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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

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 aimed at those interested in engaging with the natural and social dimensions of environmental hazards, including disasters and climate related risk.

You will receive specialised scientific training in the physical hazards that pose large risks to communities living throughout the world, from climate change and meteorological risks to flooding, earthquakes and landslides. On this course you will receive theoretical and practical training for understanding and quantifying risks and hazards. You will also 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

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)
  • Risk Frontiers (15 credits)
  • Risk, Science and Communication (15 credits)
  • Hydro-Meteorological Hazards (30 credits) or Spatial and Temporal Dimensions of Hazards (30 credits)
  • Dissertation by Research (or) Vocational Dissertation (60 credits).

Examples of elective modules include:

  • Hydro-Meteorological Hazards (30 credits)
  • Spatial and Temporal Dimensions of Hazard (30 credits)
  • Social Dimensions of Risk and Resilience (30 credits)
  • Climate Risk and Society (30 credits).


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 degree is to equip you with a general understanding of risk, whilst simultaneously providing specific training in science-based elements of risk-related research. This will be achieved through an interdisciplinary framework for understanding risk from a variety of perspectives. 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 be made aware of the array of advanced tools and techniques to assess the physical and social dimensions of risk under conditions of uncertainty. You will also be trained in the substance and methods associated with a range of science and policy areas, and be expected to demonstrate that you can combine your general training in risk with your specific understanding of the substance and method associated with the chosen area, through either a research-based or a vocational dissertation. Through a combination of core and elective modules, the MA offers two unique pathways for the development of practical skills associated to risk analysis:

  • 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 School of Applied Social Sciences. The course’s interdisciplinary approach encourages you to combine science and social science perspectives. You have a broad range of modules to choose from, and in this way develop an individualised set of professional skills that, depending on the student’s 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 students 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.

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