University of Chester

Programme Specification
Natural Hazard Management BSc (Hons) (Combined Honours)
2014 - 2015

Bachelor of Science (Combined Honours)

Natural Hazard Management

Natural Hazard Management

University of Chester

University of Chester - Department of Geography and Development Studies

Chester - Main Campus

Undergraduate Modular Programme

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,

3 years full-time

7 Years

Annual - September




17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Social Science Geography and International Development

Geography Benchmarking Statement (QAA, 2007)


Geography and Development Studies

Wednesday 1st May 2013

The aims of the Combined Honours Natural Hazard Management programme are to:

a)      Develop knowledge and understanding in the field of natural hazards on a range of spatial and temporal scales, specifically of (1) physical hazard processes and landforms; (2) hazard/disaster as a construct of human vulnerability, and the socio-economic and political factors and processes that create conditions of vulnerability; (3) the risk posed to societies exposed to natural hazard phenomenon; (4) the policy and practice of natural hazard assessment and mitigation at a range of levels and in a number of environmental and socio-economic contexts; 

b)      Develop field and laboratory skills related to natural hazard management. In particular, in the application of information technologies (e.g. Geographical Information Systems and Remote Sensing - including photogrammetry and LIDAR), field survey, geomorphic mapping and site investigation to studying and mapping hazard; and qualitative and quantitative approaches to studying human vulnerability, hazard perception and response;

c)      Allow students to explore natural hazards in combination with another subject of their choice (e.g. Geography or International Development Studies) and thereby provide the opportunity to construct distinctive degree combinations of relevance to hazard management; 

d)      Equip students with a range of cognitive, generic and transferable skills (e.g. research, analytical, mapping, presentational, communication, team work and IT) through a diversity of teaching and learning methods, so that successful graduates can compete effectively in the employment market;

e)      Encourage student autonomy and self-direction, promote a critical approach on all levels of enquiry and work, and develop lifelong learners with the capacity to make informed contributions to the field of natural hazard management.

Knowledge and Understanding

1. In the field of natural hazards on a range of spatial and temporal scales, specifically of (1) hazardous processes and landforms; (2) the reciprocal interaction between hazardous processes and the human world; (3) societal vulnerability to hazard; and(4) the policy and practiceof natural hazard management in UK and international contexts.
2. Of the application of a wide range of geographical concepts and field and laboratory techniques to studying and managing hazardous natural processes, with opportunity to specialise in the application of Remote Sensing and GIS to natural hazard mapping and emergency planning;
3. Of the changing nature of approaches to natural hazard management; and
4. Of sustainability in a hazard management context.
Thinking or Cognitive Skills

1.Assess the merits of theories, explanations and approaches relevant to natural hazard management;
2.Abstract, synthesise and critically evaluate information from a wide range of sources; and
3.Construct a reasoned argument, articulating personal perspectives when appropriate.
Practical Skills

1.Able to collect (using a range of field and laboratory tools), handle, interpret, analyse and present spatial and temporal data,including throughthe application of Remote Sensing and GIS technologies and skills;
2.Undertake laboratory- and field-based enquiry safely and effectively; and
3.Independently design and execute project work.
Key Skills

  • Communication
  • Application of numbers
  • Information literacy and technology
  • Improving own learning and performance
  • Working with others
  • Problem solving

1. Communicate efficiently in written, oral and diagrammatical forms;
2.Analyse and present numerical data;
3.Use proficiently a range of IT packages, including word processing, email, databases, spreadsheets, statistical analysis,GIS and RSsoftware and the internet;
4. Take responsibility for self-study (including time management), and reflect on own learning activities and performance through Personal Development Planning;
5. Work effectively with others, through negotiation and pooled effort, towards the achievement of common goals; and
6. Show self confidence in own ability and the capacity to seek for and act upon advice.
Transferable Professional Skills

Itcan be argued that all ofthe abovetransfer to aprofessional context. Particularly important in this respect are generic skills that enable a graduate to:
1. Manage time effectively;
2. Function in a flexible and adaptable manner;
3. Communicate formally and informally (e.g. negotiation skills);
4.Engage with personal development planning andlife-long learning.

NB: Level 4 = Level 1 (First Year of degree study), Level 5 = Level 2 (2nd Year) and Level 6 = Level 3 (Third Year).

The programme focuses on the understanding and management of natural/environmental hazards; i.e. those associated with geophysical phenomenon, hydrological processes, meteorological events and surface/subsurface geomorphological and geological processes. This provides scope to study hazards with significant loss potential in the UK (e.g. flooding, land instability, coastal erosion) and hazards that pose a significant threat in many overseas development contexts (e.g. earthquake, volcano, tsunami, land degradation). The primary focus of the programme is on understanding and managing physical processes through the application of geomorphological, hydrological, meterological, geophysical and geological concepts and skills. This is contextualised and enriched through an exploration of the socio-economic and political forces that generate human vulnerability to hazard; the risk posed to societies by natural hazard processes; and of socially-deterministic paradigms of hazard as a construct of human vulnerability.

Level 4 provides students with foundation knowledge and understanding of hazard processes and of the dynamic between hazards, vulnerability, risk and disaster. More specifically, emphasis is on acquiring an appreciation of the spatial and temporal scales of surface and subsurface processes and on introducing concepts in environmental change and quasi-natural (human-accentuated) hazard processes. Students are also introduced to variations in hazard vulnerability, perception and response between social groups, and the political and economic circumstances that help to shape this variability. Introductory field mapping and quantitative and qualitative survey skills are developed through a UK based residential field trip. A second conceptual strand explores concepts around learning in HE, and aims to assist students in making a successful transition to the HE learning environment.

Level 5 focuses on progression through specialisation and encouragement of critical reflection. Students develop a systematic understanding of hazard processes and landforms of particular relevance in a UK hazard/environmental management context (e.g. slope instability, coastal erosion and fluvial/coastal/pluvial floods), and gain critical appreciation of a range of field and laboratory techniques that can be used to gauge the rate and areal extent of these processes. They also analyse economic, political and social processes that generate the differences in vulnerability, hazard perception and response identified in Level 4. Qualitative research methods are used to explore how vulnerability and hazard interact. This aspect of the work at Level 5 concludes with a synthesis that explores how environmental and social dimensions of hazards articulate, and a critical appraisal of the effects of paradigm shifts in hazards research on hazard management policy-making at a range of levels. A second (skills and research methods) strand at Level 5 focuses on quantitative and qualitative research methods, and involves a significant component of geomatics training - in aerial photography, satellite remote sensing, LIDAR, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) as applied to environmental and social lines of hazards enquiry. In the summer term the programme offers students the option to complete Work Based Learning in a hazards-related field. This placement can be completed in the UK (e.g. in the GIS unit of a local authority or for an environment agency) or might entail overseas work (e.g. in a developing country, working for an NGO). Alternatively, students may opt to take the Department’s own experiential learning module based around a 10 day field trip to Spain to study problems of desertification, slope instability and soil erosion in Europe’s driest region. Following on from this, during the summer vacation (between Levels 5 and 6) there is the option to join the Department’s dissertation expedition (e.g. to Norway). This provides the opportunity to study glacial environments and to collect data for a dissertation on a glacial/mountain environments hazards topic (e.g. avalanching, rockfall).

At Level 6 the emphasis is on synthesis of the knowledge, skills and understanding gained in Levels 4 and 5 and its application to hazard assessment, mitigation and aspects of emergency planning. The core module includes a weeklong field trip to the Bay of Naples volcanic complex to explore environmental and social dimensions of volcanic risk and (through links with local organisations) approaches to hazard management and emergency planning in the Greater Naples urban environment. Students are provided with opportunties develop their risk communication skills through series of presentations (field and class-based) and emergency response simulation exercises. Students also develop a critical understanding of current UK policy relating to hazard management and an appreciation of the roles of statutory, non-statutory and voluntary bodies in natural hazard management practice. They apply their skills and understanding to critical appraisal of key aspects of this practice with particular reference to coastal/tsuanmi hazard management , and produce hazard management work of their own based on field and laboratory investigations. Students majoring in Natural Hazard Management are also encouraged to complete a dissertation (extended research project) on a hazards topic of their choice, and to take an optional module from a list that currently includes: Sustainable Futures, Remote Sensing and GIS, and Climate Change: Recent Evidence and Future Prospects.

The teaching and learning strategy of the Natural Hazard Management programme is designed to enable students to engage with learning on all levels and to ensure progression between levels. In keeping with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, Level 4 focuses on development of baseline knowledge, Level 5 emphasises specialisation and development of critical reflection and powers of synthesis, whereas Level 6 enables students to situate and apply their chosen specialisms within a wider understanding of the discipline.

Combined Honours only
Mod-Code Level Title Credit Major Equal Minor
GE4001 4 Introduction to Physical Geography and Geology 20 Comp Comp Comp
GE4003 4 Foundations for Successful Studentship 20 Comp Comp Comp
GE4006 4 People, Hazards and Resources 20 Comp Comp Comp
GE5001 5 Hazard Processes and Human Vulnerability 40 Comp Comp Comp
GE5008 5 Fieldwork Applications 20 Optional Optional Optional
GE5010 5 Geomatics and Research Design 20 Optional Optional Optional
WB5004 5 Learning in the Wider World 20 Optional Optional Optional
WB5101 5 Enhancing your Employability through Work Based Learning 20 Optional Optional Optional
GE6001 6 Dissertation 40 Optional N/A N/A
GE6002 6 Independent Project 20 Optional N/A Optional
GE6003 6 Natural Hazard Assessment and Mitigation 40 Comp Comp Comp
GE6005 6 Climate Change: The Recent Record and Future Prospects. 20 Optional N/A Optional
GE6006 6 Sustainable Futures 20 Optional N/A Optional
GE6007 6 Emerging Nations 20 N/A N/A N/A
GE6009 6 Remote Sensing and GIS 20 Optional N/A Optional
GE6010 6 Geoconservation: maintaining and safeguarding geodiversity 20 N/A N/A N/A
GE6015 6 Coastal Dynamics & Management 20 Optional N/A Optional
GE6020 6 Biogeography: Ecosystem Response to Change 20 N/A N/A N/A

Credits available for the minor, equally-weighed and major components of the Natural Hazard Management programme:
Level Credits Components (minor, equally-weighted and major) 4 60 creditsBoth components
5 60/80 credits Major component (80 includes EWBL option in G&DS)
5 40/60 creditsMinor and Equally-weighted components
6 80 credits Major component
6 60 credits Equally-weighted component
6 40 credits Minor component
Total 220 credits Major component
Total 180 credits Equally-weighted component
Total 140/160 creditsMinor component
Credits are counting towards a Combined Honours Degree and need to be supplemented by credits achieved in another subject to gain the qualification. Students combining Natural Hazard Management with Geography take the Geography 'Tutorial' module (GE4004)and an 'Introduction to World Development' (GE4005) as part of their Geography programme at Level 4 - in lieu of GE4001 and GE4003 which are included in the Hazards programme.


UCAS points:

A minimum of 240-280 UCAS points from GCE A Levels, including a grade C in one of the subjects recommended by the department (below)
A Level:The department requires one of the following subjects as essential for entry:A level: Geography, Geology, Environmental Science, World Development
BTEC:BTEC National Diploma/Certificate (Applied Science - Environmental): merit/distinction profile
Irish/Scottish Highers:B in 4 subjects, including Geography or Geology
International Baccalaureate:26 points, including 5 or above in Geography
QAA:QAA recognised Access to HE Diploma (Science/Life Science/Social Science), Open College Units or Open University Credits
OCR:OCR National Extended/Diploma: merit profile plus one of the GCE A level subjects listed above
Extra Information:The Advanced Diploma: acceptable in combination with one of the GCE A Level subjects listed above Welsh Baccalaureate (core) will be recognised in our tariff offer. 

In the design of the Natural Hazard Management programme, close attention has been paid to the Geography Benchmark Statement 2007. The information below maps out module learning outcomes against the key ‘Knowledge and Understanding', ‘Discipline/Subject-Specific Skills' and ‘Key Skills' benchmarks. These three headings are also replicated in the individual module descriptors.

The Geography Benchmark Statement is a very useful framework to review the content of the Natural Hazard Management programme. However, it is important to note two points of clarification:

1. The Benchmark has been written specifically for Single Honours Geography programmes, therefore fully comprehensive and uniform coverage of all aspects of the Benchmark Statement would not be expected within a Combined Honours Natural Hazard Management programme.

2. Although learning outcomes provide a clear indication of what tutors are aspiring for students to achieve within a module, they will never reflect the full range of teaching and learning activities or potential student achievements. A number of benchmarks, e.g. ‘information handling and retrieval', ‘using information technology', are inevitably evident in all modules, whilst not always listed as a learning outcomes. Furthermore, other benchmarks, e.g. ‘informed concern/responsible citizenship', underpin many learning outcomes but are not necessarily listed in descriptors.

Core modules are indicated in bold text.


Understand environments and landscapes in terms of:

1. Biophysical processes operating within the geo-ecosphere GE4001, GE4006, GE5001, GE5008, GE5009, GE6003, GE6005, GE6010

2. Human modification/impact GE4001, GE4006, GE5001, GE5008, GE6003, GE6005, GE6010

3. Socially constructed ways of representing and interpreting the world GE5001, GE6003

Understand spatial variation/distributions in terms of:

1. The physical world (e.g. Earth surface processes, water, landforms, climate, vegetation, soils) GE4001, GE4006, GE5001, GE5008, GE5009, GE6003, GE6005

2. Economic, social and political activity GE4006, GE5001, GE5008, GE6003

Understand the way in which the distinctiveness of a place is constituted and continually remade by physical, environmental, biotic, social, economic and cultural processes:

GE4001, GE5001, GE5008, GE5009, GE6003, GE6005

Conceptualise systems in the physical world at a range of spatial scales (e.g. global hydrological and biogeochemical cycles, catchment processes and ecosystems):

GE4001, GE4006, GE5001, GE6005

Critical awareness of the significance of spatial (local, regional, global) scale on physical processes, human processes and their interactions:

GE4006, GE5001, GE5008, GE6003

Critical awareness of the significance of temporal scale on physical processes, human processes and their interactions:

GE4001, GE5008, GE6003, GE6005

An appreciation of past patterns of change operating on different timescales (e.g. historical geography, Quaternary science, Holocene studies):

GE4001, GE5008, GE6005,

Understand the nature of difference and economic, social, political and environmental inequality:

GE4006, GE5001, GE6003

Critical sense of the changing nature of the discipline and its various approaches (physical, natural, social sciences and humanities):

GE5001, GE6003

Understanding of the diverse manners of representation of human and physical worlds including maps and digital technologies (GIS, RS):

GE4003, GE5001, GE5010, GE6009

Informed concern about the Earth and its peoples / Awareness of responsibility as a local, national and international citizen:

GE4006, GE5001, GE6003

Application of geographical concepts, techniques and expertise (e.g. urban planning, hazard assessment, sustainability/conservation):

GE4006, GE5001, GE5010, GE5008, GE6003, GE6005, GE6006, GE6009, GE6010


Planning, designing and executing a piece of rigorous research or enquiry, including production of final report:

GE4003, GE5001, GE5008, GE6001, GE6002, GE6003, GE6006

Undertaking effective fieldwork (with due regard for safety and risk assessment):

GE4001, GE4003, GE5001, GE5010, GE5008, GE5009, GE6001, GE6003, GE6005

Working safely in a scientific laboratory, with awareness of standard procedures:

GE4001, GE4003, GE5001, GE5010, GE5008, GE5009, GE6005, GE6009

Preparing effective maps and diagrams using a range of appropriate technologies:

GE4001, GE4003, GE4006, GE5001, GE5010, GE6003, GE6009

Employing a variety of social survey and interpretative methods for the collection, analysis and understanding of information from the human world:

GE5001, GE5010, GE5008, GE6001, GE6002

Employing a variety of technical and laboratory-based methods for the collection and analysis of spatial and environmental information (e.g. GIS, GPS, RS, statistical software and mathematical modelling):

GE4001, GE4003, GE5001, GE5010, GE5008, GE6001, GE6009

Combining, interpreting and judging different types of geographical evidence (e.g. texts, imagery, maps, digitised and laboratory data):

GE4001, GE5001, GE5010, GE5008, GE6003, GE6001, GE6005, GE6009

Recognising the moral and ethical issues involved in debates and enquiries:

GE6001, GE6002

Spatial awareness and observation:

GE4001, GE4003, GE5001, GE5010, GE5008, GE6003, GE6009, GE6010


Written communication:

GE4001, GE4003, GE4006, GE5001, GE5010, GE5008, GE5009, GE6001, GE6002, GE6003, GE6005, GE6006, GE6009, GE6010

Oral communication:

GE4003, GE5008, GE5008, GE5009, GE6002, GE6003, GE6005, GE6006, GE6009, GE6010

Application of numbers (numeracy and computation):

GE4001, GE4003, GE4006, GE5001, GE5010, GE5009, GE5008, GE6001, GE6003

Using information technology (including spreadsheets, databases, word processing, email, WWW):

GE4003, GE4006, GE5001, GE5008, GE6001, GE6002, GE6003,GE6005, GE6009

Information handling and retrieval from a wide range of sources (including online computer searches):

GE4003, GE5001, GE5010, GE5008, GE6001, GE6002, GE6003, GE6005, GE6006, GE6009

Working with others:

GE4001, GE4003, GE4006, GE5001, GE5008, GE6003, GE6005, GE6006

Problem solving:

GE4001, GE5001, GE5010, GE5008, GE5009, GE6001, GE6003, GE6005, GE6006, GE6009

Improving own learning and performance (taking responsibility for own learning and developing habits of reflection/self-awareness):

GE4003, GE5008, GE6001, GE6002

Students are taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and practicals, with individual tutorial work in the case of more advanced lines of enquiry at Levels 5 and 6 (e.g. dissertation/independent project supervision). The practical/seminar work encompasses diverse learning experiences. Fieldwork, backed up by laboratory work, is used wherever possible to develop key skills and understanding. The list below is indicative of the variety of learning and teaching methods employed:

1.      Lectures: a key component of many modules, but only the starting point for student learning.

2.      Practical classes: most modules have a practical element, which provides the opportunity to explore and apply a wide range of methods and understanding.

3.      Fieldwork: an integral part of the Natural Hazard Management programme that provides a range of learning opportunities and experiences, including exploration of new places, independent and group research projects (the latter involving teamworking, negotiation and aspects of group leadership), quantitative and qualitative data collection techniques and the application of taught knowledge and skills in the field.

4.      Group work, discussions and simulation exercises: group work is common during practical sessions/fieldwork to carry out tasks, whereas group discussions are most frequently used at Levels 5 and 6 to promote self confidence in expressing opinions verbally. Simulation exercises expose students to a variety of hazard-based scenarios to enable them to assess and communicate the level of risk hazardous events pose to society.

5.      Tutorial discussions: an element designed to give students more person-specific support, such as advice on academic and personal issues, personal development planning, evaluation of performance and feedback on initial drafts of assignments (degree of support depending on the minor/major pathway of the programme).

6.      Intranet based support materials: ‘face-to-face’ teaching is complemented by material and support provided via electronic communication and IBIS. Support ranges from e-mail and e-submission, to making lecture material available so that students can re-visit presented material, guided direction to relevant websites and use of Computer Aided Learning (CAL) packages.

7.      Directed reading: a pivotal element in the learning process. Reading lists are provided for all modules in the Natural Hazard Management programme and draw attention to web-based information, digital resources (e.g. e-books and e-journals) as well as more conventional book, journal and newspaper references.

Diversity of assessment type is embedded in the Natural Hazard Management programme and aims to maximise students’ potential as well as broadening skill competencies. All modules are assessed using more than one method, typically a combination of examination and practical assessment. The latter involves coursework, oral presentation and self-directed field- and laboratory-based project work. There is greater emphasis on extended pieces of coursework at Levels 5 and 6.

Feedback on assessed work is an essential element of the learning process and students receive written and/or electronic comments on all submitted coursework. Additionally, group feedback sessions are provided following the return of every substantial piece of work. Peer assessment/review is also used as an important formative feedback mechanism in most modules.

Preliminary overview of summative assessment methods for the Natural Hazard Management programme:

- Coursework Essay: GE4001; GE4003.

- Extended Project Report: GE5001; GE6003; GE6001; GE6006; 6020.

- Fieldwork/Laboratory Report: GE4003; GE5001; GE5010; GE5008; GE5009; GE6003; GE6001; GE6020.

- Oral Presentation (field and class based): GE4003; GE5001; GE5008; GE6003; GE6006; GE6009.

- ICT-based exercises: GE4003; GE4006; GE5010; GE6001; GE6003; GE6009.

- Within-class multiple choice tests: GE4001; GE4006.

- Peer assessment/review: GE4006; GE5009; GE6005.

- Exam: GE4001; GE4006; GE5001; GE6003; GE6006, GE6020.

- Other (e.g. poster, annotated bibliography, map work, data evaluation, reflective commentary, e-postcard, computer simulation exercises): GE4003; GE4006; GE6003; GE6005; GE6006;

The coverage of benchmarking requirements (Section 25) and the specific learning outcomes (Section 26) provide a clear sense of the key characteristics of graduates that follow the Natural Hazard Management programme. Graduates will have acquired a wide range of knowledge and transferable skills and will therefore have the capacity to compete effectively in the employment market.

More specifically, the programme has an ‘applied’ focus and is distinctive in the opportunities it presents to specialise in the application of geomatics (remote sensing, GPS and GIS) to hazard assessment and planning exercises; in the distinct Experiential Learning opportunities it offers; and in the rich and diverse opportunities it presents to study in the field (in the UK and abroad) a range of physical and human (socio-economic and political) hazard processes. Possible career paths depend upon options and degree combinations, but might include employment in: hazard/environmental management in the UK or abroad, water resource management, sustainability, resilience, geotechnical engineering, planning, digital mapping, land survey, insurance, education for sustainable development (ESD), media, environmental education. The programme provides an excellent basis from which to progress to postgraduate study in natural hazards/environmental management, disaster management, sustainable development, GIS or a related field.

The University of Chester seeks to maintain an intellectual community, workplace and culture which is free from discrimination and which respects, welcomes and promotes equality, diversity and inclusion. One of the continuing strategic aims is to embed Diversity and Equality principles throughout the University’s learning and teaching, research and scholarship, outreach and other University activities and practices. The University is committed to the active promotion of equality of opportunity both as an employer and an educational institution and has an Equality Forum for this purpose. The University has a Diversity and Equality policy which is underlain by the Equality Act 2010 covering race, disability and gender equality procedures, and is designed to help develop and support the embedding of diversity and equality throughout the University. The objective of the policy is a University which is open to all sections of the community, where people from all groups in society are represented at all levels, and in whose activities all members of staff and students can participate fully and equally for the benefit of the University of Chester. The policy also aims to eliminate unlawful or unfair discrimination. In particular, the University seeks to ensure that no member of the community is disadvantaged or discriminated against. It seeks to ensure that disabled people, or those with special needs, do not suffer unfair discrimination and are enabled to achieve their full potential. To facilitate this the department has a Disability Link Tutor who works closely with Student Support and Guidance to monitor and provide appropriate support for students who have already declared or are yet to declare a disability. The University makes the promotion of diversity and equality, good relations between people of all groups and the elimination of discrimination and harassment integral to all areas of its work including policy making, service delivery, student admissions and employment practice.

Currently, core fieldwork (i.e. that linked to compulsory modules within the programme) is funded by the University, e.g. the Level 4 fieldtrip currently to Slapton in Devon and the Level 6 fieldtrip to Naples. Fieldwork linked to optional modules (e.g. module GE5008 and the dissertation expedition) is subsidised by the University but requires a student contribution towards the cost of running the learning experience. Detail on these costs is available from the Department of Geography and Development Studies, and is drawn to the attention of applicants on Visit Days and to registered students at the time of making module choices. The University occasionally provides bursaries to support student participation in overseas learning experiences.

Back - to previous page  Print - launches the print options panel