Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 GEOG module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The overarching aim is to provide students with a sound basis for understanding natural hazards and risk from environmental change, including assessment of risk and vulnerability, resilience, and disaster management.
  • The core aims of the module are:
  • To provide an understanding of how a range of important natural hazards operate, together with methods for monitoring and assessing the risks that they pose to society.
  • To develop specific skills in hazard assessment; which may include spatial hazard mapping, statistical analysis of event frequencies, and potential effects linked to projected climate change.
  • To be able to communicate interdisciplinary results clearly to varying audiences, through presentations, writing, and visualizations.
  • To understand a range of methods for assessing societal impacts, costs, and vulnerabilities.
  • To be familiar with approaches to disaster management, assessing risk from environmental change, and wider impacts of natural disasters, through lessons from case studies and examples.
  • To provide students with the opportunity to develop an integrated understanding of hazard, risk, and vulnerability that draws from both physical and human geography


  • Understanding key terms and definitions including disasters, hazard, risk and resilience
  • How a range of natural hazards operate; and their wider potential impacts
  • Understanding how environmental change can pose risk to communities.
  • Assessing the societal impacts, cost and vulnerabilities attributed to natural hazards
  • Key skills such as statistical analyses and approaches to spatial hazard mapping
  • Disaster risk reduction and management
  • Potential effects of climate change on hazards and vulnerability to environmental change.
  • CASE STUDIES OF HAZARDS AND RISKS (there is a range of examples here (not all of which will be covered), allowing us to modify content in response to recent global events if appropriate)
  • Flooding
  • Earthquakes
  • Landslides (on land and underwater)
  • Tropical cyclones and hurricanes
  • Severe space weather
  • Tsunami
  • Drought
  • Cryospheric hazards

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of the module students will be able to:
  • Assess the nature and frequency of hazards, and the links between hazard, risk and vulnerability
  • Assess societal impacts, costs, and vulnerability
  • Understand at a conceptual and practical level effective coping strategies for living with hazards, risk and vulnerability
  • Understand the challenges and opportunities of integrating human and physical geography in respect of hazard, risk, and vulnerability
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students will be able to:
  • Relate general principles of hazard and vulnerability assessment, and damage mitigation or disaster management, to specific situations including case studies of specific hazards and risks
  • Analyse the complex interactions between natural and social systems
  • Demonstrate skills in a range of methods of hazard assessment
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate analytical skills and an ability to present logical argument
  • Demonstrate ability to state key messages clearly and concisely
  • Demonstrate ability to effectively communicate interdisciplinary research

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

  • The module is delivered through a range of lectures, practicals, workshops and seminars.
  • Lectures will provide the basis for understanding key concepts, practicals provide an opportunity to apply what you have learned in lectures, whilst workshops and seminars will develop key skills and an ability to communicate clearly with a general audience.
  • The formative workshop oral presentation will address key concepts and approaches in natural hazards and social vulnerability and hence provides a solid foundation to the summative assessment. It will develop skills in communicating with a general audience.
  • The summative assessment is based on a written exam (50%), which encourages understanding of the full range of course material, while a written essay (50%) will reinforce understanding of case studies and key concepts within the course.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 12 weekly 1.5 hours 18
Practicals 2 2 hours 4
Seminars 4 2 hours 8
Workshops (student presentations) 2 2 hours 4
Preparation and Reading 166
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Online 24-hour unseen examination 2 hours (recommended) 100% None
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5 x sides A4 100% None

Formative Assessment:

Formative feedback will be given during the final workshop. This will take the form of verbal feedback on presentations, which will be used to feed into the summative assessment.

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