Atmospheric pollution damages human health, ecosystems and vegetation, and is expected to worsen in many regions as development and urbanisation increase. Developing effective strategies for the management and control of air pollution is a key environmental challenge facing society today.
This course is run with the School of Chemical Engineering. It is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the causes and effects of air pollution, and the management measures and engineering technologies available for its control. This is a recognised and sought after qualification within the professional environmental field in the UK and abroad. Students successfully completing the course find employment as air quality experts within environmental consultancies, industry or local government departments.
The course is accredited by the Institute of Air Quality Management.
The course combines taught modules with an independent major research project. The taught modules introduce the nature of our atmosphere, its composition and meteorology, air pollutant emissions, air pollution chemistry and climate change / carbon management, together with the practical measures used to limit emissions from sources ranging from power stations to vehicles and the legislative and policy framework used by national and local authorities to enforce air quality objectives. The research project allows students to undertake an in-depth investigation of a particular aspect of air pollution of interest to them, and further their level of understanding.
This programme is run jointly by the Division of Environmental Health and Risk Management in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and the School of Chemical Engineering.
About the Division of Environmental Health and Risk Management
The Division is based in the well-equipped, purpose-built facilities of the University's Public Health Building. Research attracts extensive funding from many sources, including the Department of Transport; the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA); the Environment Agency; the Department of Health; the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and European Union. The collaborative nature of much of this work, together with the mix of pure, strategic and applied research, often involving interdisciplinary teams spanning physical, biological, chemical, medical and social sciences, provides a dynamic and internationally recognised research environment.
The University of Birmingham is a leading Russell Group University with an internationally leading research reputation in Atmospheric Sciences. The MSc in Air Pollution Management and Control has been running for over 10 years and is part of the Environmental Health Sciences research group where many of our teaching staff are also leaders in their respective research fields.
This course will provide you with a recognised and sought after qualification within the professional environment field in the UK and abroad. In the past two years nearly 100% of students successfully completing the course have found employment as air quality experts within environmental consultancies, industry or local government departments.
The course is accredited by the Institute of Air Quality Management.
“Birmingham itself is an amazing multilingual and multicultural city full of contrasts. Here anyone can find something to indulge in: a shopping area in the city centre and quiet green parks for outdoor activities”
Tatsiana (Tanya) Dudzina
Alexander Poynter "The course was well run and contained plenty of modules that would be valuable for a career in air pollution consultancy. It also allowed plenty of opportunities to improve research skills – something I have found increasingly useful!"
Read Alexander Poynter's profile
We offer two qualifications in this area:
- MSc in Air Pollution Management and Control
- Postgraduate Diploma in Air Pollution Management and Control
The full-time MSc course runs over a 12-month period, starting in October. The taught modules are delivered in the Autumn and Spring terms, while the summer months focus on the major research project. Teaching is scheduled in a block or day release format (i.e. lectures concentrated on one or two days per week) to facilitate part-time study alongside employment. The full-time Postgraduate Diploma (taught modules only) lasts nine months, from October through to June of the following year.
Both courses are also available on a part-time basis, running over two years.
The course has nine taught modules, representing 120 credits in total :
Causes and Effects of Air Pollution
The sources, behaviour and fates of air pollutants, and their impact on human health, the built environment, ecosystems and global climate are described in this module. The module also addresses the use of emission inventories, methods and procedures for air pollutant measurement, and integration of these to give effective monitoring networks. Current and future developments in road vehicle technologies are covered, and the process of defining emission standards is studied.
- Atmospheric Composition and Physics
This course provides an introduction to the structure of the atmosphere and its evolution through time, the atmospheric transfer of heat and sunlight, cloud microphysics and radiative processes of the atmosphere, and their importance in air pollution phenomena.
- Air Pollution Meteorology
This course explains how the temperature structure and motion of the atmosphere determines the dispersion of air pollutants. Air pollution modelling techniques are also introduced.
- Air Pollution Chemistry
The basic principles that determine the composition of the atmosphere are introduced and the processes leading to the formation and removal of atmospheric pollutants are described. There is a focus on the chemistry of air pollution phenomena such as urban air pollution (including photochemical smog and ozone formation), acid rain and stratospheric ozone depletion, in the context of changing climate.
- Industrial Gas Discharge Control
These modules introduce the basic principles and design criteria for the engineering control of industrial gaseous emissions, from sources ranging from power plants to individual vehicles. Removal technologies of both particulate and gaseous contaminants are included. IGDC 0 introduces the fundamental principles needed in assessing industrial processes (energy requirements and material flow), IGDC I focuses on the emission control of gaseous pollutants while IGDC II focuses on the emissions control of airborne particulate matter.
- Air Quality Management
Students study the policy and institutional framework for the management of air quality. Aspects covered in this module include the use of source emission and ambient air quality standards, air quality management models, monitoring for compliance and the role of air pollutant emission reduction strategies. This is taught in the context of the UK National Air Quality Strategy.
- Physical Climatology & The Climate System
An understanding of the variability of the climate system and its inherent changes with time is key to addressing questions of either natural or anthropogenic (human driven) climate change. This module will help students to become familiar with the underlying physical concepts as well as their application to attribute and detect anthropogenic climate change. The module will cover the basic physical climate system, basics of the observed atmospheric and ocean general circulation and their known modes of large scale variability. The module will them examine our knowledge of past climates and natural variability, the principles behind current anthropogenic climate change and the strengths (and limitations) of current climate models and climate predictions. The course concludes with a review of potential impacts of climate change, and the related political and social responses, including climate sceptic arguments.
- Carbon Management
Carbon Management is an increasingly important consideration for individual organisations through to national governments, with recognition that responsible management and sustainable development require minimising carbon emissions where feasible. This module provides an introduction to all aspects of carbon management. Topics covered include the overall scientific context of the global carbon cycle, global policy aspects (Kyoto, Copenhagen and current UK / EU targets), carbon offsetting and emissions trading, the impact of changing energy sources (biofuels and renewable energy resources, including impacts on air quality) and local carbon management, with a focus on the techniques used by local authorities and individual organisations. The module concludes with a realistic review of the likely near-future global emissions trajectory, considering economic trends in the BRIC nations, and the scope for renewable energy on a national level.
The research component of the course comprises a Research Methods module (10 credits) and an individual research project into an area of the students’ choice (50 credits).
The Research Project allows you to explore an area of air pollution of your choosing to develop an in-depth understanding. Projects may involve laboratory experiments, field measurements of atmospheric composition, computer-based modelling studies or analysis of existing atmospheric data. You will have access to the School’s research and laboratory facilities and atmospheric measurement instrumentation, and also frequently draw upon external links and data sources (for example, through local authority air quality monitoring).
You are able to select your own research project topic, and will be supervised on a one-to-one basis by a member of staff with relevant expertise and/or research interests. Projects usually involve a design and planning phase (Jan – March) followed by the main research phase during spring / summer. The project is assessed through a written dissertation and an informal viva (oral examination).
Examples of recent projects include:
- A preliminary investigation into how the introduction of the London low emission zone has affected PM10 levels as measured along the Marylebone Road
- Assessment of ozone levels and meteorological effects in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia
- Characterisation of vehicle exhaust emissions using remote sensing technology
- An ADMS-based investigation into particulate dispersal in the vicinity of the Scunthorpe steelworks
- Changes to levels of particulate air pollution in hospitality premises across Birmingham following the introduction of the smoke-free England legislation
- An analysis of the May 2008 ozone pollution episode in the West Midlands
- An investigation of airborne ammonia concentrations at two contrasting locations in the West Midlands conurbation
- The atmospheric role of methyl iodide in the continental boundary layer
- The chemistry of HOx radicals and HONO within a street canyon – A modelling study
- Evaluation of ADMS-roads in rural street canyons
- Spatial and temporal variation of ozone in Hong Kong and its effect on the surrounding human population
- Is air quality measured to best effect in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham?
- The effect of ambient particulate matter levels in the UK on visibility
Standard fees apply
- Home/EU students £6,480 FT (£3,240 PT), PGDip £4,320 FT (£2,160 PT)
- International students £17,960 FT only
Learn more about fees and funding
Scholarships and studentships
Learn more about Scholarships and Grants which may be available – note these are usually highly competitive and require early application.
The MSc course is open to graduates who hold at least a Second Class Honours degree or equivalent in an appropriate subject, or a degree without honours followed by at least two years appropriate postgraduate experience. In certain cases (for example, for applicants with appropriate professional experience) this requirement may be waived.
The Postgraduate Diploma course is open to graduates as above, and also to holders of diplomas or other equivalent qualifications. It is possible to transfer from the Postgraduate Diploma to the full MSc course subject to satisfactory performance in the taught modules.
Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact us to discuss their background and eligibility.
Learn more about entry requirements
We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.
English language requirements
You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:
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
The School is well supported and students have access to any equipment and facilities appropriate to their work.
You will have access to common software tools used to model air pollution (for example, ADMS and the DMRB as used by many local authorities). These are used in teaching sessions/workshops, and also available for research projects. We also have experience with more specialised packages such as CMAQ for research project use.
Laboratories and Atmospheric Measurement Instrumentation
We are well equipped for atmospheric measurements. Instrumentation available for the measurement of atmospheric particulates (aerosols) ranges from hand-held particle monitors which may be taken into homes and buildings, through various manual and automated filter sampling systems, to TEOM instruments as used for air quality monitoring. On the research side, we operate a number of Aerosol particle Spectrometers and an Aerosol Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer. For gaseous pollutants, monitors are available to monitor ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, in addition to gas chromatographs which can detect a wide range of organic compounds. The School operates its own weather station, and various meteorological instrumentation is available.
Other laboratory analytical instrumentation includes GC-MS and LC-MS instruments, ion chromatography and atomic absorption spectrometers which can measure a wide range of environmental constituents and pollutants. Training and guidance on the use of instrumentation is available if you are interested in using these facilities for your research projects.
The MSc in Air Pollution Management and Control is taught by staff from the School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences and School of Chemical Engineering.
Teaching is delivered through lectures, workshops and problem sessions, and off-campus visits to sites with specific air pollution problems (e.g. an incinerator, landfill site, local air quality monitoring station). We also make visits to Birmingham City Council Air Quality Group and to the Tyseley Energy From Waste Facility so that students can gain experience of the Management & Control aspects of the course in action. Teaching sessions are supplemented by online resources which may be accessed remotely and students own (guided) personal reading.
A feature of the course is the use of external speakers to deliver an expert view through lectures and workshops on specific aspects. These range from experts such as Professor Jon Ayers (chair of the UK government Committee on the Health Effects of Air Pollutants) and Professor Dick Derwent (atmospheric ozone modelling and policy advice) to recent course graduates, now working in consultancy and local government, who run workshop sessions on pollutant dispersion modelling.
A variety of assessment methods are used, including written coursework, case studies, oral presentations and standard examinations. The major research project is assessed through a written dissertation and an informal viva (oral examination).
The need for graduates in this area is growing due to increasing air quality and climate change legislation, increasing awareness of the impacts of atmospheric pollution and climate change, and increasing government policy towards sustainable futures. Career opportunities exist in air quality management, forecasting and regulation, in industrial emission monitoring and control, in environmental and human health impact assessment and in the transport, energy and waste and chemical industrial sectors. Students completing the course have found employment in environmental consultancy (UK and overseas), local and national government, the Environment Agency and industry, while some have continued with PhD study.
Recent employment destinations of our graduates include: Mott McDonald, URS Corporation, Mouchel, Temple Group, RPS group, ARUP, WSP Group, AECOM, Enviros Consulting, Scott Wilson, Jacobs UK Ltd, Hyder Consulting, Severn Trent, AMT coffee, Panasonic, Petrobas, Saudi Aramco, Environment Agency, various local and national government departments.
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