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MSc Safety, Risk and Reliability Engineering

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    Key information

    Mode of delivery
    Start date
    September, January, May


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    Risk has become a key concept in modern society. Growing concern about the environment and a number of disasters have served to focus attention on the hazards and risks involved in a wide range of activities from offshore oil production to rail and air transport; from the design of football stadiums to the operation of chemical plants and environmental protection.

    Today there is a wide range of techniques available to assess risk and reliability, both in relation to safety and in the wider sense. These techniques now underpin new legislation on safety and have relevance over a broad spectrum of activities, including environmental and other systems, where risk and reliability are key concerns.

    The MSc/PG Diploma course in Safety, Risk and Reliability Engineering is designed to give a thorough understanding of these techniques and experience of their application to a variety of real-world problems. It aims to provide students with an understanding of safety, risk and reliability engineering in both a qualitative and quantitative manner, and to develop the skills to apply this understanding. The course will also introduce students to recent developments in analytical techniques, e.g. computer modelling of risk, reliability and safety problems.

    If you are interested in our courses you can join our Linked In group Safety Courses at Heriot-Watt where you can link up with other applicants, current and previous students and potential employers. Applying to join needs approval from the group owner which may take a week or two.

    Online learning

    This course can be studied via Online Learning, ideal for those in employment or with other commitments, providing flexible study options that fit around work or family. View our How online learning works pages to find out more. It can also be studied on-campus full-time or part-time.

    Graduate profiles

    Visit our Graduate Profiles page to learn what some of our graduates said about their experiences studying Safety, Risk and Reliability Engineering at Heriot-Watt University.

    Degree duration

    Online Learning: 2½ - 8 years. Most students intend to complete their studies via Online Learning within 2-3 years.

    Industry links

    This course and the associated Safety and Risk Management course have been developed with the assistance of staff and ex-graduates working in relevant fields. Many companies support our courses and employ our graduates.

    In addition, this course is also supported by the Civil Engineering Industry Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from major multi-national employers AECOM, ARUP, Balfour Beatty, Halcrow, Jacobs and WSP Group. This committee convenes regularly and advises on the course content and structure, ensuring quality, up-to-date content and relevance to industry needs.

    Studying an Online MSc Safety, Risk and Reliability Engineering Degree

    Heriot-Watt graduate, Chibuike Nwagbara, talks about his experience of studying a MSc Safety, Risk and Reliability Engineering degree online

    Course content

    Year 1

    The MSc/Postgraduate Diploma in Safety, Risk and Reliability Engineering, led by Dr Sandhya Patidar, is only available by attendance-free distance learning.

    The degree comprises eight taught courses. Heriot-Watt Online students must first take exams in two courses of the degree, Human Factors Methods and Learning from Disasters. Based on the results from these courses students continue on the degree at MSc or at PG Diploma level.

    All courses have written examinations and some have compulsory coursework elements. MSc students are also required to complete a Masters dissertation.

    Students can opt to sit examination in any of the three semesters. If they wish to sit the exam for a course in other semesters, the course will be accessible in self-study mode with access to all learning materials and tutor support. 

    Degree structure

    • Sustainability for Construction Professionals
    • Data Analysis and Simulation
    • Human Factors Methods
    • Risk Assessment and Safety Management
    • Systems Reliability
    • Fire, Explosions and Process Safety
    • Learning from Disasters
    • Safety, Risk and Reliability
    • Research Dissertation (Civil Engineering)

    Detailed degree guide

    Understanding, Knowledge and Cognitive Skills

    Demonstrate understanding of:

    • fundamentals of probability and statistics as applied to risk assessment in engineering
    • qualitative risk assessment procedures that are currently widely used in safety management and in the writing of safety cases
    • why engineering systems fail, how to predict failures, and how decisions are taken based on those predictions
    • how safety systems can be applied across different industries
    • how safety management links to other management systems such as environmental management
    • the ability to anticipate failures of systems or in human behaviour, and how decisions are taken based on those predictions
    • the scientific principles that underlie many hazardous situations
    • the professional responsibilities of a safety engineer

    Scholarship, Enquiry and Research (Research Informed Learning)

    Be able to:

    • demonstrate an understanding of technical advances in safety engineering
    • show familiarity with a broad range of technical literature;
    • plan, conduct and report a self-directed research project;
    • use problem-solving skills in a variety of contexts;
    • apply numerical and analytical skills and engineering knowledge in the analysis of safety related problems

    Approaches to Teaching and Learning

    The programme is based on eight fully written courses, which are either self-contained, or are based on structured study from a text book (a required text for the module). All students on this programme are studying primarily by distance learning. At masters level students are expected to take a large degree of responsibility for their own studies. Students rely on a practical study guide, detailed course texts (or a required text book), fully worked solutions, email, discussion groups, as well as discussion with staff, other students and more experienced work colleagues in most cases. Courses usually include objectives, theory, applications in the real world, worked examples, exercises, and review questions that usually form part of the formative assessment and feedback for the course. Some courses have a coursework component to address a deeper level of understanding of more complex and lengthy problems or where practical software applications are required.

    Approaches to teaching and learning are continually reviewed and developed with the aim of matching them to the abilities and experiences of students, with regard also for the subject area. Industry feedback on course content is also used in the updating and improvement of all courses. Specific details about teaching and learning methods are provided in the appropriate course descriptors.

    Assessment Policies

    The programme uses a range of assessment types.

    Coursework is used to develop problem solving skills, to demonstrate mastery of techniques taught as part of the course that would be too lengthy to undertake as exam questions or where software applications are required. Coursework also helps develop professional report writing skills with emphasis on correct report structure, writing style, resume, and referencing. All courses have some form of formative assessment that provide self, peer or staff feedback as required.

    Examinations make up the majority of summative assessment as these are the best way to be certain of testing the capabilities of the individual student against the course aims

    The final MSc dissertation allows students to demonstrate good research skills and a deeper level of critical thinking and analysis than can be assessed by exam.

    Approaches to assessment are continually reviewed. Specific details about methods of assessment are provided in the appropriate course descriptors.

    Fees and funding

    Tuition fees

    Tuition fees
    Status Per course [footnote 1] Dissertation/Project [footnote 1]
    UK / EU / Overseas GBP1480 GBP1910
    1. The tuition fees listed are for courses starting between September 2023 and August 2024. Fees normally increase annually. Find out more about our tuition fees.

    Additional fee information

    Financial support

    Tuition fee loans are available to Scottish distance learning students on some taught postgraduate courses. Find out more from the Students Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)

    Scholarships and bursaries

    We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Each year, hundreds of students enhance their educational experience through a variety of Heriot-Watt and externally funded scholarships, including opportunities funded by the University's generous alumni community, based all over the world.

    View our full range of postgraduate scholarships.

    Entry requirements

    Applicants to the MSc programme will normally:

    • have a good undergraduate degree (minimum 2:2 honours or equivalent) in engineering or a relevant science discipline, or
    • demonstrate equivalent academic ability based on industrial experience or membership of a professional institution.

    Heriot-Watt Online students must first take exams in two courses of the programme, Human Factors Methods and Learning from Disasters. Based on the results for these entry courses students will continue on the programme at MSc or at PG Diploma level.

    Students will additionally have access to the short course 'Introduction to Digital Study and Academic Skills', to prepare for postgraduate study.

    Mathematical requirements

    Applicants will need good mathematical ability to succeed on their Programmes. Students should have experience in university level mathematics of the sort commonly encountered on engineering degrees (e.g. a pass, or passes, in previous university level maths-based courses/modules) and be confident in further development of skills in statistical methods, simulation and modelling, and linear optimisation techniques. Please refer to the course guide for Data Analysis and Simulation

    Recognition of Prior Learning

    We are committed to providing study opportunities to applicants who have a wide range of prior experiences through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). For more information on RPL, please contact the Online Admissions Team ( ahead of application. We can only consider requests for RPL at the time of application to a course of study.

    English language requirements

    Applicants will need a good English Language ability to succeed in their programme. Those for whom English is not their first language should have,

    • Achieved a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent
    • And/or have successfully completed courses (of 1 year or more in duration) delivered in English.

    Why Heriot-Watt?

    Flexibility and affordability

    Study at a time and pace that suits you, and even while you work. HW Online offers pay-as-you-study courses and fees inclusive of exams and study materials, meaning you can focus on success, not extra costs.

    Your career

    Employers around the world actively seek out our graduates because they are work-ready. All our degrees are career-focused and relevant to the needs of industry. Around 95% of our students are in employment or further study within six months of graduating.

    Online events

    We host online events throughout the year, giving you the opportunity to speak to our academic teaching staff, meet students, find out what it is like to study using our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and discover how to enrol.

    Lifelong connections

    Upon completing your studies you will automatically join the UK's oldest alumni association The Watt Club, with 147k members worldwide.

    We are accredited by the following organisations

    At Heriot-Watt University we develop degrees that are relevant for the world of work. We work with Professional bodies and Institutes to gain appropriate Accreditations and Professional Memberships for your industry. Find out below how this degree aligns to industry.

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