Risk and Disaster Science MSc

London, Bloomsbury

The importance of science in understanding disaster risks and the need for science-based strategies at local, national and international levels in the private, public, and third sectors are now widely recognised. The Risk and Disaster Science MSc aims to meet the growing need for experts trained in disaster science in sectors ranging from finance to humanitarian response.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Programme also available on a modular (flexible) basis.
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
Programme also available on a modular (flexible) basis.
1 calendar year
2 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
September 2024
Applications accepted
Applicants who require a visa: 16 Oct 2023 – 05 Apr 2024
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

Applicants who do not require a visa: 16 Oct 2023 – 30 Aug 2024
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

Entry requirements

Normally a minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Relevant discipline is any science, mathematical or engineering subject.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 2

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level.

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

In a science-led programme, students will explore the characterisation of risk from a fundamental understanding of hazard, statistical modelling, appreciation of causes of vulnerability, and quantifying exposure to the management and reduction of disaster risks. There is an emphasis on scientific analysis and statistical methods. Students will enjoy a wide range of taught modules covering scientific, technical, socio-economic, political, environmental, ethical and cultural perspectives.

Who this course is for

The programme aims to train the next generation of innovative, creative and objectively critical researchers, thinkers, practitioners and decision-makers in risk and disaster science.

What this course will give you

The UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR), where teaching for this programme is based, leads and coordinates multidisciplinary research, knowledge exchange and advanced teaching in risk and disaster reduction across UCL.

UCL is uniquely well placed to lead research and teaching in this field; in addition to academics across seven faculties involved in world-class research, UCL IRDR has established links with scientific leaders in NGOs, industry and government departments based in and around London, who contribute to teaching and project supervision.

As a student, you will be encouraged to join our active seminar series, high-profile public discussion meetings and networking events.

The IRDR provides dedicated careers support for students, including networking events often attended by insurance companies, catastrophe modelling firms, NGOs, academic institutions and recruiters in the field of risk and disaster reduction.

The foundation of your career

This programme will equip students with scientific and analytical skills to better understand and assess disaster risks and to identify solutions to reduce those risks. These skills are highly sought after in the private, public and NGO sectors, and specific fields such as catastrophe modelling, risk management, and public policy.


This programme provides excellent training towards careers in industry and commerce, research, research communication and public policy including insurance, catastrophe modelling, finance, risk management, business continuity, humanitarian assistance, engineering, electricity distribution and many other fields. It supports the career development of professionals already working in risk and disaster reduction, as well as those who intend to go into this field. 


Staff in the department have extensive professional networks and are able to connect students with colleagues in the sector. The IRDR offers a programme of events, which usually have a networking element, and students are encouraged to both attend and organise their own. The dedicated departmental student society also offers networking opportunities for its members.

Teaching and learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, lab-based practicals, field visits, directed reading and problem-solving exercises and a real-time disaster scenario event, with an emphasis on hands-on learning and tutorial-style dialogue between students and lecturers.

Assessment is by independent and group oral presentations, written examination, coursework essays, and the independent project. Practical applications of critical and creative problem-solving will be encouraged and assessed throughout.

All students undertake an independent research project of 10,000-12,000 words, culminating in a research project and poster presentation. The dissertation has a weight of 60 credits.

On average it is expected that a student spends 150 hours studying for each 15-credit module. This includes teaching time, private study and coursework. Modules are usually taught in weekly two-hour sessions over 10 weeks each term.


The programme consists of five compulsory modules (75 credits), three optional modules (to the combined value of 45 credits) and an independent research project (60 credits). It is expected that a full-time student will study all these modules over the course one one academic year.

You will choose two optional modules, each worth 15 credits. However, it is mandatory to select at least one of the following modules:

  • Catastrophe Risk Modelling (IRDR0008)
  • Geospatial Data Science (IRDR0047)  

The programme can also be studied on a part-time basis. Between one and six modules from the compulsory modules must be taken in Year 1, the remaining one or two in Year 2. Optional modules can be taken in either year.

You will choose two optional modules, each worth 15 credits. However, it is mandatory to select at least one of the following modules:

  • Catastrophe Risk Modelling (IRDR0008)
  • Geospatial Data Science (IRDR0047)  

The module Practice and Appraisal of Research must be taken in Year 1, and there is a recommended order in which to take the other modules:

  • It is recommended to take Data Analysis and Interpretation in Year 1 – this should be taken prior to Catastrophe Risk Modelling (IRDR0008), Advanced Hazards (IRDR0010)or Geospatial Data Science (IRDR0047) if any of these optional modules are chosen.
  • It is recommended to take Fundamentals of Emergency and Crisis Planning and Management (IRDR0002) before taking the module Crisis Management and Supply Chain Resilience (IRDR0003) if you choose this as an optional module.
  • It is recommended to register for the Independent Project in Year 2, even though work can commence for this in the first year.

Please contact the department if you are interested in this option and need further information.

Students can also study on a modular basis over a maximum of five years. Please contact the department for more information if you are interested in this option.

Please note that the list of modules given here is indicative. This information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability are subject to change. Modules that are in use for the current academic year are linked for further information. Where no link is present, further information is not yet available.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits. Upon successful completion of 180 credits, you will be awarded an MSc in Risk and Disaster Science. Upon successful completion of 120 credits, you will be awarded a PG Dip in Risk and Disaster Science. Upon successful completion of 60 credits, you will be awarded a PG Cert in Risk and Disaster Science.


A selection of UK-based field trips is available. Travel and accommodation costs for field trips outside London will be covered by IRDR; students will need to pay for their meals.
Previous field trips have included: the Thames Barrier and disaster management; Cambridge flood hazard; a disaster scenario exercise with a partner organisation; the Blacknest Seismological Observatory; the Met Office; Southwest England for integrated group projects covering hazard mapping, vulnerability assessment, and critical  infrastructure assessment, with Hinkley Point nuclear power station as an example.

Availability of field trips may be subject to change.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble accessable.co.uk. Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £15,100 £7,550
Tuition fees (2024/25) £28,100 £14,050

Programme also available on a modular (flexible) basis.

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website: ucl.ac.uk/students/fees.

Additional costs

Students are responsible for their subsistence on all fieldwork and for travel costs within London. For the one-day trips, students can bring a packed lunch or expect to pay £5 to £10. For longer trips, we expect subsistence costs to be £30 per day. Travel within London is likely to be covered in travel cards students obtain for travelling to UCL. A single one-day travel card is around £15. All other travel and fees will be paid for or reimbursed by the Institute.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

The UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR) often offers a number of scholarships or stipends for students. Please see the IRDR Master's web page for current availability.

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

Next steps

Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

There is an application processing fee for this programme of £90 for online applications and £115 for paper applications. Further information can be found at Application fees.

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Risk and Disaster Science at graduate level
  • why you want to study Risk and Disaster Science at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to the chosen programme
  • how your academic and professional background and skills meet the demands of this challenging programme, particularly if you are from a mainly humanities background
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2024-2025

UCL is regulated by the Office for Students.