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Postgraduate Certificate in Systems Safety Engineering

Overview & Contacts

For general information:

Heather Taylor
CPD & Postgraduate Programmes Administrator

Tel: +44 (0)1904 325536
Fax: +44 (0)1904 325599

For informal discussion:

Dr Mark Nicholson
Course Leader

Tel: +44 (0)1904 325568
Fax: +44 (0)1904 325599

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Part Time - This course is available full time or part time.

6 Assessed Modules - 5 of which are Core (C) and 1 Optional (O).

Upgrade is possible to the Diploma SCSE and MSc SCSE courses.

This modular postgraduate Certificate course is designed to prepare students for work in the demanding field of Systems Safety Engineering (SSE) by exposing them to the latest science and technology within this field. The discipline of SSE has developed over the last half of the twentieth century. It can be viewed as a process of systematically analysing systems to evaluate risks, with the aim of influencing design in order to reduce risks, i.e. to produce safer products. In mature industries, such as aerospace and nuclear power, the discipline has been remarkably successful, although there have been notable exceptions to the generally good safety record, e.g. Fukushima, Buncefield and the Heathrow 777 accident.

Various trends pose challenges for traditional approaches to SSE. For example, classical hazard and safety analysis techniques deal poorly with computers and software where the dominant failure causes are errors and oversights in requirements or design. Thus these techniques need extending and revising in order to deal effectively with modern systems. Also, in our experience, investigation of issues to do with safety of computer systems have given some useful insights into traditional system safety engineering, e.g. into the meaning of important concepts such as the term hazard.  The optional module allows students to investigate such areas as the contribution of software, human factors or operational factors to SSE in more depth.

The courses may be used as part of a Continuing Professional Development programme for The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) or The Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) members.

Learning Outcomes

The course aims to provide participants with a preliminary grounding and practical experience in the use of state-of-the-art techniques for development of safety critical systems, together with an understanding of the principles behind these techniques so that they can make sound engineering judgements during the design and deployment of such a system.  Graduates completing the course will be equipped to participate and in safety-critical systems engineering related aspects of industry and commerce.

New areas of teaching will be developed in response to new advances in the field as well as the requirements of the organisations that employ our graduates.

The course aims to equip students with knowledge, understanding and practical application of the essential components of System Engineering, to complement previously gained knowledge and skills. A York System Safety Engineering graduate will have a preliminary knowledge and understanding of the essential areas, as represented by the core modules.

Transferable Skills

Information-retrieval skills are an integrated part of many modules; students are expected to independently acquire information from on-line and traditional sources. These skills are required within nearly all modules.

Numeracy is required and developed in some modules.  Time management is an essential skill for any student in the course. The formal timetable has a substantial load of lectures and labs. Students must fit their private study in around these fixed points. In addition, Open Assessments are set with rigid deadlines which gives students experience of balancing their time between the different commitments.

All students in the University are eligible to take part in the York Award in which they can gain certified transferable skills. This includes the Languages for All programme which allows students to improve their language skills.



The Certificate in Systems Safety Engineering is a full time or part time course comprising six assessed modules, five of which are core. The remaining module is chosen from the available optional modules. The course is taken over 1 year full time or 2 years as a part time course.

Each module is taught full time in York for one week. Its associated assessed exercise, which is completed on site by full time students and off site by part time students, takes approximately 35 hours in addition. An additional 30 hours of private study is expected during the open assessment period. All assessed exercises are open, comprising a report, case study, or documented piece of software. There are no closed examinations.

Each student is allocated a personal supervisor from within the Department who meets the student regularly to discuss progress during both the teaching and project phases. In addition, industrial supervisors will be responsible for the day to day supervision of projects that are undertaken in industry.

All modules are delivered at York unless otherwise specified.

 Module Timetable 

Module Title 2017/182018/19Core/
Foundations of System Safety Engineering (FSSE) 18/09/17 17/09/18 C
Systems Engineering for Safety (SEFS) 09/10/17 08/09/18 O
Hazard and Risk Assessment (HRAS) 06/11/17 05/11/18 C
Software Requirements and Architectures (SWRE) 20/11/17 19/11/18 O
System Safety Assessment (SSAS) 04/12/17 03/12/18 C
Safety Management Systems (SMSY) 08/01/18 07/01/18 C
Safety Case Development & Review (SCDR) 22/01/18 21/01/19 C
Human Factors for Safety (HUFS) 12/02/18 11/02/19 O
Computers & Safety (CASA) 05/03/18 04/03/19 O
Through Life Safety (TLSA) 19/03/18 18/03/19 O
Security for Safety Critical Systems (SESA) 23/04/18 22/04/19 O
  • All modules occupy 5 days, starting on Monday
  • Modules may be cancelled if there are insufficient numbers.
  • Any cancellations may incur a charge.
  • Core (C) and Optional (O) modules are assessed.
  • A choice of four Optional modules are to be taken for the MSc.
  • One option to be taken on the Certificate course.
  • SCSE=Safety Critical Systems Engineering; SSE = System Safety Engineering.

Please Note: This is a provisional timetable and may be subject to change.

How to Apply

You can apply through our online application system (SELECT).

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Typically applicants for the Certificate in Systems Safety Engineering will have achieved at a first degree in a numerate, technical discipline. Industrial experience is also useful. This full time or part time course is specifically directed at those with several years of industrial experience. Applicants who do not have a first degree but who have relevant expertise will be considered on a case by case basis.

We welcome students of all backgrounds and circumstances. 

Applicants are required to nominate two referees, of which at least one should be from the applicant's current employer or place of study. Applicants are normally interviewed before acceptance either in person if UK based or by telephone for international students.

The University welcomes international students - read more information specifically for prospective international students

Non-English speaking candidates are required to have certain English language qualifications prior to admission.


This course is suitable for new Safety Engineers who want to gain an educational grounding in the field of SSE or Safety Engineers wishing to renew, refresh and extend their knowledge in the area of System Safety.

To this end, we present many of the ideas of classical safety engineering as well as dealing explicitly with the new issues raised by the widespread use of computers in safety related applications. Thus, the courses aim to provide participants with:

  • A preliminary grounding, and practical experience, in the use of state-of-the-art techniques for design and development, validation and verification of safety critical systems.
  • Understanding of the principles behind these techniques so that they can make sound judgements during the design and deployment of such a system;
  • A flexible course structure which is suitable for part-time students and for industrial clients who wish to attend a short, intensive course on a particular aspect of safety critical system technology.


Fees and Funding

2017/18 non-standard annual tuition fees for postgraduate students can be found here: Fees and funding for taught Masters degrees 2017/18  

Fees all include all relevant course materials, tuition and examinations and are payable in advance. They do not include text books or living expenses. VAT is not applicable. 

Modules on this course can be attended individually as a short course.

Discounts may apply if you are a self financing student, to find out if you are eligible to qualify as a self-financing student please contact us at

Meeting IET Principles

IET Position Statement on Safety-Critical Systems – A response

The IET position statement issued in October 2009 sets forward 10 principles and two recommendations for Safety-Critical Software-based systems in safety-related applications. Here we show how the MSc Safety-Critical Systems Engineering course can be used to address this position statement.

Principle 1: The fundamental starting point for the development of any SCS is the creation of a rigorous and and consistent statement of user requirements. 
Addressed by: 
Core modules: Foundations of System Safety, Hazard and Risk Assessment and Safety Management Systems.
Optional Modules: System Engineering for Safety, Software Requirements and Architectures, Software Testing Analysis and Review.

Principle 2: Every SCS must have a comprehensive hazard analysis carried out
Addressed by: 
Core modules: Hazard and Risk Assessment, System Safety Assessment
Optional Modules: Computers and Safety, Through-Life Safety

Principle 3: The architecture of the SCS should avoid major hazards wherever possible.
Addressed by: 
Core modules: Hazard and Risk Assessment, System Safety Assessment.
Optional Modules: Computers and Safety, System Engineering for Safety, Software Requirements and Architectures, Sensors and Effectors,

Principle 4: Where overall safety depends on correct actions taken by human operators, the human-computer interface and the training of operators should be considered.
Addressed by: 
Core modules: Foundations of System Safety
Optional Modules: Human Factors for Safety

Principle 5: Every SCS must have a documented safety analysis
Addressed by: 
Core modules: System Safety Assessment
Optional Modules: Computers and Safety, Software Testing Analysis and Review.

Principle 6: Showing that a particular set of development processes have been followed is never sufficient to demonstrate that the resulting system meets its safety target 
Addressed by: 
Core modules: Foundations of System Safety, Hazard and Risk Assessment, System Safety Assessment 
Optional Modules: Computers and Safety, Software Testing Analysis and Review.

Principle 7: Developer's competencies should be appropriate to their project roles and kept current. 
Addressed by: 
Core modules: Foundations of System Safety, Safety Management Systems,  
Optional Modules: Ethics of SCS work dealt with throughout the course

Principle 8: Software systems are mathematically formal objects and it is possible to reason about their behaviour and to prove that they have certain properties
Addressed by: 
Optional Modules: Software Requirements and Architectures, Software Testing Analysis and Review

Principle 9: It is generally impractical to rely on test based evidence in advance of putting a system into widespread service
Addressed by: 
Core modules: Foundations of System Safety, Hazard Risk Assessment
Optional Modules: Software Requirements and Architectures, Software Testing Analysis and Review, Computers and Safety

Principle 10: There should be regular reviews of systems in service to assess whether the threat profile has changed and whether risks are still as low as reasonably practicable
Addressed by: 
Core modules: Through Life Safety, Hazard and Risk Assessment, Safety Management Systems

The IET Recommends:

  • Use of tools and approaches that industry best practice
    Addressed by: all modules
  • Research and development effort and financing directed towards extending the scale and range of system properties that can be proven through analysis
    Addressed by: Assessments and the MSc project.

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