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Safety Critical Systems Engineering - MSc

Course Description

"The course structure and the core modules cover the fundamentals of system safety in such depth and breadth as to be applicable to any safety standard, for example the ISO 26262. I chose the modules Human Factors for Safety Critical Systems and Computers and Safety and believe this to be a very good combination for anybody working in the automotive industry. Unlike previous degree courses I refer to my York notes a great deal since they are extremely relevant to my day to day safety activities.”
Robert, Jaguar Land Rover

“As a clinician, I have found this course to be absolutely essential. I would recommend that anyone working in healthcare with an interest in patient safety should take the Foundations of System Safety Engineering module at the very least. For those who have a more focused safety role, particularly in healthcare technology, the University offers a number of modules to choose from, working up to the award of a Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma or MSc Safety Critical Systems Engineering.”
Beverley, Department of Health Informatics Directorate

The discipline of SSE has developed over the last half of the twentieth century. It can be viewed as a process of systematically analysing systems to evaluate risks, with the aim of influencing design in order to reduce risks, i.e. to produce safer products. In mature industries, such as aerospace and nuclear power, the discipline has been remarkably successful, although there have been notable exceptions to the generally good safety record, e.g. Fukushima, Buncefield and the Heathrow 777 accident.

Various trends pose challenges for traditional approaches to SSE. For example, classical hazard and safety analysis techniques deal poorly with computers and software where the dominant failure causes are errors and oversights in requirements or design. Thus these techniques need extending and revising in order to deal effectively with modern systems. Also, in our experience, investigation of issues to do with safety of computer systems have given some useful insights into traditional system safety engineering, e.g. into the meaning of important concepts such as the term hazard. The course therefore has a number of optional modules looking at software safety.

Learning Outcomes

The course aims to provide you with a thorough grounding and practical experience in the use of state-of-the-art techniques for development and operation of safety critical systems, together with an understanding of the principles behind these techniques so that you can make sound engineering judgements during the design, deployment and operation of such a system. On completing the course, you will be equipped to play leading and professional roles in safety-critical systems engineering related aspects of industry and commerce.

New areas of teaching are developed in response to new advances in the field as well as the requirements of the organisations that employ our graduates.

We aim to equip you with the knowledge, understanding and practical application of the essential components of Safety Critical Systems Engineering, to complement previously gained knowledge and skills. As a York Safety Critical Systems Engineering graduate, you will have a solid grounding of knowledge and understanding of the essential areas, as represented by the core modules. The optional modules give you the opportunity to gain knowledge in other areas which are of interest and these are taught by recognised experts in those areas.

Transferable Skills

Information-retrieval skills are an integrated part of many modules; you are expected to independently acquire information from on-line and traditional sources. These skills are required within nearly all modules, are an essential part of project work.

Numeracy is required and developed in some modules. Time management is an essential skill for any student on the course. The formal timetable has a substantial load of lectures and practical sessions. You are expected to fit your private study in around these fixed points. In addition, Open Assessments are set with rigid deadlines, so you must balance your time between the different commitments.

All students in the University are eligible to take part in the York Award in which they can gain certified transferable skills. This includes the Languages for All programme which allows students to improve their language skills.


For both full-time and part-time students, the project(s) enable(s) students to:
-Demonstrate knowledge of an area by means of a literature review covering all significant developments in the area and placing them in perspective;
-Exhibit critical awareness and appreciation of best practice and relevant standards;
Investigate particular techniques and methods for the construction of safe systems, possibly involving the construction of a prototype;
-Evaluate the outcome of their work, drawing conclusions and suggesting possible further work in the area.

The project(s) address(es) a major technical problem concerned with real issues. It should, if possible, include the development and application of a practical method, technique or system. It is a natural progression from the taught modules, and builds on material covered in them. Ideally it addresses the problem from a system perspective, including hardware, software and human factors. It will typically have an industrial flavour. If you are a part-time student, you are encouraged, with the help of your managers and academic staff, to select a project which is relevant to your own work in industry.

The project begins at the start of the Summer term after completion of the taught modules, and lasts 18 months part-time / 6 months full-time. For part-time students there are three weeks attendance at York during the project, for progress assessment and access to library facilities: in July near the start of the project; and in the following January and July. Full details are provided during the course.

Visit the Safety Critical Systems Engineering - MSc page on the University of York website for more details!

Entry Requirements

Typically, you will have achieved a first degree in a numerate, technical discipline, and industrial experience. This course is specifically directed at those with several years of industrial experience. If you do not have a first degree but have relevant experience, this will be considered on a case by case basis. You will be required to nominate two referees, of which at least one should be from your current employer or place of study. You will normally be interviewed before acceptance, either in person if UK based, or by telephone for international students.

Last Updated

14 February 2017

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