Air Pollution Management and Control MSc/Diploma

Air pollution damages human health, ecosystems and vegetation, and is expected to worsen in many regions. Every year, air pollution costs EU economies US$ 1.6 trillion and is linked to 7 million premature deaths globally. Developing effective strategies for the management and control of air pollution is a key environmental challenge facing society today.

This course 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.

CHES accredited logoThis programme is accredited by the Committee of Heads of Environmental Sciences (CHES), the education committee of the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES). CHES is the collective voice of the environmental sciences academic community and serves to enhance the quality of environmental education worldwide. A programme accredited by CHES is assured to meet high standards, contain a strong component of practical, field and theoretical activities, and has excellent opportunities for training, work experience and links to the professional environmental sector. Students enrolled on CHES accredited programmes can apply for free Student Membership of the IES and for a fast-track route to membership once they graduate, starting you on a route towards becoming a Chartered Environmentalist or Chartered Scientist.

IAQM logoThe programme is also accredited by the Institute of Air Quality Management


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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 by the Division of Environmental Health and Risk Management.

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 Division is led by Professor Roy Harrison who is a member of the U.K. government’s Air Quality Expert Group, Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, and Committee on Toxicity.  He often gives media interviews on subjects including the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Why study this course

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 who provide policy advice to UK government, European Union and the World Health Organization.
  • The course is built upon successful air pollution control practices in the UK and underpinned by world leading research in air pollution science and management at the University of Birmingham including:
    • The Air Pollution and Human Health-Beijing Project. We are leading a major collaborative project (£5.5m) between leading UK and Chinese scientists to characterise and propose solutions for the serious air pollution problems in Beijing, which affect the health of this megacity's huge population.
    • The FASTER Project (Fundamental Studies of the Sources, Properties and Environmental Behaviour of Exhaust Nanoparticles from Road Vehicles) is a 2.4 million euro project funded by the European Research Council in which laboratory studies, field measurements and numerical models are used to gain new understanding of the behaviour of diesel exhaust particles in the atmosphere.

You will graduate from this course 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 government departments.

The course is accredited by the Committee of Heads of Environmental Sciences (CHES), the education committee of the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES)It is also accredited by the Institute of Air Quality Management.


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. 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.

Taught Modules

The course represents 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.
  • Satellite image of Californian wildfiresAtmospheric Physics and Composition
    This course reviews the basic nature of the atmosphere in terms of its overall physical properties and chemical composition; introduces a range of physical laws relevant in meteorology such as the first law of thermodynamics and the equation of state; reviews cloud microphysics and cloud formation processes as they relate to atmospheric thermodynamics; and introduces the basic radiation laws and radiative transfer processes in the atmosphere.
  • 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.
  • Air Pollution Control Technology
    This module introduces the basic principles and design criteria for the engineering control of air pollutant emissions, from sources ranging from power plants to individual vehicles. Removal technologies of both particulate and gaseous contaminants are included.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Air Quality Data Analysis and Interpretation

    This module aims to provide students with skills necessary for the collection, processing and analysis of air quality data sets. The statistical software packages R will be taught in this module. The OpenAir software package will be taught for advanced air quality data analysis and interpretation.

Optional module (not assessed) – If interested, students can attend the lectures in the following module:

  • Physical Climatology and Climate Change
    The understanding of the variability of the climate system and its inherent changes in time will be a major component to address any questions of natural or anthropogenic climate change. This module will help students to become familiar with the underlying physical concepts as well as with its applications to attribute and detect anthropogenic climate change. The module will cover the basic physical rules, their application in the climate system, basics of the observed atmosphere and ocean general circulation, its 3-dimensional features, and will focus on main modes of large scale variability (e.g. NAO, PNA, ENSO, etc.). The variability on different time scales will be addressed as well as anthropogenic climate change including an impact assessment and an introduction into actual political and social processes related to it.

Research Component

The research component of the course comprises an individual research project into an area of the students’ choice (60 credits).

Research project

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).

Modelled NO2 Exposure in Birmingham City Centre 

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

Related staff

Fees and funding

Fees for 2019

  • Home/EU students £9,250 FT (£4,625 PT), PGDip £6,167 FT (£3,083 PT)
  • International students £21,690 FT only, PGDip £21,690 FT only

Learn more about fees and funding

Scholarships and studentships

Our database contains details of postgraduate taught and research scholarship and funding opportunities available to support your studies at the University of Birmingham. Find out more

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships, UK government (e.g., Chevening Scholarships) or their home government.

For further information contact the School directly or get in touch with the Funding, Graduation & Awards via the online enquiries system.

For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to eligible financial support via the Postgraduate Masters or Doctoral loan for the duration of their course. For more information visit the website.

You can also visit our EU Referendum information page for more information and updates.

EU Referendum

Answering your questions and concerns about the outcome of the EU referendum.

Entry requirements

A 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in a science or engineering subject, or an unrelated degree or a degree without honours followed by at least two years appropriate postgraduate experience. 2.2 Honours degrees in a science or engineering subject may also be considered depending on individual module marks in key subject areas. In certain cases (for example, for applicants with appropriate professional experience) this requirement may be waived.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students:

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

Standard English language requirements apply (IELTS: 6.0 overall with no less than 5.5 in any band)

How to apply

International students requiring visas

Monday 1 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 September 2020.

Home/EU students (and International students NOT requiring visas)

Thursday 19 September 2019 is the application deadline for 2019 entry. We are not able to consider applications for 2019 made after this date; a new application should be made for September 2020.

Applications are open for 2019 entry

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


“Being awarded the Sir Oliver Lodge prize has boosted my professional career and enabled me to provide an extra level of detail and understanding to my clients needs.”

Toby Campbell  

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

Environmental Health Laboratory

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.Wind rose analysis of ammonia levels in Birmingham


The MSc in Air Pollution Management and Control is taught by staff from the School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences.

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 visit a £15m facility built to study the impact of climate change on terrestrial carbon cycle at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR). In order to give our students experience of the Management and Control aspects of the course, we make visits to Birmingham City Council Air Quality Group and to the Tyseley Energy Recovery Facility. 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 Robert Maynard (formerly Head of Air Pollution for the Department of Health) 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.

Assessment methods

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).

Related research

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. 

Professional accreditation

This programme is accredited by the Institute of Air Quality Management

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