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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)
  • Dissertation by Research (or) Vocational Dissertation (60 credits).

Elective Modules available in previous years include

  • Hydro-Meteorological Hazards (30 credits)
  • Spatial and Temporal Dimensions of Hazard (30 credits)
  • Social Dimensions of Risk and Resilience (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 elements of risk-related research. The MSc 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 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.

You will undertake a suite of core modules (120 credits) which provide 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
  • Risk, Science and Communication
  • Risk Frontiers
  • Dissertation.

You will then also select a suite of elective modules (another 60 credits). You can choose to receive specialised scientific training in:

  • The social dimensions of risk and resilience, and/or
  • A combination of approaches to risk.

Electives can be selected from:

  • Hydro-Meteorological Hazards
  • Spatial Temporal Dimensions of Hazards
  • Social Dimensions of Risk and Resilience.

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.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply


Visit the MSc in Risk at the Department of Geography page on the Durham University website for more details!





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