Civil & Environmental Engineering – Open Access (Modular)

Key facts

  • Start date: September/January
  • Study mode and duration: on-campus study, maximum 60 months duration
  • The Independent Complete University Guide 2022: 2nd in the UK for Medical Technology & Bioengineering

Study with us

  • enables students to undertake single 10-credit modules from our MSc programmes' class range
  • modules can be taken either stand-alone for CPD purposes or as part of a programme of study working towards a PG Certificate, PG Diploma or MSc award
  • only offered for on-campus attendance classes
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Why this course?

When you apply to the non-graduating route you’ll select your first class and arrange payment of the tuition fees (set per individual module). Some classes require pre-requisites or a specific degree subject background, while others are open to students from any degree background, opening a route to progress your career within the environmental, engineering or sustainability sectors.

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THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner

What you'll study

Classes can be selected from a pool of civil engineering, environmental engineering, geoscience, sustainability, entrepreneurship, and environmental health science options. These are currently offered via on-campus attendance of classes. Each class is taught over 10-12 weeks and requires approximately two-three hours of study per week.

Work placement

As part of the class Independent Study in Collaboration with Industry, you can apply to work with industry projects.


Our £6 million state-of-the-art laboratory facilities are well-equipped with high-technological instrumentation and available space to investigate:

  • environmental & molecular microbiology
  • environmental chemistry
  • analytical chemistry
  • geomechanics & soil quality
  • structural design & material science

Discover more about our laboratory facilities.

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Course content

Many students choose to take just one or two classes for CPD purposes. If you successfully complete a module, you’ll have the option either to receive a course completion document and end your studies, or you may be able to continue to build up credit towards the award of a Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or MSc degree (over a maximum period of five years). Most individual classes are 10 credit classes; you need to pass six classes to qualify for a Postgraduate Certificate, 12 for a Postgraduate Diploma and add a final individual research project for degree award of an MSc.

Classes have either a September (Semester 1) or January (Semester 2) start date – please contact the Department if you'd like to know more.

Advanced Materials Science for Structures

This course gives a foundation in how building materials are formed or made, how they chemo-mechanically degrade and breakdown and some advanced scientific methods of analysis for conservation of historic and modern structures.

Building materials will be investigated at the micro-structural and nanoscale level to explore how chemical composition affects mechanical properties. Environmental and conservation principles will be addressed, as will quantitative understanding of water damage to building stone, brick and concrete and rising damp.

Necessary requirements for this class: Some understanding of materials science or chemistry, preferably at university level but not absolutely necessary. Comfortable with Maths, Physics and some basic Matlab programming.

Advanced Structural Analysis & Design

This class examines the links between form, geometric shape, and structural performance and design. It deals with different ways of breaking up a continuum, and how this affects global structural properties, structural concepts and preliminary design methods that are used in tension structures, and deployable structures.

You’ll also look at the fundamental principles of composite structures. 

Necessary requirement for this class

Understanding of structural analysis (finding reactions in statically determinate and indeterminate structures – trusses, beams, frames; construction of shear force and bending moment diagrams; main principles of elastic analysis), basic grounding in matrix algebra, basic programming knowledge (in any language).

Air Pollution, Climate Change & Human Health (10 credits)

In this class, run by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, you'll gain the knowledge and skills on atmospheric pollution and climate change impacts, ranging from local to global scales. The class includes a focus on the assessment and management of environmental impacts on people through the interface between environmental science and engineering activities that mitigate environmental risks. Learning objectives are assessed through a formative portfolio covering the main syllabus areas. Student interaction is encouraged throughout the class through structured feedback sessions, directed reading, student-led question sessions & directed questions sessions.

Circular Economy & Transformations Towards Sustainability (10 credits)

The class, run by the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, introduces circular economy as a systems-based concept in which production is designed to be restorative and resilient, while waste is designed out of the system. Circular economy is thus featured as a reaction to the conventional dispensation of the linear ‘make-use-dispose’ economy, and as a framework for the development and management of a sustainable, ‘waste-as-a-resource’ economic system. The implications of the concept for research, policy and industrial practice are also explored as these relate to innovation and knowledge production; social trends and consumer behaviour; conservation and sustainable use of energy and material resources; climate change and environmental sustainability; and design of business models for green enterprise development and for sustainable growth and employment generation.

Client-Based Environmental Entrepreneurship In Practice

This class, run by the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, is a client-based project work where you carry out a project of interest to a client while at the same contributing to environmental entrepreneurship in practice.

The potential projects are identified by the students. The aims of each project are defined in terms of progressive risks in effecting a solution. The first aim has a high chance of success and low risk of failure; the second aim is more challenging but capable of solution given initiative and energy on the part of the students; and the third aim can have a 'blue skies' element, a real research challenge and consequently a high risk of failure but success will demonstrate exceptional competence and initiative.

The class manager approves all the final chosen project topics. The project has a four-month duration and is carried out between January and April.

Please note this class is only for MSc Environmental Entrepreneurship students.

Contaminated Land*

Within the background of land redevelopment (residential, industrial/commercial and gardens/parks), this class aims to provide insights into the remediation of contaminated land, including the regulatory framework and risk assessment, sampling and analysis, and various remedial techniques for contaminated land. Teaching staff: Dr Christine Switzer.

Aquifer Mechanics

The class covers the areas of:

  • Hydrogeology and Subsurface Fluid Flow
  • Well Hydraulics and Pumping Tests
  • Contaminant Transport in the Subsurface
  • Real-world applications of Hydrogeology

This class, run by the Department of Civil Engineering, will help you to:

  • gain an understanding of Hydrogeology as a discipline
  • discuss and explore the physical mechanisms of water movement in the subsurface
  • undertake experiments in the lab that demonstrate key principals of groundwater movement
  • explore hydrogeological issues based on case studies
Environmental Impact Assessment

This class, run by the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, provides an introduction to the methods used to predict environmental impacts, and evaluates how these may be used to integrate environmental factors into decisions. The class draws principally on the UK planning context of environmental impact assessment of individual projects (project EIA), but also takes account of EIA experience in other countries and international organisations. Students are also introduced to key principles of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

Environmental Pollution Management

In this class, you'll develop in-depth knowledge and skills regarding the science, engineering and management of environmental pollution control approaches to protect public health. You'll benefit from research-led teaching at the interface between public health and environmental engineering, with a particular focus on risk-centred methods. Lecture sessions are complemented by industrial and government case studies in contemporary air quality management practice. Teaching staff: Dr Iain Beverland.

Fundamentals of Environmental Forensics

This class provides you with an understanding of:

  • environmental forensics as a subject
  • a range of contaminants found in the environment, and their fate and transport
  • approach and analytical techniques to determine the responsible parties for contamination found in the environment
  • real-world applications of environmental forensics
Geographical Information Systems (GIS)*

This practical-based class provides a thorough introduction to the rapidly growing field of Geographical Information Science. The class covers the key theoretical principles but also provides many computer-based exercises using current state-of-the-art Geographical Information Systems (GIS) – namely IDRISI and ArcGIS. The class evaluates how GIS can be used for spatial query and analysis, while at the same time assessing the quality and the effectiveness of the resultant products in terms of their use. Teaching staff: Dr Elsa João

Global Water Policy

 This class aims to provide you with the ability to:

  • recognise the issues relating to overall global water policy and its interactions with other global issues
  • discuss the impact of climate change and economic development on water resources and availability
  • explore the different implementation issues based on regional case studies
  • explore the role of stakeholders on the acceptance and achievement of policy objectives
Engineering Hydrology

This class, run by the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, aims to explore the hydrological cycle and the influence of weather, climate and the key processes of the environment.

You'll develop application of hyrdological cycle for engineering analysis and design, including:

  • estimating precipitation, including spatial distribution analysis techniques
  • estimating evaporation and evapotranspiration
  • estimating other hydrological losses, including infiltration

You'll also develop skills examining catchments using Engineering Hydrology approaches, including:

  • analysing relationships between precipitation, runoff and storage
  • analysing hydrographs
  • examining the influence of urbanisation and land management practices
  • introducing drainage design techniques and analysis
  • sustainable urban drainage systems
Independent Study in Collaboration with Industry

This class will allow students carrying out placements and projects with industry to develop and refine professional skills while gaining credits in the process.

One project will be the small or medium sized enterprise (SME) Carbon Audit that students carry out with training from Carbon Trust. A placement type project activity is another possibility, by individual agreement.

Approval of students being able to take this module would be done on case-by-case basis by MSc course leaders. You’ll be selected by competitive application and CV. 

Please note this class is only appropriate for students to take once they have undertaken at least 60 credits of MSc classes.

Prestressed Concrete, Composite Materials & Structural Stability

The overall aim of the class is to provide you with strong skills in the structural behaviour, analysis and design of civil engineering structures.

You’ll gain an understanding of the fundamental principles of structural stability and become familiar with common types of bifurcation and buckling phenomena. This will allow you to formulate methods capable of dealing with geometrically non-linear structural behaviour.

You’ll also gain knowledge of structural behaviour structural systems commonly adapted by the construction industry including prestressed concrete and concrete-steel composite members. 

Necessary requirement for this class

Understanding of fundamentals of structural mechanics; fundamentals of reinforced concrete design (reinforced concrete technology, serviceability and ultimate limit state analysis.

Principles of Environmental Microbiology*

This class introduces microbiology in a manner that is of practical importance in environmental engineering and science.

Topics covered include:

  • the microbial ecology and microbiology of dilute nutrient solutions such as lakes, subsurface environmental and biological treatment processes
  • microbial physiology
  • biochemistry
  • biodegradation
  • public health aspects of microbiology
Public Health Studies

This class, run by the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, develops students’ understanding of public and environmental health, and the multidisciplinary approach in preventative and proactive action to safeguarding public health.

A diverse range of subjects are covered ranging from the risk assessment approach taken with respect to protecting the public from private water supplies, to the role of environmental health professionals in the prevention of the spread of infectious disease.

The class also provides students with fundamental knowledge regarding Health Improvement/Promotion and Health Protection, including the different methods used and the variety of agencies involved.

Rock Mechanics, Tunnelling & Groundwater

The class aims to provide you with an understanding of sub-surface geology and rock mechanics and its influence on the engineering design of slopes and tunnels.

You’ll gain an overview of groundwater flow through soil and rocks. You’ll be introduced to techniques for the in-situ measurement of permeability and methodologies for site investigation in dewatering projects. 

Necessary requirement for this class

Knowledge of mathematics (including basic differential equations, trigonometry, resolving forces), and of basic hydrology.

Site Investigation & Risk Assessment

This class explores the complete sequence of a site investigation:

  1. Desk study
  2. Site sampling organisation and techniques
  3. Data collection
  4. Chemical analysis

The class also covers data modelling and interpretation using risk assessment models. 

Slopes & Walls

This class aims to cover the design of geotechnical structures under ultimate conditions including slopes and retaining walls, based on Eurocode 7.

The syllabus covers these areas:

  • Introduction to geotechnical structures - slopes and embankments, shallow foundations, pile foundations, retaining walls
  • Stability Analysis of Geostructures
  • Earth Retaining Structures
  • Slope Stability

Necessary requirements for this class

Understanding of fundamentals of soil mechanics (principle of effective stress, compressibility and consolidation of soil, the shear strength of soils including the critical state framework).

Structural Health Monitoring
The course aims to provide the fundamentals of health monitoring of civil structures, and includes the following topics:
  • the logic of structural identification based on sensor observations
  • an overview of sensor technologies for civil applications, with focus on accelerometers, strain gauges, thermocouples, fiber-optic sensors and wireless sensors
  • numerical methods for signal processing and data analysis
  • analysis of case studies, including bridges, buildings and heritage structures

Necessary requirement for this class: understanding of structural mechanics, steel design and reinforced concrete design; basic knowledge of statistics; ​and an interest in using Matlab for data analysis.

Waste Management & Landfill Design

This class covers organisational and regulatory aspects of waste management practice in the UK: legislation, composition of domestic and industrial wastes, storage, collection, reception, and disposal of solid wastes, clinical wastes, sewage sludge disposal, recycling and recovery. Teaching staff: Dr Tara Beattie

Water & Wastewater Treatment Design*

This module aims to develop a detailed understanding of treatment processes, as well as the ability to undertake design calculations sufficient to produce a concept and detailed design of a water and wastewater treatment plant.

Necessary requirement for this class

You must have a working knowledge of mathematics, equivalent to year-1 Calculus, and introductory knowledge of chemistry either from undergraduate or high school studies.

Water & Environmental Management

The module develops an understanding of the physical, chemical and biological parameters within surface water and how these relate to water quality, water quality objectives and pollution control strategy. The class also provides an introduction to water and wastewater treatment.

Groundwater Flow Modelling

 This class provides you with an understanding of:

  • Groundwater Flow Modelling Principals
  • Well Hydraulics and Pumping Tests Analysis using Groundwater Flow Models
  • Contaminant Transport Modelling
  • Geochemical Modelling 
Qualitative & Quantitative Research Methods

Students will acquire familiarity with, and practice of, research techniques, and examine different ways of, and gain experience in, presenting research results.

The class discusses the key principles, and practical exercises, on both quantitative and qualitative research methods, including survey methods, interviewing techniques, use of census data and statistical methods. The class also includes discussion of ethical issues. Finally, there is dissertation-related teaching on choosing a research question and a research method, and writing a research proposal. This is a semester 1 and 2 class but meetings do not happen every week. Teaching staff: Dr Elsa João

Environmental Geochemistry

This class will explore the controls of chemical composition of water resulting from geochemical reactions in nature. Students will develop an understanding of geochemical thermodynamics, as well as an understanding of weathering.

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Entry requirements

Academic requirements

At least a lower second-class Honours degree from a UK university (or equivalent overseas qualification).

Some classes require a science or engineering degree discipline. Other classes (taken from our MSc Sustainability & Environmental Studies or MSc Environmental Entrepreneurship programmes) may consider all degree backgrounds, including social sciences, arts, engineering, law, chemistry, maths, physics, geology, biology, and business.

Lower degree classifications may be accepted if there is strength elsewhere (for example, relevant work experience, excellent final project/dissertation, a very strong academic letter of reference, a very strong application statement linking with career goals.)

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, please visit our English language requirements page for full details of the requirements in place before making your application.

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Fees & funding

Fees may be subject to updates to maintain accuracy. Tuition fees will be notified in your offer letter.

All fees are in £ sterling, unless otherwise stated, and may be subject to revision.

Annual revision of fees

Students on programmes of study of more than one year should be aware that tuition fees are revised annually and may increase in subsequent years of study. Annual increases will generally reflect UK inflation rates and increases to programme delivery costs.

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£533 per 10 credit class

England, Wales & Northern Ireland

£533 per 10 credit class

Please note: The fees shown are annual and may be subject to an increase each year. Find out more about fees.