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Water in a Changing World (MSc)

  • Duration: 1 year
  • Mode: Full time

Start date

Open day

Find out more about studying here as a postgraduate at our next Open Day.

Why study this course

This professional course for graduates from a wide range of disciplines offers a broad overview of global water problems and training in key skills on climate change and the water cycle, which are increasingly necessary for becoming a water leader.


Academic expertise

Connect with respected academics in key areas of water science at Cardiff University's Water Research Institute.


Independent project

You will complete a research project based on your interests and career goals in a location of your choice, including outside of the UK.


Online taster course

If you are interested in this course, you might consider learning more about some relevant material on water security from our free online course, 'The Challenges of Global Water Security'.


Graduate prospects

You will complement and expand your existing knowledge of science, policy and practice and develop the professional insight and communication skills needed to make a meaningful contribution in leadership roles in the field of sustainability.


Interdisciplinary course

You will explore a wide variety of disciplines that include aspects of the physical and social sciences in the context of climate change.

Floods, droughts, poor water quality, disparities in regional access to water – these are all great environmental challenges for societies and ecosystems, and they are being exacerbated and complicated by a changing climate. But most people do not possess the broad interdisciplinary understanding of these pressing global water challenges, nor the skills required to address them.

Be a future leader in water. Gain the latest knowledge and skills needed to understand and solve challenging water problems from an informed perspective applicable to a diverse range of careers. This course provides a unique opportunity for graduates to develop foundational understanding of water from a wide range of disciplines such as hydrology, climate science, freshwater ecology, economics, social science, and hazard and risk analysis.

This course is designed to support you to become an interdisciplinary water leader, allowing you to work with other professionals to develop solutions to challenging water problems that will ensure the availability and quality of water for future generations.

Governments and organisations across a range of industries are seeking professionals who have both a broad understanding of science, policy, and practice and the business insight and communications skills to lead multidisciplinary teams and guide change. Graduates will be well-suited to roles in international development, government, environmental consultancy and the non-profit sector. This course also provides a strong base for pursuing a research career in a water-related topic.

Where you'll study

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

We’re making sense of our changing world and solving some of the most critical challenges facing our society, economy and environment.

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  • Telephone+44 (0)29 2087 4830
  • MarkerPark Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT

Admissions criteria

In order to be considered for an offer for this programme you will need to meet all of the entry requirements. Your application will not be progressed if the information and evidence listed is not provided.

With your online application you will need to provide:

  1. A copy of your degree certificate and transcripts which show you have achieved a 2:1 honours degree in a relevant subject area such as biology, earth science, economics, environmental science, geography, or hydrology, or an equivalent international degree. If your degree certificate or result is pending, please upload any interim transcripts or provisional certificates.
  2. A copy of your IELTS certificate with an overall score of 6.5 with 5.5 in all subskills, or evidence of an accepted equivalent. Please include the date of your expected test if this qualification is pending. If you have alternative acceptable evidence, such as an undergraduate degree studied in the UK, please supply this in place of an IELTS.

If you do not have a degree in a relevant area, your application may be considered on the basis of your professional experience. Please provide additional evidence to support your application such as signed and dated employer references.

Application deadline:

We allocate places on a first-come, first-served basis, so we recommend you apply as early as possible. Applications normally close at the end of August but may close sooner if all places are filled.

Selection process:

We will review your application and if you meet the entry requirements, we will make you an offer.

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Student visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements.

Criminal convictions

You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course.

If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • access to computers or devices that can store images
  • use of internet and communication tools/devices
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

Course structure

This is a two-stage postgraduate taught programme with a total of 180 credits (120 credits taught, 60 credits research project). The modules and their assessments will be staggered to balance student workloads. Given the interdisciplinary nature of this programme, all modules are core.

The summer term consists of a single 60 credit research project module to be submitted in September.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2024/25 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2024.

Coursework will be assigned to be completed by the end of February. There will be written exams in March. Dissertation planning will occur from January. Pending success in the coursework and examination assessments, students will be eligible to begin their dissertation research.

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

We are a friendly and informal school and you will be taught by world-leading experts involved in cutting-edge international research.

Our teaching approach is a mix of lectures and practical sessions on problem solving including discussion sessions, reading seminars, presentations, field visits, and meetings with field professionals.

You will also be encouraged to learn independently and within groups throughout the course, developing a wide range of skills which will be essential for your future employment including project management and organisational skills as well as developing your competence in applying information technology and using state-of-the-art field techniques and equipment.

How will I be assessed?

Assessments vary by module, but will include quantitative problem sets, essays, oral presentations, video presentations, exams containing multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions, and the research dissertation.

Progress will also be evaluated using the formative assessment to help the student to improve their performance. The formative assessments will be fairly short to make sure that the building blocks of learning are being achieved before the next part of the programme. The modules and their assessments will be staggered to balance student workloads. Further details are provided in the individual module descriptions.

You must successfully complete the 120 credits of the taught component of the course before you will be permitted to progress to the research dissertation.

How will I be supported?

We offer a comprehensive support structure to ensure a positive student experience.

At the start of the course you will be allocated a personal tutor, who will serve as a point of contact to advise on both academic and personal matters in an informal and confidential manner.


Students have many opportunities for feedback during contact sessions. You will be involved in giving feedback in activities such as video feedback and self-assessment. Additionally, you will receive feedback from teaching staff and stakeholders; providing you with experience of the real-life feedback that you may encounter when you find employment.


We have a Learning Central website where you can access videos, images, presentations, lecture handouts, bibliographies, links to further reading, electronic exercises and discussion circles.

You will also have full access to the 24-hour computing facilities in the School of Earth & Ocean Sciences.

Support services

You will have access to the full range of facilities and services provided by the University, including the Careers Service, the Counselling Service, the Disability and Dyslexia Service, the Student Support Service, alongside excellent libraries and resource centres.


We aim to create an inclusive, supportive and welcoming environment that respects the dignity of staff and students of all ages, ethnicities, disabilities, family structures, genders, nationalities, sexual orientations, and races, religious or other beliefs, and socio-economic backgrounds. Read about our commitment to the Athena SWAN principles and our Bronze status.

What skills will I practise and develop?

Knowledge & Understanding:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:

  • Explain the hydrologic cycle, its global and regional expression in response to climate forcing, and its translation into surface and subsurface water storage;
  • Articulate the complex connections between culture, society and water;
  • Synthesise the fundamental biological and ecological characteristics of freshwater ecosystems with the organisms that occupy them, as well as their relevant stressors;
  • Characterise hazard and risk, and their implications for managing water on the planet using advanced quantitative methods;
  • Provide a detailed analysis of the climate system and its evolution under climate change, with particular emphasis on the water cycle;
  • Identify and explain a deep awareness of key frontiers in water science. 

 Intellectual Skills:

  • On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:
  • Critically evaluate and quantify water fluxes and storage at, above, or below the Earth’s surface;
  • Calculate and interpret risk and hazard from existing datasets on water;
  • Synthesise and summarise the scientific and social science literature;
  • Utilise and manipulate large datasets and/or existing models;
  • Analyse and report on advanced interdisciplinary issues related to water problems.

Professional Practical Skills:

  • On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:
  • Interact and engage with experts in a range of water-related fields;
  • Address and understand environmental problems from multiple perspectives;
  • Conduct background literature searches on a targeted topic in order to quickly ascertain the state of the science/art;
  • Contextualise local/regional water problems in broader sphere of influence.  
  • Lead interdisciplinary group meetings/discussions.

Transferable/Key Skills:

  • On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:
  • Conduct sophisticated multi-step quantitative analyses individually and part of a team;
  • Synthesise complex information from disparate sources;
  • Communicate research to expert and public audiences through various media;
  • Write convincingly about in-depth environmental/water problems and publish/present at international forums.;
  • Work with interdisciplinary groups to integrate and summarise knowledge.

Tuition fees for 2024 entry

Your tuition fees and how you pay them will depend on your fee status. Your fee status could be home, island or overseas.

Learn how we decide your fee status

Fees for home status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £11,700 None

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national, your tuition fees for 2024/25 be in line with the overseas fees for international students, unless you qualify for home fee status. UKCISA have provided information about Brexit and tuition fees.

Fees for island status

Learn more about the postgraduate fees for students from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Fees for overseas status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £28,200 £2,500

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Financial support

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Additional costs


Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

No specific equipment is needed to study on this programme. If needed, the equipment would be provided by the school.

Living costs

We’re based in one of the UK’s most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.


Master's Scholarships

An award open to UK students intending to study one of our taught master’s degrees.

Postgraduate loans

If you are starting your master’s degree in September 2024 or later, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan to support your study at Cardiff University.

Alumni Discount

The alumni discount is available for Cardiff University graduates who are planning to start an eligible master's in 2024/25.

Careers and placements

Create a successful and rewarding career in the water industry helping to create a more resilient and sustainable future.

This programme is designed to complement and expand your existing knowledge of water science, policy and practice, making it suitable for students from a range of backgrounds, including geography, geology, biosciences, computer sciences, economics, and more.

Graduates will have the skills required to make a meaningful contribution to innovative water solution projects in roles within government, industry, not-for-profits, and consulting. Some students may choose to pursue a research career   focusing on a water-related topic.


There are no placement opportunities, but the dissertation may be undertaken with a suitable partner HEI or research institute. This is subject to appropriate agreements and approval by the School.

Next steps


Open Day visits

Register for information about our 2023 dates.

Make an enquiry

Contact us for more information about this course.


Learn more about our truly global university.

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Related searches: Earth sciences, Water , Environment, Environmental science

HESA Data: Copyright Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2021. The Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from its data. Data is from the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey 2019/20, published by HESA in June 2022.