Developed in close collaboration with the marine accident investigation community, this course offers a unique combination of research based learning and learning from real-world experiences, ensuring that students gain the skills and knowledge from the best of both academia and industry.

At a glance

  • Start dateJanuary or May
  • DurationPart-time PgCert - one year, Part-time PgDip - 2 years, Part-time MSc - 3 years
  • DeliveryTaught modules 50%, Individual research project 50%
  • QualificationMSc, PgDip, PgCert
  • Study typePart-time

Who is it for?

The course is primarily aimed at those involved, or about to become involved, in marine accident investigation and other safety related industries.

The course is suitable for those with a technical or operational background in marine or safety engineering and management, accident investigators, and those employed by national investigation agencies, operator, regulators, and manufacturers.

Why this course?

Cranfield University have been a centre of excellence in the field of accident investigation for over 35 years. The course format draws on the experience Cranfield has gained in running similar MSc programmes which have proven to be both successful and popular. The course format suits professionals based in all over the world, as teaching is conducted in modules and research and assessments can be completed remotely if necessary.

The course structure has been developed in close collaboration with the marine accident investigation community and with the endorsement of the Cranfield Safety and Accident Investigation Centre’s Industrial Advisory Board.

Cranfield University is very well located for visiting part-time students from all over the world, and offers a range of library and support facilities to support your studies. This enables students from all over the world to complete this qualification whilst balancing work/life commitments. This MSc programme benefits from a wide range of cultural backgrounds which significantly enhances the learning experience for both staff and students.

Informed by Industry

The Industry Advisory Board for this course is made up of representatives from several organisations who have an interest in safety and accident investigation.

As this is a new course, it is expected that the Board will meet annually to ensure the course content remains relevant and up-to-date. Current members include:

  • Former Head of the Air Accident Investigation Branch
  • Chief Inspector, Rail Accident Investigation Branch
  • Chief Inspector, Marine Accident Investigation Branch
  • Senior Advisor, Royal Navy Flight Safety & Accident Investigation Centre.

Your teaching team

The course will be delivered by a wide range of experts from across Cranfield University, including members of the Cranfield Safety and Accident Investigation Centre. Teaching staff on this course include:

In addition, the course draws upon a wide range of external presenters from a variety of organisations linked to transport safety including the UK Accident Investigation Branches, the military and other relevant agencies from around the world.

Course details

This course commences with completion of the two core modules. Students can then specialise in particular areas of investigation such as core skills, management, engineering, human factors and specialist techniques through the choice of four optional modules, from a selection of thirteen modules.

Individual project

During year three, students undertake a supervised research project on a subject of their choice within the marine accident investigation field. Students will be given a briefing and must demonstrate competency in hypothesis formation, literature review, methodology, analysis, conclusion forming and presentation. Students will also be asked to give a formal oral presentation on their research findings.


Taught modules 50%, Individual research project 50%

University Disclaimer

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 core modules and some optional modules affiliated with this programme which ran in the academic year 2016–2017. There is no guarantee that these modules will run for 2017 entry. All modules are subject to change depending on your year of entry.

Core modules

Fundamentals of Investigation

Module Leader
  • Professor Graham Braithwaite

    To provide accident investigators with the fundamental knowledge and skills to conduct a general transport accident investigation.



    • The purpose of investigation
    • Notification processes
    • Getting started
    • Group system of investigation
    • Health and safety at the accident site
    • Initial appraisal of land and sea based sites
    • Disaster response
    • Disaster management
    • Competing interests, criminal investigations
    • Recovery of wreckage
    • Wreckage photography


    • Collecting evidence
    • Site survey techniques
    • Systems, engineering and operations investigations
    • High profile investigations
    • Organisational accidents
    • Investigative interviewing
    • Interview techniques
    • Analysis of statements
    • Physical evidence
    • Crashworthiness
    • Structures
    • Material failures and composites
    • Look and record
    • Remote site survey
    • Investigation site simulation

    Human factors

    • The human factor
    • Physiology
    • Psychology
    • Ergonomics
    • Passenger behaviour
    • Investigation support
    • Test capabilities
    • The role of the media
    • Witnesses
    • Accident pathology
    • Recovery and identification of bodies
    • Court procedures for investigators
    • The Coroner’s court


    • Recorders
    • Data recorders (voice/flight data)
    • Analysis of recorders
    • Non-volatile memory
    • Fundamentals of analysis
    • Analytical approaches
    • Applying analysis tools
    • Traps in analysis


    • A major event
    • Management of large investigations
    • Liaising with victims / families
    • Relatives’ perspective
    • Report writing
    • Relations with the regulator
    • Managing recommendations
    • Multimodal investigations
    • Follow-up actions
Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Describe the accident investigation process for a transport accident including elements of preparation, emergency response, evidence collection, analysis and presentation of findings.
  • Work safely under supervision at an accident site.
  • Conduct witness interviews and collect material evidence from a variety of relevant sources.
  • Conduct an analysis of evidence to develop a no-blame report of what occurred and recommendations for future prevention.
  • Work successfully alongside relevant agencies including the police, coroner, media and regulator.

Applied Marine Accident Investigation

Module Leader
    This module builds on the Fundamentals of Accident Investigation to develop specialist skills for the investigation of marine accidents.
    Marine accident investigation legal and management issues (contact: 20 / private study: 40)

    The international legal basis for marine accident investigation and the practical application of the rules, recommendations and guidance
    • Historical background
    • UNCLOS, SOLAS, MARPOL and other relevant conventions
    • The  Casualty Investigation Code
    • National Laws
    • IMO’s guidance on the investigation of fatigue and human factors
    • VDR ownership and recovery
    • EU Directive
    • Databases
    • Case studies e.g. Concordia (Barbados/Canada/Brazil) and simulations   

    The International Safety Management (ISM) Code and its interrelation with accident investigation
    • Background to the ISM Code
    • Auditing and its role in accident prevention
    • The ISM Code in practice

    Managing a marine accident investigation
    • Notification of and coordination and communication with other agencies/parties
    • Using technical advisors
    • Time/resource management
    • Managing the politics
    • Managing the news media
    • Cultural aspects
    • Preparing to release an investigation report
    • Managing recommendations
    • Litigation
    • The role of the Investigator-in-Charge
    • The role of the Chief Inspector
    • Case studies and simulations
    Marine specific investigation techniques (contact: 55 / private study: 70)

    Site risk assessment and hazard identification for common marine accident scenarios
    • Access
    • The presence of dangerous substances
    • The presence of dangerous atmospheres
    • Bio hazards in the marine environment
    • The structural safety of the ship platform
    • Case studies e.g. CP Valour (Bermuda) MSC Napoli (UK)

    Evidence preservation and collection issues in common marine accident scenarios
    • Access
    • Time/distance to accident site
    • Commercial pressures
    • Legal considerations
    • Technical evidence- VDRs, AIS, ECDIS, VTS
    • Various case studies

    • Human performance, human factors and marine accidents
    • Analysis of errors in the marine context
    • Multi-national crewing, social and cultural issues
    • Language and communication
    • Distraction
    • Fatigue, leadership and complacency
    • Safety culture
    • Master/pilot relationship
    • Commercial pressuresUncovering the organisational and systemic factors
    • Case studies e.g. Royal Princess (UK)

     Investigating marine collisions, contacts and grounding accidents

    • Displaying and analysing VDR and other electronic evidence, MADAS
    • Collision regulations and their effectiveness
    • Investigating competence, fatigue and other human performance issues
    • Practical evidence gathering problems and potential solutions
    • Collisions in poor visibility, safe speed issues
    • Casualties in harbour areas, master/pilot relationship
    • Case studies e.g.  Cosco Busan (US) Lykes Voyager/Washington Senator (UK), Royal Majesty (Panama)

    Investigating ship fires

    • Site risk assessment and hazard identification
    • Engine room fires
    • Cargo fires
    • Accommodation fires
    • Fire detection, fire fighting, fire protection and evacuation issues
    • Case studies e.g. Star Princess (Bermuda)   

    Investigating structural failures, loading and stability problems
    Maintenance and operational history
    Practical evidence gathering problems and potential solutions
    Corrosion, fatigue and other failure modes
    Forensic analysis methods
    Underwater inspections, diving and ROV operations
    Case studies e.g.  MSC Napoli (UK)  Prestige (Bahamas)

    Investigating occupational health and safety accidents

    • Enclosed space entry accidents
    • Accidents involving use/misuse of machinery – watertight doors, cranes
    • Mooring accidents
    • Lifeboat ,rescue craft and evacuation equipment accidents
    • Safety Management issues
    • Case studies e.g. Viking Islay (UK)
    Major investigation simulation (contact: 35 / private study: 90)

    A major marine accident investigation exercise which examines:

    • Team and investigation management
    • Team working
    • Cooperation and coordination with other interested parties (including other investigations, the media etc)
    • Securing the accident site
    • Health and safety and risk assessment at the accident site
    • Physical examination and accident site photography
    • Physical and documentary evidence collection
    • Technical evidence identification and collection


Intended learning outcomes

A key element of this module is a 5 day simulation exercise. The exercise covers many aspects including team management, site safety and security, media management, site management, working with data recorders, documentation investigation, accident sire photography, use of bridge simulators, witness interviewing, analysis techniques, formal report writing and development of safety recommendations.

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

  • Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the international requirements and guidance which underpin marine accident investigations
  • Work safely and effectively without supervision at a marine accident site, coordinating where necessary with other investigating teams and interested parties
  • Describe and contrast the different approaches to the investigation of different types of marine accidents.
  • Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the marine accident investigation process.
  • Safely and effectively collect information/evidence from a variety of electronic, hard copy and witness sources to support investigations and research.
  • Describe common failure/error types and their symptoms in terms of marine structures, equipment, organisational systems and human factors.  
  • Demonstrate knowledge of different approaches to the analysis of marine accident data and compare and contrast their effectiveness for different accident types/investigation scenarios.
  • Successfully manage an accident investigation, both on-site and through to the publication and acceptance of recommendations, including, efficient time management, working to set deadlines and targets, demonstrating self-discipline, creative thinking and critical reflections of their own performance.
  • Prepare an effective accident report and develop feasible safety recommendations.
  • Collaborate and contribute effectively to group workshops, simulations and assignments, appreciating the contributions made by other team members, especially from different disciplines, national and cultural backgrounds.


Interviewing Techniques for Accident Investigators

Module Leader
  • Professor Graham Braithwaite
    The Interviewing for Accident Investigators module is designed to provide delegates with an enhanced level of theoretical and practical skills to effectively interview various types of witness to gather evidence in support of successful safety accident investigations.

    The module adopts a balanced curriculum of theoretical learning and practical sessions involving interviews of live witnesses, with video debriefing, to deliver a practical learning experience supported by the latest academic thinking in investigative interviewing.

    The module is intended to build on the interviewing skills developed during the Fundamentals of Accident Investigation, Applied Aircraft Accident Investigation, Applied Marine Accident Investigation and Applied Rail Accident Investigation modules. However, it can also be attended as a standalone module for delegates who wish to gain an enhanced qualification in investigative interviewing, and would be particularly suited to delegates with previous experience of conducting investigative interviews.

    The module will have an emphasis on interviews forming part of safety (no blame/just culture) investigations of generic transport accidents. However, its content will be equally applicable to accident investigators from other safety critical domains and high reliability organisations, such as healthcare, process industries, and energy utilities.
    Refresher of the fundamentals of investigative interviewing
    • Basic principles of investigative interviewing
    • Basic interviewing models:-
      -Conversation Management
      -Conducting a PEACE interview
    • Use of different questioning techniques – Open v. Closed, Directed, Confirmatory, etc
    • Fundamentals of cognitive interviewing
    • Basic theory of memory and recall.

    Enhanced theory of investigative interviewing
    • Enhanced theory of memory and psychology applied during investigative interviewing.
    • SE3R methodology for managing and recording interviews.
    • Introduction to concept of enhanced cognitive interview techniques, including free recall.
    • Biases and heuristics – investigator and witnesses.
    • Introduction to non-cognitive interview techniques for interviewees who have not directly witnessed the accident.

    Preparation for the interview
    • Assessment of the emotional and psychological state of witnesses
    • Awareness of the characteristics of potentially vulnerable witnesses and the challenges faced when interviewing them
    • Consideration of cultural, religious, social factors that may have an effect on the witness interview
    • Strategies for planning and structuring different types of interviews
    • Identification of the most appropriate interview technique to apply.

    Conducting the interview
    • Management of the initial phases of the interview to build rapport and ensure that all legal and ethical aspects have been considered
    • Implementation of the appropriate interviewing model in accordance with the interview strategy/plan
    • Adopting a meaningful, effective and consistent strategy for summarising and recording witness evidence
    • Introduction to strategies for dealing with challenging/difficult witnesses, including obstructive and inappropriate behaviour
    • Identifying and employing appropriate challenge techniques for any inconsistencies/omissions during an interview.
    • Dealing with other third party attendees at the interview, e.g. legal representatives, trade union representatives, friends/family.
    • Effective interview closure strategies.

    Post-interview phase
    • Recording and summarising of the interview information
    • Strategies for conducting an effective self-critique of the interview process to ensure continuous performance improvement.
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the underlying interviewing theories, including memory theory and psychological factors affecting witness recall, and biases and heuristics of both witnesses and investigators
  • Describe and critically assess the most appropriate interview technique(s) to be adopted during an accident safety investigation to ensure the effective gathering of witness evidence, including cognitive/non-cognitive interview techniques
  • Develop an appropriate and effective interview strategy and plan to ensure the efficacy of the interview and optimise the gathering of the available information
  • Conduct an effective witness interview with regard to the selection of the most appropriate interview methodology, the welfare of the witness, the quality of the evidence collected and the accuracy of note taking
  • Develop an awareness of the characteristics of potentially vulnerable witnesses and the challenges faced when interviewing them
  • Demonstrate the ability to conduct an effective self-critique of the interview process to ensure continuous performance improvement.

Investigating Human Performance

Module Leader
  • Professor Graham Braithwaite

    To provide investigators with the appropriate skills for the investigation and analysis of human performance aspects of transport accidents.


    Introduction to Human Factors

    • The role of human performance in accidents
    • Objectives of the course
    • Assignment briefing

    Individual Factors

    • Human error
      • Slips
      • Lapses
      • Mistakes
      • Violations
      • Skill-based errors
      • Rule-based errors
      • Knowledge-based errors
    • Human cognition
      • Human performance and limitations
      • Perception
      • Memory
      • Attention and vigilance
      • Information processing
      • Decision making
      • Situational awareness
    • Medical factors
      • Physiology and its effect on performance
      • The role of the pathologist
      • The role of the General Practitioner
      • Ethics of accessing medical information
    • Workload, fatigue and tiredness
      • Tiredness versus fatigue
      • Effects of fatigue
      • Things that look like fatigue but aren’t
      • Building up a valid history
      • Using fatigue assessment tools

    Job/Workplace Factors

    • Evaluating ergonomics
    • Assessing task/workload
    • Interpreting error prediction tools
    • Environmental factors
    • Team Factors
      • Teamwork
      • Communications
      • Leadership/followership
      • Cultural factors

    Organisational and Management Factors

    • Organisational and management influences
      • The role of culture in causation
      • The role of management in causation
      • Measuring safety culture
      • Assessing responses to previous events
      • Case study investigations

    Human Performance Evidence Collection Tools

    • Checklists
      • Commonly used checklists and tools
      • Benefits and limitations
      • Case studies of use

    Analysis of Human Factors

    • Biases and heuristics
    • Ethical issues
    • Interpretation of recorded data
    • Interpretation of witness / interview data
Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Outline the key areas of consideration for an accident investigator in terms of human performance in transport operations.
  • Identify suitable techniques for the collection of accurate evidence relating to human performance.
  • Critically assess the effectiveness of contemporary human factors evidence collection and analysis tools.
  • Identify at what point an expert should be approached about the collection or analysis of human performance evidence.
  • Reflect on the quality of the human performance aspects of contemporary accident investigations.

Composites Manufacturing for High Performance Products

Module Leader

    To provide an overview/awareness of modern methods of composites manufacturing.

    • Introduction
    • Background to thermosetting and thermoplastic polymer matrix composites
    • Practical demonstrations – lab work
    • Overview of established manufacturing processes
    • Developing processes
    • Automation
    • Machining
    • Future process developments (including tufting, nanoparticle modified resins, hybridised materials, TTR)
    • Assembly and cost
    • Applications  - case studies from aerospace, automotive, marine and energy sectors; DVD demonstrations of all processing routes – as self-study
Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Discuss the causes of processing differences between thermoplastic and thermosetting polymer composites
  • Demonstrate awareness of the range of modern composite manufacturing techniques
  • Select an appropriate manufacturing technique for a given composite component/use
  • Demonstrate practical exposure to handling of prepregs, range of fibre forms and resins
  • Describe current areas of development and industrialisation in composites processing, including post-processing
  • Discuss performance-cost balance implications of process choice and of the methods needed to establish them.

Failure of Materials and Structures

Module Leader
  • Professor Philip Irving

    To provide an understanding of why materials and structures fail and how failure conditions can be predicted in metallic and non metallic components and structures.

    • Overview of failure behaviour of cracked bodies; crack size influence, brittle and ductile behaviour; influence of material properties; cyclic loading and chemical environment. 
    • Thermodynamic criteria and energy balance - Griffith approach, modifications by Orowan. 
    • Strain energy release rate, compliance, applications to fibre composites.
    • Linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM) and crack tip stress fields, stress concentration, stress intensity, plane stress and plane strain; fracture toughness in metallic materials; fracture toughness testing; calculations of critical defect sizes and failure stress. 
    • Crack tip plastic zones, the HRR field; CTOD, J; elastic-plastic failure criteria; defect assessment failure assessment diagrams.
    • Fracture of rigid polymers and standard tests for fracture resistance of polymers. 
    • Delamination fatigue tests. 
    • Emerging CEN/ISO standards, current ESIS test procedures. 
    • Crack extension under cyclic loading; regimes of fatigue crack growth; influence of material properties and crack tip plastic zones; calculation of crack growth life and defect assessment in fatigue; crack closure and variable amplitude loading; short cracks and the limits of LEFM; software design tools for fatigue crack growth. 
    • Static loading-stress corrosion cracking; corrosion fatigue.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module the student will:

  • Be familiar with the different regimes and processes of failure of cracked bodies and understand the factors controlling them and the boundaries and limits between them
  • Know and understand the principles of linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM) and their application to cracks in brittle, ductile and fibre composite materials through calculation of static failure conditions
  • Calculate the limits of applicability of LEFM and apply modified predictive tools such as elastic-plastic fracture mechanics and failure assessment diagrams for calculation of failure
  • Know how to apply fracture mechanics to failure of cracked bodies under cyclic loads and under aggressive chemical environments to predict service lives
  • Be able to generate laboratory fracture mechanics data, in order to critically assess its validity for application to particular engineering situations.

Mass Fatality Incidents

Module Leader

    To introduce the issues facing forensic and management personnel after a mass fatality incident, and the procedures and protocols in place to help the return to normality.

    • Types of mass fatality incident and their implications
    • Natural disasters
    • Man made disasters
    • Acts of terrorism, crime and war
    • Management of a mass fatality incident
    • Roles and responsibilities on the site
    • Techniques for victim identification
    • Humanitarian assistance and management of the bereaved
    • Ethical and social concerns
    • Role and responsibility of the media.
Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Categorise the different types of mass fatality incidents and confront the different problems and procedures associated with each
  • Describe the UK mass disaster management systems in both national and international incidents and distinguish the responsibilities of the key roles
  • Recognise the requirements of the bereaved and recognise good practice for humanitarian assistance and management
  • Critically assess current methods of disaster victim identification and mortuary practice
  • Accurately complete and reconcile Interpol standardised Ante-Mortem and Post-Mortem forms.

Investigation and Evidence Collection

Module Leader
  • Dr Karl Harrison

    To understand the core responsibilities of evidence recording and collection at the crime scene, both in general and specifically related to operational constraints of a UK investigative context, and to understand the operation of forensic and police investigators within the context of a major investigation.

    • Construction of the forensic strategy
    • Evidence selection and collection
    • Scene photography
    • Digital photography
    • Sample integrity and contamination issues
    • Assessment of evidence
    • Packaging and transportation
    • Scene reporting
    • Handling intelligence – assessment and communication.
Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Analyse and evaluate various different strategies of major scene investigation to consider the various effects of different approaches
  • List and define the range of evidence collection and investigation techniques available to the crime scene investigator
  • Describe and evaluate the relative merits of the range of systematic crime scene procedures vital to successful investigations
  • Evaluate which of these procedures are appropriate to a particular crime scene and apply these procedures appropriately during a crime scene exercise
  • Generate a crime scene report which objectively critiques the methodologies used and draws justified conclusions appropriate for the evidence
  • Transfer theoretical and practical knowledge of evidence identification, recording and retrieval into forensic engineering and crime scene investigations.

Legal Skills for Accident Investigators

Module Leader
  • Dunn, Dr Leigh L.M.

    To provide a comprehensive understanding of the role and responsibilities of transport accident investigators with respect to National and International legislation, International Standards and recommended Practices and other relevant legal processes. Also, the module aims to provide the necessary skills and knowledge for accident investigators to report their findings and present their evidence effectively in reports and in a range of legal inquiries. Transferable skills will include techniques for anticipating and dealing with difficult legal arguments as well as more fundamental principles for the accurate and timely recording of accident investigation findings.


    Standards, recommended practices, legislation and regulation with respect to transport accident investigation

    • International e.g. ICAO, IMO
    • Regional e.g. ERA, EASA, EMSA
    • National e.g. UK, France, USA, Australia
    • Case studies of differences/challenges

    Role and legal responsibilities of the accident investigator

    • Access to accident site
    • Primacy on accident site
    • Rights of participation
    • Collection of evidence
    • Continuity of evidence
    • Evidence or information?
    • Acts of deliberate criminality
    • Dealing with confessions of possible criminality
    • Protected evidence sources e.g. data recorders, interviews
    • Contemporaneous notes
    • Use of final report in legal processes.

    Note taking and Statement writing

    • Best practice in note taking/ logging
    • Key differences between statements and reports
    • Purpose of statements and reports
    • Format
    • Appropriate language
    • Using appendices
    • Using exhibits, photographs, diagrams and plans
    • Following professional guidelines
    • The importance of methodical investigation found or sourced facts
    • How to set out qualifications and experience
    • How to address the needs of the reader of the statements and reports
    • Practical exercises including constructive feedback.

    The Coroner’s Court

    • The Coroners and Justice Act 2009
    • National variations
    • The role and powers of the Coroner
    • Use of a jury
    • Timing of process
    • Conduct of the process
    • Article 2 Human Rights Act 1998 investigations
    • Roles of the accident investigator (witness, advisor etc.)
    • Presentation of evidence to an Inquest by investigator
    • Case studies (Coroner’s perspective / investigator’s perspective).

    Fatal Accident Inquiries

    • Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976
    • The roles and powers of the Sherriff / Procurator Fiscal
    • Differences from Coronial system
    • Presentation of evidence in Inquiry by investigator
    • Case Studies; Chinook crash at Mull of Kintyre, Lockerbie air disaster.

    Military legal processes

    • Service Inquiry
    • Court Martial
    • Case studies (Different services as appropriate).

    Public Inquiries

    • The UK System
    • National variations
    • Triggers for Public Inquiry or Royal Commission
    • Role and powers of Chair/Commissioner
    • Role of Advocates
    • Presentation of evidence in Inquiry by investigator
    • Conduct of the process
    • Case Studies: e.g. Ladbroke Grove rail crash.

    Civil litigation processes

    • Overview of process
    • Discovery of evidence
    • Subpoena process
    • Use of official accident reports
    • Presentation of evidence in court by investigator
    • Protection of witnesses/evidence
    • Case studies.

    Criminal litigation processes

    • Overview of process
    • Burden of proof
    • Discovery of evidence
    • Subpoena process
    • Use of official accident reports
    • Presentation of evidence in court by investigator
    • Effect on accident investigation process / open reporting
    • Corporate manslaughter
    • Case studies.

    Civil & criminal litigation processes

    • How the adversarial and inquisitorial systems work
    • The procedures, order of events and roles of participants
    • How to give clear, honest and objective evidence
    • How to make appropriate use of supporting evidence, documents and notes when giving evidence
    • How to prepare for giving evidence
    • Techniques used by lawyers in cross-examination
    • Coroner’s Courts as a spring-board for litigation
    • Role play of cross examination.
Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Evaluate the role of the accident investigator within the international and national legal frameworks and prepare strategies for managing their interaction with
  • Coronial, Fatal Accident Inquiry, Public Inquiry and other relevant legal processes
  • Define the role and responsibilities of the accident investigator as expert witness and demonstrate the ability to assess the best ways to execute this role
  • Compose accident reports which can be used appropriately by parallel investigation processes
  • Present oral evidence in court effectively and critically evaluate the experience
  • Respond effectively to cross-examination and critically evaluate the experience.

Structural Integrity

Module Leader
  • Brennan, Professor Feargal F.P.

    To provide a general understanding of pertinent issues concerning the use of Engineering Materials and practical tools for solving structural integrity and structural fitness-for-service problems.


    Module syllabus covers the following topics: 

    • Introduction & Structural Design Philosophies
    • Fatigue Crack Initiation
    • Fracture Mechanics (1) – Derivation of G and K
    • Fracture Mechanics (2) – LEFM and EPFM
    • Fracture Mechanics (3) – Evaluation of Fracture Mechanics Parameters; K and J
    • Fracture Toughness Testing and Analysis; KIC and JIC
    • Creep Deformation and Crack Growth
    • Non Destructive Testing Methods
    • Inspection Reliability
    • Defect Assessment, Fatigue and Fracture Mechanics of Welded Components
    • Fracture of Composites
    • Corrosion Engineering.
Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this module, the student will:

  • Gain a systematic understanding of structural integrity and fitness-for-service issues
  • Demonstrate an in-depth awareness of the current practice and its limitations in aspects of structural integrity
  • Develop a critical and analytical approach towards the engineering aspects of structural integrity
  • Be able to confidently assess the applicability of the tools of structural integrity to new problems and apply them appropriately.

GIS Fundamentals

Module Leader
  • Tim Brewer

    Geographical Information Systems (GIS) is an important technology for handling geographic data and has wide application for studies of the environment. GIS is used widely by students in other modules and their personal projects, and therefore this module provides the opportunity to develop GIS skills that will be of use within a student's course and in later employment.

    • 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 a student should 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.

Research Methods and Statistics

Module Leader
  • Dr Jim Nixon

    To facilitate the use of basic research methods techniques and fundamentals of statistical analysis.


    Research Methods

    • Qualitative interviewing - approaches, structure, basic qualitative analysis
    • Questionnaire design - including content, phrasing, response formats
    • Survey administration - self completion, interviewer administered, practical considerations
    • Introduction to experimental design - basic designs, maximising experimental variance, experimental control, and minimising error variance
    • Reliability and validity - fundamental to psychological measurements
    • Sampling - including probability and non-probability methods.


    • Descriptive statistics – central tendency and dispersion; levels of measurement
    • Distributions – sampling distributions, sample distribution, normal distribution; Z scores
    • Probability and confidence - Type I and Type II errors; confidence intervals and limits
    • The principles of statistical tests - the power of statistical tests;
    • Parametric statistics - the independent and related t-tests
    • Analysis of variance - partitioning variance; one way and two way independent and repeated ANOVA, mixed and random models
    • Simple correlation
    • Simple and basic multiple regression.
Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Appraise and select various research methods and statistical techniques in application to different research needs
  • Critically evaluate research from any methodological domain in terms of its suitability and effectiveness
  • Formulate and demonstrate practical application of research methods in the theoretical design of a study
  • Propose and apply analysis and interpretation skills appropriately to a substantial dataset.

Fires, Explosions and their Investigation

Module Leader

    To provide an understanding of the science and mechanism of fire initiation and spreading, and the explosion process in condensed and gaseous systems and to give the students an appreciation of techniques used in the forensic investigation of fires and explosions.

    • Fire Initiation
    • Spontaneous ignition and thermal explosion
    • Fire spread in gases
    • Dust explosions
    • Pool fires
    • Anaerobic fires
    • Fire spread in solids
    • Anatomy of a fire
    • Effects of fire on the human
    • Condensed explosives
    • Forensic examination of fires and explosions
    • Consideration of case studies.
Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Understand the fundamental principles of fire science theory and fire modelling and demonstrate a critical awareness of the limitations of current theories and modelling processes
  • Identify the various physical and mechanical processes and mechanisms leading to the initiation of fire and of explosion
  • Analyse the principles involved in the spread of fire and the development of vapour, dust and condensed explosions
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the forensic techniques used in the examination of suspicious fire and explosive incidents.

Fundamentals of Material Failures for Accident Investigators

Module Leader
    The module will allow the delegate to have an understanding of the relevant failure modes, be able to inspect wreckage to understand the most likely failure scenarios, and to be proficient in obtaining and evaluate the work supplied by material forensic specialists. At the end of the module the delegates students will undertake simulated materials investigations and present their findings to the students.
    • Fundamentals: The delegate will gain an understanding of the fundamentals of material behaviour, mode specific design philosophies, and principles related to material failures.
    • Failure modes of metallic materials: The fracture mechanisms, and the resultant visual characteristics will be presented.
    • Failure modes of non-metallic materials: The fracture mechanisms, and the resultant visual characteristics will be presented.
    • The process of strutural investigations: Subject areas presented include the material investigation process; from the wreckage examination in the field to the laboratory investigation, sample removal and transportation, and the use of specialist laboratory equipment.
Intended learning outcomes
  • Describe the failure modes and visual characteristics associated with material failures
  • Inspect a fracture surface to make a judgement on the failure scenario.
  • Evaluate the information supplied from a forensic specialist on a failure scenario.
  • Plan the different aspects of a structural investigation

Fees and funding

European Union students applying for university places in the 2017 to 2018 academic year and the 2018 to 2019 academic year will still have access to student funding support. Please see the UK Government’s announcement (21 April 2017).

Cranfield University welcomes applications from students from all over the world for our postgraduate programmes. The Home/EU student fees listed continue to apply to EU students.

MSc Part-time £21,000 *
PgDip Part-time £16,000 *
PgCert Part-time £9,750 *
  • * Students will be offered the option of paying the full fee up front, or in a maximum of two payments per year; first instalment on receipt of invoice and the second instalment six months later.  

Fee notes:

  • The fees outlined apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2017 and 31 July 2018.
  • All students pay the tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
  • A deposit may be payable, depending on your course.
  • Additional fees for extensions to the agreed registration period may be charged and can be found below.
  • 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 Isle of Man) pay Overseas fees.

For further information regarding tuition fees, please refer to our fee notes.

MSc Part-time £21,000 *
PgDip Part-time £16,000 *
PgCert Part-time £9,750 *
  • * Students will be offered the option of paying the full fee up front, or in a maximum of two payments per year; first instalment on receipt of invoice and the second instalment six months later.  

Fee notes:

  • The fees outlined apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2017 and 31 July 2018.
  • All students pay the tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
  • A deposit may be payable, depending on your course.
  • Additional fees for extensions to the agreed registration period may be charged and can be found below.
  • 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 Isle of Man) pay Overseas fees.

For further information regarding tuition fees, please refer to our fee notes.

Funding Opportunities

To help students find and secure appropriate funding, we have created a funding finder where you can search for suitable sources of funding by filtering the results to suit your needs. Visit the funding finder.

Postgraduate Loan from Student Finance England
A Postgraduate Loan is now available for UK and EU applicants to help you pay for your Master’s course. You can apply for a loan at GOV.UK

Santander MSc Scholarship
The Santander Scholarship at Cranfield University is worth £5,000 towards tuition fees for full-time master's courses. Check the scholarship page to find out if you are from an eligible Santander Universities programme country.

Chevening Scholarships
Chevening Scholarships are awarded to outstanding emerging leaders to pursue a one-year master’s at Cranfield university. The scholarship includes tuition fees, travel and monthly stipend for Master’s study.

Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS)
The Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS) is a funding programme providing affordable tuition fee and maintenance loans for full-time UK/EU students studying technology-based MSc courses.

Commonwealth Scholarships for Developing Countries
Students from developing countries who would not otherwise be able to study in the UK can apply for a Commonwealth Scholarship which includes tuition fees, travel and monthly stipend for Master’s study.

Future Finance Student Loans
Future Finance offer student loans of up to £40,000 that can cover living costs and tuition fees for all student at Cranfield University.

Erasmus+ Student Loans
This new loan scheme for EU students is offered by Future Finance and European Investment Fund and provides smart, flexible loans of up to £9,300.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a good UK Honours degree (or equivalent) in any discipline, or a recognised lower qualification plus relevant work experience in marine safety related areas.

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. Our minimum requirements are as follows:

IELTS Academic – 6.5 overall
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.

Applicants who do not already meet the English language entry requirement for their chosen Cranfield course can apply to attend one of our Presessional English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses. We offer Winter/Spring and Summer programmes each year to offer holders.

Your career

The MSc in Safety and Accident Investigation (Marine Transport) allows you to receive an internationally recognised qualification in the field of marine accident investigation. The majority of students join this course with the intention of receiving a qualification that will allow them to further their career development in accident investigation or other safety related areas of the marine transport industry.

Previous students have been employed by dedicated government investigation agencies, airframe and power plant manufacturers, air traffic services, safety regulation, insurers, and the military.


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

Apply now