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L7K309 Risk and Environmental Hazards MSc Postgraduate Taught 2015


UCAS code L7K309
Degree MSc
Mode of study Part Time + Full Time
Duration 1 year (full-time)
Start Date 06-10-2015
Location Durham City
Department(s) Website
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 1833

Course Content


Despite the phenomenal technological progress of the 20th century, most people still live with the acute and chronic consequences of age-old hazards such as floods and earthquakes. This MSc is for students who want to receive specialised scientific training in physical hazards that pose large risks to communities living throughout the world. Students on this programme will receive theoretical and practical training for understanding and quantifying hazards. They will learn about how hazards persist over long periods of time instead of merely as single events, but are composed of many smaller sub-events or how their effects are widespread.

Course structure

Students take the following courses, which add up to 180 credits:

  • Understanding Risk (30 credits)
  • Risk Frontiers (15 credits)
  • Fundamentals of Risk Research (15 credits)
  • Risk, Security and Society (30 credits)
  • Spatial & Temporal Dimensions of Hazards (30 credits)
  • Hydrological Hazards (30 credits)
  • Dissertation by Research (or) Vocational Dissertation (60 credits).

For more information please visit

Learning and Teaching

The primary aim of this Masters programme is to equip students with a general understanding of risk; whilst simultaneously providing specific training in one element of risk-related research. This is achieved through an interdisciplinary framework for understanding risk from a variety of perspectives. Students learn theoretical and practical approaches to identifying and framing risk, as well as the underlying physical and social mechanisms that generate it. They also examine the relationship of risk to knowledge and policy, and are made aware of the array of advanced tools and techniques to assess the physical and social dimensions of risk under conditions of uncertainty. They will also be trained in the substance and methods associated with one specific science or policy area, and are expected to demonstrate that they can combine their general training in risk with their specific understanding of the substance and method associated with the chosen area, through either a research-based or a vocational dissertation.

In order to combine this generic understanding with specific training, all students studying for this programme follow a set of core modules simultaneously within a single route. The routes are as follows:

MA Risk and Security, reflecting the growing realisation that many risks are being created through social processes bound to questions of security, including the ways that risk techniques are emerging and being employed as a means of securing uncertain futures.

MA Risk, Health and Public Policy, reflecting the observation that we often overlook the critical role played by communities in creating their own risks and sensitivities to those risks, as well as the crucial importance of growing resilience within communities rather than simply trying to eliminate risk, or reduce vulnerability.

MSc Risk and Environmental Hazards, reflecting the growing concern that the geographical template of environmental hazards is changing rapidly (e.g. in relation to climate change) and undermining many of the assumptions made in conventional risk analyses regarding the environment (e.g. statistical stationarity in the return period of extreme climate events). This niche is distinct because we are able to look much further beyond climate change alone, recognising that the core and changing driver of much of the nonstationarity is actually the human-environment interface (e.g. changing vulnerabilities).

The programme is delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars, workshops, tutorials, field work, group projects, student presentations and practical classes. The balance between each of these methods of learning varies depending on the module. Seminars and workshops provide opportunities for smaller groups of students to discuss and debate particular issues or areas, based on the knowledge that they have gained through their lectures, reading and independent study outside of formal contact hours. Tutorials range from groups of up to seven students to individual supervision of dissertation projects. Field classes, when appropriate, provide intensive learning activities and practical experience of risk research. Group projects and student presentations aim to develop both academic and generic life skills. Practical classes allow students to gain direct experience of practical, applied and interpretative skills. The dissertation is an independent research project under the supervision of a member of academic staff.

Each of the routes has three core modules (Understanding Risk, Fundamentals of Risk Research and Risk Frontiers), plus a dissertation module. The three core modules provide a total of 5-7 hours contact per week across terms 1 and 2. The dissertation module starts in term 2 with a provisional meeting to discuss research proposals and contact extends from March through to August through one-to-one meetings with dissertation supervisors. The exact timing and nature of these meetings depends on the student and project, but a typical schedule is given as involving seven meeting between March and September.

The average contact time for the MA Risk and Security elements is 4-5 hours per week (for terms 1 and 2). Including the three core modules this takes the route average to 9-12 hours per week (for terms 1 and 2, and excluding dissertation module).

The average contact time for the MA Risk, Health and Public Policy elements is 4 hours per week. Including the three core modules this takes the route average to 9-11 hours per week (for terms 1 and 2, and excluding dissertation module).

The average contact time for the MSc Risk and Environmental Hazards elements is 4-7 hours per week (including fieldtrip element). Including the three core modules this takes the route average to 9-14 hours per week (for terms 1 and 2, and excluding dissertation module).

Outside timetabled contact hours, students are also expected to undertake their own independent study to prepare for their classes and broaden their subject knowledge. 

Admissions Process

Subjects required, level and grade

Normally at least an upper second class degree (2:1).

English Language requirements

IELTS IELTS score of 6.5, with no test under 6.0.

Requirements and Admissions

The University accepts the following alternative English language tests and scores.

Fees and Funding

Fees shown are for one year. Total fee will depend on the length of your programme. All fees are subject to annual increases. For more information please visit the Tuition Fees page

EU student fees


Home student fees


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International non-EU student fees


Scholarships and funding

Career Opportunities

Department of Geography

For further information on career options and employability, including the results of the Destination of Leavers survey, student and employer testimonials and details of work experience and study abroad opportunities, please visit our employability web pages

Open days and visits

Campus tours

Overseas Visit Schedule

Postgraduate Visits

Department Information

Department of Geography


Founded in 1928, the Department of Geography at Durham is one of the leading centres of geographical research and education in the world. The quality of our teaching has been rated 'excellent' by an external Quality Assessment Audit. We were ranked 4th in the world by the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2013/14, 3rd in the UK by the Times Good University Guide 2013 and the Complete University Guide 2014.

Our ambition is to provide an outstanding education experience for each and every one of our undergraduate and postgraduate students, and for the Department to be a key research node in global networks, known for its agenda-setting research across the range of our specialisms. Our specialisms span from Antarctica, Greenland and the Arctic to Bangladesh, China and the emergent economies, whilst continuing to attend to the closer to home, the North east region in which we are located. Affiliated with the Department are six research centres and units, including the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience (IHRR), the International Boundaries Research Unit (IBRU), International Landslide Centre, Nomis, and the Sea Level Research Unit.

With 58 academics, 34 researchers, 54 professional support, administrative and technical staff and 579 undergraduates, we teach and research across the discipline. The Department has over 120 research and taught postgraduates working across the full spectrum of human and physical geography, and every postgraduate is assisted in developing a tailored portfolio of training and support. Our staff also play a major role in a number of interdisciplinary research projects.

We are fortunate to enjoy a superb research and teaching environment in a wonderful City, with top class laboratory and IT facilities in a supportive and collegial atmosphere. At our core, our strength is drawn from all the people - staff and students - who together create and sustain the vibrant scholarly community that makes Durham Geography.


Teaching Staff

NB: Information contained on the website or in the literature with respect to the fee is correct at the time of publication but the University reserves the right to change the course information or fee at a later date.

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