Railway Risk and Safety Management MSc/Diploma/Certificate

Postgraduate degree programme Railway Risk and Safety Management MSc/Diploma/Certificate:

Railway risk and safety management, are both vitally important worldwide, for not only the ongoing operation of existing railways but also for the design and the development of new systems. Much work is being done by companies involved in both mainline and urban transportation systems to improve safety, for the public, their passengers and their workforce. In the last two years alone there have been around 60 railway crashes and incidents reported worldwide. The prevention of the associated loss of life and livelihood are high priorities for all organisations involved.

This programme in Railway Risk and Safety Management (RRSM) is the first of its kind in the UK and is jointly delivered by the Universities of Birmingham and York. You will benefit from the expertise of two leading UK universities and spend around half of your time with the Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education (BCRRE) and half at the High Integrity Systems Engineering Group (HISE) in York.

The programme will give you a deep and robust understanding of the approaches to managing safety and risk in transport systems and related projects. The York modules are highly structured around the general topics of risk and safety management, while the Birmingham portion of the programme focuses on railway systems and the application of risk management principles in this sector. Although different transport sectors and modes have their own specific features, this course will give you a thorough education of knowledge which can take you into many areas of engineering and business management.

  • Application deadline for full time study is the last Friday in June
  • Application deadline for part time study is the last Friday in July 

The development of the RRSM programme was sponsored by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

Lloyd’s Register Foundation logo
"We are a charitable foundation, helping to protect life and property by supporting engineering-related education, public engagement and the application of research. We do this because………Life matters”

The Railway Risk and Safety Management programme is delivered jointly by the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham and the High Integrity Systems Engineering (HISE) Group at the University of York. We recognise that each transport sector and mode has its own specific features but seek to ensure that a common approach is taken to the generic issues involved in ensuring dependable operations. As a result, you will develop a deep and robust understanding of approaches to manage safety and risk in transport systems and projects, taking advantage of expertise from two leading UK universities.

The programme consists of a series of taught modules which cover the topics of safety and risk management, safety systems, railway technologies, railway systems and operation, ergonomics and business management for the railway industry. These are supported by learning about research skills and then followed by an individual research project, supervised by academic experts in the specific field of the project. Part-time and distance-learning students follow the same syllabus as full-time students but complete the taught modules in a sequence that suits their work-commitments.

The full-time study periods are:

  • Master of Science Degree: 12 months
  • Postgraduate Diploma: 8 months
  • Postgraduate Certificate: 4 months
  • Continuing professional development options: 1 week modules

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Why study this course

This postgraduate programme is intended for people who wish to establish or enhance their career in the safe operation of transport systems. Companies employing graduates include mainline railways, metros, tram systems and automated people movers. Safety is high on the agenda of transport operators around the world and graduates are in demand in order to ensure this sector is made up of efficient, cost-effective and safe businesses.  

The programme suits numerate graduates who wish to enter the railway industry as well as professionals already working in the industry. The full-time version is ideal if you wish to develop the necessary skills in the shortest possible time. Part-time and distance learning study involves attendance at Birmingham or York for the taught elements of the programme, with tutorial and academic support provided throughout the programme and all students have access to the University of Birmingham's library and Virtual Learning Environment. This study mode is ideal if you are already working in the railway industry, as you will be able to apply your knowledge immediately into the workplace.


This modular programme allows you to study each topic in depth and apply your knowledge across the programme content. You will be encouraged to enrich your classroom learning by taking part in extra-curricular seminars and activities, and to take part in the BCRRE community of staff and students.

For the PG Certificate the core modules (marked*below) are required and compromise 60 academic credits. Completion of 120 credits (all of taught modules) is required for the PG Dipolma and all 180 credits for the MSc. 

Induction Weekend and overview of system safety thinking

The Induction Weekend takes place at the very start of the acdemic year along with students from other BCRRE programmes. It prepares you for the challenge of postgraduate study and provides an introduction to railway systems engineering, a team activity, and talsk including a short history of the railway industry, its legislative and financial background and the structure of today's British and European railway industry.

The overview of systems safety thinking is delivered via distance learning. It outlines the principles of system safety, including risk, basic terminology and the main types of hazard and safety assessment techniques. It also overviews materials covered in later modules

Modules from BCRRE, University of Birmingham:

Railway Operations and Control Systems* (10 credits)

Railway Traction and Electrification Systems (10 credits)

Rolling Stock and Infrastructure Interactions* (10 credits)

Strategic Business Management for Railways (10 credits)

Practical Ergonomics for Railway Systems (10 credits)

Research Skills* (20 credits)

Modules from HISE, University of York:

Safety and Risk Management in System Development* (10 credits)

Computers and Safety Assurance in Critical Systems (10 credits)

Railway Safety Management Systems* (10 credits)

Through Life Safety (10 credits)

Systems Engineering for Safety (10 credits)

These modules are taught between late September and late March each year; after which there is a period of exams.

Individual Research Project (60 credits)

This is completed during the summer period, usually starting in May/June and submitting the dissertation in August. For part-time and distance-learning study, the project often takes place in your workplace. 

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to keep them up-to-date, which may require changes to module content. Also, key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

Fees and funding

Fees 2016/17

UK and EU 

  • Full-time MSc (180 credits): £13,750 
  • Part-time MSc (180 credits): £6,875 per year for two years
  • Full-time Diploma (120 credits): £9,167
  • Part-time Diploma (120 credits): £4,583 per year for two years
  • Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits): £4,583


  • Full-time MSc: £18,210
  • Full-time Diploma: £12,140
  • Postgraduate Certificate: £6,070
  • Distance Learning MSc: £9,105
  • Distance Learning Diploma: £6,070
  • Distance Learning Certificate: 6,070

Learn more about fees and funding 

Scholarships and studentships
Scholarships may be available. International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

For further information contact the School directly or email sfo@contacts.bham.ac.uk

Entry requirements

The basic requirement is a good Honours degree in an appropriate science-related discipline (for example, Engineering, Physics, Economics or Mathematics) and evidence of a very good knowledge of the English language. However, practical experience may also be an important consideration or an alternative to a numerate degree.

Additional information:

  • Application deadline for full time study is the last Friday in June
  • Application deadline for part time study is the last Friday in July 

International students:

We accept a range of qualifications from different countries – learn more about international entry requirements. Also Standard English language requirements apply.

How to apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Teaching takes place in week-long blocks of time which allows for deep learning to be achieved from immersion in the subject. The primary method is classroom-based lectures and these are enriched by industrial speakers, group exercises, assignments, site visits, study excursions and working weekends throughout the year. A several day European study tour is also part of the programme.

BCRRE is privileged to work with many colleagues from the railway industry who regularly contribute seminars and talks. Not only do these enrich amd embed your learning, they provide excellent opportunities for networking with others in the industry.

Several lectures are given by industrial speakers. Further learning is achieved through individual literature review, as part of assignments, or in group exercises. 

This postgraduate programme is intended for people working on or expecting to work for mainline railways, metros, tram systems and automated people movers. Graduates of the programme have been sought-after, worldwide, and are now working in the fields of engineering, safety and risk in manufacturers, engineering companies and infrastructure companies. 

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