Environmental Risk Management MSc/PgCert/PgDip


Environmental Risk Management Course

Global environmental change, natural disasters, pollution incidents and controversial technologies have brought risk to the forefront of science, governance, and into the public eye. Demand has grown for individuals with deep expertise in understanding and assessing the complexities of environmental risk. 

This MSc programme provides graduates with an in-depth understanding of the key tools, techniques and management concepts to expertly inform and influence environmental risk decisions on a local and strategic/national level. 

Students benefit from access to expertise within Cranfield's £3.5m Risk Centre, a specialist centre for research and education in strategic environmental risk appraisal, supported by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Course overview

The MSc course comprises eight one-week assessed modules, a group project, and an individual research project. The Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) comprises eight modules and the group project. Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) students complete five modules and a design project.

Group project

The group project experience is highly valued by both students and prospective employers. It provides students with the opportunity to take responsibility for a consultancy-type project, working within agreed objectives, deadlines and budgets. For part-time students a dissertation can replace the group project.

Individual Project

The individual project, usually in collaboration with an external organisation, provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to carry out independent research, think and work in an original way, contribute to knowledge, and overcome genuine problems.


The modules include lectures and tutorials and are assessed through written examinations and assignments. There is an emphasis on addressing real problems, with practical case studies. This provides the tools required for the group and individual projects.


  • Environmental Risks - Hazard, Assessment and Management
    Module LeaderDr Simon Jude - Lecturer

    Current legislation for environment (water, air and land) protection and pollution control; qualitative, quantitative and probabilistic risk analysis tools; systemic risks; problem definition and conceptual models; spatial analysis and informatics; risk screening and prioritisation; assembling strength and weight of evidence; and evaluating and communicating sources of uncertainty.

    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Understand the wide range of environmental risks within the UK (e.g. animal disease, chemical spills, high winds, flooding) and be able to identify and apply appropriate methods of assessing these risks
    • Be able to demonstrate an understanding of the decision process behind the management of such risks and provide justification for the prioritisation of different risk management actions
    • Recognise the relationship between risk, social, economic, political and technological trends and be able to provide appropriate suggestions for communication of assessment and management of environmental risks related to the influencing factors
    • Analyse and explain the possible consequences in a given situation where environmental risks will occur and their likely impacts on a population and the potential secondary impacts; and
    • Review, critique and suggest improvements for other risk assessment and management methodologies within the given scenarios.
  • GIS Fundamentals
    Module LeaderMr Tim Brewer - Senior Lecturer
    • GIS theory - data structures; data formats; data storage; data standards; spatial and non-spatial data; spatial querying; analysis techniques – reclassification, overlay, proximity, mensuration, visualisation, map algebra; hardware and software; system specification; projections; datums; spheriods
    • ArcGIS -overview of ArcGIS, ArcMap, ArcCatalog; ArcToolbox, Spatial Analyst.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

    • Describe the functional components of a GIS
    • Define system specifications including projections, data and process modelling
    • Organise, using appropriate data structures, geographic data within a GIS
    • Analyse data and prepare digital databases using GIS software
    • Summarise, using maps and tables, the results of GIS based analyses.
  • Risk, Communication and Perception
    Module LeaderDr Sophie Rocks - Lecturer in Nanotoxicology
    • What is meant by the perception of risk and how it varies with context
    • Attitudes towards risk based on psychological, cultural and other dimensions
    • The role of various societal groups (the media, NGOs, etc) in risk issues
    • Models of the amplification and attenuation of risk
    • Understanding the “fright factors” in risk perception
    • Developing trust in societal groups
    • Horizon scanning and scenario building tools for communicating future risk to individuals and organisations
    • Communicating risk messages to individuals, groups and society at large
    • What can go wrong in risk communication
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Describe the "non-science" influences in risk assessment and management using sociological and psychological theories relating to risk perception, attitudes and communication
    • Identify and describe drivers that may influence individual or group perceptions and attitudes towards risk in specific scenarios
    • Participate in the discourse on the roles in society of different stakeholders (e.g. the media, NGOs, academics, government) with respect to risk assessment issues and to be able to describe to others why they have the beliefs they hold
    • Demonstrate skills in listening to concerns from different individuals/groups towards risks and the ability to enter into dialogue with such groups
    • Communicate clearly to a range of audiences the impacts of future risks drawing upon the concepts of horizon scanning and using foresight tools, demonstrating the underlying principles and tensions within such techniques
    • Develop effective means of communication to suit specific or general situations and how to demonstrate its effectiveness, and critique methods based on theories and evidence.
  • Risk, toxicology, exposure and health
    Module LeaderDr Sophie Rocks - Lecturer in Nanotoxicology
    • The purpose and process of risk assessment
    • Concept of human exposure monitoring - overview of sources and pathways of exposure, exposure assessment approaches and applications
    • Acute and chronic toxicological end-points in mammals (target organ toxicology)
    • Hazardous and pathogenic wastes
    • Components included in undertaking a health impact assessment (HIA).
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Understand and explain the overall process of risk assessment and delineate this from risk management and communication
    • Describe how chemical and biological substances cause harm to humans and other organisms and how this harm and related exposure can be monitored and used to inform risk assessment
    • Demonstrate knowledge of the principles and techniques for amenity impact measurement and control
    • Demonstrate a conceptual understanding of the range of acute and chronic harmful effects that can be caused by short and long-term exposure in environmental and occupational settings
    • Explain the objective and elements that may be required in an environmental or a health impact assessment, including scientific, health and social aspects.
  • Environmental Policy and Risk Governance
    • Risk governance
    • Problem definition
    • Environmental risk analysis and management
    • Implementation within organisations
    • Environmental policy development and appraisal
    • Policy instruments.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Define the technical, organisational and human features of good environmental risk governance
    • Compare and contrast environmental risk management techniques, selecting tools appropriate the character of the risk in question
    • Identify the requirements of risk management maturity and the pre-requisites of good corporate risk governance
    • Understand the environmental policy cycle of implementation and the basics of policy development and appraisal
    • Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the range of policy instruments, namely regulation, economic, voluntary and other measures
    • Understand the role of environmental risk management in policy development and appraisal
    • Apply their knowledge through a group exercise, developing and appraising policy options to manage environmental risk.
  • Pollution Prevention and Remediation Technologies
    Module LeaderDr Frederic Coulon - Senior Lecturer in Environmental Technology
    • Environmental pollution and prevention technology
    • Contaminated land issues and market size
    • Soil and groundwater remediation technologies
    • Sustainable remediation practices
    • Monitoring and modelling contaminants
    • Hazard appraisal and risk assessment
    • Decision support tools.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Understand and evaluate the key issues related to environmental pollution prevention and remediation
    • Critically appraise the range of remediation technologies for soil and groundwater
    • Understand and appraise the key indicators for sustainable remediation approach
    • Select and evaluate accepted decision tools to assess remediation performance and end-points.
  • Modelling Environmental Processes
    Module LeaderDr Ronald Corstanje - Senior Lecturer in Environmental Informatics
    • Introduction to the wide range of applications of numerical models in environmental sciences. Lectures will cover examples of models applied in climate, soil, water, natural ecosystems and atmosphere and others
    • Overview of the types of models applied; mechanistic, semi-empirical and empirical models. Why these different forms exist, their strengths and weaknesses, how they are applied?
    • Introduction to systems analysis. Overview of the basic concepts and how this relates to model design
    • Introduction to numerical solutions and empirical solutions to model parameterization and calibration
    • Identifying what makes models powerful. Predictions, Scenario and Sensitivity testing
    • Recognizing limits and uncertainties; validating the model. Recognizing the importance of good data
    • Practical applications of environmental models. How this is done, in what programming language?
    • Illustrating the impact of models and model outputs on current policy and scientific discourse from global climate change to local flooding risk.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • Examine the major environmental models currently being applied in soil, water, ecosystems and atmosphere
    • Recognize the standard types of numerical models in use in environmental sciences
    • Formulate the generic process of model design, building, calibration and validation and recognize some of the uncertainties introduced in this process
    • Explain how the process of model development might be undertaken in different programming environments
    • Undertake a systems analysis. Relate the model building process to the system under consideration
    • Apply a model of environmental processes into a user friendly environment
    • Demonstrate the impact and relevancy of environmental models to policy and scientific discourse.
  • Evaluating Sustainability
    Module LeaderDr Adrian Williams - Principal Research Fellow
    • Frameworks and approaches: Life Cycle Assessment, Carbon and Water Footprints, Ecological Footprints, Ecosystem Service Evaluation, Environmental Impact Assessment, Carbon Brainprint, Population Dynamics and Sustainability.
    • Application areas: Manufacturing, food production and consumption, energy systems, waste management, fishing and farming.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

    • To understand and apply the principles of environmental Life Cycle Assessment and Water Footprinting.
    • To evaluate critically both these and other approaches used to assess environmental sustainability and to make claims about environmental sustainability
    • To understand the principles of Environmental Impact Assessment
    • To obtain insight into real life environmental decision making
    • To understand the principles of population sustainability


Taught modules MSc 40%, PgDip 66.6%, PgCert 100%. Group project (dissertation for part-time students) MSc 20%, PgDip 33.3%. Individual project MSc 40%.

Start date, duration and location

Start date: Full-time: October. Part-time: throughout the year.

Duration: Full-time MSc - one year, Part-time MSc - up to three years, Full-time PgCert - one year, Part-time PgCert - two years, Full-time PgDip - one year, Part-time PgDip - two years

Teaching location: Cranfield


Cranfield University hosts a group of internationally renowned experts in a range of environmental disciplines and sustainable development. We lead and collaborate in research and consulting projects both nationally and internationally. In particular, Cranfield’s Risk Centre has developed its reputation in risk management research for UK government, delivering research on strategic risk appraisal, risk governance, use of evidence, uncertainty, nanotechnology and disease modelling. Partners include Defra, utility and water clients, EPSRC, NERC, LWEC, ESRC and BIS. Connections allied to this qualification will enhance your employability.

There are 20 places available.

Acceditation and partnerships


This course is accredited by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).

Informed by industry

Our courses are designed to meet the training needs of industry and have a strong input from experts in their sector. These include:

  • P A Consulting
  • Joint Research Centre, Ispra
  • Adas
  • Cresswell Associates
  • Chartered Institute of Waste Management
  • Geospatial Insight
  • Oakdene Hollins
  • Golder
  • Astrium Geo-information Services
  • Unilever
  • Landscape Science Consultancy
  • WRc PLC
  • FWAG
  • RSPB
  • ERM
  • GIGL
  • WRG
  • Environment Agency
  • Chartered Institute of Water and Environment Management
  • Enviros
  • Health Protection Agency
  • Neales Waste
  • Natural England
  • National Trust
  • Trucost
  • SLR Consulting
  • Highview Power Storage
  • Nomura Code Securities.

Your teaching team

You will be taught by a team comprising a combination of University academics and external experts who are practitioners in the subjects they deliver. Cranfield University has established itself internationally in a range of environmental disciplines and sustainable development. As such, teaching staff are uniquely placed to deliver this important course.

Facilities and resources

Students benefit from access to expertise within Cranfield's £3.5m Risk Centre, a specialist centre for research and education in strategic environmental risk appraisal, supported by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Entry Requirements

Candidates must possess, or be expected to achieve, a First or Second class UK Honours degree in a relevant discipline such as business, management or natural, environmental, physical or social sciences, or the international equivalent of these UK qualifications. Other relevant qualifications, together with significant experience, may be considered.

English Language


If you are an international student you will need to provide evidence that you have achieved a satisfactory test result in an English qualification. The minimum standard expected from a number of accepted courses are as follows:

IELTS - 6.5

TOEFL - 92 

Pearson PTE Academic - 65

Cambridge English Scale - 180

Cambridge English: Advanced - C

Cambridge English: Proficiency - C

In addition to these minimum scores you are also expected to achieve a balanced score across all elements of the test. We reserve the right to reject any test score if any one element of the test score is too low.

We can only accept tests taken within two years of your registration date (with the exception of Cambridge English tests which have no expiry date).

Students requiring a Tier 4 (General) visa must ensure they can meet the English language requirements set out by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and we recommend booking a IELTS for UKVI test.



Home EU Student Fees

MSc Full-time - £9,000

MSc Part-time - £1,500 *

PgCert Full-time - £3,600

PgCert Part-time - £1,500 *

PgDip Full-time - £7,200

PgDip Part-time - £1,500 *

Overseas Fees

MSc Full-time - £17,500

MSc Part-time - £17,500 **

PgCert Full-time - £7,000

PgCert Part-time - £7,000 **

PgDip Full-time - £14,000

PgDip Part-time - £14,000 **


The annual registration fee is quoted above. An additional fee of £1,300 per module is also payable.


For taught courses where the registration is 2 years or longer, students will be offered the option of paying the full fee up front, or to pay in four equal instalments at six month intervals (i.e. the full fee to be paid over the first two years of their registration). For courses lasting less than two years, students will be offered the option of paying the full fee up front, or to pay in four equal instalments at three month intervals.

Fee notes:

  • The fees outlined here apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2015 and 31 July 2016 and the University reserves the right to amend fees without notice.
  • All students pay the tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
  • Additional fees for extensions to registration may be charged.
  • Fee eligibility at the Home/EU rate is determined with reference to UK Government regulations. As a guiding principle, EU nationals (including UK) who are ordinarily resident in the EU pay Home/EU tuition fees, all other students (including those from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) pay Overseas fees.
  • Fees for entry to the 2016/17 academic year will be available soon.


Funding opportunities exist, including industrial sponsorship, School bursaries and a number of general external schemes.  For the majority of part-time students sponsorship is organised by their employers. We recommend you discuss this with your company in the first instance.

Application Process

Online application form. UK students are normally expected to attend an interview and financial support is best discussed at that time. Overseas and EU students may be interviewed by telephone.

Career opportunities

Takes you on to diverse and rewarding careers as environmental risk practitioners and managers in local or national government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), environmental protection agencies or within the energy, manufacturing or water sectors. Part-time students develop business relevant skills throughout the course that can be immediately applied into their employer or sponsoring company.