Masters of Philosophy in Disaster Risk Science and Development (MPhil DRSD)

Rapid population growth, poverty and environmental pressures are increasing disaster risk in South and Southern Africa. Drought, flash-floods and fires are common, along with ‘small disasters’ in informal and low-cost housing settlements. These erode developmental gains and have a devastating impact on municipalities and households.

The programme aims to equip participating students with the skills to investigate, analyse and understand disaster risk. It also seeks to strengthen student capabilities to understand the complex interactions between social and physical risk-producing processes at local, national and regional scales. The course provides students with the skills needed for careers in applied disaster risk scholarship as well as in practice settings including community development, climate change adaptation and disaster risk management / reduction. The MPhil programme combines taught modules with independent research reflected in a mini-thesis. These focus areas include:

  • Disaster Risk Science and Development including Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)
  • Disaster Risk Assessment and Analytics (including interdisciplinary risk assessment approaches, methods and tools)
  • GIS and Remote Sensing Application for DRR

Admission requirements 

  • Preference will be given to candidates holding a BA Honours in Geography and Environmental Studies or a BSc Honours in Geoinformatics from SU, who have completed the Department’s honours module in Disaster Risk Studies and Development (12825– 717). 
  • Students who have not completed the DRSD honours module, or students holding comparable qualifications from other universities, will be considered at the discretion of the director of course convenor, if they have completed an Honours dissertation pertinent to DRS. 


Expertise in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) is essential to successfully complete the programme: 

  • Students who have completed the honours module or comparable qualification but lack prior training in GIS at the undergraduate or postgraduate level will take two 30-credit compulsory modules on Disaster Risk Science and Development (DRSD) (13134 – 871), Disaster Risk Assessment and Analytics (13136 –871) and a compulsory 15- credit module GIS for Risk Reduction (13182 – 871), plus an additional 15-credit elective and a 90-credit thesis (13181 – 871). 
  • Students with who have completed GIS modules in their undergraduate or honours year will take two compulsory modules (DRSD and Disaster Risk Assessment and Analytics), plus two electives worth a total of 30 credits and a 90-credit thesis. 

Students who have not completed the honours module will take it as a 30-credit elective.

The GIS for Risk Reduction module provide students without prior expertise in spatial data collection and analysis with a foundational knowledge on GIS and earth observation. The DRSD module provides knowledge on the hazard and vulnerability conditions driving specific, priority risks in South and southern Africa, pertinent governance frameworks and good practice in risk reduction. The Disaster Risk Assessment and Analytics builds students’ capabilities to assess and analyse complex risk configurations. It will be taught in collaboration with applied risk scientists, including those from the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Students will have the opportunity to select as electives post-graduate modules already offered by other institutions within SU. Possible electives include modules on:

  • 12230: Introduction to Development Planning 771(15)
  • 11179: Environmental Issues 771(15)
  • 11919: Environmental Governance 771(15)
  • 58718: Sustainable Development 771(15)
  • 11199: Sustainable Cities 775(15) 

The strong emphasis on student research, embodied in a substantial research thesis, aims to ensure that studentsreceive the foundation required to progress to a PhD programme. MPhil ENQUIRIES Programme Co-ordinator: Robyn Pharoah Tel.: (021) 808 9492


Enquiries and contact details:

Mphil Programme Details:

Dr. Robyn Pharoah, Mphil Programme Co-ordinator

Tel.: (021) 808 9492


Postgraduate Student Programme and Registration details:

Selene Ortell, Postgraduate Coordinator

Tel: +27 (0) 21 808 3100


For more information about how to register for the Mphil programme please visit the University of Stellenbosch’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at

Mphil PDF Brochure: ../assets/files/2016_Brochure_Mphil_DRSD.pdf

2018 © UX Design & Development by NetMechanic