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Course length

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

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Course details

The MA in Risk, Security and Politics explores the concepts of risk and resilience by focusing on their political resonance and revealing how risk can be used as a political tool to govern societies across the globe. It also examines the ways in which uncertainty contributes to the make-up of contemporary society.

This interdisciplinary course is an ideal choice if you have a social science or geography background, and it is equally accessible to those who previously studied in the arts and humanities. It develops the essential skills and knowledge needed to make a critical analysis of risk as a tool of government in tackling a range of global challenges from climate change, displacement and disasters to geopolitics, security and terrorism.

You will study taught modules over one year full-time or two years part-time in subjects that include the understanding, managing and preventing of risk, the social dimensions of risk, and the latest skills and techniques involved in working with geographic information. You will also complete either a research-based dissertation by conducting original independent study or produce a vocational dissertation that combines independent research with a practical external placement.

The core programme is delivered by a team of subject specialists in the Department of Geography and Durham University's Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience - a team of research experts who work at the forefront of risk theory and practice. Together, they provide specialised training on the latest theories, concepts and methods relating to security, politics and risk.

You can also tailor the course to your interests with the option to choose approved modules from the School of Government and International Affairs and Sociology Department.

Course structure

Core modules:

Understanding Risk provides an overview of the key theories and concepts that reflect the interdisciplinary nature of risk involving human action and environmental events. You will learn the basic concepts and terms used to describe and communicate risk, as well as studying interventions involved in managing, preventing or mitigating against risk to populations, and building an understanding of the determinants of risk and its social inequalities.

Risk Frontiers is delivered by the Institute of Hazard and Risk Research. The module looks at current risk research and provides training in the generic skills of interpreting, criticising and collating the emerging research. What you learn will help meet the demands of the risk industry and associated areas such as disaster reduction, security, development and humanitarian relief.

Research Methods for Global Challenges introduces students to a selection of social science research methods, such as interviewing, participatory research, thematic mapping, and critical data storytelling. The module provides hands-on experience working using these methods, working with data and drawing conclusions. In doing so, we train students in principles of good research design and ethical practice in contemporary research on global challenges.

Social Dimensions of Risk and Resilience offers advanced training in topics relevant to understanding the social dimensions of risk and resilience with a particular emphasis on environmental hazard, climate change, security, migration and insurance. This module takes an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing on research in human geography, security studies, sociology of risk, political science, science and technology studies, and migration and refugee studies.

The Dissertation (Research or Vocational) builds on your learning in core and optional modules. It offers the option to develop your independent research skills through a research dissertation in which you carry out original independent research supported by our staff. Alternatively, you can choose the vocational dissertation route which combines research with collaborations or placements with external organisations. We offer vocational dissertation partnerships and project options through our large and growing partner and alumni network, or we can support you in developing your own vocational research collaborations.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Social Policy and Society 
  • Debating the European Union 
  • International Politics of the Middle East
  • The Politics of East Asia 

Learn more about our suite of taught masters in the Geography Department.


The course is delivered using a mixture of lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops and practical sessions, with lectures providing key information and seminars developing further discussion. We keep seminar groups small to maximise opportunities for participation and interaction in the learning process at every stage.

You will have around eight hours of module contact time per week during terms one and two, but this can vary from week to week. You can expect to undertake around eight hours per day of study during term time, including all assessments.

Throughout your period of study, you will be supported by an academic advisor and you will also be assigned a dissertation supervisor.


Methods of assessment include traditional coursework formats such as essays, presentations and reports with some modules including an opportunity to showcase your work in a portfolio format. In the final term, you will complete your research-based or vocational dissertation.

Entry requirements

An upper second class degree (2:1).

Band E English language requirements (see here for details.)

Application to the MA Risk, Security and Politics requires:

  • Transcripts of your qualifications
  • English language test certificates if taken
  • Personal statement (if not written directly into the portal)
  • Scholarship documentation (if applying)

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £13,500 per year
EU students £25,900 per year
Island students £13,500 per year
International students £25,900 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


Studying in a department with a global reputation for the quality of research, our postgraduates are well placed to continue research at a higher level or progress into a rewarding professional career.

Taught courses are designed to develop the transferable skills that are highly sought after by employers such as the ability to analyse and communicate information and make decisions, and our postgraduates are much valued in areas such as government, non-governmental organisations and the charity sector.

Other roles in which postgraduates make a real difference to people and communities include property and surveying, environmental consultancy and management, conservation, town planning, geopolitical risk, market research, development work, health, public policy, social research, logistics, youth and community work, education, energy, utilities, tourism, banking, law, PR, IT, publishing, journalism and the media.

For more information visit our department pages.

Department information


The Department of Geography is a global academic centre for the study of physical and human geography. Our high-quality research and our industry connections combine to create a learning experience underpinned by the theory and practice to take on the challenges we face as a result of natural events and human activity.

We provide a leading-edge environment in which to study, giving a learning experience that is tailored to suit particular interests. We offer MA and MSc degrees in Climate, Risk and Society and in Environmental Hazards and Risk, and MAs in Geography (Research Methods) and in Risk, Security and Politics.

Our academic staff are experts in their field with research activity in the Department divided into seven clusters comprising Politics-State-Space, Economy and Culture, Urban Worlds, Geographies of Life as well as Sea Level, Ice and Climate, Catchments and Rivers, and Hazards and Surface Change.

The postgraduate community plays a crucial role in contributing to the Department’s research goals, by conducting original research and by learning from research-led teaching about understanding and implementing the process of turning policy into practice. An in-house conference provides the opportunity for postgraduates to present ideas.

For more information see our department pages.


  • Top 15 For Over a Decade in The QS World University Subject Rankings 2023
  • 5th in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • 5th in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024


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

Research Excellence Framework

  • Ranked Joint 1st Nationally based on GPA (REF 2021)


The Department of Geography is located on the main campus of Durham University at Lower Mountjoy, not far from the historic centre of the city with UNESCO World Heritage status.

Facilities are state-of-the-art after a £1.7 million investment and our laboratories are equipped with an extensive suite of analytical and geotechnical instruments which are overseen and supported by a team of dedicated technical staff.

Also available to postgraduates are a dedicated computer lab, world class library and research facilities, one of the few dedicated cartographic units in the region and field and labwork support.

More information about our facilities and equipment.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

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

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Find out more

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