Risk is shaping the fundamental basis for how we live and interact in society. Our environment is persistently bombarded with risks on a daily basis, some of which we are able to avoid, but many others we must learn to live with. Conventional knowledge and methods seem no longer capable of meeting some of the new as well as old risks we face in the world today. Natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, cyclones, floods and storms cause significant risk to life, property and damage economies across the globe. Natural risks also include mudflows, landslides, avalanches, droughts, fires and coastal realignment. Natural hazards also produce immense impacts on society and our economies in terms of destroyed infrastructure, and immediate and long-term relief. Pandemics also have the potential to bring death and suffering on an unprecedented scale. This complex web of hazard and risk is likely to be exacerbated by climate change and land use change, which may increase the severity of both natural, social, economic and health disasters.
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 acknowledged by the hazard-vulnerability paradigm, which dominated risk research until the 1990s. 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 students with a general understanding of risk, whilst simultaneously providing specific training in elements of risk-related research. This will be achieved through an interdisciplinary framework for understanding risk from a variety of perspectives. Students will learn theoretical and practical approaches to identifying and framing risk, as well as the underlying physical and social mechanisms that generate it. They will also examine the relationship of risk to knowledge and policy, and will be 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 a range of 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.
Graduates from this programme are highly employable, and many past graduates are employed in a range of positions in the rapidly expanding risk industry. Graduates have been successful at gaining jobs in: risk-related consultancy and private sector; catastrophe modelling within the insurance industry; government policy and the public service; and some have secured funding to pursue higher research degrees.
The Risk Masters can be studied on a full-time basis (12 months) or on a part-time basis over two-years (24 months). The full-time and part-time courses both commence in October.