River Environments and their Management MSc

This course will examine the interactions between climate, hydrology, geomorphology, ecology, biogeochemical cycling, water and habitat quality and biodiversity.

Using a combination of lectures, fieldwork, tutorials, laboratory classes, group projects and an individual research-based thesis, you will be provided with the necessary training and skills for a career in the successful environmental management of rivers.


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River systems are under ever increasing pressure through the growing demands of water abstraction and hydroelectric power generation, and suffer recurrent disturbance through diffuse and point source pollutants, drought, flooding and channel modification.

The environmental management of rivers is required to mitigate the effects of these pressures. This requires a holistic understanding of how river systems are structured and function, and of how these systems have been altered by anthropogenic activities. To this end, the course will examine the interactions between climate, hydrology, geomorphology, ecology, biogeochemical cycling, water and habitat quality and biodiversity.

An important aspect of the training will be an understanding of how these interactions act at different spatial and temporal scales to influence the structure and function of ecosystems in running waters. This scientific and technical corpus will allow you to understand and quantify the consequences of natural and anthropogenic disturbance on river systems.

Using a combination of lectures, fieldwork, tutorials, laboratory classes, group projects and an individual research-based thesis, you will be provided with the necessary training and skills for a career in the successful environmental management of rivers, including techniques on assessing their status and approaches to rehabilitate and restore the condition of these globally threatened environments.

This degree will provide direct postgraduate training for students interested in this career direction, as well as providing advanced-level training suitable for further PhD studies in water science.

We are fortunate at Birmingham in having a wide variety of staff within the Water Sciences Research Group with interests in rivers, particularly in the arena of hydroecology, and it is this expertise that will inform the teaching of the modules in River Environments and their Management. 

Why study this course

The School is well supported and you will have the use of equipment and facilities appropriate to your work:


You will have access to the multiple clusters of PCs in the University Learning Centre and Library, and within the School. The MSc course in River Environments and their Management has its own dedicated room for teaching and study with 8 PCs for convenient access to email, web and on-line learning resources. The University based computers have an extensive range of software installed that covers the needs of students of all disciplines, including a variety of statistical packages for data analysis.


The School has specialized laboratories equipped for analysis of organic and inorganic environmental samples, as well as supporting experimental research. Within the Water Sciences and Freshwater Research Laboratories our analytical suite covers aqueous chemistry, from the major nutrients to organic pollutants and toxic heavy metals. Facilities include:

  • Total Organic Carbon analysis
  • Gas Chromatography
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry
  • Ion Chromatography
  • Luminescence and UV-visible spectroscopy

These facilities are complemented by Sediment Preparation Laboratories for material analysis including thin section prep, sediment extractions, pore size and surface area measurement and electron microscopy techniques. 

The School’s Stable Isotope Laboratories are equipped for d18O, dD, d34S, d15N, d13C extracted from solid, aqueous and biological samples. For ecological work there are dedicated wet and dry microscope laboratories for sorting and identifying samples with a dedicated paleoecological laboratory for sample treatment and analysis. The Microbiological Laboratory is equipped for handling, incubation and sampling of bacterial cultures and sophisticated micro-analysis.

These facilities are available for your regular use, where you will benefit from working alongside Doctoral and Postdoctoral Research Fellows, and often contribute to major research projects within the School.   

rem-field-facilitiesField Facilities

The School has field sites on and off campus for use by MSc students and research staff. Our on-campus urban study site is the Bournbrook which is instrumented for continual measurement of discharge, turbidity, water temperature and conductivity. A number of student projects and teaching are related to this facility. Our woodland study site is located in Staffordshire and is part of The Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR). The forest is densely instrumented, amongst others with stream discharge, water quality, and groundwater measurement equipment. This site offers an exciting opportunity for students to learn about measurement techniques and for student dissertation projects.

Field Equipment

The Water Sciences Research Group is well stocked with field equipment, which is used extensively in research projects, for teaching, and particularly on individual MSc projects. This equipment includes digital pressure transducers, data loggers, divers, dip meters, chemical sampling and tracer transport equipment (depth samplers, sampling pumps, tracer test equipment and field fluorimeter, hand held EC, pH and Eh meters, portable chemical lab kit) and ecological sampling (nets, trays, electro-fishing).


Fieldwork is supported by a well-equipped technical workshop.

Technical Support

We have a dedicated technician for support of projects related to the Masters in River Environments and their Management.


Modules are taught over the entire semester allowing for development of ideas and additional reading. Modules are also open to occasional students:

  • Surface Water Hydrology (10 credits)
  • Groundwater and Surface Water Interactions (10 credits)
  • River Ecology (10 credits)
  • Fluvial Geomorphology (10 credits)
  • Biogeochemistry (10 credits)
  • Advances in Water Science (10 credits)
  • Assessment and Monitoring of Rivers (10 credits)
  • River Restoration (10 credits)
  • Research and Management of Rivers (10 credits)
  • Environmental Analysis and Modelling (20 credits)
  • Spatial Data Analysis and GIS (10 credits)
  • Research Dissertation (60 credits)

Fees and funding

Fees for 2019

  • Home/EU students £9,250 FT (£4,625 PT)
  • International students £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 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.

Entry requirements

Normally a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in Geography, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Engineering, Natural Sciences, Chemistry, Physics, Ecology / Biology, Life Sciences, Agricultural Science, Water Management, or a related discipline, with preferably good marks in modules related to hydrology.

In special cases, applications may be considered from those with honours degrees with lower marks or those holding non-graduate qualifications that are deemed by the University to be a satisfactory alternative to an Honours degree in the subject areas mentioned above, for example if the applicant has many years of experience in a relevant field.

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

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

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)

Friday 20 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

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Course Activities

The River Environments and their Management programme involves a core of lectures, tutorials and laboratory classes. This core material is backed up by supplementary material designed to deepen the comprehension of the basic processes, to understand their application in environmental management and industry and to develop an appreciation of both the industrial and environmental management environment.

Examples of activities include:

  • Seminars by external lecturers to broaden knowledge of the water industry and river environmental management
  • Seminars by course participants to improve communication skills and knowledge of current trends in river environmental management
  • Fieldwork and visits to river monitoring sites, river restoration sites, the River Laboratory of the Freshwater Biological Association and research organizations.
  • Computing and practical projects to develop information technology, modeling and field skills
  • Group management projects and industrially related projects to develop research, problem solving and management skills

rem-fieldwork-280x370Using a combination of lectures, fieldwork, tutorials, laboratory classes, group projects and an individual research-based thesis, you will be provided with the necessary training and skills for a career in the successful environmental management of rivers, including techniques on assessing their status and approaches to rehabilitate and restore the condition of these globally threatened environments. You will also gain training in legislation that drives the environmental management of rivers worldwide. 


There are also a number of day-long field trips connected with a variety of modules, in particular Surface Water Hydrology, River Ecology and River Restoration, including a day of learning measurement techniques at the BIFOR field site.

Assessment methods

Your performance on the course is assessed by a variety of assessments, including written examinations on the lecture material, reports on the project work, essays and presentations, seminar contributions, in-class tests for practical skills, workbooks for computer-based skills, and an individual dissertation. You must normally reach a satisfactory standard in all assessments to be permitted to proceed to the individual dissertation project. On satisfactory completion of the course and examinations you are awarded the degree of MSc River Environments and their Management.

Related research

The course is of considerable value if you wish to pursue a career in the river environmental management field or the water industry. It also provides advanced level training if you wish progress on to a PhD.

Currently, due to the large national demand for Water Managers, we have a 100% employment success rate for all our home/EU students, with graduates obtaining employment in the consultancy sector, typically with jobs secured before graduation. Additionally, Environmental Scientists who have spent some time in a branch of the water industry often feel the need for a postgraduate course to give them an overall understanding of their profession. The River Environments and their Management programme is so structured as to satisfy the requirements of both of these groups of potential students, the latter includes many International students who choose to retrain here in Birmingham.

katie muchan quote image

“I had the chance to attend a UK conference and undertake a consultancy-style group project, which provided ideal opportunities to network with people in well-known Environmental companies.”

Katie Muchan 

View our 'hear from our students' pages to read more student views 

The programme is of an intensive nature and is intended to develop your ability for original thought and to produce innovative solutions to practical problems. The integrated approach to the water cycle with a river environmental management emphasis is of particular importance in achieving the aim of giving you the ability to attain senior management positions in water authorities and companies, environmental consultants and regulators, government departments, consultants and contractors.

Find out how this programme has proved beneficial to other students by reading some graduate profiles:

On graduating from this course you could typically expect to find employment with organisations such as those listed below:

Birmingham City Council, The Environment Agency, W. S. Atkins Consultant Engineers, OFWAT, North West Water Ltd, Severn Trent Water Ltd, Northumbrian Lyonnaise Technology and Research Centre, CES, The Institute of Hydrology, HR Wallingford, Haswell Consulting Engineers, Halcrow (UK), Bechtel Water, South Staffordshire Water Company, Hyder Consulting, Anglian Water Services, Water Management Consultants, Posford Duvivier, Jeremy Benn Associates, Southern Water, Thames Water, Peter Brett Associates, Montgomery Watson, Mott Macdonald, Royal Haskoning, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Sir Alexander Gibb and Ptnrs Ltd, and Yorkshire Water.

We have established agreements and relationships with organizations like The Environment Agency and The Centre of Ecology and Hydrology and this has worked well in terms of student placements for dissertations. Some of these placements have led to subsequent positions with the organization.

Birmingham is one of Europe's most exciting cities. If you are already based here you know what this vibrant, forward-thinking, international city has to offer. If you are moving here you are going to have great fun finding out. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Supporting you

Whoever you are, wherever you come from, we'll make sure you have all the support you need to make the most of your time at Birmingham. We have a student mentor scheme and offer other support, such as disability and dyslexia advice and support, childcare and nursery facilities and financial advice.

Postgraduate and Mature Student Association (PGMSA)

If you are a mature student it's worth considering joining the Postgraduate and Mature Student Association (PGMSA). This voluntary, student-led group has an active Facebook group where you can keep up with all the events and activities on offer.

Are you an International Student?

The University of Birmingham has one of the largest international student communities within the UK. The mix of nationalities and cultures on campus greatly enriches our learning and teaching environment and will help you feel at home during your time with us. Find out more at our international student website

Living in Birmingham

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The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and culture, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work.

Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.