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Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Monitoring - PgDip/MSc - Video

The only MSc Environmental Toxicology & Pollution Monitoring distance learning course in the UK.

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The only MSc Environmental Toxicology & Pollution Monitoring distance learning course in the UK.


Why study Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Monitoring at Ulster University in the United Kingdom?

Environmental toxicology and environmental pollution have their origins in development processes such as resource extraction and product manufacture and use, and this creates impacts that are seen in all parts of our global systems; on land and in air and water. To be effective environmental managers we need to understand why pollution occurs, what the risks are to both human and non-human environments, and what approaches to management we might have. If these issues interest you then the PgDip/MSc Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Monitoring course offers you exciting opportunities to investigate these topics further. This fully online distance-learning course provides advanced training in environmental toxicology, monitoring techniques and global environmental legislation.

This course is ideal if you are already working in the environmental field or wish to pursue a career in this area as it fulfils the demand for trained personnel in environmental regulatory agencies, in companies subject to this type of regulation, and in businesses involved in providing support services such as monitoring and consultancy.

Course Summary Printout

Course Description & Module Timing

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About this course

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This part-time PGDip/ MSC course is offered by the School of Geography and Environmental Sciences at Ulster University. The School was originally established in 1969 and it has a long and successful record of teaching and research in an interrelated group of geographical and environmental science subjects. The School is among the largest providers of part-time postgraduate course in the Physical Sciences in the United Kingdom. We have been offering this innovative, fully online distance learning Masters’ programme for over 15 years. The geographical spread of our students is global, with students from many areas of the European Union and also further afield such as Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and the United States. The various modules on this course will encourage you to develop an evidence-based approach to understanding the impact of chemicals on the environment and will give you the opportunity to enhance your knowledge and skills for testing, monitoring and controlling these toxins.

The specific objectives of the course are for you to develop:
- a clear and detailed understanding of the mechanisms of toxicity for both organic and inorganic substances
- an advanced awareness of the behaviour of contaminants in a variety of environmental systems
- a clear insight into the main toxicological problems of contaminants in the environment and the impacts on organisms

- the ability to identify and articulate how environmental quality standards are created and monitored
- a detailed understanding of the legislative controls on contaminants.

Why study with us?

  • We have a proven record of delivering this course by distance learning (read our student testimonials).
  • You will get support and advice from experienced lecturers, tutors, librarians and e-learning IT staff.
  • There is total flexibility of location – you can study from almost anywhere and there is no need to travel to classes.
  • You can choose the times you study to suit yourself, so that you can combine study and work.
  • You will be able to access a wide range of online resources such as e-books and journals, digital lectures and module discussion boards within the sector leading e-learning platform, Blackboard.
  • There is flexibility in the level of the course – you can study for a Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) or a Master’s degree (MSc) or enrol for individual modules that interest you.

Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and have included employees from areas such as: The Pharmaceutical Industry; Oil, Gas and Nuclear Industries; Government Environmental Protection Agencies; Engineering and Mining Companies; Environmental Consultants; Laboratory Technicians as well as people from unrelated areas who wanted a career change.


This course is offered fully online and is completed part-time by distance learning. You do not need to visit Ulster at any stage to successfully complete this course.

The Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) is made up of four taught modules (30 credits per module). One module is taught in each semester (late September to early January and late January to early May). It takes 2 academic years to complete the award of PgDip (120 credits). At this stage you can take the PgDip award or continue studying for the MSc. This entails completing a research project module (60 credits) over a further two semesters. This leads to the award of Master of Science (MSc) worth in total 180 credits. The full PgDip/ MSc programme normally takes three years part-time (6 semesters).

Start dates

  • September 2018
  • January 2019
How to apply


Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.

Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.

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Year one

Environmental data analysis

Year: 1

This module will provide new and synthesise existing knowledge and skills necessary to understand and analyse environmental data. Statistics, environmental modelling, geographical information systems and presentation skills will all be taught and demonstrated. The students will put this knowledge into action in the form of worked examples and assessments. Knowledge and evaluation techniques are provided in lectures, skills developed during worked examples and demonstrated by assessments

Environmental Toxicology

Year: 1

This module provides knowledge and skills necessary to understand the impact of chemicals in the environment. Specific areas covered include: the major toxicants, both organic and inorganic: sources, pathways and fate of major toxicants; specific effects on organisms (including humans); [physiological & biochemical principles of toxicity testing; LD50 & NOEC; risk assessment of soils and water; environmental quality standards and toxicity quotients.

Year two

Pollution Monitoring

Year: 2

This module provides the knowledge and skills necessary to monitor pollution of the environment. The topics included are: the key elements of the monitoring programmes for air, water and land; sample collection; chemical methods of analysis, including quality assurance; biological methods of analysis, including toxicity tests and bioassessment; use of environmental models; statistics, data analysis and assessing compliance and; critical loads. The student gains experience through lectures, supporting documents, directed reading and practicals.

Water Management

Year: 2

This module introduces the theory and practice of water management. It is intended to provide an understanding of current methods of water treatment and distribution, sustainable use of resources and principles of water quality management and legislation. In addition it aims at teaching skills in analysis and interpretation of water quality data and in applying water legislation. Lecture-based teaching of key concepts is reinforced by linked case study based practical exercises. The module assumes no prior knowledge or experience of water management.

Year three

Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Monitoring Project

Year: 3

This module provides the opportunity for the student to demonstrate the skills acquired during the course, in the form of a final project. The project is presented in the form of a scientific paper on an area agreed with the student's supervisor.

Entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.

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Entry Requirements

Entry to the PgDip:
You must hold an honours degree in a science or other suitable discipline or demonstrate your ability to undertake the course through the accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL).

Entry to the MSc:
You initially register for the Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) and if you complete the PgDip with an overall mark of 50% or higher you can proceed to the MSc programme.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 (with no band score less than 5.5). Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Teaching and learning assessment

Teaching is delivered entirely online through detailed lecture presentations and videos offering you the flexibility to study at your own pace, any place and at any time. A balance is struck between theoretical input and practical application and real world examples are used to enhance your understanding of key concepts and ideas. Learning is supported by lecturers and e-tutors offering one-to-one problem resolution and is also supported through discussion boards which encourage participation from the whole class. This offers opportunities to learn about issues and problems from different perspectives.

Communication occurs via four methods – email, discussion boards, online chat and telephone. A lot of people mistakenly assume that they will be isolated in an online course. To their surprise most find that the course actually provides a high degree of personal contact because the online format facilitates communication in ways that would be impossible in other situations

Assessment is entirely by coursework and there are no sessional examinations. Instead, a mixture of methods including practical reports, projects, literature reviews, essays, class tests, group work and a research project are used to assess your understanding and skills development.

Once registered you will be able to use the University's extensive online resources of electronic journals (over 45,000 separate publications), e-books and a wide range of scientific databases (for example American Chemistry Society, ProQuest, Celex, Chemistry central, Medline, National Chemical Database Service, Refworks, Science Direct, Scopus and Web of Science).

As a distance learning student you can

  • Submit work quickly and easily using the Blackboard Virtual learning Environment.
  • Email your lecturer or e-tutor with queries or problems as they arise and receive feedback to ensure successful progression.
  • Liaise with other students by email or through discussion board forums and use shared ideas and information.

Careers & opportunities

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Career options

Our students enrol for this course to develop their professional knowledge and to acquire new skills. They do this to improve their career and promotion prospects, change their career, or, if they are recently graduated, to specialise in a new subject area to enhance their job prospects.

Experience has shown that the majority of students who register on this course are already working in the environmental field. We therefore aim to be as flexible as possible in terms of the topics studied and will give you the opportunity to focus on areas of particular interest to you and/or the organisation for which you work where possible.

Strong links to consultancies and environmental agencies both private and governmental ensure that the course remains current and relevant to the needs of potential employers.

Professional recognition

Committee of Heads of Environmental Sciences (CHES)

This programme is accredited by the Committee of Heads of Environmental Sciences (CHES), the education committee of the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES). CHES is the collective voice of the environmental sciences academic community and serves to enhance the quality of environmental education worldwide. A programme accredited by CHES is assured to meet high standards, contain a strong component of practical, field and theoretical activities, and has excellent opportunities for training, work experience and links to the professional environmental sector. Students enrolled on CHES accredited programmes can apply for free Student Membership of the IES and for a fast-track route to membership once they graduate, starting you on a route towards becoming a Chartered Environmentalist or Chartered Scientist.

Academic profile

Dr Richard Douglas is Course Director and has research interests in the movement of metals in the environment. Other members include Professor Phil Jordan who specialises in nutrient management, Dr Joerg Arnscheidt involved with research in antimicrobial resistance and Professor Brian Rippey modelling organic contaminants.

Recent Papers of the team:

Gormley-Gallagher, A.M., R.W. Douglas & B. Rippey (2016). "Metal to phosphorus stoichiometries for freshwater phytoplankton in three remote lakes." Peerj 4. 10.7717/peerj.2749

Mellander, P.E., P. Jordan, M. Shore, N.T. McDonald, D.P. Wall, G. Shortle & K. Daly (2016). "Identifying contrasting influences & surface water signals for specific groundwater phosphorus vulnerability." Science of the Total Environment 541: 292-302.

McInerney, C.E., L. Maurice, A.L. Robertson, L. Knight, J. Arnscheidt, C. Venditti, J.S.G. Dooley, T. Mathers, S. Matthijs, K. Eriksson, G. S. Proudlove & B. Hanfling (2014). "The ancient Britons: groundwater fauna survived extreme climate change over tens of millions of years across NW Europe." Molecular Ecology 23(5): 1153-1166.

Student examples of published MSc Projects:

Davies, A.J. & M.J. Hope (2015). "Bayesian inference-based environmental decision support systems for oil spill response strategy selection." Marine Pollution Bulletin 96(1-2): 87-102.

Hagen, T.G. & R.W. Douglas (2014). "Comparative chemical sensitivity between marine Australian & Northern Hemisphere ecosystems: Is an uncertainty factor warranted for water‐quality–guideline setting?" Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry 33(5): 1187-1192.


How to apply

Applications to our postgraduate courses are made through the University’s online application system.

Start dates

  • September 2018
  • January 2019

Fees and funding

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Fees (total cost)

Important notice - fees information Fees illustrated are based on 18/19 entry and are subject to an annual increase. Correct at the time of publishing. Terms and conditions apply. Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study.
Visit our Fees pages for full details of fees

Northern Ireland & EU:

£13,680.00  Scholarships available

Where the postgraduate course selected offers multiple awards (e.g. PG Cert, PG Dip, Master’s), please note that the price displayed is for the complete master’s programme. Postgraduate certificates and diplomas are charged at a pro-rata basis. Find out more

Additional mandatory costs

This course has no additional mandatory costs.

Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges), and normal living are a part of university life.

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.

We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free wifi is also available on each of the campuses.

There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course.

Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees.

Please contact the course team for more information.


School of Geography and Environmental Sciences
Dr Richard Douglas
Course Director

T: +44 (0)28 7012 4401

For more information visit

Faculty of Life and Health Sciences

School of Geography and Environmental Sciences


Tony Hickey, Water and Wastewater Optimisation Analyst, Irish Water

I found the course very engaging and [it] broadened my knowledge of environmental fate of contaminants. The course was also very relevant to my work and has helped to give me a more holistic perspective of environmental toxicology in my work setting and will be very beneficial to my career going forward. The course material provided was on a very user friendly platform. I found the course materials was relevant to the subject matter. Studying online was the best option for me because it gave me flexibility with a busy family and work life. It was also made easier by the flexibility of the course lecturers and tutors to student needs and also their prompt reply to questions. Overall, I would recommend this course.

Anthony Wilson, Technical Advisor, Northumbrian Water Group

I have to admit that for someone who had been out of education for a while I found the course challenging, however the quality of the materials and resources available for the modules helped me to overcome the challenges and allowed for me to focus in the studies and on the assignments. I found the online discussion forums particularly helpful and gave me a chance to interact with fellow students and e-tutors. The support and feedback from the e-tutors and staff was excellent and certainly helped to break down any perceived barriers that there may be with online learning.

Online learning suited my personal circumstances as it meant that I could juggle full time employment, family and study and spreading the ETOX MSc course over three years part time meant that the workload from the course was more spread out allowing me to manage it more effectively.

The course has had the desired effect on my career and not long after completing it I applied for (and got) a position in the Wastewater Compliance department where the skills learned during the ETOX course are directly applicable. [They] help to investigate and understand the impact of fats, oils and grease (FOG) discharges on the sewer network as well as pollution incidents on water courses.

Rebecca Richardson, Senior Environmental Health Scientist, Australia

Initially I was worried about motivating myself to undertake an online MSc course but I needn’t have worried. The course materials were comprehensive, delivered regularly and in a timely manner. The online support from fellow students, e-tutors and lecturers was fantastic and prompt, with no question too silly to answer. Being able to draw on your own work experiences when undertaking some of the module assessments improves your critical thinking skills in the workplace. The valuable skills and knowledge I gained during this course have provided me with more career opportunities, including a promotion at work and I am about to commence a PhD. I would definitely recommend this course.

Andrew Davies, Environmental Scientist at Conoco Phillips, Aberdeen, Scotland

I had some trepidation at the outset since it was 20 years since my last period of university study, however I need not have worried as the course, the resources and staff were completely geared up to distance learning so that everything was really smooth. I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of it. The quality of the lecture material was very high and the references we were given in support of the lectures were always applicable. The availability of resources (papers, books etc.) was impressively good (I miss access to Athens!), considering the course was entirely distance learning. I found lecture staff, tutors, library staff and admin people always helpful and friendly - and above all, available and responsive (which isn't an experience I always heard friends had at other universities where they attended campus courses!). Feedback on assignments was prompt, thorough and useful. As a parent with a full-time job, distance learning was the only viable option for me to do an MSc: the workload was sometimes high (but what do you expect from a Masters?) and inevitably I had to sacrifice some pleasures during the course to make time do it all justice. This led to a bit of motivational stress, but that's as much to do with nature of my day job and having two daughters but only one wife to take up the strain! It is a fact that I have my job today because I took this course - I know this because my employer told me so. My industry has shed 25% of its UK workforce in the last three years, so I can only take a little pleasure (but a lot of relief) that I was fortunate enough to be placed in the role I wanted once I graduated, because of my MSc. Ulster University describe the MSc in Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Monitoring as being suitable for (inter alia) ‘companies subject to environmental regulation’ - this worked out right in the case of the offshore oil and gas business so it was ideal for me.