Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Monitoring

PgDip, MSc

2023/24 Part-time Postgraduate course


Postgraduate Diploma, Master of Science


Faculty of Life and Health Sciences


School of Geography and Environmental Sciences


This course is taught online so you can study where you want, when you want.

Start dates:

September 2023

January 2024


This is the only MSc in Environmental Toxicology & Pollution Monitoring in the United Kingdom. Since 1999, we have had over 200 successful graduates.


With over 30 years’ experience of teaching Environmental Toxicology, and 19 years teaching via online distance learning, the course team has a significant track record in Ecotoxicology education. This course investigates why pollution occurs, what the risks are to both humans and the environment, and what approaches to management we might have.

The specific objectives of the course are to develop an understanding of:

• The general mechanisms of toxicity.

• The basis of setting environmental quality standards.

• The behaviour of contaminants in water, air and soil.

• The legislative controls on contaminants.

• Analysing large datasets using techniques such as Geographic Infomation Systems.

We’d love to hear from you!

We know that choosing to study at university is a big decision, and you may not always be able to find the information you need online.

Please contact Ulster University with any queries or questions you might have about:

  • Course specific information
  • Fees and Finance
  • Admissions

For any queries regarding getting help with your application, please select Admissions in the drop down below.

For queries related to course content, including modules and placements, please select Course specific information.

We look forward to hearing from you.

About this course


Why Study Environmental Toxicology & Pollution Monitoring?

This subject has origins in development processes such as resource extraction and product manufacture, and this creates impacts that are seen in all parts of our global systems; on land and in air and water. In recent years the need for professionals with a clear understanding of pollution issues has grown steadily across a wide range of sectors.

  • 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.
  • 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.

Why Study with Us?

  • Established course with excellent reputation and feedback. Ulster University has been at the forefront of online learning and The School of Geography & Environmental Sciences accounts for more than 5% of all part-time postgraduate students studying the Physical Science in the United Kingdom.
  • Flexibility of location – As a fully online distance learning student, you can study from almost anywhere, as long as you have a computer and internet access. The flexibility of e-learning also means that you can continue with the course even if you move to a new location or need to travel as part of your job.
  • Aimed for people in full-time employment - choose the times you study each week to suit your lifestyle demands.
  • Support and advice from experienced lecturers, librarians, e-learning and IT staff. We also employ past course graduates as mentors for further support.
  • Access a wide range of online resources such as e-books, scientific papers, digital lectures and discussion boards all within a dedicated e-learning platform (Blackboard Learn).
  • Two start dates per year (September and January).
  • Entirely assessed by coursework – no formal examinations.
  • Relevant work experience may be accepted in place of standard entry requirements.
  • Competitive fees can be paid by instalments.
  • Study for individual modules, a Postgraduate Diploma or a Master’s degree – whatever your circumstances dictate. You can do the full MSc in stages as suits you.

Additional Benefits

  • The latest version of Microsoft Office is available to download for current students, free of charge. You can run Office on up to five desktop Mac or Windows workstations. You can also run Office Mobile on up to 5 mobile devices (on supported operating systems).
  • A range of free downloads and links to products at discount prices is available to all students at the University,
    • Esri's ArcGIS and/or Erdas Imagine provided free of charge to students using GIS or remote sensing as part of their Masters projects.
    • McAfee Anti-virus software: Ensure your PC is protected against the latest threats by having anti-virus software installed. Students can download and install McAfee for free.
    • SPSS statistical software: Students can download SPSS which is a powerful statistical analysis program used for doing advanced statistical analysis of data for research and other projects.
    • Apple Educational Discount: Students qualify for special discounted pricing on Apple computers, software and select third party products.
    • Nvivo: NVivo is software that supports qualitative and mixed methods research. It lets you collect, organise and analyse content from interviews, focus group discussions, survey, audio - and now in NVivo10, social media data, YouTube videos and web pages.
    • Software4Students: Information is available from Software4Students on purchasing Adobe products, Kaspersky Anti-Virus & other security software. Microsoft Operating Systems and other software is also available.
    • StudentStore: Laptops can be purchased under the University Colleges and Information Systems Association (UCISA) National Laptop Agreement.
    • Dell Products: DELL offer a computer initiative to students at the University.
    • DreamSpark: As a University student you can download professional Microsoft developer, designer, and gaming software through DreamSpark at no charge.
  • Free Student Membership of the Institution of Environmental Sciences

Student backgrounds

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 and people from unrelated areas who may be thinking of a career change. The geographical spread of our students has been 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. You do not need to visit Ulster at any stage to successfully complete this course.

Quality Assurance

The course is validated every five years as is a requirement of the United Kingdom Quality Assurance Agency. At the last validation, the teaching team were commended on the following aspects of the provision:

• The innovative nature of the programme

• The relevance of the programme to the subject area

• The excellent structure of the research project module

• The ways in which the programme addressed wider community interests and made students aware of the independencies and social implications of their fields of study


How does a distance learning course work?

Most of the course materials, student support and general study guidance and resources are provided via a teaching platform called Blackboard. Students download digital versions of their teaching materials (e.g. illustrated documents, podcasts, practical instructions) at the start of each week and work through them at their own convenience. Coursework (e.g. projects, tests etc.) is also submitted via Blackboard. Unlike a traditional classroom environment, students studying online use communication mechanisms such as discussion boards, chat rooms or video-conference tools to interact with staff and other students, and are not required to attend the campus at any time during the course (though they are welcome to visit the university to use its facilities or meet with staff if they wish).

Many students choose to study by distance learning because they do not have the option of enrolling for an on-campus course, while others prefer the flexibility of time and location afforded by studying online over the face-to-face teaching and interaction of an on-campus course.

What help is available for people studying by distance learning?

The course is supported by the academics responsible for each module and by one or more e-tutors (who are experienced Environmental Toxicology graduates). Students are encouraged to use the Blackboard forums to discuss course-related matters with staff and other students and to seek help when required, and can also contact us via email, phone, Skype, or in person, as preferred. General information about the course, contact details for relevant staff, study skills advice and links to other resources are provided through Blackboard, and our course administrator will assist you with any non-academic issues or direct you to the appropriate person, if you need assistance with things like enrolment, access to the University's electronic journals and ebooks, technical queries etc.

How is the course assessed?

Each module is assessed entirely by coursework – there are no formal university exams. Coursework consists of a mixture of assignments such as project reports, practical write-ups, presentations and online quizzes and tests. We place strong emphasis in coursework on developing and enhancing practical and data analysis abilities, as well as academic and professional skills such as report-writing.

How many hours a week does the course take?

In addition to working through course materials, students need to spend time reading and preparing for tests and assignments. The amount of time taken up each week depends on various factors including aptitude, experience and motivation, but as a general guide, part-time students should expect to allocate anything from 6 to 20 hours per week for the 15 weeks of a module. No teaching takes place during the summer months.

The Online Environment

To take this course, you will need access to a computer with a reliable internet connection. The course uses the Blackboard Learn environment – this is one of the largest online education software providers in the world. You will automatically get access to this when you become a registered student with the Ulster University.

You will find that this course is much more flexible than traditional on-campus university courses as you can study using your own computer and the internet, at your own pace, any place and any time (within given timeframes). A lot of people mistakenly assume that they will feel isolated in an online course. To their surprise, most find that the course actually provides a high degree of personal contact as the online format facilitates communication in ways that would be impossible in other situations.

As a distance learning student with Ulster University you can:

• Submit work quickly and easily using the Blackboard internet technology.

• Email your lecturer or e-tutor with queries or problems as they arise and receive fast, useful feedback to ensure successful progression.

• Liaise with other students by email or through discussion forums and use shared ideas and information.

• Use the University’s extensive online resources of electronic journals, books and databases.

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:

Mellander, P.E., Jordan, P., Bechmann, M., Fovet, O., Shore, M.M., McDonald, N.T. and Gascuel-Odoux, C. (2018). "Integrated climate-chemical indicators of diffuse pollution from land to water." Scientific Reports 8.

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.

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


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.

The PGDip programme consists of four 30-point modules covering water management, environmental toxicology, pollution monitoring, and environmental data analysis. The modules on this course rotate so they run in alternative years. When you start the course will dictate the order in which you take the modules.

The PG Dip takes 2 years part time, studying 60 credits per year. The MSc takes a further year.

EGM822 – Water Management (30 credits) - this module will run in January 2023, January 2025, January 2027, January 2029

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.

EGM802 – Environmental Data Analysis (30 credits) - this module will run in September 2023, Sept 2025, Sept 2027, Sept 2029

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

EGM820 – Environmental Toxicology (30 credits) - this module will run in January 2024, January 2026, January 2028, January 2030

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 (includi