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 the field of nuclear science and its applications. 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 the radiation and environmental protection aspects of nuclear physics. This includes giving you an in-depth knowledge of radiation protection and showing 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.

Three second semester modules are taught as intense one week sort-course modules. They cover nuclear metrology, nuclear waste management, and environment and legislation. These modules are offered also as part of the Continuing Professional Development programme.

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.

Why not read about the experiences of some past and present students of the MSc Radiation and Environmental Protection programme, including Sakchai Buppaungkul, Elaine Zhu and Hamed Alshammari.

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 Metrology

This module gives an introduction to radiation metrology. Calibration standards, uncertainties and quality assurance will be discussed in the first part. It will be followed by lectures on radiochemistry, nuclear dating and nuclear forensic.

Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety

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. The module will also describe reactor operation and fuel composition, and includes an overview of reactor decommissioning, fuel storage and disposal.

Environment and Legislation

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 includes 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


Introduction to Biology and Radiation Biology


Nuclear Metrology*


Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety*


Environment and Legislation*


Extended Group Project


Research Project and Dissertation


*These modules are each delivered over one week of teaching during Semester 2, and can also be taken as occasional CPD modules.

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 leader

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 2016

Entry Requirements

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

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 2016 £8,000 £18,000
Part-time Sep 2016 £4,000 £9,000

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2016/2017 only. Annual fees will rise by four per cent (rounded up to the nearest £100) for each year of study.

A complete list of all fees for our Masters Programmes


Discounts for Surrey graduates

Thinking of continuing your education at Surrey? As an alumnus of Surrey you may be eligible for a ten per cent discount on our taught Masters programme fees. Learn more.

For more details

GREAT Surrey Scholarships India

For for all postgraduate taught courses starting in February 2017 within the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, the University is offering graduates from India the opportunity to apply for one of three scholarships worth £5,000 through the GREAT Scholarships - India programme. 

For more details

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

Postgraduate Study Advice

Steps to Postgraduate Study is an official, independent guide for anyone considering a taught postgraduate course. The guide is produced by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland.

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Modules listed are indicative, reflecting the information available at the time of publication. Please note that not all modules described are compulsory and may be subject to teaching availability and/or student demand.