WSPM students on a fieldtrip

Course description

The MSc/MPhil course comprises:

Core modules and elective modules are taught in the first two terms, leaving the third term for examinations and dissertation preparation.

Michaelmas TermHilary TermTrinity TermSummer


Water Management

Water Science
  • Climate & Catchment Processes
  • Water Quality
  • Climate & Catchment Processes
  • Water Quality


Water & Society
  • Economics, Law &
    Governance of Water
  • Water Policy
  • Water-Society Interaction & Sustainable Development


Elective 1Elective 2
Research Design and Skills

Please note: The actual course content may vary from the information provided online and should therefore be taken to be indicative rather than tightly prescriptive.

Teaching methods and contact hours

The teaching is concentrated in the first two terms. The course is taught through a combination of lectures for core modules, small group teaching for elective courses (maximum class size 10), practical sessions, field trips and study days. In each week, there are approximately 12-14 hours of formal contact time. For core modules, there are normally 8-10 hours of lectures per week, delivered through two-hour lecture sessions. Electives are normally delivered in 4-6 sessions across the term, each lasting 90 minutes to 2 hours. Individual extended reading is an important part of the course programme and up to 3 hours of reading may be set in preparation for each two-hour class. In weeks with field trips or study days, the number of contact hours will be greater.

Sarah Boone

"Once, when I described my training in water science, policy and management, a colleague said ‘that seems awfully specific’. Then we had a conversation that linked topics from climate modeling, to new policies on water allocation, to developing catchment management strategies that would support the rights and aspirations of indigenous peoples. At the end of our conversation, she said ‘I take it back - you studied the whole world’."

Sarah Boone, WSPM course alumna

Thematic areas and core modules

Water Science: comprising Climate & Catchment Processes; Water & Health; Water Quality

This thematic area develops knowledge and understanding in physical, chemical, ecological and epidemiological aspects of water science in temperate, tropical and semi-arid zones. It provides a foundation in basic processes in each key subject area, as well as interactions throughout the hydrological cycle, the role of society in altering 'natural' hydrological processes and function, and the impact this has on health and environment.

Water and Society: comprising Economics, Law & Governance of Water; Water Policy; Water-Society Interactions & Sustainable Development

This thematic area explores how contested domains of power, interests and knowledge influence water decision-making, illustrated through institutional, socio-economic and policy analysis. This covers areas of water security, governance, and regulation, transboundary water, water access, ownership and rights, water for development, gender, intersectionality, and interactions between the state and civil society within dynamic and varied political, cultural, social and economic contexts.

Water Management

This thematic area helps students to integrate the knowledge and understanding of water developed in the other thematic areas to better enable them to tackle the big water management challenges that we face. Geographic water security case studies are developed throughout the module to compare the trade-offs that occur between science and society in these contexts. Interactions with experts with different perspectives and expertise will help students to understand the challenges faced by water managers. This module includes a number of field trips to examine and evaluate real water management issues.


An independent and original dissertation is an integral component of the course. It is expected that the best dissertations will be of publication quality, and all should show originality in and/or competent and creative scholarship. In order to equip students with the necessary skills to undertake high quality, original and independent research, a suite of training activities are taught across three terms to develop key transferable skills and expose students to applied methods used widely in academic and professional research.

Research design and skills

As well as equipping students with the necessary frameworks to develop their research projects, faculty staff lead a series of training sessions to build core transferable skills in the natural and social sciences. Components include: research ethics, academic writing, research design, modelling, GIS, water quality evaluation, and qualitative and quantitative research methods. The skills training will focus on strengthening capabilities to conduct high quality research as well as for future professional development.

Please note: The actual course content may vary from the information provided online and should therefore be taken to be indicative rather than tightly prescriptive.