The newly developed MSc in Aviation Safety Management, Risk and Regulation is underpinned by the Level 7 Apprenticeship Standard - Risk and Safety Management Professional. This unique postgraduate programme offers the aviation industry the opportunity to further develop their staff’s skills, knowledge and behaviour in the areas of safety management, risk, law, regulations, incident and accident investigation, human factors and leadership, while they are actively taking forward the organisation’s capabilities.


  • Start dateJanuary (application deadline 1st November).
  • DurationThree years part-time MSc (Apprenticeship route - 3-6 months more following successful completion of the MSc)
  • DeliveryTaught modules 40%, Group project 20%, Individual research project 40%
  • QualificationMSc
  • Study typePart-time
  • CampusOnline

Programme details

Qualifications underpinning the standard

Our MSc in Aviation Safety Management, Risk and Regulation is mapped to the Risk and Safety Management Professional Apprenticeship Standard.

Who is it for?

Benefits to your company

Cranfield University, in partnership with CAA International*, offers this unique course in order to provide a spectrum of technical knowledge in the context of safety, risk and regulation in aviation. This is a background that staff at many levels in today’s aerospace industry must possess. A detailed knowledge of safety issues before and during operations, design, modification, repair helps all aspects of business operation and enables a better balance to be struck between cost and safety.

The course aims to:

  • Provide a globally unique course that relates the regulatory background of all aspects of safety in the operations, production and maintenance of aircraft.
  • Promote excellence in risk and safety management via Masters level course that forms part of a high technology Mastership programme in safety, risk and regulation.
  • Promote safety management and performance-based regulatory practice within UK and world-wide industry and government agencies.

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

Benefits to your employees

Your early career professionals or professionals with a variety of industry knowledge transitioning into different career path will greatly benefit from a postgraduate qualification and personal development opportunity with one of the UK’s top postgraduate universities, specialising in aviation industry. The applied nature of the programme enables personalised, specific and organisationally aligned development.


Course details

The whole MSc is expected to be completed in three years and the complete apprenticeship within 3.5 years (3-6 months following successful completion of the MSc). 

Course delivery

Taught modules 40%, Group project 20%, Individual research project 40%

Group project

The structure of the course strongly promotes group work, with projects in both of the first two years. 

Group project 1 – Managing Current Safety Issues (Compulsory - Year 1)
Group project 2 – Managing Emerging Safety Issues (Compulsory - Year 2)


Individual project

Each MSc student will undertake an individual research project. The project aims to provide students with an opportunity to apply the technical and analytical skills taught during the course, in a practical way. The individual research project is a chance to study a specific subject or problem area in much greater depth. You will be assigned a supervisor who will help to guide you in your research.


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 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 a student should 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 a "compliance based" to a "performance based" approach to regulation and oversight has been implemented by some of the leading regulatory authorities such as the 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 different regulatory frameworks and different approaches to oversight. Industry standards such as IOSA, ISAGO, IS-BAO and their role in the overall regulatory and oversight 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 also oversight of all outsourced functions. 
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

  1. Critically examine the origin and scope of the ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices, particularly the 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 as well as 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

Module Leader
  • Dr Leigh Dunn

    The process of accident investigation will be considered as a whole from notification and disaster response through evidence collection and analysis to the preparation of a final report and recommendations for change. Different approaches will be considered including ‘no-blame’, criminal and coronial investigations with particular emphasis on the role that human factors practitioners can play in the investigation and in dealing with the consequences of an accident and its associated recommendations.

    Accident investigation approaches and response,
    investigation as it relates to safety management systems,
    disaster response and emergency planning,
    on site appraisal and preservation of evidence,
    human factors in investigations,
    witnesses and interviewing,
    cross-cultural issues in accident investigation,
    preparing and managing recommendations. 

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

describe the accident investigation process as used in a number of industries,
identify roles and responsibilities within the accident investigation process,
critically assess analysis techniques used in accident investigation,
evaluate common causal factors.

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 sociotechnical 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 a student should be able to:

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

Teaching team

This programme is delivered through the specialist Cranfield Safety and Accident Investigation Centre, operating for 40 years to support global safety and investigation. The course combines the knowledge and expertise of the centre’s academic staff with the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s senior staff.

How to apply

Online application form. Following your application, you might be asked to attend an interview which will take place online.