Skip to main content

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 course draws on interdisciplinary knowledge to provide a broad outlook on water problems within the context of current realities and future projections of climate change.


Broad outlook

Develop a broad perspective on the water problems facing our society which are vital to employers and academia.


Professional skills

Meet with professionals in this field and develop the soft skills needed for success in a professional setting.


Research project

Complete a substantial research project at an advanced level in an area of your choice.


Interdisciplinary course

Explore a wide variety of disciplines involving aspects of 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.

Gain the up-to-date 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 explore a wide range of disciplines such as hydrology, climate science, freshwater ecology, economics, social science, and hazard and risk analysis. Topics studied will include climate, flood management, droughts, water quality and availability, and water resources. Students will also develop the soft skills required for success in a professional setting.

By combining knowledge from several fields, this course encourages a broad outlook on water problems which is highly-valued in related academic and professional careers. 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 Ocean Sciences

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

  • icon-chatGet in touch
  • Telephone+44 (0)29 2087 4830
  • MarkerPark Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT

Admissions criteria

This Programme is suitable for graduates or experienced practitioners in related disciplines, such as geography, economics, hydrology, biology, environmental science, Earth science, etc.

Applicants should normally hold a first or second class Honours degree in a relevant subject area or have appropriate professional experience.

We welcome international applicants with equivalent qualifications.


Typical IELTS offer: 6.5 (with at least 5.5 in each category)


Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Tier 4 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 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.

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

UK and EU students (2020/21)

Tuition feeDeposit

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

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.

EU students entering in 2020/21 will pay the same tuition fee as UK students for the duration of their course. Please be aware that fees may increase annually in line with inflation. No decisions regarding fees and loans for EU students starting in 2020/21 have been made yet. These will be determined as part of the UK's discussions on its membership of the EU and we will provide further details as soon as we can.

Students from outside the EU (2020/21)

Tuition feeDeposit

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

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.

Careers and placements

This programme is designed to lead to various types of careers. Some students may choose to pursue a future PhD on a water-related topic.

Other graduates may wish to address global challenges by pursuing a specialist professional career in international development, or in environmental consulting, government, or the non-profit sector.

Students would be expected to choose a dissertation project that best aligns with their career goals.


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.


Master's Excellence Scholarship

This award worth £3000 is open to UK and EU students intending to study one of our taught master’s degrees.

Postgraduate Master’s Finance

If you’re starting your master’s degree in September 2020 or later, you may be able to apply for postgraduate student finance to support your study at Cardiff University.

Next steps


Open Day visits

Register for information about our 2020 dates.

Make an enquiry

Contact us for more information about this course.


Learn more about our truly global university.

Discover more

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