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MSc Safety Critical Systems Engineering

Understand how complex products and services undertake tasks that pose a risk to human lives, and become a leader in keeping people safe.

Year of entry: 2023 (September)


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time,
3 years part-time

Start date

September 2023 (semester dates)

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This course will provide you with the educational background required to become a leader in the field of safety critical systems engineering, whether you are currently a practising - or aspiring - professional in this area.

Products and services are taking on more authority over activities that have the capability to pose a risk to human lives. System safety professionals address a web of interlinked contributing factors to assess the safety of these products or services.

This course will equip you to understand the contribution technology, humans and organisations make to product and service safety. You'll learn how to articulate how and why you believe these aspects have been addressed. You will also learn how to discuss the level of confidence it is possible to have in the mitigation and assurance processes undertaken throughout a product or services lifecycle.

Throughout the duration of the course you will increase your skills in systematic thinking about all these issues. You will be challenged to consider the ethical characteristics of the activities you undertake and decisions you make to ensure that you are able to act professionally and competently. You will have the opportunity to assess a range of scenarios addressing multiple aspects of systems, services, and associated processes, across multiple domains and the lifecycle. We will take you out of your experience base to challenge your existing knowledge, skills and behaviours.

The course employs the extensive research and industrial experience of the developers of the work packages you will address. It brings together safety professionals from many different domains (aerospace, military, automotive, railway, nuclear) to ensure your learning is as varied and as comprehensive as possible.

The MSc in Safety Critical Systems Engineering is highly flexible. We even offer the opportunity for you to undertake taster modules before registering for the full course. In addition, we offer a Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma route through the course, and the ability to transfer between routes. This means that you can pick the best course to suit your circumstances and commitments.


This course is recognised by the British Computer Society (BCS) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) as partial fulfilment of the educational requirement for registration as a Chartered Engineer (CEng).

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The Institute of Safe Autonomy

This dedicated new facility on the University's Campus East will provide workspace for up to 100 people, a rooftop lab, and specialist robotics design and testing equipment. Building work has begun and the facility will open towards the end of 2021.


Our staff are at the cutting edge of their fields and we maintain strong links with industry.

Course content

The course can be taken on a full- or part-time basis. If you wish to take the course part-time, you can do this over two or three years, meaning it is very flexible and can easily fit in around work commitments.

Modules are delivered through set teaching weeks and you will be required to attend campus for some face-to-face teaching during teaching weeks. You'll undertake intensive teaching sessions based on lectures, case-studies and exercises.

Find out the dates the modules are running.


Core modules

You'll take core modules, topics will include:

  • Foundations of Critical Systems Engineering
  • Research Methods for Computer Science
  • Hazard, Risk and Safety Assessment
  • Assurance of Critical Systems

Option modules

You will also take option modules. Topics from previous years have included:

  • Advanced Topics in Safety
  • Through Life Safety
  • Human Factors for Safety 
  • Computers and Safety
  • Safety Case Development and Review
  • Safety Management Systems
  • System Safety Assessment
  • Systems Engineering for Safety

The options available to you will be confirmed later in the year. For further information please get in touch.

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.

Research project

In addition to the taught modules, you will undertake an independent study module. For full-time students, this takes the form of a report on an engineering project, totalling 70 pages. For part-time students, the project is split into two reports: a critical literature review of 25 pages and a final project report of 45 pages. You will have the opportunity to pick a project from a list of titles of specialisms within the Department, or you can define a title yourself, in agreement with an academic.

You will be given a personal supervisor during this project. If you are taking the course part-time, you'll need to come to York for one week over the six months the critical evaluation takes and two weeks over the one year of the final project. In addition, you will also keep in regular contact with your supervisor by phone or online meetings.

Recent examples of projects undertaken include:

  • A process to assess the safety impact of technical changes in the civil maritime domain
  • A framework for automating the requirement set generation from standards within the defence industry
  • Managing assurance deficits in safety cases for legacy systems.

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Employ system safety thinking throughout the lifecycle of a system or service using a broad, systematic imaginative anticipation of safety risks, causes and consequences
  • Contribute to the development of safe systems and services by ensuring that proper consideration is given to safety issues as part of Systems Engineering processes
  • Assess specific aspects of the safety of systems and services by employing analysis techniques respecting each techniques' strengths and limitations
  • Assure the safety of systems and services by organising and presenting information in a robust way that is amenable to critical evaluation, making appropriate choices from established assurance approaches
  • Design, execute and monitor an organisation's safety management processes to address relevant regulations, legislation and operational context by considering individual human factors, team competence and organisational structures
  • Create solutions to problems to extend the current state of the art or industrial practice in safety critical systems engineering, using knowledge from the breadth of safety critical systems theory, deeper skills in chosen areas and an ability to undertake research
  • Effectively communicate with technical and non-technical stakeholders about system safety problems and their solutions in a clear and organised manner
  • Operate as a leading safety-critical system safety professional, by maintaining awareness of key legal and ethical issues relating to system safety, appreciating how safety critical systems can affect society, and by continuing to expand and deepen knowledge through critical engagement with the discipline.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2023/24

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £22,500£27,200
Part-time (2 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.
Part-time (3 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.

Students on a Student Visa (formerly Tier 4 Visa) are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study.

  • UK (home) fees may increase in subsequent years (up to a maximum of 2%).
  • International fees may increase in subsequent years in line with the prevailing Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate (up to a maximum of 10%).

Additional costs

Text books and resources will be available to you through the University of York library and electronic copies of all course materials are provided. You will need to arrange and pay for your own accommodation and travel to York for face-to-face teaching. Costs associated with this will vary depending on your location and the standard of accommodation you book.

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

Part of this course is delivered by taught modules. During the second half of the course, you'll undertake an individual project under the supervision of a member of staff. The taught modules have an intensive, York-based face-to-face element, which is taught through a variety of lectures and seminars, interspersed with case study exercises which take place in groups of 6-8 students. For most modules, pre-recorded materials for private study will also be provided. After the York-based taught element, students are expected to complete an open assessment for each module.

Teaching location

The Department of Computer Science is based on Campus East. Teaching takes place in a range of locations on Campus East.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

Each module has an associated open assessment. 

This means that you undertake the assessment in your own time away from the University following the taught element of the module. This open assessment, and any associated work packages, is designed to consolidate and further deepen your knowledge, skills and approaches to the subject matter covered in the module. Of course, it is also designed to assess your progress.

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Take a short tour of some of the facilities in our modern, dedicated building.

Our study and social pod is open 24/7 for group and individual study and events. It comes with a fully equipped kitchen.

Careers and skills

The vast majority of people who undertake this course are already working in industrial fields such as aeronautical engineering, marine engineering, naval and military fields, automotive applications, gas and electric services engineers. Undertaking this course will equip you to progress within these fields.

Career opportunities

  • Aeronautical engineer
  • Safety manager
  • Naval engineer
  • Automotive engineer
  • Gas or electrical services engineer
  • Software safety consultant

Transferable skills

  • Information-retrieval
  • Numeracy
  • Time management

Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:2 or equivalent in a numerate, technical discipline. This course is specifically directed at those with several years of industrial experience.
Other qualifications and experience If you do not have a first degree but instead have relevant industrial experience, your application will be considered on a case by case basis.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Minimum requirement
IELTS (Academic and Indicator) 6.5, minimum 6.0 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 176, minimum 169 in each component
Duolingo 120, minimum 105 in all other components
LanguageCert SELT B2 with 33/50 in each component
LanguageCert International ESOL B2 Communicator: Pass with 33/50 in each component
PTE Academic/PTE Academic Online 61, minimum 55 in each component
TOEFL 87, minimum 21 in each component
Trinity ISE III Merit in all requirements

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

If you've not met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current English language test scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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Next steps

Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Dr Katrina Attwood, Dr Oleg Lisagor (Course Leaders)

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Department of Computer Science

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