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Geography (Risk) MA

Course Description

This MA degree programme is designed for students who wish to explore the social dimensions of risk and resilience. The Department of Geography is especially well-suited to examine these in relation to security- and health-related risk, but students are encouraged to develop their thinking in relation to any aspect of risk, including, for example, climate risk and disaster risk reduction. For students interested in security-related risk, the MA programme offers in-depth and advanced understanding on geo-political security challenges and politics, including the ways in which they are governed increasingly through the prism of risk. The course responds to the growing realisation that many risks are being created through social processes bound to questions of security, including the ways that risk techniques are emerging and being employed as a means of securing uncertain futures. Since the 9/11 attacks in New York City and the 7/7 bombings in London, governments have become more concerned with terrorist threats to security. Surveillance has become more commonplace, preventing some risks while also creating new ones never before seen in society.

For students interested in health-related risk, the MA programme offers advanced training in research methods on the determinants of health and well-being, and their implications for health policy and service provision. Led in part by experts in population health from a social science and public health perspective, the MA programme responds to the observation that we often overlook the critical role played by communities in creating and managing risks, and that we need to develop new approaches to building community resilience. Students learn about the 'social determinants' associated with public health risks including unemployment and poverty. The socioeconomic impacts of financial crises, for example, have large implications for public health risk creating new challenges for research and governance. Students will be trained in both quantitative and qualitative methods to learn how to produce evidence relating to the wider determinants of health that is likely to benefit population health. Graduates from this programme will be well-suited to the needs of social and community work, to health professionals, and the pursuit of research degrees.

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:
-Hydrological 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 and the Dissertation.

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
-Determinants of health and well-being, and their implications for health policy and service provision, and/or:
-A combination of approaches to risk.

Electives can be selected from:
-Social Dimensions of Risk and Resilience
-Strategic Asia
-European Security
-International Relations in the Middle East
-Social Policy and Society

Visit the Geography (Risk) MA 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)

David Saddington

3458.jpg It was a very interesting year that covered a diversity of topics and offered the chance to shape your own development. The discussion-based nature of many modules was very useful and offered the chance to learn from other students experiences. Overall a very strong masters course with excellent lecturers.

Assessment structure seemed well balanced and the workload was spread well throughout the year. Overall excellent course and great working environment.

I am now working with UNFCCC on Climate Change Education and the WHO on Climate Change and Health and Youth Engagement as well as being a Freelance Sustainability and Climate Change Consultant.

(Student Profile)

Nuri Ikawati

3523.jpg This course provided me with the holistic and integrated perspective of risk by combining three different fields – health, security and environmental hazards. Despite of their own characteristic and focus which differs from each other, to some extent, they inevitably influence one another.

In my case, as a Health and Public Policy student, this broad range of perspective enriched my understanding of social risks determining health of population. Also, this has alarmed me to the importance of interdisciplinary work or research to address the contemporary challenges in the global world.

(Student Profile)

Azizullah Safi

3524.jpg Currently working as "Health Promotion Specialist" at the Afghan National Public Health Institute, Ministry of Public Health as well as giving lectures in the research methodology course/training.

I think the program "Risk, Health and Public Policy" is a good mix; in particular, for those seeking to secure a position in the public health. Risk communication nowadays is considered a key area in the public health; for example, the current outbreak of Ebola in 2014.

As known, the issue of social determinants of health goes beyond health sector; my educational background in public policy has helped me to become an expert in one of the action means of health promotion "Health in All policies/ build healthy public policy". However, considering the existing context of Afghanistan, such concepts might be very new and challenging, but I hope to be one of the founders of establishing an advocacy mechanism for health promotion action means/themes in my country.

(Student Profile)

Charlotte Hammer

3526.jpg Charlotte is currently undertaking a PhD at Aberystwyth University.

Despite my early hesitation I thoroughly enjoyed the course and can say that this was the best year in my life so far.

The interdisciplinary nature of the course was fantastic and has helped me define my field of interest. Without the support from everyone involved in teaching and supporting the Risk master students I would have never been able to be this successful and to be on the path towards a PhD. While challenging the courses were amazing and changes my understanding of contemporary society, especially the Risk, Security and Society module gave me new insights and allowed me to develop my own ideas. The small course size and the diverse backgrounds of all the students were also very inspiring and created a fruitful working atmosphere. Finally, it was wonderful how approachable everyone was and how intent on helping us make the most of our time. Thank you.


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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