The Institute of Criminology: A Jewel within the Law Faculty

The Institute of Criminology: A Jewel within the Law Faculty


The Institute of Criminology was established as an integral part of the Faculty of Law * Every year, the Institute produces leading scholars in the field * We bring you a brief introduction to the Institute, the programs it offers, criminology in general and the dynamics between research and practice    

The Institute of Criminology was founded by Professor Israel Drapkin in the late 1950s, and is considered one of the longest-standing institutes in the world and the leader in its field in Israel. The faculty of the Institute includes outstanding criminologists, including recipients of the Israel Prize and the Stockholm Prize. The Institute currently offers MA and PhD programs, but is preparing to expand the curriculum and offer a BA program from the 2014-15 academic year. The Institute has some 200 students in three MA tracks: a research track with a thesis, a theoretical track without a thesis, and a practical track specializing in law enforcement. The Institute is also home to a group of MA and doctorate research students participating in its “Full Time” program.

The Full Time Student Program 

Intended for outstanding doctorate and MA students, this scholarship program provides students with a supportive environment while requiring them to devote most of their time and energy to research and other academic activities. In addition to working on their thesis or dissertation, these students work as teaching and/or research assistants. Their involvement in research projects led by faculty members often gives them the opportunity to make intellectual contributions that result in publications in peer-reviewed journals.

This program was created in response to one of the main challenges facing students for advanced degrees in Israel. “The average Israeli doctoral student completes his/her degree when s/he is already over the the age of 30. This is the average for Israelis who have served in the army. By contrast, a doctorate student abroad can graduate at the age of 25, creating unfair competition. Israeli doctoral students are thus preoccupied by the need to make a living and start a family.





Dr. Badi Hasisi, the head of the Institute

The net result is that it is far from easy to be a student for advanced degrees in Israel.” This explanation is offered by Dr. Badi Hasisi, the head of the Institute. The program creates a working environment that has produced a new generation of scholars who have later joined the Institute itself as faculty members or undertook post-doctorate studies abroad. Dr. Hasisi explains the rationale behind the initiative: “We make a considerable investment in this group, but this investment is definitely worthwhile. As we see it, one of the Institute’s tasks is to train brilliant and strong students who can later find a place in the Israeli academic community.” 


Tamar Bernblum, 34, is a student in the program and warmly recommends it: “I’ve met many doctoral students and I'm familiar with the different study tracks at the university. Doctorate studies can be a very lonely experience, and this program helps us build a peer group.” From a logistic perspective, the program provides office space, a computer and other equipment that meet the basic needs of the student. “We are treated as an integral part of the Institute,” Tamar emphasizes. “The program enables us to meet lecturers from around the world. In addition to providing a platform for learning, this also enables us to make connections and create personal opportunities,” she notes with satisfaction. Alongside the organizational platform provided by the Institute, the doctorate students cooperate among themselves in writing articles and help each other on a regular basis. “Naturally, friendships are formed. This is an experience that not all doctoral students at the university get to enjoy.”



Tamar Bernblum

In addition to a scholarship, participants in the program also have a chance to gain experience in teaching and research. “In this respect they address all our needs and help us build an academic career by means of the doctorate itself, as well as through teaching and research,” Tamar explains. “Every doctorate program in the university should try to meet this model, which I believe is very successful.”


Criminology as an Interdisciplinary Science 

Dr. Hasisi explains that criminology is an inherently interdisciplinary field. “The most important and groundbreaking studies in criminology are the ones that connect criminology with other fields.” In the law enforcement track, for example, a dialogue between the different areas involved in the field is vital. “A dialogue does not always take place between people from different institutions, for example between staff from the Israel Prison Service and police officers, despite the fact that these two agencies have important impact on each other’s work,” Dr. Hasisi argues. He notes that while not every academic field can be translated into policy, criminology has a strong affinity to both policy and theory. “Someone may undertake an interesting study on the impact of poverty on society, but it would not lead to significant change in society at large because it relates to sweeping changes that would be difficult to effect. The units of analysis are by their nature to broad and are on macro level,” he explains. Conversely, some studies in criminology address specific mechanisms on an “intermediate” level and can thus lead to real change, for example policies for enforcement, penalization and rehabilitation.


Research is the vanguard of the Institute, and motivating scholars to publish studies in top peer-reviewed journals is an extremely important factor. However, members of the Institute also maintain close associations with the law enforcement system and see their work as an opportunity to influence society. “We advance the field of research, publish studies and receive competitive research grants,” Dr. Hasisi explains. “We also believe that this education has a functional dimension, particularly for policy makers, such as senior police officers.” He claims that if a police officer hears an explanation of basic facts based on relevant research, this can influence the way the officer behaves in the field. Academics at the Institute recently received a substantial research grant for a study for the Israeli Prison Service, evaluating its existing rehabilitation programs and examining whether these programs lead to positive outcomes.

At the same time, the Institute also strives to develop the criminology community in Israel. “The biennial conference of the Israeli Society of Criminology, which was held last May, was run independently by the ISC for the first time. Professor David Weisburd, the former head of the Institute, serves as the president of the ISC, and the Hebrew University was the institution responsible for leading the conference.” Dr. Hasisi also notes the close and fruitful dialogue between the Institute and the global academic community. Criminologists from leading programs overseas visit the Institute, reinforcing its ties with the international community in the field.