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Teaching and Learning

How we teach:

We create engaging learning environments to fit each module theme. We combine small and large-group teaching, practical activities and discussion in the classroom and a range of marked and unmarked learning activities to support skills development.

  • Lectures
    • Overview of learning objectives
    • Introduction to key concepts
    • Historical and political context
  • Seminars, Workshops, Tutorials
    • Small and large group discussion
    • Real-world scenarios
    • Deep engagement with readings, lectures
  • Practical Sessions
    • Hands-on learning activities
    • Practice using research methods
    • Work with different kinds of data
  • Guided Independent Study
    • 1:1 research project supervision
    • Preparatory readings & tasks for each session
    • Guided research for assignments

How we support your learning:

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We use a range of marked and unmarked assignments to help students develop skills and specialized knowledge:

  • Unmarked feedback on assignment preparation
  • Small group discussion
  • Verbal instructor and peer feedback on ideas

Tailored Support

  • Academic Advising
  • Dissertation Supervision
  • 1:1 meetings with staff
  • Key staff contact for questions, concerns

How we assess your progress:

  • Research Dissertations & Consultative Reports
  • Essays & Research Reports
  • Written Examinations
  • Oral Presentations
  • Podcasts
  • Portfolios

Developing your skills at Durham University

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Durham University’s Academic Skills Centre has recently expanded their student-focussed training, particularly for international and taught masters students. They offer student-led online training, completed in your own time, and in-person taught sessions. These cover areas like:

  • Drop-in sessions
  • 1:1 advice
  • Academic Writing in the Science & Social Sciences
  • Avoiding plagiarism in your work
  • Making effective presentations
  • Digital Skills: MS Suite, NVIVO, EndNote, LaTeX, R, SPSS
  • Time & Project Management
  • Referencing Academic Literature

These short sessions are available throughout the year to support students as they move through their programmes.

Access to Employers and Cutting-Edge Research

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Students benefit from the active involvement of the Institute for Hazards, Risk and Resilience (IHRR). The IHRR organises an annual seminar series and Careers in Risk event, both of which draw from the IHRR’s impressive network of practitioners, policy-makers and researchers. These events give our students direct access to our research and alumni networks. Student have multiple opportunities to learn how to put their learning into practice.

Postgraduate students presenting research

What we Teach:

Foundation Modules Required for MA & MSc students on:

  • Climate, Risk & Society
  • Environmental Hazards & Risk
  • Risk, Security & Politics

Risk Frontiers

15 Credits

The aim of this module is to expose students to current thinking in risk research through the Institute of Hazard and Risk Research seminar series. Guest lectures are given by both Durham and external staff and this exposure offers students broad training students in the generic skills of interpreting, criticising and synthesising emerging research.

Previous seminars have included:

  • Managing Risks Whilst Sending Staff to Difficult or Hostile Environments
  • Resilience: An Alternative Conceptualization of the Growing Role of Private Businesses in the Provision of Security in the European Union?
  • The Water, food and energy nexus: risks and responsibility in a climate challenged world, Protecting communities from volcanic emissions – building evidence to aid disaster management
  • Land sliding in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and its call for science and technology implementation
  • Strategies for navigating adverse social environments: how residents of deprived urban neighbourhoods try to maintain their health and wellbeing
  • Landslide-tsunami and flows that break seafloor data cables - gaps in the UK National Risk Register?
  • Greening Cityscapes and Well-Being: Theory and Practice in Green Social Work.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours 

The Institute for Hazards, Risk and Resilience organises its annual seminar series as part of this module, drawing from its wide, global network of researchers, practitioners and policy-makers. Students discuss seminars with guest lecturers following each seminar, offering opportunities for further exploration and networking.


Understanding Risk

30 credits

The module aims to provide an overview of key approaches to riskand uncertainty from both the social and physical sciences. The interdisciplinary approach is designed to allow students to critically reflect upon the complementarity of physical and social science approaches to developing an integrated understanding of risk.


  • Hazard and Risk: basic definitions, concepts, and theories/frameworks used to conceptualise, analyse and communicate risk
  • Understanding the determinants of risk: understanding causal pathways
  • Understanding social inequalities of risk: Inequality of exposure, vulnerability and resilience
  • Intervention to manage, prevent or mitigate risks to human populations.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours 

This module is taught in four blocks of three lectures + tutorials. Each block is taught by a different member of staff, giving MA and MSc students exposure to different specialisms.


Dissertation Module (Research-based or Vocational Project)

60 credits

The dissertation module enables students to develop and execute an extended piece of research on a specialised topic. The module covers principles of good research design, methodology and execution, including issues of ethics, rigour, creativity and validity.


  • To enable students to apply the skills, methods and knowledge acquired in the core and optional modules to a specialist topic of their own choosing;
  • To facilitate students to acquire an advanced knowledge and understanding of a specialist sub-field relevant to their degree programme; and
  • To support students to undertake scholarly research project of their own choosing, subject to the constraints of their relevant degree programme.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours 

This module includes a small number of workshops on research design, methods selection and feedback on research project ideas. The majority of teaching is through 1:1 supervision by staff.


Specialist Teaching in Climate, Hazards, Risk & Resilience


Climate, Risk and Society

30 Credits

Climate change risks cut across traditional physical and social scientific boundaries and require different understandings and responses at different scales. The module therefore aims to expand students’ comprehension of the diverse (natural and socio-political) processes underpinning climate change and its felt impacts in particular places and systems, and to combine that knowledge with an advanced appreciation for how geographical context, social difference and inequality shape uneven risks and resilience in the face of climate change-related destabilizations. Moreover, it prompts students to consider how particular new and pre-existing vulnerabilities, threatened environments and narratives of risk, resilience and security matter: their intrinsic significance and their importance within the broader politics of climate change responses.


The module will combine a) an overview of core concepts needed for advanced understanding of climate impacts and vulnerabilities with b) in-depth explorations of particular geographies and issues that have been framed as ‘hotspots’ of climate risk and physical and social ‘tipping points’ for climate change and its responses. Topics for these deeper dives will vary depending staff expertise: the module will explore in depth a small range of relevant topics, selecting between 3 and 5 from the following indicative list:

  • Rapid climate change in Arctic and Antarctic environments
  • Urban politics of climate risk and resilience
  • Climate change impacts on oceans and coasts
  • Climate finance and insurability against climate threats
  • Bio-physical and ecological tipping points
  • Changing atmospheres: climate change and natural disasters
  • Water-related impacts and conflicts
  • Climate migration
  • Climate change and the Anthropocene: from science to politics
  • High-impact, low-probability climate threats
  • Risky fossil fuels and energy transitions: ‘carbon bubbles’ and beyond
  • Changing disease vectors and public health threats
  • Security paradigms and the militarization of climate threats
  • Changing climates, business and the corporate world: vulnerabilities and responses
  • Climate change and international development

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours 

This module is organised by theme, with instructors offering a different social or physical science approach to that theme. Through lectures, seminars and workshops, students learn to identify and understand multiple approaches to anthropogenic climate change. Seminars and workshops help students develop connections between theoretical debates and evaluate their explanatory power in relation to a range of empirical contexts. Contact time is approximately two hours per week.


Social Dimensions of Risk & Resilience

30 credits

This module provides advanced training in social science approaches to risk and resilience, with particular focus on climate change, security and inequality. Through this module, students will develop a strong foundation in concepts, theories, and techniques essential to carry out research. The module focuses on a variety of historical and conceptual ways of understanding risk from a critical angle. The perspective is broadly interdisciplinary, drawing on research in human geography, security studies, humanitarianism, migration and refugee studies, sociology of risk, political science, science and technology studies.


Depending on staff expertise, this module may explore:

  • Theories of risk and resilience
  • Prediction, probability and uncertainty in risk governance
  • Risk technologies and national security
  • Politics of risk and resilience knowledge practices
  • Risk and resilience as public policy frameworks
  • Risk and resilience in humanitarian and disaster response
  • Risk, resilience and the production of socio-economic inequality
  • Critical approaches to risk techniques and resilience strategies
  • Human dimensions of environmental change, including hazards and climate change
  • Ways of knowing risk/epistemologies of risk and resilience

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours 

This module is taught through a combination of lectures, discussion of readings and workshops exploring a range of case studies.


Hydro-Meteorological Hazards

30 credits

This module provides students with fundamental knowledge of physical processes that drive hydro-meteorological hazards from a quantitative perspective. This perspective enables statistical and simulation modelling approaches to quantify the potential impacts of land use and climate change on hydro-meteorological hazards. This knowledge enables the investigation of how future hazards may be mitigated as part of a management strategy. The module draws from local and global examples to show how these hazards impact different communities and how the management of the hazard can be achieved.


The module will cover three themes

  1. Meteorological drivers and processes leading to the occurrence of hydro-meteorological hazards
  2. The quantification of the magnitude and frequency of hydro-meteorological hazards, with a focus on floods and drought
  3. Predicting hydro-meteorological hazards with quantitative methods

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours 

Practical sessions working with data build on core knowledge presented in lectures. Through a field visit, students deepen their knowledge and analysis of hydro-meteorological processes. Contact time is averages two hours per week.


Spatio-Temporal Dimensions of Hazards

30 credits

This is a science-based module aimed at students wishing to develop postgraduate level knowledge about the spatial and temporal distributions and key characteristics of a variety of hazards. The aim of the module is to provide students with theoretical and practical training in how to understand, quantify, and visualise the spatial and temporal dimensions of hazards.


  • Magnitude and frequency of natural hazards
  • Spatial patterns of natural hazards
  • Temporal scales, persistence, recurrence, and sequencing of natural hazards
  • Multi-hazards
  • Prediction, forecasting and early warning
  • Use of geospatial techniques, visualisation, and big data in hazard analysis

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours 

In this module, students work towards an independent, guided project. The first part of the module pairs lectures and computer-based practical skills sessions. Each lecture/practical block focusses on spatial and temporal characteristics common to many hazards, and explores broad concepts, methods and visualisation techniques that are widely

applied in both research and practise. In the second part of the module, students use these techniques to work with data sets in self-guided, staff-supported projects.


Communication & Data Presentation Skills Training

Research Methods for Global Challenges (MA Required Module)

15 credits

This module helps you develop a range of transferable methods relevant to professional and personal development. We emphasize (a) enhancing students’ existing research skills; (b) exploring issues involved in the design and conduct of research; and (c) providing hands-on experience working with a variety of data sources and methods pertaining to global challenges.


  • Principles of good research design and practice.
  • Reflection on the role of the researcher in the context of different methods and approaches to knowledge production
  • Introduction to a selection of research methods, such as interviews, surveys, ethnography, participatory research, thematic mapping, spatial analysis, visual storytelling, and/or collaborative mapping.
  • Development and implementation of methods, including the collection of primary and/or secondary data, managing and making sense of data, analysing, synthesizing results, and communicating preliminary research findings in a portfolio.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours 

This module includes a lecture and a practical session focussed on a specific method or skill each week, supported by small group tutorials to develop student projects.


Risk, Science & Communication (MSc Required Module)

15 Credits

This module provides an overview of the methods used in risk research and training in the generic skills that risk research requires, including risk communication and engagement.


The module focusses on:

  • issues surrounding how we communicate risk, both to other risk practitioners and the wider ‘consumers’ of risk research; and consideration of the role the media play in communicating and re(-)framing risk;
  • core methods used in risk research and communication. This will include planning and executing successful projects; key quantitative and qualitative research skills; and coproduction of knowledge;
  • communication skills and strategies, including communication theory and its relation to risk and risk perception, as well as generic writing, presentation and research-project planning skills.

Teaching methods and contact hours

This module is taught through weekly discussion-based lectures/seminars, complemented by small group teaching in workshops and tutorials. Students learn to write policy briefs and short, non-academic pieces.