Radiation and Environmental Protection MSc

Established in 1972, the Surrey MSc in Radiation and Environmental Protection is one of the UK’s longest running programmes in this field. The substantial practical element of this programme enables you to relate taught material to its real-world application.

Why Surrey?

In addition to the formal lectures for taught modules, the programme provides a wide range of experimental hands-on training. This includes a nine-week radiation physics laboratory which takes place in the specialist radiation laboratories within the Department of Physics at the University of Surrey. These were recently refurbished as part of a £1 million upgrade to the departmental teaching infrastructure.

Programme overview

This programme aims to provide a thorough grounding in radiation protection and to show how the technical and organisational procedures of the discipline may be applied to the broader concept of environmental protection. The substantial practical element of the programme enables you to relate taught material to its real-world application.

As well as attending formal lectures, you will carry out work in radiation laboratories. There is also an extended project in the spring and an eleven-week MSc dissertation project in the summer. You will use a wide range of radioactive sources and radiation detectors.

The MSc benefits from both the strong research base in the Department and a number of external lecturers who are working specialists in their fields. The programme’s longstanding reputation within the field and strong industrial links ensure that our graduates are highly sought after for well-remunerated positions in both the public and private sectors.

The programme is taught by a combination of world-leading nuclear physics academics and leading experts from the UK’s radiological protection and nuclear industries.

Scholarships for this MSc programme

Teaching Assistantships (up to £3000pa)

Masters students on any MSc programme may apply for a Teaching Assistantship. Successful applicants will provide teaching support, primarily to Year 1 undergraduates, in the laboratory, tutorials, problem-solving classes, computing and other teaching activities depending on suitability. All applicants are eligible to apply and will be contacted by email in April and (for later applicants) in July. Selection will be made on the basis of a CV/interview and suitability for the available teaching activities.

Nuclear Science scholarships (£3000)

Two scholarships per year are normally available, sponsored by an industrial partner, for students on the MSc REP or RDI programmes. UK nationals only are eligible to apply. All eligible applicants will be contacted by email in April and invited to apply. Selected applicants will be interviewed.

Module overview

The MSc Radiation and Environmental Protection programme comprises nine elements.

Semester 1

Radiation Physics

This module provides a general overview of atomic and nuclear physics. You will gain an understanding of the structure of matter, radioactivity, types of radiation and the mechanisms by which radiation interacts with matter.

Radiation Biology

This module begins with an overview of human biology, followed by a discussion of the nature of the interaction of ionising radiation with biological systems. The module emphasises the effects at the cellular level and the impact that this has on the individual and across the population. The effects of ingested radionuclides are also covered.

Radiation Laboratory Skills

The laboratory work is designed to give you practical experience in handling radioactive substances. Initially work comprises scripted experiments, but later on students are asked to design their own.

Extended Project

An intensive research project is carried out during the second half of Semester 1.

Semester 2

Radiation Measurement

This module will give you an understanding of the physical/chemical principles underlying the operation of a wide range of techniques for detection/dosimetry of ionising radiation. On completion, students will be able to make appropriate choices of instrumentation in practical situations.

Nuclear Power and Non-ionising Radiation

This module describes the physical propagation of electromagnetic radiation, its interaction and effect on biological tissue, and methods for calculating dosimetry of non-ionising radiation. You will develop an understanding of the biological effects of time-varying electromagnetic fields and radiation on humans, animals and isolated cell preparations. The module will also describe reactor operation and fuel composition, and concludes with an overview of reactor decommissioning, fuel storage and disposal.

Radiation Protection

International legislative frameworks of radiation protection are discussed at the beginning of this module. From this starting point, the module covers population and personal exposures to radiation, the principles of dose calculations and example procedures for implementing radiation protection programmes.

Environmental Physics and Environmental Protection

This module describes the legislative framework of environmental protection, describing the major concepts in the field. It reviews the establishment and verification of systems for environmental protection, considering both legal and economic aspects. The module concludes with a practical review of environmental protection as applied in the nuclear and related industries.

Research Project and Dissertation

An extensive dissertation project is carried out during the summer.

Programme Structure and Module List



Radiation Physics


Radiation Laboratory Skills


Radiation Measurement


Nuclear Power and Non-ionising Radiation


Radiation Biology


Radiation Protection


Environmental Physics and Environmental Protection


Extended Project


Research Project and Dissertation


Teaching and learning

On this programme, you will gain:

Professional skills

  • A systematic understanding of radiation and environmental protection in an academic and professional context, together with a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights
  • A comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to your own research project in radiation and/or environmental protection
  • Originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of radiation-based, experimental research projects
  • An ability to evaluate and objectively interpret experimental data pertaining to radiation detection
  • Familiarity with generic issues in management and safety and their application to radiation and environmental protection in a professional context

Core academic skills

  • The ability to plan and execute, under supervision, an experiment or investigation, and to analyse critically the results and draw valid conclusions from them
  • The ability to evaluate the level of uncertainty in results, understand the significance of uncertainty analysis and be able to compare these results with expected outcomes, theoretical predictions and/or with published data – graduates should be able to evaluate the significance of their results in this context
  • The ability to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline of radiation protection
  • The ability to deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate your conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences

Personal and key skills

  • The ability to both communicate complex scientific ideas and the conclusions of an experiment, investigation or project concisely, accurately and informatively
  • The ability to manage your own learning and to make use of appropriate texts, research articles and other primary sources
  • Responsibility for personal and professional development, and the ability to use external mentors for personal/professional purposes

Research-led Teaching

The programme material is taught by a combination of academics from the Department of Physics at Surrey and specialists provided by industrial partners. The Surrey academics are part of the Centre for Nuclear and Radiation Physics which houses the largest academic nuclear physics research group in the UK.

In addition to the formal lectures for taught modules, the programme provides a wide range of experimental hands-on training. This includes a nine-week radiation physics laboratory which takes place in the specialist radiation laboratories within the Department of Physics at the University of Surrey. These were recently refurbished as part of a £1 million upgrade to the departmental teaching infrastructure. Within the Department, we also have a common room and a departmental library, which contains copies of earlier MSc dissertations.

As well as the laboratory training, you will also undertake a research project at the beginning of the Spring semester as a precursor to the eleven-week research dissertation project which makes up the final part of the MSc. There are many opportunities for both the spring research project and summer dissertation project to be taken in an external industrial environment.

The University of Surrey typically has a total of around 1,000 master’s students each year. These are from all over the world. Established in 1972, the Surrey MSc in Radiation and Environmental Protection is one of the UK’s longest running programmes in this field.


The programme has produced over 500 UK and overseas graduates, many of whom have gone on to well-paid positions in companies in the nuclear and radiation sectors. In the UK we need to decommission old reactors and build new ones to provide a low-carbon source of energy. This, together with, for example, the importance of radioisotopes in fields such as medicine, means that the career prospects of our graduates are excellent.

Related programmes

Postgraduate (Taught)

Professional development

Related departments/schools

Related research areas

Programme director

Zsolt Podolyak

Find out more

General Enquiries:

+44 (0)1483 681 681


Admissions Enquiries:



Programme facts

Type of programme:


Programme length:

  • Full-time: 12 months
  • Part-time: 24 months

Start date:

Sep 2014

Entry Requirements

A minimum 2.2 honours degree (or overseas equivalent) in the physical or environmental sciences, electronics or in a relevant engineering discipline.

English language requirements

IELTS minimum overall: 6.5

IELTS minimum by component: 6.0

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time Sep 2014 £7,055 £18,460
Part-time Sep 2014 £3,505 £9,230

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2014/15 only. All fees are subject to annual review.

A complete list of all fees for our Masters Programmes


Surrey and Santander Scholarships

The University of Surrey are pleased to offer four scholarship schemes aimed at further enhancing our cultural diversity:

For more details

Tullow Oil Scholarship Scheme

The University of Surrey is delighted to announce it has recently been selected to participate in the Tullow Oil Scholarship Scheme.

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Indonesia-UK DIKTI Scholarship Scheme

Open to lecturers and administrative staff at Indonesian universities.

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Discounts for Surrey graduates

Thinking of continuing your education at Surrey? As an alumni of Surrey you could be eligible for a 10% discount on our Taught Masters programme fees.

For more details

International students

Experienced staff in our International Student Office are available to help from the moment you consider studying at the University. We offer professional advice on immigration, visa issues, entry qualifications, pre-departure information, employment regulations and international student welfare.

Admissions Information

Our Admissions Policy provides the basis for admissions practice across the University and gives a framework for how we encourage, consider applications and admit students.

Further information for applicants

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I decided to study Radiation and Environmental Protection due to the unique nature of the course.

Martyn Staff

MSc Radiation and Environmental Protection

What attracted you to choose Surrey and to study your course here?

I decided to study at the University of Surrey for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the university hosts industry leading research which results in the high quality undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The university is also renowned for having a high rate of graduate employment which is essential in the current job market. I also liked the fact the university is situated in Guildford. Guildford is a vibrant, picturesque city which is steeped in history and located only a short train journey from London. I decided to study Radiation and Environmental Protection due to the unique nature of the course. For example the course included comprehensive theory regarding radiation protection and measurement, experimentation, visits to leading industry companies and lectures from influential experts from the radiation protection field.

What is your strongest memory of your time at Surrey – what do you picture first when you think of being here?

When I look back at my postgraduate degree my fondest memories are of the friends I made. I stayed in the Hazel Farm accommodation and I lived with a friendly, diverse and sociable group of people. I learned a great deal about different cultures, cuisines, religions and views as there were five different nationalities living in the house. In the evenings we used to cook for each other, play table tennis and go to the student union to take our minds off studying.

As well as my housemates, I met some friends for life on my course. My course consisted of 10 people in total so by the end of our studies we were a close knit group. We arranged group study sessions which created a friendly environment to revise topics and to share ideas. It is great to have made so many friends at university and it is interesting to look back at the different career paths everyone has taken after the degree.

What is the one thing you would say about Surrey (or your course) to someone who doesn’t know anything about it?

One thing I would tell someone about the University of Surrey is the high employment rate of graduating students. The university has focused on the key issue of employment following further education which is an issue that all students must address. The university therefore put an emphasis on ensuring students gain industry experience from their courses. The industry experience includes year in industry programmes, dissertation projects sponsored by industry companied to solve specific industrial problems and through lectures from industry specialists.

What has been your career highlight to date?

My career highlight is being accepted onto the Engineering Doctorate programme. I am undertaking my research at the University of Surrey in the Micro and Nano Materials and Technologies department. This is a career highlight as the programme is designed to develop all round research engineers who can move into management positions early in their careers. I am proud of this accomplishment as I believe I will develop strong foundations for my career in engineering.

How did you change as a person during your time as a Surrey postgraduate, and how has your time here influenced your life and career since then?

My time at Surrey changed me as a person. When I studied at Surrey it was the first time I had lived a significant distance away from home. I learnt the key life skills of becoming self sufficient and standing on my own two feet. I also developed academically and gained confidence in my own ability. I undertook a course with students from a variety of backgrounds including engineering, physics, chemistry and environmental sciences. Working in these multidisciplinary groups helped me develop the skills of thinking about problems from a different perspective. I also learnt a great deal about the physics of radiation and the appropriate precautions required work safely and to meet legislation. I have always been interested in the nuclear industry so I believe these skills will ensure I undertake work safely and become a positive role model to my colleagues throughout my career.

My time at Surrey has defiantly shaped my career progression. Whilst at Surrey I received an advertisement through my internal email account for a vacancy on the universities Engineering Doctorate programme. I applied for the vacancy and was offered the position. I believe the confidence and people skills I had developed over my year at Surrey came across to the interviewer to make me stand out from the other candidates.

What are your top tips for students aspiring to work in your profession?

I am currently undertaking a career in research. My top tip for a career in research is to be enthusiastic about your chosen topic. The people who flourish in research are the people who enjoy their subject as many hours are in the laboratory and analysing data. Another tip is to gain industrial experience whilst undertaking a degree. Industry experience shows the knowledge which is learnt in the classroom can be applied to real life problems. Industrial experience is also great for answering essay questions on job application forms. An important skill to be a researcher is to be able to work as a member of a team. Being a team player helps highlight and solve problems quickly and efficiently by making use of everyone’s attributes. A final tip which is fairly obvious is to attain good grades. A lot of knowledge is learnt at school and university which can be utilised in the workplace. To qualify for jobs in research candidate must typically have a 2:1 undergraduate degree or a master’s degree in the relevant subject.