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MSc in System Safety Engineering with Automotive Applications

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

Apply online now button

This MSc course has been developed for the Jaguar Land Rover Technical Accreditation Scheme.

The course is available on a part time basis, taking typically four years to complete.  Students take 12 Assessed Modules over 3 years, 5 of which are Core (C) and 7 Optional (O), plus a project on a SSE topic within the automotive domain (over the final year).  See the Project tab for more details.

This modular MSc is designed to prepare students for work in the demanding field of Safety Systems Engineering (SSE) by exposing them to the latest science and technology within this field. In the core module phase, the course focuses on the principles and practices in SSE across a range of domains, including automotive. In the optional module phase, the course focuses on specialist SSE and automotive topics.  The projects are also designed to consider SSE topics within an automotive context.

The discipline of SSE 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 and services. 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 modules allow students to investigate such areas as the contribution of software, human factors or operational factors within an automotive engineering context in more depth.

Learning Outcomes

The course aims to provide participants with a thorough 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, deployment and operation of such systems.  Graduates completing the course will be equipped to participate 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 with Automotive Applications graduate will have a knowledge and understanding of the essential areas, as represented by the core modules, knowledge and understanding on a number of specialist topics, as represented by the optional modules. and an ability to identify issues with the safety process in a particular project, identify responses to this gap and evaluate the proposal, as represented by the project.

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.

Why take this course?

"As a practitioner of system / functional safety in the automotive industry I cannot recommend this MSc highly enough. The course structure and the core modules cover the fundamentals of system safety in such depth and breadth as to be applicable to any safety standard, for example the ISO 26262. To the core modules I chose the optional modules of Sensors and Effects, Human factors and Computers and Software and believe this to be a very good combination for anybody working in the automotive industry. Unlike previous degree courses I refer to my York notes a great deal since they are extremely relevant to my day to day safety activities.”  
[Student from Automotive industry, taking the SCSE course 2010]


The MSc System Safety Engineering with automotive applications is a part time course comprising:

  • Twelve assessed modules, five of which are core. The remaining seven are chosen from the available optional modules. The student will take 10 – 30 credits worth of optional modules at York and 40 – 60 worth of modules provided by other TAS providers.
  • An individual project at York (60 credits).

The modules are taken over three years.  The project is undertaken in the fourth year. 

  • Modules at York are taught full time in York for one week.  In addition, the associated assessed exercise takes approximately 65 hours.  All assessed exercises are open, comprising a report, case study, or documented piece of software.  There are no closed examinations.
  • Optional modules provided by other TAS partners are assessed according to the rules of the appropriate module provider.
  • The project is examined by dissertation.

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.

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 08/10/18


Hazard and Risk Assessment (HRAS) 06/11/17 05/11/18 C
Software Requirements (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 07/01/19 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

Part Time (60): MSc SCSE Final Project (PRCP)

 October - September

Project Submission: September

Project Presentation: September

 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 seven Optional modules are to be taken for the MSc.
  • One option to be taken on the Certificate course.

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


The MSc System Safety Engineering with Automotive Applications project for part-time students is 60 credits in length:

  • Literature survey on a subject to determine the state of the art in that area.
  • A gap in the state of the art identified in the first part is addressed, a proposal made and evidence provided for the proposal.  This project is completed in September of a student's fourth year.

The Project(s) enable(s) students to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of an area by means of a literature review covering all significant developments in the area and placing them in perspective;
  • Exhibit critical awareness and appreciation of best practice and relevant standards;
  • Investigate particular techniques and methods for the construction of safe systems, possibly involving the construction of a prototype;
  • Evaluate the outcome of their work, drawing conclusions and suggesting possible further work in the area.

The project(s) address(es) a technical problem concerned with real issues in the automotive domain.  It should, if possible, include the development and application of a practical method, technique or system.  It is a natural progression from the taught modules, and builds on material covered in them.  It addresses the problem from an automotive system safety perspective, including hardware, software or human factors.  It will typically have an industrial flavour, students are encouraged, with the help of their managers and academic staff, to select a project which is relevant to their own work.

The project begins at the start of the Autumn term after completion of the taught modules, and lasts 12 months part-time. There are three weeks attendance at York during the project, for progress assessment and access to library facilities: in October near the start of the project; and in the following January and July. Full details are provided during the course.

Projects in the related SCSE MSc have covered a wide range of issues in system safety engineering. A list of titles can be obtained by from the past projects page of Safety Critical Systems Engineering MSc course. Please note that these projects are larger (90 credits not 60) and do not focus on the automotive domain. However, they are indicative of likely subjects to be covered on the MSc in System Safety with Automotive Applications project.

How to Apply

To apply for this MSc please complete and submit your application electronically using the University's online application system.

Apply online now button


Typically applicants for the MSc in System Safety Engineering with Automotive Applications will have achieved a first degree in a numerate, technical discipline.  This course is specifically directed at those with at least two years of industrial experience and applicants who do not have a first degree but who have relevant industrial experience will be considered on a case by case basis. 

We welcomes students from all backgrounds and circumstances. You can request a hard copy of the Postgraduate prospectus upon request by filling out the informal enquiry form.

Applicants are required to nominate two referees, of which at least one should be from their current employer or place of study. Applicants are normally interviewed before acceptance by telephone.


This course is suitable for Automotive Engineers and Safety Engineers wishing to 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 thorough 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;
  • Understanding of a selection from a wide range of specialist automotive topics;
  • 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.

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.

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 in Systems Safety Engineering with Automotive Applications course can be used to address this position statement.
Other Optional modules also contribute to these principles depending on the set of Optional modules chosen.

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: 
Modules: Foundations of System Safety, Hazard and Risk Assessment and Safety Management Systems, 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: 
Modules: Hazard and Risk Assessment, System Safety Assessment, Computers and Safety, Through-Life Safety

Principle 3: The architecture of the SCS should avoid major hazards wherever possible.
Addressed by: 
Modules: Hazard and Risk Assessment, System Safety Assessment, 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: 
Modules: Foundations of System Safety, Human Factors for Safety

Principle 5: Every SCS must have a documented safety analysis
Addressed by: 
Modules: System Safety Assessment, 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: 
Modules: Foundations of System Safety, Hazard and Risk Assessment, System Safety Assessment, 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: 
Modules: Foundations of System Safety, Safety Management Systems, 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: 
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: 
Modules: Foundations of System Safety, Hazard Risk Assessment
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: 
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.


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. Find out more about fees and how to pay them.

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

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