Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Theories, Practice and Policies in Environmental Risk and Management DUMF5138

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course will introduce learners to the concepts of risks (including systemic and cascading risks) and their impacts in the context of natural and anthropogenic hazards. It will highlight the importance of understanding root causes of risk and uncertainties before any risk mitigation strategies can be considered, and the need to consider all the dimensions of risk such as hazards, vulnerability, and capacities. The course will emphasise the importance of why it is critical to understand risks and which actors have relevant roles to play in addressing these risks. Learners will further be introduced to the fundamentals of risk assessment; the concepts of adaptation and resilience; disaster risk management approaches; and the ecosystem approach. Risk reduction measures covering a wide range of approaches including early warning systems, engineered, ecosystem-based and hybrid solutions will be critically discussed in particular in terms of desirable outcomes. A focus will be placed on social-ecological systems in various geographies (e.g. coastal zones, mountain environments, urban settings); as well as on the up-to-date international agreements addressing disaster risk reduction. Risk communication with examples of good and poor practices will be discussed.


2 - 3 hours of contact per week

Requirements of Entry

Admission to the programme 

Excluded Courses





1. Case study report (50%): a critical analysis of a real-case disaster risk reduction strategy globally using some of the tools that will be introduced in class

2. Group presentation (20%): a proposal based on a risk assessment for the development of an ecosystem-based or hybrid approach to disaster risk reduction on a case study in Scotland or the UK

3. Essay (30%): a critical essay on an international, regional or national policy put in place to reduce environmental risks

Course Aims

■ To introduce the main theories and policies linked to environmental risks and demonstrate how these inform practice

■ To increase learner understanding of the importance of analysing the root causes that underlie environmental risks in order to improve outcomes

■ To introduce the main dimensions of risk (including systemic and cascading risks) and the importance of the interactions between social and ecological systems

■ To increase learner understanding of advantages and limitations of options for (1) disaster risk reductions to limit hazard impacts and (2) adapting to the consequences of climate change, as well as

■ To develop critical thinking, decision making, reporting and communication skills

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Critically evaluate theories and policies linked to environmental risks

■ Identify and critically interpret root causes of risk (including systemic and cascading risks) and uncertainties from natural and anthropogenic hazards

■ Carry out risk assessments using a range of approaches and models

■ Contextualise risk assessments for complex social-ecological systems in the broader policy setting

■ Critically evaluate potential risk reduction measures, including adaptation, and understand their advantages and limitations, in particular in terms of building systems' resilience and in the context of planning or regulatory requirements

■ Demonstrate relevant presentation, analytical and reporting skills

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.