Radiation and Environmental Protection MSc

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

Our programme aims to provide you with a thorough grounding in radiation protection and to show you 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 course enables you to relate taught material to 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 £3,000pa)

Our department-led scholarships enable you to assist with the teaching of Physics undergraduate students through laboratory sessions, tutorials, problem-solving classes, computing and other teaching activities depending on suitability. Open to home or international, full-time or part-time students, the University of Surrey gives out approximately six of these awards per annum. The Teaching Assistantship award is available on all MSc Physics programmes, and if successful, you can earn up to £3,000 throughout the year. Eligible MSc applicants will be sent an application form by email in August 2015 and the application procedure includes an interview (which can be completed by telephone).

Nuclear Security scholarships – via the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) (£2,000)

The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) offers two scholarships for home, full-time students studying on Surrey’s MSc Radiation and Environmental Protection programme. If successful, the AWE will supervise your dissertation and £2,000 will be paid directly to the University of Surrey and deducted from your student fees. The application procedure includes an interview with your Programme Director and a representative from AWE. Eligible MSc applicants will be sent an application form, by email, in August 2015.

Module overview

The MSc Radiation and Environmental Protection programme comprises nine compulsory 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.

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.

Semester 2

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.

Extended Group Project

This module consists of Monte Carlo simulations using the FLUKA code and an intensive group research project.

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 Group 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 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

Professor 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 2015

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 2015 £7,400 £17,300
Part-time Sep 2015 £3,700 £8,700

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2015/16 only. All fees are subject to annual review.

A complete list of all fees for our Masters Programmes


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.

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