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.  The prevention of the loss of life and livelihood associated with railway crashes and incidents 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. As a result, this course will give you a thorough education and knowledge which can take you into many areas of engineering and business management, as well as in safety-specific functions of railway or transportation organisations.

  • Application deadline for full time study is Wednesday 31st May
  • Application deadline for part time study is Friday 30th June

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

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"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”.

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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.

This course comprises taught and research elements. You will take the three-week Terminology and Communication for Railways course from late August, followed by eight assessed taught modules and two assignment based modules during the Autumn and Spring semesters. Over the summer you carry out your research project to complete the MSc.

Hear from Professor Schmid, MSc Railway Risk and Safety Management programme director:

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 full-time, 24–36 months part-time
  • Postgraduate Diploma: 10 months full-time, 24–36 months part-time
  • Postgraduate Certificate: 4 months full-time, 8 months part-time
  • Continuing professional development options: 1 week modules

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Why study this course

  • You will develop a deep, 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
  • The Birmingham part of the programme focuses on railway systems and the application of risk management principles in this sector
  •  You can choose to take your research project at the University of Birmingham, University of York or in industry
  • The three-week introductory course in Terminology and Communication for Railways sets the scene and familiarises you with the components and terminology of the railway system if you have limited railway experience
  • All projects include an industrial sponsor, bringing an extra element of relevance and applicability to an in-depth study of a railway system and/or risk and safety topic

Why Birmingham?

BCRRE is Europe’s largest Railway-focussed research and education group. Projects involve fundamental and applied research in railway science, technology and business. BCRRE is privileged to work with many colleagues from the railway industry who regularly contribute seminars and talks. Not only do these enrich and embed your learning, they provide excellent opportunities for networking with others in the industry.

We have extensive laboratories and facilities both on and off our campus for carrying out research in railway engineering. Recently we have commissioned a wind tunnel and a loading rig of three half-sleepers for undertaking near full-scale investigations into railway track foundations. We also have an aerodynamic moving-model testing facility for high-speed trains.


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. 

If you have sufficient railway industry experience, attendance at the three-week introductory course may not be required.
Please contact us to discuss.

About the introductory Terminology and Communication for Railways course:

This 3-week course will provide broad-based supplementary learning on railway technical vocabulary and specialist communications and is aimed at students with no or limited knowledge or experience of the railway industry. It will familiarise you with the components of the railway system and its terminology and will enhance your technical communication skills. Completion of the introductory course will ensure you are well-prepared for the technical content of this demanding programme and help you gain the most out of your year of study.

Topics covered include railway components and subsystems, railway-specific terminology and concepts of railway safety and risk. This introduction is given context with site visits and group exercises. This course will not count towards the MSc but there will be an informal assessment at the end of the course, which indicates your relative strengths and weaknesses in each of the technical areas and which, in turn, enables tailored tutorial support throughout your study.

Your experience and familiarity with railway systems will be assessed during the application stage. If you possess sufficient knowledge it is possible that you will not need to attend this element of the programme. 

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 a team activity, and talks on 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 online 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:

  • Terminology and Communication for Railways (as described above) - non credit bearing
  • 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 ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2018/19 are as follows:

UK and EU

  • MSc full-time (180 credits): £16,000 
  • MSc part-time: £7,200 per year
  • Diploma full-time (120 credits): £11,200 
  • Diploma part-time (120 credits): £4,800
  • Postgraduate Certificate full-time (60 credits): £4,800
  • Postgraduate Certificate part-time: £4,800


  • MSc full-time: £20,770
  • MSc distance learning: £10,305
  • PostgraduateDiploma full-time: £14,380 
  • Postgraduate Diploma distance learning: £6,870 
  • Postgraduate Certificate: full-time £6,630
  • Postgraduate Certificate distance learning: £6,870

Continous Professional Development

See CPD page for further information; each module module is available as CPD.

Learn more about fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

We offer a range of postgraduate scholarships for taught programmes and research opportunities to ensure the very best talent is nurtured and supported at postgraduate level.

Additional scholarships can be found in the funding database.

Contact the department for further information.

TEH Automotive Scholarship for Malaysian students

This Scholarship has been made possible by a generous donation from Dato Robert Tan Eng Hwa, (BCom, Industrial Economics & Business Studies, 1977), the Chief Operating Officer of APM Automotive Holdings Berhad. Learn more about the TEH Automotive Scholarship.

Entry requirements

A 2:1 Honours degree in a relevant subject (eg, Engineering, Physics, Economics or Mathematics). Practical experience will also be taken into account. If you have no or limited industry experience you will be required to attend the introductory course. Please contact Joy Grey to discuss which programme most suits you. Learn more about entry requirements

International students

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

Additional information:

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

How to apply

International students requiring visas

Monday 2 July 2018 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2018 made after this date; a new application should be made for September 2019. Applications will reopen for 2019 entry by 21 September 2018.

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

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

The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education and the High Integrity Systems Engineering Group at York boast experts in railway engineering, systems and risk, meaning you will be taught by lectures at the leading edge of their subjects.

Each taught module takes place over an intensive week-long block and comprises classroom lectures, tutorials, team exercises, visits and assignments to embed and draw each element of the subject together. Travel and accommodation in York are arranged for you and a several-day European study tour, which brings application to your learning, is also part of the MSc programme.

BCRRE is privileged to work with many colleagues from the railway industry who regularly contribute seminars and talks. Not only do these enrich and 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 those 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 our graduates are in high demand.

Lucy O'Grady shares the value of a MSc Railway Risk and Safety Management for Amey:

University Careers Network

Preparation for your career should be one of the first things you think about as you start university. Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal.

Our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area, offering a specialised team (in each of the five academic colleges) who can give you expert advice. Our team source exclusive work experience opportunities to help you stand out amongst the competition, with mentoring, global internships and placements available to you. Once you have a career in your sights, one-to-one support with CVs and job applications will help give you the edge.

If you make the most of the wide range of services you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.