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Geography (Risk) MSc

Course Description

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 for students who want to receive specialised scientific training in physical hazards that pose large risks to communities living throughout the world. Students on this programme will receive theoretical and practical training for understanding and quantifying hazards. They will 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

Students 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)
-Fundamentals of Risk Research (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)
-International Relations and Security in the Middle East (15 credits)
-Strategic Asia: Policy and Analysis (15 credits)
-European Security (15 credits)
-Social Policy and Society (30 credits)

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 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.

All students will undertake a suite of core modules (120 credits) which provide students with 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
-Fundamentals of Risk Research
-Risk Frontiers

Students then also select a suite of elective modules (another 60 credits). Students 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:
-Hydrological Hazards
-Spatial Temporal Dimensions of Hazards
-Social Dimensions of Risk and Resilience

Visit the Geography (Risk) MSc page on the Durham University website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Charlotte Hawkins

1607.jpg Charlotte Hawkins graduated in January 2012 with a distinction in MSc in Risk and Environmental Hazards. As part of her degree she completed a dissertation on ‘Large-scale atmospheric influences on flood events in the UK’ and took an elective module on ‘Hydrological Hazards’. Charlotte says: “I really enjoyed the variety and mix of knowledge we were able to gain about different natural hazards and risks faced in our modern world”.

Since graduating she has found work with a leading environmental consultancy (Halcrow) as a Graduate Modeller. Charlotte says: “Now that I have started work I really see the parallels that the Hydrological Hazards practicals were preparing us for the future work environment, or further study. The practicals definitely gave me a background which has helped me for my career in the flood risk sector”.

(Student Profile)

Terry McClure

1608.jpg Terry McClure graduated in January 2012 with a merit in MA in Risk. Health and Public Policy. As part of his degree he completed a dissertation on ‘”Media coverage of the radiation risks from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster” and took the elective modules Social Policy & Society and Social Risks for Population Health.

I am currently employed as a Risk Analyst with the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC. I work to protect critical infrastructure from terrorist attack. My current focus is on the security of the chemical sector. I strive to ensure that the focuses of security regulations account for all of the consequences of a terrorist event – human health, economics and critical national mission needs.

I believe the Risk Masters is a very important course. The significance of the linkage between risk and human health is too often minimized. Governments allocate the majority of resources to the protection and recovery of the economic sector, ignoring the often long term costs of health related effects, both physical and psychological. The Risk Masters brings to the forefront the need to consider all costs in the analysis of risk, not just those that can easily be assigned a monetary value. I believe this course, or one with a similar focus, should be mandatory for those in the civil service who have to deal with the difficulty of balancing risk management resources and/or creating risk based regulations.

(Student Profile)

David Clough

1609.jpg David Clough graduated in January 2012 with a MA in Risk and Security.

David says: “Whilst studying for my MA in Risk and Security I covered a wealth of material from health to international politics, taking in technology and terrorism along the way ... Learning about the various conceptions of risk and some of techniques used to study it really opens up a world of possibilities when it comes solving problems”.

David is now pursuing a career in the film industry and says that the “MA not only provides a solid safety net to fall back on, but ... potential employers are interested to know what a degree in Risk and Security means and how widely it can be applied”.

(Student Profile)

Jonathan Russell

3459.jpg The range of topics and people I encountered was fantastic, it has easily been my most interesting year of higher education! It was great to spend a year with the kind of people who ask exactly all of the right questions, and to be taught by academics who knew all of the right answers.

I can’t stress enough that the vast majority of the course was extremely interesting, challenging and everything I hoped for from a Masters at Durham. Studying at Durham was a long standing ambition and this year has certainly not disappointed!

As a result of studying this programme I am now working for Applied Resilience as a resilience advisor – a startup public sector mutual providing emergency planning and business continuity services to Runnymede, Spelthorne and Guildford borough councils in Surrey.

(Student Profile)

Rebecca Marsh

3522.jpg I thoroughly enjoyed the course and have already recommended it to people who have asked me about it. I particularly enjoyed the Spatial and Temporal Dimensions of Hazards module as it gave me an opportunity to explore hazards that I hadn’t researched at undergraduate level.

I would recommend undertaking a vocational dissertation, as it allows you to see how hazards and risks are assessed from a business perspective.

The course has given me a great insight into the insurance industry, and has increased my employability for jobs relating to risk. Definitely a worthwhile course!


Various Scholarships - No. of awards TBC

We have a host of scholarships available. Details of each scholarship can be found at http://www.idoxopen4learning.co.uk/durham.

Value of Scholarship(s)



We have a host of scholarships available. Details of each scholarship can be found at http://www.idoxopen4learning.co.uk/durham.

Application Procedure

You must apply to each scholarship individually following the instructions for each scholarship.

Further Information



Durham University NEFirst Postgraduate Loan Scheme - No. of awards TBC

1. The finance cost will be at an annual rate of interest of between 6.2% and 9.4% depending upon the outcomes of the Experian credit score.2. The maximum loan value will be seven thousand pounds (£7,000) to cover tuition fees.3. All loans will be on a twelve (12) month deferred payment schedule.Example:
◦£7,000 loan granted on 1st October 2015
◦First repayment instalment due 1st October 2016
◦Term 4 years (following first instalment) at a fixed rate of APR 9.4%
◦Monthly instalments £163.98
◦Interest during deferred period 0.00% APR
◦Total amount repayable £8274.96

Value of Scholarship(s)



The scheme is available to all UK residents who have a UK bank account, regardless of their undergraduate institution. However, NEFirst is bound by a ‘common bond’ requirement, meaning applicants must be living or working in Durham or have been offered a place at Durham University. Prospective applicants are also invited to include guarantors as part of the application to lower the risk profile, and subsequently the cost of finance to the applicant.

Application Procedure

Applicants should apply first to the University for a place on the course they are interested in studying. The University will provide a link to the NEFirst application form to those applicants who are made an offer of a place on their course and are interested in applying for the loan. Applicants interested in this scheme should apply direct to NEFirst.

Further Information



Civil Society Leadership Award - 7 Awards

The Civil Society Leadership Awards (CSLA) provides fully funded Masters level scholarships for individuals who demonstrate both academic and professional excellence and have the potential to become civil society leaders in their home communities. The scholarship is available for students on particular programmes from one of a specified list of eligible countries.The Scholarship covers:•Full payment of tuition fees
•Return airfare
•An arrival allowance
•Stipend for living expenses
•Professional development allowance
•Thesis allowance
•Field research allowanceWhen candidates will hear the outcome of their scholarship applicationMay 2017

Value of Scholarship(s)

Full Scholarship


Applicants must be a national of one of the following countries:
•Azerbaijan•Belarus•Cambodia•Democratic Republic of Congo•Egypt•Equatorial Guinea•Eritrea•Ethiopia•Laos•Libya•Republic of Congo•South Sudan•Sudan•Syria

Application Procedure

Prospective applicants must:•Stage 1: submit an online postgraduate academic application for an eligible programme, directly to Durham University before 31st December 2016. Within this application should be reference to an intention to apply for a Civil Society Leadership Award.•Stage 2: submit a scholarship application directly to the Open Society Foundations. Please refer to this webpage for further information about the application process and timelines.Scholarship application deadline15 September 2016

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Normally at least an upper second class degree (2:1).

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