Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The module aims to provide an overview of key theories and concepts relating to risks to human populations posed by hazards in physical and in social environments. The perspective is interdisciplinary and is designed to allow students to appreciate the complementarity of physical and social science approaches and perspectives.


  • 1. Hazard and Risk: basic concepts and terms used to conceptualise and communicate risk
  • 2. Understanding the determinants of risk: understanding causal pathways
  • 3. Understanding social inequalities of risk: Inequality of exposure, vulnerability and resilience
  • 4. Intervention to manage, prevent or mitigate risks to human populations.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will be able to understand and apply advanced conceptual frameworks covered in the module to interpret specific examples of risks in the social and physical environment.
  • Students will have an advanced understanding of and be able to interpret the interactions between human activities and ‘natural’ environmental processes which generate risks for human populations.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate a good grasp of the challenges involved in designing risk mitigation and management strategies.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will develop skills in the interpretation and application of conceptual frameworks for understanding risks to human populations through individual work on case studies.
  • Students will be able to apply the ideas covered in the course to formulate proposals for intervention strategies or research focused on case studies of risk to human populations.
  • Students will understand how concepts and theories of risk have been tested empirically using different approaches to formulate a sound conceptual framework, suitable to undertake a masters level dissertation focused on a specific aspect of risk to human populations.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to debate ideas, while recognizing and respecting the viewpoints of others
  • Written communication

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module will be divided into four blocks, with two blocks per term. Two additional seminars to introduce and conclude the module, will bookend the four main blocks. Each of these four main blocks will have will have two lectures, two staff-led seminars and a tutorial. The lectures will introduce the course material while the seminars will involve discussion on the basis of (a) pre-set readings, and (b) discussion of themes introduced in the lectures. The tutorials will follow each block's seminars and lectures with aim to consolidate learning from that block. The tutorials will also provide a forum for the module's formative and summative assessment. Summative assessment for the module is a one week essay assignment.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 9 Alternating weeks 9 x 2 hours 18
Seminars 9 Alternating weeks 9 x 2 hours 18
Tutorials 4 Two per term, in terms 1 and 2 1 hour 4
Self-directed learning 260
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: One Week Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
One Week Essay 3 x 1500 word essays over one week 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Peer assessment in workshops and written feedback on four essay assignments, two in term one based on blocks 1 and 2 and two in term 2 based on blocks 3 and 4. NB: formative work is a compulsory part of this module.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University