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

This 12-18 month programme aims to provide students with an integrated understanding of disaster risk and its implications for sustainable development in Africa, with a strong but not exclusive focus on South Africa.

It is delivered through a combination of online learning and face-to-face teaching and is block taught. Students will need to be on campus, in Stellenbosch, for at least three week-long blocks over the first six months of the programme. The amount of time depends on the electives selected.

The programme seeks to enable students to understand the interactions between social and physical risk producing processes, and equip you with the skills to investigate, analyse and understand disaster risk. It provides a grounding for multiple career paths, including teaching, research and practice. 
The MPhil programme combines taught modules with independent research. Focus areas include:
• The conceptualization of disaster risk and risk reduction
• Disaster risk assessment, including interdisciplinary risk research approaches, methods and tools  
• The use of Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing 
The programme is endorsed by the Disaster Managment Institute of South Africa (DMISA). Successful participants can earn 12 CPD points.


This programme includes three compulsory disaster-risk related modules:
• Disaster Risk Science and Development  
• Disaster Risk Assessment and Analytics
• A 90-credit (20 000 word) thesis
Students who have not completed RADAR's Honour's level module on Disaster Risk Studies and Development (12825:717) will take this as a fourth compulsory module. 
Students without training in GIS will also take a compulsory, non-credit bearing programme introducing GIS and Remote Sensing. 
Students who have completed the Honour's module and/or have prior training in GIS and Remote Sensing will replace these modules with electives drawn from Postgraduate programmes offered by Stellenbosch University’s School of Public Leadership and the Sustainability Institute.
These include modules on:
• Sustainable Development  
• Sustainable Cities 
• Environmental Issues
• Environmental Governance
The strong emphasis on student research aims to ensure that students receive the foundation required to progress to a PhD programme


Applicants require a BA Honour's or BSc Honour's in Geography, Environmental Studies, Geospatial Analysis, Agriculture, Anthropology, Sociology, Development Studies or a qualification deemed appropriate by RADAR and the University's Senate. An average achievement of 65% is required.
You will be given preference if you have completed Stellenbosch University's Honours module on Disaster Risk Studies and Development (12825:717). If you did not complete this module, you will still be considered


General information

Visit to obtain an application form or APPLY ONLINE:
For enquiries send an email to or phone +27 21 808 9111 
Address:  The Registrar, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, MATIELAND 7602
The closing date for applications by South African students is 31 October 2021. Applications open in March 2022.
Vist Stellenbosch University's postgraduate portal to apply here.

Bursaries and loans

The University offers merit and sports bursaries, bursaries for studies in specific faculties or departments, general bursaries and  bursary loans for needy students (see Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Calendar Part 2).


Phone +27 21 808 4208 or e-mail for more information
Address: The Registrar (Head: Postgraduate Bursaries and Loans), Stellenbosch University,  Private Bag X1, Matieland,  7602

Tuition fees

Division for Student Fees: Tel: +27 21 808-9111 or e-mail:   


University accommodation:  Apply online or contact +27 21 808 9111 for an application form.
Private accommodation:  Phone the Student Housing Office, +27 21 808 2848.
Closing date for applications:   30 June of the year before accommodation is needed.

International students

International (Non-South African) students must apply through Stellenbosch University's International Office
Tel: +27 21 808 2565, or e-mail: Address: International Office, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, 7602 Matieland, South Africa
The closing date for applications by international students is 31 August 2022. Applications open in March 2022.
Visit the University's postgraduate applications portal.


The first half of the programme (semester one) focuses on coursework, with the second part allocated to student research. 
The coursework comprises lectures, self-study and contact teaching, assignments and projects. The core Disaster Risk Science and Development and Disaster Risk Assessment and Analytics  modules, and the elective Disaster Studies and Development module, are delivered by RADAR. They are taught over three approximately four-week periods, with contact sessions each week. Students are expected to read extensively in between contact sessions. The electives, are taught by Stellenbosch University's  Centre for Geographical Analysis (CGA), Sustainability Institute and School of Public Leadership.
The programme is taught in hybrid mode, and combines in-person and online teaching. Students are expected to be in Stellenbosch for 3 or 4 6-day contact blocks (1 contact block per module) during the first 6 months of the programme. Students cannot successfully undertake the programme without attending these in-person blocks.


Core modules:

Disaster Risk Science and Development (13134:871)
This first module in the MPhil DRSD programme builds on the foundation established in Stellenbosch's BA Honour's module on Disaster Risk Studies and Development. It aims to consolidate a broad-based theoretical understanding of disaster risk. The module develops critical knowledge of risk reduction processes and practices. This includes insight into the hazard and vulnerability conditions driving priority risks in South and southern Africa, pertinent governance frameworks and good practice in addressing these risks.
Disaster Risk Assessment and Analytics (13136:871)
This module builds on the foundation established in the Disaster Risk Science and Development module (13134:871). The module aims to enable students to assess and analyse the complex risk configurations that characterise the risk environment in the Western Cape and more broadly. It aims to expose students to different risk and vulnerability assessment methods for specific hazard types, geographic and administrative scales and contexts. It provides the basic skills needed to evaluate the robustness of methods, and apply and integrate different disaster risk and vulnerability assessment approaches and tools.  It is taught in collaboration with skilled, applied risk scientists, including experts from the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Research thesis (13181:871)
All students are expected to undertake the 90-credit (20 000 word) mini-thesis. Students chose their own topics, based on their areas of interest, and drawing on the theoretical and practical content of the coursework component of the programme. Students will undertake fieldwork, and although it is recommended that the research be conducted in the Western Cape, to allow hands-on engagement between students and supervisors, students may do their fieldwork elsewhere.


GIS skills are necessary to successfully complete the Risk Assessment and Analytics module. The GIS for Risk Reduction module provides students without prior expertise in spatial data collection and analysis with a foundational knowledge on GIS, and earth observation and remote sensing. It will be delivered in collaboration with the CGA
Disaster Risk Studies and Development (13134:712)
This module introduces students to the concepts of disaster, vulnerability and risk. It examines risk factors driving frequently occuring disasters in the Western Cape and Southern Africa, with an emphasis on the urban environment. It also examines the policy context in which efforts to reduce risk occur. The module aims to enable students to apply an interdisciplinary perspective on disasters and risk, which considers both biophysical elements and the social and economic forces that influence vulnerability and resilience to disasters. 
Sustainable Cities (11199:775)
This module is delivered by the Sustainability Institute. The overall aim of this module is to introduce students to some of the key concepts and trends in the vibrant and fast expanding literature on contemporary urban challenges, and how to make cities more sustainable. The module delves into the differential dynamics of worldwide urbanisation, particularly in th global South. It explores state-of-the-art thinking on how best to respond to the ecological impacts of urbanisation. It has a strong foscus on the implications for urban citizens living in slums and reliant on informalised economic and eco-system processes. It is block-taught over the course of a week, followed by a take-home assignment. Classes are held at the Sustainability Institute's Lynedoche premises.
Sustainable Development  (58718:771)
This module is also delivered by the Stellenbosch University's Sustainability Institute. It provides course participants with an overview of the most significant global environmental, social and economic challenges that face humankind, and an insight into the solutions suggested by the universal commitment to sustainable development. The moduel aims to enable students to recognise, understand and apply the divergent interpretations of sustainable development that currently exist. It is block-taught over the course of the week, followed by a take-home assignment. Classes are held at the Sustainability Institutes's Lynedoche campus, just outside Stellenbosch.
Environmental Issues  (11179:771)
This module is delivered by Stellenbosch University's School of Public Leadership. It aims to provide students with an understanding of the most important environmental issues of our time. It strives to ensure that students develop an awareness of, and limits to  our understanding of, environmental processes. Topics include the need for conservation; loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction and degradation, and their measurement; biological invasions; climate change; over-exploitation; pollution; human population growth; the ecosystem services framework; and policies and legal frameworks to stem biodiversity loss. It is block-taught over the course of a week, followed by a take-home assignment. 
Environmental Governance  (11919:771)
This module is delivered by the School of Public Leadership. The module introduces students to the meaning of environmental governance from a public and development management perspective, and the socio-political contexts within which environmental governance takes place. It examines the policy environment in South Africa; institutional and organisational arrangements; governance processes, systems and structures; as well as environmental leadership challenges. It explores collaborative environmental governance approaches. It is block-taught over the course of a week, followed by a take-home assignment

Download the programme prospectus here.

Find answers to FAQs here.


Dr. Robyn Pharoah, Programme Co-ordinator

Tel.: (021) 808 9492





2022 © UX Design & Development by NetMechanic