Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The module aims to provide an overview of key risk theories and concepts related to processes in physical and socio-political environments. The approach adopted is an interdisciplinary one designed to allow students to critically reflect upon the complementarity of physical and social science approaches to developing an integrated understanding of risk.


  • Hazard and Risk: basic concepts and terms used to conceptualise and communicate risk
  • Understanding the determinants of risk: understanding causal pathways
  • Understanding social inequalities of risk: Inequality of exposure, vulnerability and resilience
  • 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
  • Critically reflect upon concepts and challenge conventional wisdom
  • 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 four lectures/seminars, and a tutorial. The lectures/seminars will introduce the course material and/or 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 lectures/seminars with the 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 three week three 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: Three 1500 Word Essays Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3 x 1500 word essays to be developed over the course of 3 weeks, following a set of pre-established questions or themes. 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Two 1000 word essay assignments, one in Term 1 based on teaching blocks 1 and 2 (written feedback) and one in term 2 (peer assessment and/or written feedback) based on teaching blocks 3 and 4.

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