Disaster Risk Management: From Theory to Practice

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When the term “disaster” is mentioned there is an immediate assumption that it is about the hazard – earthquake/flood/volcanic eruption/landslide, etc. When in actual terms, these are merely natural phenomena that only lead to “disasters” in the presence of certain conditions. Such conditions that lead to damage and fatalities are inherent vulnerabilities in both social groups and physical structures. There is an obsession in the media with the science of hazards and far less focus on socio-economic and political vulnerabilities leading to a misconception that science is the answer to what’s essentially a consequence of inequality, lack of access and entitlement to resources and far wider structural factors.

The course is an introduction to the central space vulnerability takes in understanding disasters. It is mainly an examination of the nature, scope, context, concepts, and dynamics of vulnerability and risk. This will be undertaken through looking at factors contributing to vulnerability due to structural forces created by economic globalisation and their impact on local-level vulnerability. The course puts people at the centre of the examination focusing on the socio-economic and political dimensions as well as health aspects of vulnerability and disasters rather than hazards per se. The course also touchs on issues of climate change and forced migration, and overall vulnerability reduction and resilience building.

Instead of a conventional approach where introduction to the subject and definitions constitute the first part, the course starts with the main issues in question and works its way to extracting the concepts, dynamics and definitions of vulnerability from looking at the global picture first. This way students, especially those who have no prior knowledge or experience in disaster related work could make sense and relate better to practical cases and examples rather than sitting through theoretical and descriptive definitions.

The course is designed more like a learning journey and structured into progressive but non-linear blocks of exploration with clear signposts and landmarks. The course is designed in a way where “imparting knowledge” is kept to a minimum. This is an extremely practical subject with highly problematic and politically charged areas. It’s best approaching this course in a way of mutual learning, challenging preconceptions and exploring answers rather than expecting to be given such answers. The course will also be flexibly shaped around students’ experience and areas of interest. While there are set sessions, emphasis will be gauged to students’ level.

Deadline for applications: 1 July 2020. Start your online application now!


School of Global Health, University of Copenhagen.
The course takes place in Copenhagen, Denmark

Course leader

Assistant Professor Emmanuel Raju


This is a mandatory course in the Master of Disaster Management programme and an elective course on the MSc in Global Health. This course can also be taken as a stand-alone course. Information about fees and admission requirements below.


31 August - 25 September 2020

ECTS credits

7.5 ECTS



Learning outcomes


On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the nature, typology and dynamics of vulnerability.
  • Demonstrate a critical and practical understanding of the factors affecting and leading to vulnerability not only on a local level but those emanating from structural global processes.
  • Understand the complex connections and interaction between hazards and vulnerabilities and how risk is contextually configured.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the central role of disaster related health impacts and health status as chronic vulnerability issues that reduces people’s resilience in the face of extreme events and hazards.
  • Have a command of the key concepts, theories, models and principles relevant to disaster management and risk reduction.
  • Have an adequate understanding of climate change and climate adaptation in general and in relations to extreme events in particular and be able to relate long-term impact of climate change to disaster risk management were both impacts overlap and add to further complexity.
  • Identify the main actors in risk and disaster management and understand their impact in the field.


On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Research into the issues of risk and vulnerability in a specific country or for a specific event/hazard.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of methods and tools for risk analysis and risk evaluation, including methods for identification and analysis of hazards and vulnerabilities.
  • Acquire the conceptual basis to appreciate the complexities of vulnerability, risk and disaster management.
  • Develop a better ability to engage with and relate to disaster professionals – across sectors and disciplines and work collaboratively in a field situation through understanding what constitutes vulnerability and how to deal with it.
  • Develop some research ability in constructing vulnerability and disaster profiles.
  • Critically evaluate the strengths and limitations of policies and practices in the field that could potentially lead to increased vulnerability of the population.


On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Apply tools used for teambuilding and stress management and demonstrate knowledge about intercultural communication.
  • Identify and formulate a relevant and current research question and develop a vulnerability profile for a case study assignment.
  • Work independently in self-directed study.
  • Work in a group – teamwork and presentation.
  • Engage in dialogue and discussions, and argue a case.
  • Negotiation, including compromise, argument and trade offs.
  • Read and critique literature.


The main content areas are:

  • The disaster-development nexus
  • Introduction to the nature of disasters and forensics of the complexity of vulnerability
  • Risk configuration and accumulation due to multiple factors – structural and temporal
  • Health issues in disasters and disaster risk management
  • Models of disaster risk management and good practice
  • Brief introductions to disaster preparedness, response and recovery
  • Climate change impact on natural resources and livelihoods and connection to disasters

Teaching and learning methods

There will be a variety of teaching/learning methods on the module ranging from lectures, to video screening followed by open discussions and to student led presentations.

The teaching/learning methods could be listed as follows:

  • Lectures - Imparting knowledge, concepts, theories and models
  • Exercises – Inquiry or skills based with emphasis on analytical skills and problem solving
  • Videos – Guided with a set of questions or an exercise that follows
  • Seminars – Self-directed by students and guided and mentored by tutors
  • Presentations – of group assignments and feedback by a panel of tutors
  • Paper – To develop academic writing skills and assessed by course leader and external examiner

Assessment Procedures

An individually 48-hour written assignment. Internal moderation.
The 48-hour exam can be carried out from anywhere in the world – provided you have access to the Internet and have access to the relevant materials.
Evaluation: Danish 7-point grading scale.


  • Reduced fee: 22,000 DKK - For students from EU/EEA or Switzerland.
  • Normal fee: 30,000 DKK - For all other students.

For approximate exchange rates between DKK (Danish Krone) and other currencies please contact your bank or visit this website. All fees are subject to regulation.


We do not offer any scholarships, nor can we assist in finding funding, but on our page about scholarships we have collected some information that might be useful.