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The importance of science in understanding disaster risks and the need for science-based strategies at local, national and international levels in the private, public, and third sectors are now widely recognised. The Risk and Disaster Science MSc aims to meet the growing need for experts trained in disaster science in sectors ranging from finance to humanitarian response.

About this degree

In a science-led programme, students will explore the characterisation of risk from a fundamental understanding of hazard, statistical modelling, appreciation of causes of vulnerability, and quantifying exposure to the management and reduction of disaster risks. There is an emphasis on scientific analysis and statistical methods. Students will enjoy a wide range of taught modules covering scientific, technical, socio-economic, political, environmental, ethical and cultural perspectives.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of five compulsory modules (75 credits), three optional modules (to the combined value of 45 credits) and an independent research project (60 credits).

The Postgraduate Diploma has the same content as the MSc programme but excludes the independent research project.

Compulsory modules

  • Emergency and Crisis Management
  • Integrating Science into Risk and Disaster Reduction
  • Risk Analysis for Disaster Science
  • Risk and Disaster Reduction Research Tools
  • Research Appraisal and Proposal

Optional modules

Choose three optional taught modules (to the combined value of 45 credits) from a list which may include the following:

Students in the Management pathway will be able to select up to 2 optional modules (modules marked with **) from the UCL School of Management. 

  • Conflict, Humanitarianism, and Disaster Risk Reduction
  • The Variable Sun: Space Weather and You
  • Catastrophe Risk Modelling
  • Digital Public Health: Epidemics and Emergencies in the Era of Big Data
  • Decision and Risk Statistics*
  • Climate Risks to Hydro-ecological Systems*
  • Natural and Anthropogenic Hazards and Vulnerability
  • Emergency and Crisis Planning
  • Seismic Risk Assessment*
  • Social Network Analysis**
  • Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice**
  • Mastering Entrepreneurship**
  • Strategic Project Management**
  • Influence and Negotiations**

Modules with * and ** are subject to availability and timetabling;

Decision and Risk Statistics may require some prerequisites. Please contact the module tutor for details;

Influence and Negotiations is not available to full-time students due to timeable clashes.


All students undertake an independent research project of 10,000-12,000 words which culminates in a research project and poster presentation.

Teaching and learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, practicals, field visits, directed reading and problem-solving exercises and a real-time disaster scenario event, with an emphasis on hands-on learning and tutorial-style dialogue between students and lecturers. Assessment is by independent and group oral presentations, written examination, coursework essays, and the independent project. Practical applications of critical and creative problem-solving will be encouraged and assessed throughout.


Optional, UK-based field trips are available. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by IRDR, students will need to pay for their meals.

 Previous field visits have included: the Thames Barrier and disaster management; Cambridge flood hazard; a disaster scenario exercise with NGO Rescue Global; the Blacknest Seismological Observatory; the Met Office; Southwest England for integrated group projects covering hazard mapping, hazard modelling, vulnerability assessment, and critical infrastructure assessment, with Hinkley Point nuclear power station as an example.

Additional costs

Students are responsible for their subsistence and travel costs within London when on fieldwork. All other travel and fees will be paid for or reimbursed by the IRDR


For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.


This programme provides excellent training towards careers in industry and commerce, research, research communication and public policy including insurance, catastrophe modelling, finance, risk management, business continuity, humanitarian assistance, engineering, electricity distribution and many other fields. It supports the career development of professionals already working in risk and disaster reduction, as well as those who intend to go into this field. 


This programme will equip students with scientific and analytical skills to better understand and assess disaster risks and to identify solutions to reduce those risks. These skills are highly sought after in the private, public and NGO sector, and in specific fields such as catastrophe modelling, risk management, and public policy.

Career destinations of IRDR graduates include: an international economic consultancy in the field of micro-finance; a consultancy role in disaster risk for an insurance company; the World Food Programme; Rescue Global – a London based NGO; and a PhD studentship. 

Why study this degree at UCL?

The UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR), where teaching for this programme is based, leads and co-ordinates multidisciplinary research, knowledge exchange and advanced teaching in risk and disaster reduction across UCL.

The IRDR runs a careers and opportunities forum for students; this has been attended by insurance companies, catastrophe modelling firms, NGOs, academic institutions, and headhunters in the field of risk and disaster reduction.

Department: Earth Sciences


Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places.

There is an application processing fee for this programme of £75 for online applications and £100 for paper applications. Further information can be found at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/taught/application.

Who can apply?

The programme aims to train the next generation of innovative, creative and objectively critical researchers, thinkers, practitioners and decision-makers in risk and disaster science.

Application deadlines

26 July 2019

For more information see our Applications page.

Apply now

What are we looking for?

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Risk and Disaster Science at graduate level
  • why you want to study Risk and Disaster Science at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to the chosen programme
  • how your academic and professional background and skills meet the demands of this challenging programme
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.

Visit the Risk and Disaster Science MSc page on the University College London website for more details!