key things that separate criminology courses at BCU in comparison to others in the country is the research-informed teaching and learning. This means that students are largely taught by staff who have specialist expertise in the fields of criminology, policing, and security. Students also benefit from guest lectures. Through my own criminal justice connections, I’ve previously had guest speakers on modules that I teach on that have worked for the Home Office, the National Crime Agency and the London Metropolitan Police. 

The learning environment at BCU is conducive to an array of growth. Geographically, students benefit from the state-of-the-art City Centre Campus, ideally located for them to take advantage of our links to industry in the UK’s second city. On campus, students have access to advanced resources to gain a professional focus and real-world experience, which also ensures that they are best equipped to make an immediate impact. 

Could you tell us about your experience and how this feeds into your teaching?

In terms of pedagogy, some of my major qualifications are applied. As such they have allowed me to take a self-reflexive approach to teaching and learning. Each session has a time restriction and therefore I am always mindful of ensuring that my students get a fine blend of value and substance. I try my best to make sure that my classes are interactive, participatory and informative. For me, it’s about ‘talking with students’ as opposed to ‘talking at students’. I’m more likely to be found sitting next to students in the lecture theatre as opposed to hiding behind the lectern! 

Why do you think Birmingham is a good place to study?

I’ve always said that Birmingham is a city that has quite a lot of everything. Because of this, it is all rounded and therefore gives students a complete experience of city life. The city is also quite accessible and resourceful. In many ways, it is the leading student city, as the population of under 25s is one of the highest across all major cities in England and Wales. There's a lot to do and a lot to gain by living and studying in Birmingham. The Commonwealth Games is happening here. HS2 is being built and private investment is growing day by day. This is all beneficial for students in regards to employability, networking and other experiences. Combining this with university life allows students to have a transformative experience. One which sets them up to become young professionals.  

What can students do to help prepare them for the courses you teach? 

Reading is key! I got into criminology with a forensic computing degree. Reading is what helped me during the transition. Reading is the cornerstone of all criminology programmes at BCU and it is also something that helps develop a critical mind, which is much needed within social sciences. Reading will also help students find their criminology passion. This can ultimately end up becoming their employment. As I always say to my students, "all leaders are readers!" 

What’s your favourite thing about working at the University?

The people make BCU what it is. On most working days, I get into campus at 7am, and because of this, I end up interacting with an array of staff before any of my colleagues get in. I often take time out to speak to those working in security, hospitality, catering and cleaning. Usually, I thank them for all their hard work. They’re integral to BCU and often inspire and motivate me to give back as much as I can. I also love the diversity of students. Sometimes I feel like all the countries in the world are under one roof. My colleagues are also excellent. There are too many to name - a special shout out to you all! 

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