“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – and prevention requires knowledge. That's exactly what the professional master’s programme in safety and risk management at AAU Esbjerg is all about. Students gain insight into engineering, economics, statistics and the social and health areas at a high level so they are equipped to analyse crisis and disaster situations and prevent accidents in the future.
The programme is a collaborative effort of AAU Esbjerg and the University of Southern Denmark and is primarily aimed at engineers and constructing architects. However, it is also interesting to a very wide segment, explains Anders Schmidt Kristensen, a researcher and instructor associated with the programme at AAU Esbjerg.
- The Risk and Safety Management programme takes a very holistic approach to risk management. Our students learn both how to use advanced probability-based methods and to see patterns in numbers over time. The programme also covers organizational theory, health and communication, which means that students can then go straight into business and add great value to companies, he says.
DSB disaster as an example
Anders Schmidt Kristensen mentions the disaster on 2 January 2019 when a DSB train collided with a freight vehicle on Storebælt as an example of an accident that students will typically study to prevent something similar from happening again.
By analysing the technical aspects of the incident and looking at structures around security checks, maintenance, work pressures, duty rosters, etc., students learn how to develop procedures that take into account the mistakes of the past and to identify safety issues before they arise.
- It's about creating a culture of safety and a robustness. And about making sure that safety is also a good business model, explains Anders Schmidt Kristensen.
- In addition to tragic injuries, accidents cause costly breakdowns, suggest poor Corporate Social Responsibility, and have a host of other negative consequences including cost increases. So part of the programme requires that students learn to how to talk about why it’s important to follow procedures and work to ensure that safety becomes a natural part of corporate culture.
The risk management programme began in 2014, and since the first cohort of students graduated in 2016, AAU Esbjerg has produced 20 new graduates each year with a professional master’s in Risk and Safety Management. Many have subsequently found jobs in large companies such as Siemens, Carlsberg or Novo Nordisk – either at home or abroad.
- The programme attracts students from afar. Students come to Esbjerg from Copenhagen, Aarhus and other major cities, but also from abroad. In the six years we have offered the programme, we have had students from China, Venezuela, India, Bangladesh and many places in Europe.
Good career opportunities
One of the students who made the trip to West Jutland is Saqib Mahmood, originally from Pakistan. After earning a Master's degree in Economics at the University of Copenhagen, he completed the professional master's programme in Risk and Safety Management at AAU Esbjerg in 2017. Right now, he's completing his PhD in Esbjerg and is planning on a career in the field.
- The programme opens up a wide range of career opportunities for me all over the world. Risk and safety management is an area of enormous development and great potential, and AAU is known as one of the world's very best universities for engineering, he says.
Exporting safety to Bangladesh
Sikder Mohammed Tawhidul Hassan is in the process of completing the programme on a Danida stipend as part of cooperation between the Ministry of Employment in Denmark and Bangladesh.
Currently, he is working to improve working conditions in the textile industry in Bangladesh, and when he finishes his PhD at the end of this month, he returns home with a deeper understanding of ways to specifically prevent risk.
- The best thing about the programme is that it is always based on real situations. This means that you learn to analyse complex systems. I also really appreciated the wide range of subjects and that the students come with many different professional backgrounds. This makes for a high level of knowledge sharing among the students, he says.
- Now I have to go back to Bangladesh and make my knowledge accessible to others so that we can tackle the unsolved challenges of safety in the labour market.