This part-time programme meets the requirements of the Level 7 Risk and Safety Management Professional Standard. Eligible organisations will be able to use their Apprenticeship Levy to cover the cost of the programme. Find out more about the apprenticeship route.
Cranfield University, in partnership with CAA International*, launched this course in 2020 to provide a spectrum of technical knowledge in the context of safety management, risk and regulation in aviation. It is developed for safety professionals and regulators to deepen their understanding of safety management, risk-based regulation, law and human factors. Professionals working in aerospace, commercial air transport industries, and regulators must possess detailed knowledge of existing and emerging safety management issues facing the industry during the design, production, operation, and maintenance of products and systems. This enables the aviation industry and regulatory authorities to make more informed risk management decisions, ultimately leading to safer, more cost-effective operations.

The course aims to provide a globally unique offering to meet the needs of safety professionals in the industry and the regulator, offering the opportunity to engage with real safety problems of today and future challenges.

*CAA International is the training and advisory services arm of the UK Civil Aviation Authority.


  • Start dateJanuary
  • DurationMSc: three years part-time; Postgraduate Diploma: two years; Postgraduate Certificate: one year
  • DeliveryTaught modules: MSc: Taught modules - 40%; Group project - 20%; Individual research project - 40%; PgDip: Taught modules - 65%; Group project - 35%; PgCert: Taught modules - 80%; Group project - 20%
  • QualificationMSc, PgDip, PgCert
  • Study typePart-time
  • CampusOnline

Why this course?

This programme is delivered through the specialist Cranfield Safety and Accident Investigation Centre, operating for over 45 years to support global safety and investigation. This course is unique as it combines the knowledge and expertise of the Centre’s academic staff with the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s senior staff.

The course structure supports enhanced depth of learning, and online delivery gives students more flexibility. Cranfield University offers a comprehensive range of library and IT services that support a part-time mode of learning, enabling national and international students to study while balancing work/life commitments. The course is innovative, different, unique and flexible:

  • Innovative and different – the taught modules and group project modules have a variability of credits, enabling more flexibility and enhanced depth of knowledge.
  • Innovative and different – the course has two group projects, each in the second half of each academic year. They give students on the PgDip and PgCert paths an opportunity to gain experience in group projects. They also provide students on the MSc path an excellent opportunity to further develop and practice their teamwork skills in an online environment.
  • Unique  developed and delivered in partnership with the UK Civil Aviation Authority International.
  • Flexible– clear and easy-to-follow structure of the course, delivered via online live streaming of classes with supplementary use of pre-recorded material, gives part-time students more flexibility and the ability to manage their time effectively.

Informed by Industry

Cranfield University has worked closely with CAA International* to develop this unique course. The UK CAA is world-leading in adopting risk-based regulation, which aims to focus regulatory efforts on areas representing the most significant risk.

*CAA International is the training and advisory services arm of the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Course details

The whole part-time MSc is expected to be completed in three years and includes Modules 1, 2, 3, 4, Group Project 1, 2 and the Individual Research Project module. The PgDip takes two years to complete; Modules 1, 2, 3, 4 and Group Project 1, 2 must be completed successfully. The PgCert is expected to be completed in one year, with taught modules 1 and 2 and Group Project 1 to be successfully completed.

Course delivery

Taught modules: MSc: Taught modules - 40%; Group project - 20%; Individual research project - 40%; PgDip: Taught modules - 65%; Group project - 35%; PgCert: Taught modules - 80%; Group project - 20%

Group project

The structure of the course strongly promotes group work, with projects in both of the first two years. This provides an invaluable experience for the students not only on the MSc route but also on PgDip and PgCert exit routes. All students will experience working on group projects to develop their communication, team work and project management skills. This is one of the reasons that make this MSc course appealing to a wide audience.

  • Group project 1 – Managing Current Safety Issues (compulsory - year 1)
  • Group project 2 – Managing Emerging Safety Issues (compulsory - year 2)

Individual project

  • Thesis project (compulsory - year 3)


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course.

Advanced Safety and Risk Management

    ​​​Most organisations are already using safety management systems and the aim of the module is to take an in-depth view of their effectiveness. This will include the various methods of safety assurance, plus the concepts of safety culture and resilience across the organisation. A critical review of the varied types of risk assessment will also be included.
    • Methods to determine the level of safety risk.
    • Sharing of intelligence and learning to create improved safety knowledge.
    • Links between security, cyber risk and effective safety management of an organisation.
    • Just culture, organisational culture and links to safety culture for both industry and regulator.
    • Difference between operator and NAA rules with regards to SMS.
    • Turning data into knowledge.
    • Safety information and analyses, including reporting systems and investigation.
    • Evaluation of safety performance.
    • Risk Analysis: identification and assessment.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Analyse and interpret risk in the aviation industry.
  2. Create methods for the continuous improvement of managing safety.
  3. Assess and implement techniques for the identification and management of hazards and risks.
  4. Evaluate and apply appropriate methods of safety management for diverse situations, including the strengths and weaknesses of each one.
  5. Examine the issues to be faced for emerging safety risks and the risk analysis of new systems.

Aviation Legislation and Regulatory Approach


    The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) framework provides common standards to enable the continuing growth of the industry while aiming to improve the safety performance. In recent years, the shift from ‘Compliance based’ to ‘Performance Based’ approach to regulation and oversight, has been implemented by some of the leading regulatory authorities such as UK CAA, Transport Canada etc. Furthermore, the application of these concepts can also be by the service providers in the industry to manage safety in the most efficient way.

    This module will aim to evaluate the challenges which the ICAO and National Aviation Authorities (NAA) are facing in terms of not only developing new standards and regulations but also achieving effective oversight and safety assurance. It will also critically review the differences between ‘Compliance Based’ and ‘Performance / Risk Based’ approaches and their impact on the State Safety Programmes (SSP) and ‘Safety Management Systems’ (SMS)

    • Chicago Convention, ICAO framework, Standards and Recommended Practices (Annexes 1-19) and Guidance material provided by ICAO including how they are produced. The structure and role of ICAO and how it operates.
    • ICAO Member States’ responsibilities, States Safety Programmes and State Safety Oversight (SSO) System Critical Elements (CE). National Aviation Authorities, their role and organisation structures. Characteristics of an effective and mature regulator: oversight styles and effectiveness for safety assurance.
    • European Legal Framework, EU’s institutions, European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and its relationship with ICAO and member states’ regulatory authorities. Rulemaking processes, Hard Law and Soft Law concept.
    • Reasons for regulatory oversight, and how to determine the correct / most appropriate level to achieve effective risk management. Difference between compliance and performance / risk-based approaches.
    • Performance-based regulation - Roles and Responsibilities. Safety Risk Policy and Regulatory SMS Governance within an NAA. 
    • Global, European and UK case studies on regulatory frameworks and oversight approaches. Industry standards such as IOSA, ISAGO, and IS-BAO and their role in the overall regulatory and surveillance system.
    • Clarification of responsibilities between multiple regulatory agencies within an ICAO state. Case study of MoU between UK CAA and UK HSE.
    • Safety Management Systems for Service Providers, demonstrating compliance with the regulatory requirements, governance of SMS in different organisations including different sectors operated, business model, size, complexity etc. and the responsibilities of the Accountable Manager.
    • Application of ‘risk-based oversight’ to internal auditing programmes and oversight of all outsourced functions. 
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Critically examine the origin and scope of the ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices, particularly Annex 19 "Safety Management" and national/regional laws and regulations.
  2. Appraise the fundamental characteristics of "compliance-based oversight" and "performance/risk-based oversight".
  3. Design the necessary processes for implementing performance / risk-based oversight system within regulatory authorities and service providers.
  4. Evaluate how service providers can demonstrate compliance with the regulatory requirements for implementing SMS and provide safety assurance to all internal and external stakeholders, including regulators, business partners and customers.

Aircraft Accident Investigation and Response

    This course is based on a case study approach to aircraft accident investigation. You will have the opportunity to experience essential elements of aircraft accident investigation, from initial notification of an event through to generating and communicating investigative findings.

    You will be presented with a simulated accident scenario during which they will be exposed to all elements of the investigation such as evidence collection, interviewing, analysis and the generation of safety recommendations.
    • Accident investigation approaches and response.
    • On-site appraisal and preservation of evidence.
    • Human factors in investigations.
    • Witnesses and interviewing.
    • Preparing and managing recommendations.
    • Communication of investigation findings.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Describe the accident investigation process as applied to aviation.
  2. Identify roles and responsibilities within the accident investigation process.
  3. Critically assess analysis techniques used in accident investigation.
  4. Develop interview skills and recognise the limitations of interview-based data.

Responding to Risk in Sociotechnical Systems

    Aviation is a human-in-the loop system. Humans are represented at all levels of the organisation from leadership to the operator on the front line. Resilience emerges through interaction across this complex socio-technical system. This demands consideration of many organisations involved in the operation including, for example regulators, operators and manufacturers.

    Capturing the required high organisational performance is key to maintaining and improving high levels of safety in an evolving system. This course considers aviation from both organisational and individual perspectives. Models, tools and techniques are examined to capture, appraise and mitigate risks that emerge due to the interactive complexity of the system.
    • Models of the organisation and managing organisational change.
    • Individual and organisational learning.
    • Human performance shaping factors.
    • Human error assessment and mitigation.
    • ​Relevant research methods for the study of sociotechnical systems.


Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Develop systems thinking to interpret how safety is construed in socio-technical systems.
  2. Apply tools and techniques to characterise and mitigate socio-technical risk throughout the organisation.
  3. Evaluate the influence of change and system evolution on safety.
  4. Appraise methods for monitoring and evaluating safety interventions.

Your career

Most students on this course will probably be already in full-time employment at the time of attending the course. However, this MSc prepares them for a higher level of responsibility in a variety of areas. The course has a unique blend of subjects covering the varied topics within risk and safety management, which will have a huge benefit for people within all aviation sectors. It is therefore entirely possible that the course will enable people to take on additional responsibility and/or transition to other areas within the aviation industry, or gain promotion as a result of successfully progressing/completing this course.

How to apply

Click on the ‘Apply now’ button below to start your online application.

See our Application guide for information on our application process and entry requirements.

The regulation of aviation safety has evolved significantly from just compliance checking. The implementation of safety management systems in industry and the practice of risk-based surveillance in the regulator, pioneered in the UK, have fundamentally changed the regulatory landscape. Never has it been more important for regulators and industry across the world to have a common understanding of how these tools can drive improved safety performance. We have chosen to work with Cranfield University in designing this course because of their exclusive focus on aviation and postgraduate education; access to a working airfield, with virtual control tower and aircraft, make this a unique place to learn.

I am really enjoying the course content, and this is exactly what I was hoping for when I joined the ASMRR MSc. The assignment questions after each module are well-thought-out in my view, as they drive me towards a much better understanding of the module content, ensuring a high retention about the subject in my mind. As I am progressing through the second year of the MSc, I find that the knowledge gained is not only helping me significantly in my job role but also in enhancing my profile within easyJet.

From a university perspective, I find the research work that Cranfield does, especially in the field of aviation very exciting. As a student, I find the support system and flexibility that Cranfield provides extremely helpful.

Aviation seems set for accelerated adoption of new technologies and new ways of doing business globally. In such a world, those who can best apply safety management and performance-based practices will be particularly well-placed to make a difference. With its focus on regulation, its use of group working and its engagement of current practitioners, this programme is a unique personal development opportunity designed to prepare aviation professionals for that world. I am so excited about this programme’s potential!