Railway Safety and Control Systems Masters

MSc / Diploma / Certificate

Start date
55 weeks full-time, or on a part-time basis, typically over 24–36 months
Course Type
Postgraduate, Continuing professional development, Taught
We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2024/254:
£17,640 - UK students
£29,340 - International Students
Further fee information is available.

Our programme in Railway Safety and Control provides an all-round level of knowledge and education and equips the next generation of industry leaders. It provides you with the opportunity to delve deeper into risk/safety management or railway communications including the digital railway.

Scholarships for 2024 entry

The University of Birmingham is proud to offer a range of scholarships for our postgraduate programmes. With a scholarship pot worth over £2 million, we are committed to alleviating financial barriers to support you in taking your next steps.

Each scholarship has its own specific deadlines and eligibility criteria. Please familiarise yourself with the information on individual scholarship webpages prior to submitting an application.

Explore our scholarships

Railway safety and control systems 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 design safe systems, for the public, their passengers, and their workforce. 

This Railway Safety and Control Systems programme focuses on risk and safety systems design; risk and safety systems operation; and communication and control systems (including signalling). Efficient communication and control of operations, together with the prevention of the loss of life and livelihood associated with railway crashes and incidents, are high priorities for all organisations involved.

This programme is also available as a fully-funded Level 7 degree apprenticeship for eligible participants.

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 control in transport systems and projects, taking advantage of expertise from two leading UK universities.

The Railway Safety and Control Systems programme is delivered jointly by the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham and the High Integrity Systems Research Group at the University of York. 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 communications and control, and the application of risk management principles. 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 signalling, communications or safety-specific functions of railway or transportation organisations.

This programme will give you a deep and robust understanding of the approaches to managing safety and associated issues in transport systems and related projects. The programme has three possible pathways for:

  • Railway risk and safety systems: this pathway emphasises systems engineering and safety in critical systems, for designing new safety systems.
  • Railway risk and safety operations and organisation: this pathway emphasises management and safety throughout the system's lifecycle, for engineers and managers who will be responsible for the safe operation of a railway system.
  • Railway communications and control (include signalling): completion of this pathway, to PG Diploma or MSc level, is aimed at exemption from the institution of Railway Signalling Engineers' (IRSE's) examination to Professional Railway Signalling Engineer recognition. It includes theory and practice in railway control systems; one module is a practice-based in signalling and control systems. 

Distance-learning Study Mode

The distance-learning mode is equivalent to part-time study and involves attendance only for the taught weeks over a period of 2-3 years. This means you can combine work with study and visit Birmingham or York 7-8 times to complete the degree. Distance learning is available for UK and International students; we are proud to have alumni from Australia, Hong Kong, China, and Singapore who have successfully completed their programme on this basis.

Why study Railway Safety and Control Systems MSc/Diploma/Certificate at Birmingham?

  • Study in our state-of-the-art new School of Engineering building at Birmingham which includes
    • 160 drop in study spaces for flexible learning and 20 flexi bays for staff and student interaction
    • Study spaces in our new £16.4M UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) Centre of Excellence in Digital Systems (CEDS) facility with the opportunity to work alongside leading industrial collaborators
    • Provides an opportunity to work on your specific sponsored projects and network globally
  • The Railway Safety and  Control Systems programme gives you the opportunity to delve deeper into risk/safety management or railway communications, including the digital railway.
  • A major benefit of this course is that it enables you to consider the broader aspects of railway systems and how they interact.  Many major projects fail at the interdisciplinary interfaces, and this is precisely the area where the MSc course can assist.
  • It allows you to work at a more senior level, on major projects, and to understand when the ‘technical experts' were not fully appreciative of the interfaces with other disciplines and the latent problems that were developing.
  • We’re Europe’s largest and most diverse railway research & education group with extensive links into industry. What this means is that students benefit from learning about rail and rail systems from the fundamentals which everyone needs to know, through to the latest research and industrial applications.
  • We have extensive laboratories and facilities both on and off our campus for carrying out research in railway engineering. Facilities include railway system simulators, wind tunnel, electronics laboratories, pantograph testing rig, robotic arms, a railway track foundation rig, plus other equipment.  We also have an aerodynamic moving-model testing facility for high-speed trains.

Accredited degree

This degree programme is accredited by the Joint Board of Moderators (JBM) comprising of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Structural Engineers, Institute of Highway Engineers, the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation and the Permanent Way Institution on behalf of the Engineering Council, as meeting the academic requirement for Further Learning for registration as a Chartered Engineer (CEng).

Lloyd's Register Foundation logoThe development of the original pathways of this programme was sponsored by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

"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”.


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.

The programme starts with the optional* Terminology and Communication for Railways primer course, at the start of September. You will then take modules which cover the topics of safety and risk management, safety systems, railway control systems, railway technologies, railway systems and operation, ergonomics and business management for the rail industry.

You will deepen your knowledge of railway risk and safety or communications and control (including signalling), according to the pathway you choose. You will complete these modules during the Autumn and Spring semesters and then carry out your research project over the summer to complete the MSc. If you take the PG Certificate you can choose one of two options: Risk and Safety or Control and Communications.

*we will discuss and advise you to attend this primer course, based on your academic and industry experience.

Introductory modules

Core modules


50 credits in total for each pathway

P1 - Risk and Safety Systems Pathway core modules

 P1- Risk and Safety Systems Pathway optional modules

P2 - Risk and Safety Operations and Organisation core modules

P2 - Risk and Safety Operations and Organisation optional modules

P3 - Communications and Control Pathway core modules

Each module offered within this programme is also available as a one-off Continuing Professional Development (CPD) option, allowing you to study according to your specific needs. If you take a CPD module and successfully complete the assessment, you will be awarded with academic credit which will allow you to be exempt from taking the same module again within a formal programme of study (subject to the programme requirements and current university regulations).

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.


Annual Tuition Fees 2024/25

UK students

  • MSc full-time £17,640
  • PG Diploma full-time £11,760
  • PG Certificate full-time £5,880

International students

  • MSc full-time £29,340
  • PG Diploma full-time £19,560
  • PG Certificate full-time £9,780

Distance Learning (part-time)

  • UK students MSc - £8,820
  • UK students PG Diploma - £5,880
  • UK students PG Cert - £2,940
  • International students MSc - £14,670
  • International students PG Diploma - £9,780
  • International students PG Cert - £9,780

Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

Postgraduate Loans (PGL) for Masters students

UK and EU students (with settled or pre-settled status) looking to pursue a Masters programme in the UK can apply for a non-means-tested loan from the British government via the Student Loans Company (SLC).

The loan will be paid directly to you, into a UK bank account. It is intended to provide a contribution towards the costs of Masters study and whether the loan is used towards fees, maintenance or other costs is at your own discretion.

Learn more about applying for PGL 



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.

University scholarships

Birmingham Masters Scholarship

Our Birmingham Masters Scholarship offers £2,000 via a tuition fee discount, to support the brightest and best applicants from UK or Ireland undertaking Masters study at Birmingham during 2024-2025.

Global Masters Scholarship

This £2,000 Gloabl Masters Scholarship award is available to all international students from a selection of countries who are seeking to study a taught Masters degree at Birmingham in the 2024-25 academic year.


How To Apply

  • Application deadline for full time study is 31 May
  • Application deadline for part time study is 30 June

International applicants requiring visas

Applications to this programme from students who are international for fees will close 7 May 2024. We will close applications as soon as the programme is full, early applications are encouraged.

UK and non-Tier 4 applicants

Applications will close 31 August 2024. We will close applications as soon as the programme is full, early applications are encouraged.

Application routes

Please note that the duration of this programme is one year full-time, while part-time study can be up to three years.

However, part-time programmes are only eligible for Government Masters Loans if they are no more than twice the length of the full-time version. Therefore any UK part-time students wishing to apply for Government Masters Loans must complete the programme within two years.

If you plan to study over two years and/or would like to apply for a Masters Loan, please select the fixed part-time application route shown. If you would like the flexibility to study over up to three years, and are not seeking funding, please select the standard part-time application route.

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

A 2:1 Honours degree in a relevant subject (eg, Engineering, Physics, Economics or Mathematics).

All applicants will be asked to attend an interview to support their application and determine their suitability to the programme.

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. 

Learn more about entry requirements. 

International Requirements

International Students

English language

For students whose first language is not English, one of the following English language qualifications is required:

  • IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band
  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 in Listening, 22 in Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) including online: PTE Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced – minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Your studies start with an induction weekend at the very start of the academic year, along with students from other BCRRE programmes.

It prepares you for the challenge of postgraduate study, allows you to meet other BCRRE students in a relaxed setting and provides a team activity and background information on the structure of today's British and European railway industry.

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 intensive week-long blocks and comprises of 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 available as 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.

The programme structure is set up to facilitate attendance-based distance learning, which means you attend in Birmingham or York for the taught modules only. This is ideal if you are studying alongside your work or career, and we design the timetable to enable you to complete your studies within a two or three-year period.

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.

The introduction of the Digital Railway means a greater emphasis on train communications and control over traditional signalling technologies, meaning graduates of the Communication and Control pathway will be highly sought-after around the world.

Furthermore, the Communication and Control pathway is designed to provide partial/full exemption from the IRSE professional examination for signalling engineers: the PG Cert is designed to exempt candidates from Examination module 1 and the PG Diploma, the full examination.

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

N.B. This video was prepared under the programme's original title, of Railway Risk and Safety Management

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.

Professional Accreditation

Accredited degree

This degree programme is accredited by the Joint Board of Moderators (JBM) comprising of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Structural Engineers, Institute of Highway Engineers, the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation and the Permanent Way Institution on behalf of the Engineering Council, as meeting the academic requirement for Further Learning for registration as a Chartered Engineer (CEng).