Railway Safety and Control Systems MSc/Diploma/Certificate

Postgraduate Open Day: Saturday 24 November 2018

Join us on campus to hear first-hand from current students about their experience at Birmingham. Our academics will also be available to discuss the research and programmes you’re interested in, including modules, course structure and suitability in relation to your previous experience. 

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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 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 in Railway Safety and Control Systems 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 at least half of your time with the Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education (BCRRE) and the rest at the High Integrity Systems Engineering Group (HISE) in York.

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

The development of the original pathways of this 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 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 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 control in transport systems and projects, taking advantage of expertise from two leading UK universities.

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. 

This course comprises taught and research elements. You will take the three-week Terminology and Communication for Railways course from late August, followed by 10 or 11 taught modules during the Autumn and Spring semesters. Over the summer carry out your research project to complete the MSc. If you study on the attendance-based Distance Learning mode, you will usually take your modules over the course of two academic years, studying half of the taught modules during the first year and the remainder in the second.

Hear from Professor Schmid, MSc Railway Safety and Control Systems, Director of Education, BCRRE:

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

The programme consists of a series of taught 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 railway industry. 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).

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.

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Why study this course

  • You will develop a deep, robust understanding of the approaches to designing and managing safety  in transport systems and related projects.
  • The York modules are highly structured around the general topics of risk and safety management.
  • Each pathway provides expertise in the context of systems, operations or control. The Communications and Control pathway is developed to provide full or partial exemption from the IRSE's professional signalling engineering examination.
  • The Birmingham part of the programme focuses on railway systems, communication and control 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 (subject to appropriate academic supervision).
  • 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 academic 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. 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.

Modules

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 Diploma and all 180 credits for the MSc. Two PG Certificates are available: PG Cert Railway Safety and Control Systems.

Railway Safety and Control Systems (Risk and Safety Pathway)
Compulsory modules  Credits  Taught at
LH Terminology and Communication for Railways 0 Birmingham
Induction Weekend 0 Birmingham
Foundations of System Safety Thinking* 10 York
Hazard and Risk Assessment* 10 York
System Safety Assessment* 10 York
Railway Operations and Control Systems* 10 Birmingham
Rolling Stock and Infrastructure Interactions* 10 Birmingham
Strategic Business Management for Railways* 10 Birmingham
Practical Ergonomics for Railway Systems 10 Birmingham
Railway Traction and Electrification Systems  10 Birmingham
Research Skills  20 Birmingham
Research Project 60  Birmingham/York 
Risk and Safety Systems Pathway:   
Systems Engineering for Safety 10 York
Computers and Safety in Critical Systems 10  York 
Risk and Safety Operations and Organisation Pathway:   
 Safety Management Systems 10  York
 Through Life Safety 10 York 

Modules marked* comprise the PG Certificate in Railway Safety and Control Systems

Railway Safety and Control Systems (Communications and Control pathway)
Compulsory modules Credits Taught at
LH Terminology and Communications   0 Birmingham
Induction Weekend   0 Birmingham
Foundations of System Safety Thinking*  10  York 
Hazard and Risk Assessment*  10  York 
Railway Operations and Control Systems*  10  Birmingham
Strategic Business Management for Railways*  10 Birmingham
Principles of Railway Control Systems*  20  Birmingham
Practical Ergonomics for Railway Systems  10  Birmingham
Rolling Stock and Infrastructure Interactions   10  Birmingham
Safety Management Systems  10  York 
Applications of Railway Control Systems  20  Birmingham
Systems Engineering and Integration for Dependability  10  Birmingham
 Research Project 60  Birmingham/York 

Modules marked* comprise the PG Certificate in Railway Communication and Control Systems

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

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

The Induction Weekend takes place at the very start of the academic 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.

Applications of Railway Control Systems module (Communications and Control Pathway)

This 20-credit module is a practice-based module and will usually be carried out in an industrial setting. It builds on the theory-based Principles of Railway Control Systems and students will undertake a project to apply railway signalling and control systems relevant to a selected jurisdiction e.g. the UK, Europe or your home country. You will design or work with an existing design, as appropriate to the setting, of a railway signalling and control system. Typical activities will include performing relevant calculations, reflecting on the impact of systems engineering, and applying problem-solving tools and techniques. All projects will include elements of Health & Safety, reliability, availability, maintainability, environmental matters and cost-effectiveness.

If you are studying on the distance-learning mode you will be expected to complete this module in the workplace usually during the summer between the first and second years of study. Full-time students will undertake the module in an intensive block of time after completing the Principles of Railway Control Systems module, and in conjunction with industrial supporters.

European Study Tour

You will have the option to join a study tour for 7-10 days in Europe, experiencing a range of railways and railway systems in a European country. This experience brings application to your learning prior to embarking on your research project. The study tour may attract a nominal additional fee to cover costs.

Individual Research Project

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.

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 2019/20:

UK and EU

Fees with Integrated Presessional Programme

  • MSc full-time £16,530
  • MSc distance learning £16,530

Fees without Integrated Presessional Programme

  • MSc full-time £14,850
  • Diploma full-time (120 credits) £9,900 
  • Postgraduate Certificate full-time (60 credits) £4,950

International

Fees with Integrated Presessional Programme

  • MSc full-time £21,840
  • MSc distance learning £21,840

Fees without Integrated Presessional Programme

  • MSc full-time £20,160
  • MSc distance learning £10,845
  • Postgraduate Diploma full-time  £13,440
  • Postgraduate Diploma distance learning  £7,230
  • Postgraduate Certificate: full-time £6,720
  • Postgraduate Certificate distance learning: £7,230

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 01 July 2019 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 2019 made after this date; a new application should be made for 2020. Applications will reopen for 2020 in October 2019. We will close applications as soon as the programme is full, early applications are encouraged.

UK/EU (non-Tier 4) students

The application deadline is Friday 20 September 2019. Applications will reopen for 2020 on Monday 30 September 2019.

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with usto 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

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

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