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Durham University


L7K407 Geography (Risk) MA Postgraduate Taught  2019


Degree MA
Mode of study Part Time + Full Time
Duration 1 year (full-time), 2 years (part-time)
Start Date 01/10/2019
Location Durham City
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Department(s) Website

Course Summary


This MA course is designed for those who wish to explore the social dimensions of risk and resilience. The Department of Geography is especially well-suited to examine these in relation to environmental hazards, climate change and security-related risk, but you are encouraged to develop your own thinking in relation to any aspect of risk research, including broader environmental change, disaster risk reduction, financial risk, risk and insurance, risk and health, risk and migration, risk and social policy, risk and governance, borders and terrorism. This course foregrounds the existence of multiple ways of understanding risk, from risk as an objective phenomenon managed through scientific tools (e.g. in the case of environmental hazards) to risk as a social construct and a political technique (e.g. in the case of risk and security).

For those interested in security-related risk, this course offers in-depth and advanced understanding of geo-political security challenges and politics, including the ways in which society is governed increasingly through the prism of risk. Dealing with risks as a function of both the natural and social environments we live in, the course responds to 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.

Course Structure

You will take the following core modules, and a selection of elective modules, which, when combined, add up to 180 credits:

Core Modules

  • Understanding Risk (30 Credits)
  • Social Dimensions of Risk and Resilience (30 Credits)
  • Risk Frontiers (15 Credits)
  • Using Geographical Skills and Techniques (15 Credits)
  • Dissertation by Research (or) Vocational Dissertation (60 Credits)

Elective Modules available in previous years include

  • Hydro-Meteorological Hazards (30 credits)
  • Climate Risk and Society (30 credits)
  • Risk, Science and Communication (15 Credits)
  • Spatial and Temporal Dimensions of Hazard (30 Credits)
  • International Relations and Security in the Middle East (15 Credits)
  • Strategic Asia: Policy and Analysis (15 Credits)
  • European Security (15 Credits)
  • Social Policy and Society (30 Credits). 

To view our short film on this course click here.

Course Detail

To find out more about the modules available to students studying at Durham University please click here.

Please note: Current modules are indicative. Information for future academic years may change, for example, due to developments in the relevant academic field, or in light of student feedback.

Course Learning and Teaching

Understanding and managing risk is ultimately about choice. All elements of society, from individuals to governments, must make decisions – conscious or not – about the ways in which they perceive, interpret, balance, and mitigate risk. Risk permeates our day-to-day lives in ways that are now recognised to be much more complex than the hazard-vulnerability paradigm, which dominated risk research until the 1990s, recognised. A deeper understanding of the nature of risk, its emergence, and its interface and position within societies, has emphasised the need to take a much more complex view in which a general understanding of the ways in which risk is generated, experienced and managed needs to be combined with a specific understanding of particular science or policy areas.

The primary aim of this Masters programme is to equip you with a general understanding of risk; whilst simultaneously providing specific training in elements of risk-related research. The MA supports you in developing a strong social science perspective on risk. This will be achieved through an interdisciplinary framework for understanding risk from a variety of perspectives. You will learn theoretical and practical approaches to identifying and framing risk, as well as the underlying physical and social mechanisms that generate it. You will also examine the relationship of risk to knowledge and policy, and made aware of the array of advanced tools and techniques to assess the physical and social dimensions of risk under conditions of uncertainty. You will also be trained in the substance and methods associated with a range of science, social science and policy areas, and be 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.

You will undertake a suite of core modules (150 credits) which will provide you with a range of skills and knowledge which result in a unique focus in risk combined with training in interdisciplinary research methods.

These modules are:

  • Understanding Risk
  • Using Geographical Skills and Techniques
  • Risk Frontiers, Social Dimensions of Risk and Resilience
  • Dissertation.

Students then also select a suite of elective modules (another 30 credits). Students can choose to receive specialised scientific training in:

  • International relations, geopolitics and security, and/or
  • Scientific perspectives on environmental hazards
  • A combination of approaches to risk.

Electives can be selected from:

  • Strategic Asia
  • European Security
  • International Relations in the Middle East
  • Social Policy and Society and Risk
  • Science and Communication.

The Risk Masters (both in its MA and MSc forms) is taught jointly between Durham University’s Geography Department, the School of Government & International Affairs, and the Department of Sociology. The course’s interdisciplinary approach encourages you to combine science and social science perspectives. You will have a broad range of modules to choose from, and in this way develop an individualized set of professional skills that, depending on your preferences, speak more to either the natural sciences (e.g. via scientific modelling, GIS or science and communication) or the social sciences (e.g. via social science research methodologies and engagements with social policy and international relations). The course is delivered in close collaboration with Durham University’s Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience (IHRR), and through IHRR’s activities students get permanent exposure to both practitioner and academic perspectives at the forefront of risk thinking and practice.


Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

An upper second class degree (2:1).

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £9,530.00 per year
Home Student £9,530.00 per year
Island Student £9,530.00 per year
International non-EU Student £19,000.00 per year

Part Time Fees

EU Student £5,300.00 per year
Home Student £5,300.00 per year
International non-EU Student £10,500.00 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding

Career Opportunities

Department of Geography

For further information please visit:

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

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 2014 Research Excellence Framework found that we produced the most world-leading research publications and were top for overall research power in the discipline nationally. Staff are international leaders in their field, and in recent years have received awards from the Royal Geographical Society, the Institute of British Geographers, the American Association of Geographers, the Academy of Social Sciences, the British Society for Geomorphology, the Geological Society of London, the American Geophysical Union, the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society and Her Majesty the Queen. The Department is notable for its balance of coverage across
both human and physical geography, and for its emphasis on interdisciplinary working. Research activity is organised by seven clusters: Politics-State-Space; Culture-Economy-Life; Urban Worlds; Geographies of Life; Ice Sheets and Sea-level; Catchments and Rivers; and Hazards and Surface Change. Cross-cutting research over a number of these themes feeds into our Masters programmes in Risk.


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