Freshwater Quality Monitoring & Assessment

University College Cork

Freshwater Quality Monitoring & Assessment

The programme is offered in a part-time, online format that facilitates study in your own time. It is useful to those already working in the water sector, including government agencies, and to staff in higher-level education institutes who wish to gain a specialised postgraduate qualification in surface and groundwater monitoring, quality assurance and control, and data analysis and presentation.

Rivers, lakes and groundwaters are covered in detail and there is an option to study biological and ecological methods, the use of particulate material in monitoring and to take part in a field module during the second year of the programme. The final year of the programme comprises an individual research project and written dissertation.

Programme Content

On successful completion of this course, students should be able to: outline the steps involved in designing a monitoring programme and the different factors that must be considered in each step of the design; identify appropriate monitoring approaches in relation to monitoring objectives; select suitable methods for use in the field and laboratory and perform sampling and analytical procedures; produce a quality assurance plan for a monitoring programme; analyse monitoring data using a range of graphical, statistical and GIS-based approaches and write a water quality assessment report suitable for technical and non-technical audiences.

Course Practicalities
Teaching is online with each module running for 16 weeks (10 credits) or 8 weeks (5 credits), with the exception of the one-week, full-time optional field module EV6004 in Year 2. This module enables students to gain experience in practical freshwater quality monitoring methods. Students are expected to spend approximately 15-20 hours per week on study effort per module, of which approximately 6 hours would be online engagement.

Students are provided with a student email account and access online to the UCC library but will need the use of a computer with an internet connection, modern browser, word processing and spreadsheet software. Programme tutors will be in regular contact with students to provide support and advice throughout the programme.

Students also undertake an independent research project on a topic within the field of freshwater quality monitoring and assessment. This project will be carried out either in their workplace (if appropriate), in an environmental agency or similar setting, or in collaboration with an academic research institution in the student's country of residence.

There is one major written assessment at the end of each module in addition to minor assignments in the form of reports, reviews, exercises associated with data analysis and presentation, discussion boards, and Multiple Choice Question tests.

Why Choose This Course
This unique online programme is designed to meet the needs for more sustainable management of freshwater resources in less developed countries. The new Sustainable Development Goal for water (SDG 6) includes an indicator for surface and groundwater quality that requires the collection of water quality data at the national level. This programme will support countries that aim to meet the targets of SDG 6 by facilitating the advancement of expertise that will contribute to a more sustainable management of water resources.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre (CDC) was founded in 2015 to provide global capacity development in water quality monitoring and assessment to UNEP's global water quality monitoring system (GEMS/Water), through the provision of education, training and expert advice. The UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goal for water (SDG 6) is leading to an increased demand for knowledge, understanding and capacity in water quality monitoring and assessment worldwide, and through this postgraduate programme, the Centre is supporting this demand.

Subjects taught

Year 1: Core Modules (30 credits)

EV6001: Monitoring Programme Design for Freshwater Bodies
EV6002: Quality Assurance in Water Quality Monitoring Programmes
EV6003: Data Handling and Presentation for Water Quality Monitoring Programmes
Year 2: Specialised Modules (30 credits)

EV6005: Monitoring and Assessment of surface waters
EV6007: Monitoring and Assessment of groundwater
Plus any two of the following:

EV6004: Water Quality Monitoring in the Field (field course abroad or in Ireland)
EV6008: Water Quality Monitoring using Biological and Ecological Methods
EV6009: Water Quality Monitoring with Particulate Material
Year 3: Dissertation (30 credits)

EV6010: Dissertation in Freshwater Quality Monitoring and Assessment
Consult the Academic Calendar (MSc Freshwater Quality Monitoring & Assessment) for further course and module content.


Further details on the modules listed above can be found in our Book of Modules. Any modules listed above are indicative of the current set of modules for this course but are subject to change from year to year.

University Calendar

You can find the full academic content for the current year of any given course in our University Calendar.

Entry requirements

Candidates must have a BSc in Environmental Science or cognate discipline with a minimum grade of a Second Class Honours Grade II (NFQ, Level 8);

All candidates are required to have a sufficient level of English. Candidates, for whom English is not their primary language, should possess an IELTS of 6.5 (or TOEFL equivalent) with no less than 6.0 in each individual category. For detailed Postgraduate English Language requirements see here.

English Language Requirements
Applicants that are non-native speakers of the English language must meet the university-approved English language requirements. Please visit our PG English Language Requirements page for more information.

For applicants with qualifications completed outside of Ireland
Applicants must meet the required entry academic grade, equivalent to Irish requirements. For more information see our Qualification Comparison page.

International/Non-EU Applicants
For full details of the non-EU application procedure visit our how to apply pages for international students.

In UCC, we use the term programme and course interchangeably to describe what a person has registered to study in UCC and its constituent colleges, schools, and departments.

Note that not all courses are open to international/non-EU applicants, please check the fact file above. For more information contact the International Office.

Application dates

The closing date for non-EU applications is 30 June 2023

How Do I Apply
1. Check Dates: Check the opening and closing dates for the application process in the fact file boxes at the top of the page.

For Irish and EU applicants we operate a rounds system and you can check the rounds closing dates here.
Note that not all our programmes are subject to the rounds system so check the opening and closing dates for your specific programme in the fact file boxes above.

2. Gather Documents: Scanned copies of supporting documents have to be uploaded to the UCC online application portal and include:

Original qualification documents listed on your application including transcripts of results from institutions other than UCC;
Any supplementary items requested for your course if required.

3. Apply Online: Apply online via the UCC online application portal. Note the majority of our courses have a non-refundable €50 application fee.

Any questions? Use our web enquiry form to contact us.

Deferrals: Deferrals are not permitted on this course.

Additional Requirements (All Applicants)

Please note you will be required to provide additional information as part of the online application process for this programme. This will include the following questions:

You may enter the details of professional or voluntary positions held. We strongly encourage you to complete this section with all relevant work experiences that will support your application.

Please describe your motivation and readiness for this programme.

Please upload your CV.


3 years part-time, Online.

Post Course Info

Career Opportunities

This MSc is designed to give students a strong foundation in all aspects of water quality monitoring and assessment, equipping them to work in the area of water quality management in public or private sectors, including water and environment ministries, regulatory agencies, agriculture and industry. The programme will be of particular benefit for the career advancement of employees already working in the water quality monitoring sector.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Part time

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    Course provider