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Durham University


L7K409 Geography (Risk) MSc Postgraduate Taught 2021


Please note: 2021-22 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Applicants will be informed of any changes which we are required to make to course entries as a result of Covid-19.

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

Course Summary


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 aimed at those interested in engaging with the natural and social dimensions of environmental hazards, including disasters and climate related risk. 

You will receive specialised scientific training in the physical hazards that pose large risks to communities living throughout the world, from climate change and meteorological risks to flooding, earthquakes and landslides. On this course you will receive theoretical and practical training for understanding and quantifying risks and hazards. You will also 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

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)
  • Risk Frontiers (15 credits)
  • Risk, Science and Communication (15 credits)
  • Hydro-Meteorological Hazards (30 credits) or Spatial and Temporal Dimensions of Hazards (30 credits)
  • Dissertation by Research (or) Vocational Dissertation (60 credits).

Examples of elective modules include:

  • Hydro-Meteorological Hazards (30 credits)
  • Spatial and Temporal Dimensions of Hazard (30 credits)
  • Social Dimensions of Risk and Resilience (30 credits)
  • Climate Risk and Society (30 credits).

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 degree is to equip you with a general understanding of risk, whilst simultaneously providing specific training in science-based elements of risk-related research. 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 be 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 and policy areas, and be expected to demonstrate that you can combine your general training in risk with your specific understanding of the substance and method associated with the chosen area, through either a research-based or a vocational dissertation. Through a combination of core and elective modules, the MA offers two unique pathways for the development of practical skills associated to risk analysis:


  • Environmental Hazards and Resilience: This pathway provides specialised scientific training in environmental hazards that pose large risks to communities living throughout the world — such as earthquakes, flooding events, landslides and many others. Students will receive theoretical and practical training for understanding, quantifying and/or critically evaluating environmental hazards and the relationship of these with issues of vulnerability and resilience. They will learn about how environmental hazards and risks persist over long periods of time instead of merely as single events, and are made up of both natural processes as well as socio-economic dynamics. Its main modules are ‘Spatial and Temporal Dimensions of Hazards’ and  ‘Hydro-meteorological Hazards’.


  • Climate Risk and Society: A new pathway within the Risk Masters, developed in response to student demand and the need to support our graduates in addressing the most relevant societal challenges of today. It seeks to provide students with an advanced understanding of anthropogenic climate change as an issue that poses new challenges, risks and vulnerabilities to society. It also supports students in developing tools for apprehending, interpreting and responding to the emerging natural and socio-political threats associated to climate change. The Climate Risk and Society pathway provokes students to think critically about how evolving understandings of risk, resilience and vulnerability shape efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The pathway’s main module is ‘Climate Risk and Society’.    


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 School of Applied Social Sciences. The course’s interdisciplinary approach encourages you to combine science and social science perspectives. You have a broad range of modules to choose from, and in this way develop an individualized set of professional skills that, depending on the student’s 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

A 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 £21,500.00 per year
Home Student £11,750.00 per year
Island Student £11,750.00 per year
International non-EU Student £21,500.00 per year

Part Time Fees

EU Student £11,900.00 per year
Home Student £6,500.00 per year
Island Student £6,500.00 per year
International non-EU Student £11,900.00 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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