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Degree type


Course length

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

Program code


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Course details

This MA is designed for those 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 environmental hazards, climate vulnerability and security-related risk, but you are encouraged to develop your own thinking in relation to any aspect of risk research, including broader environmental change, disaster risk reduction, risk and insurance, risk and health, risk and migration, risk and social policy, risk and governance, borders and terrorism. This course foregrounds the existence of multiple ways of understanding risk, from risk as an objective phenomenon managed through scientific tools (e.g. in the case of environmental hazards) to risk as a social construct and a political technique (e.g. in the case of risk and security).

Dealing with risks as a function of both the natural and social environments we live in, the course responds to the growing realisation that many risks are being created through social processes bound to questions of security and vulnerability, including the ways that risk techniques are emerging and being employed as a means of securing uncertain futures.

Course Structure

You will 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)
  • Social Dimensions of Risk and Resilience (30 credits)
  • Risk Frontiers (15 credits)
  • Using Geographical Skills and Techniques (15 credits)
  • Dissertation by Research (or) Vocational Dissertation (60 credits)

Examples of elective modules include:

  • Hydro-Meteorological Hazards (30 credits)
  • Climate Risk and Society (30 credits)
  • Spatial and Temporal Dimensions of Hazards (30 credits)
  • International Relations and Security in the Middle East (30 credits)
  • Strategic Asia: Policy and Analysis (30 credits)
  • European Security (30 credits)
  • Social Policy and Society (30 credits).

To view our short film on this course click here.


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.

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 is to equip you with a general understanding of risk and resilience, whilst simultaneously providing specific training in elements of risk-related research. The MA supports you in developing a strong social science perspective on risk, while also maintaining an interdisciplinary outlook. You will learn theoretical and practical approaches to identifying and framing risk, as well as the underlying physical and social mechanisms that generate it. You will also examine the relationship of risk to knowledge and policy, and made aware of the array of advanced tools and techniques to assess the physical and social dimensions of risk under conditions of uncertainty. Through a combination of core and elective modules, the MA offers three unique pathways for the development of practical skills associated to risk analysis:

  • Security and Politics: This pathway is aimed at students interested in security-related risk, offering advanced skills in the critical analysis of issues such as risk and migration, risk within geo-politics, security and terrorism. The pathway critically unpacks ideas of risk and resilience, pointing to their political implications. It evaluates the ways by which uncertainty plays a key role in the contemporary making of society, and uncovers risk not simply as a matter of management and governance but also as a political technique through which populations are governed. The pathway’s main module is ‘Social Dimensions of Risk and Resilience’, alongside a range of modules in the fields of international relations and social policy.
  • Environmental Hazards and Resilience: This pathway provides specialised scientific training in environmental hazards that pose large risks to communities living throughout the world — such as earthquakes, flooding events, landslides and many others. You will receive theoretical and practical training for understanding, quantifying and/or critically evaluating environmental hazards and the relationship of these with issues of vulnerability and resilience. You will learn about how environmental hazards and risks persist over long periods of time instead of merely as single events, and are made up of both natural processes as well as socio-economic dynamics. Its main modules are ‘Spatial and Temporal Dimensions of Hazards’ and ‘Hydro-meteorological Hazards’.
  • Climate Risk and Society: A new pathway within the Risk Masters, developed in response to student demand and the need to support our graduates in addressing the most relevant societal challenges of today. It seeks to provide you with an advanced understanding of anthropogenic climate change as an issue that poses new challenges, risks and vulnerabilities to society. It also supports you in developing tools for apprehending, interpreting and responding to the emerging natural and socio-political threats associated to climate change. The Climate Risk and Society pathway provokes you to think critically about how evolving understandings of risk, resilience and vulnerability shape efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The pathway’s main module is ‘Climate Risk and Society’.

The Risk Masters (both in its MA and MSc forms) is taught jointly between Durham University’s Geography Department, the School of Government & International Affairs, and the Department of Sociology. The course’s interdisciplinary approach encourages you to combine science and social science perspectives. You will have a broad range of modules to choose from, and in this way develop an individualised set of professional skills that, depending on your preferences, speak more to either the natural sciences (e.g. via scientific modelling, GIS or science and communication) or the social sciences (e.g. via social science research methodologies and engagements with social policy and international relations).

The course is delivered in close collaboration with Durham University’s Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience (IHRR), and through IHRR’s activities you will get permanent exposure to both practitioner and academic perspectives at the forefront of risk thinking and practice.

Entry requirements

A second class degree (2:1).

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £12,250 per year
EU students £22,790 per year
Island students £12,250 per year
International students £22,790 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £6,740 per year
EU students £12,540 per year
Island students £6,740 per year
International students £12,540 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities


Our graduates go on to a wide variety of jobs across a broad range of sectors. Our graduates are highly employable owing to the wide range of skills and experience that they develop during their degrees. Each term we invite our alumni to give talks to our students to help them explore different careers. If you want to make sure that you are employable, but also want to leave your options open, then Geography is a great choice. For more information visit our department pages.

Department information


The Department is notable for its balance of coverage across both human and physical geography, and for its emphasis on interdisciplinary working. We provide a high–quality research environment and excellent facilities. Laboratories for water and sediment analysis, geotechnical studies, geomorphology and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction contain cutting-edge research equipment.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 12 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2021.
  • 2nd in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021.
  • 6th in The Guardian University Guide 2021.


For a current list of staff, please see the Geography Department pages.


Our departmental facilities include a suite of well-equipped laboratories, a workshop, an extensive field equipment store and a cartographic unit, all of which are overseen and supported by a team of dedicated technical staff.

More information about our facilities and equipment.

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Discover Durham Tours
  • Date: 11/04/2022
  • Time: 13:30 - 16:00
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Discover Durham Tours
  • Date: 11/04/2022
  • Time: 13:30 - 16:00
Register for open day