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Postgraduate Diploma

The Postgraduate Diploma focuses on all aspects of water quality monitoring including: monitoring programme design, quality assurance, data analysis and presentation, monitoring and assessment of rivers, lakes and groundwater, and water quality monitoring with biological and ecological methods and with particulate material. There is also an opportunity to take part in a field workshop during the second year of the programme.

The programme aims to recruit highly-motivated, enthusiastic students who may be (i) currently involved in water quality monitoring, (ii) part of the United Nations Environment Programme GEMS/Water network, and/or (iii) seeking to specialise in water quality monitoring and assessment, and who wish to study on a flexible, part-time basis.


 YEAR 1  (30 credits)

  • EV6001: Monitoring Programme Design for Freshwater Bodies.

This module works through the step by step process of designing a monitoring programme for different levels of complexity and in relation to different monitoring objectives in different water bodies. An emphasis is placed on good practice in order to ensure reliable data are generated. Using examples and case studies, approaches to the selection of monitoring stations, monitoring methods and water quality parameters are considered. The need for a basic understanding of the hydrology of the water bodies is emphasised in order to optimise the frequency and location of sample collection. The role of additional information to support water quality assessment using monitoring data is also covered using examples.

  • EV6002: Quality Assurance in Water Quality Monitoring Programmes.

All monitoring programmes should include an associated quality assurance programme that ensures monitoring data are reliable and comparable, not only from station to station but also from laboratory to laboratory, or programme to programme. This module works through the various quality assurance processes and options available from the point of sample collection in the field to eventual data submission to a database. Quality Assurance Plans and Standard Operating Procedures are introduced. Internationally available standards are compared and examples of best practice are presented for internal and external laboratory quality control. The process of preparing for an audit is introduced.

  • EV6003: Data Handling and Presentation for Water Quality Monitoring Programmes.

This module focuses on how to ensure that effective use is made of data from water quality monitoring programmes. Modern statistical techniques are demonstrated using freely available software. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are introduced for data storage, analysis and presentation. Statistical analyses and the associated presentation of the results are illustrated with case studies and worked examples. Analysis and presentation of datasets from monitoring programmes are explored with individual projects.


YEAR 2: Specialised Modules (30 credits)

Two compulsory modules:

  • EV6005: Monitoring and Assessment of surface waters.

This module describes the essential aspects of the physical, chemical and biological interactions in surface waters that are necessary for designing an effective monitoring and assessment programme and for interpretation of the result. Examples of monitoring programmes with different objectives will be illustrated using case studies, and the key features of successful assessment programmes will be identified. Potential approaches to analysing and presenting surface water quality data will be evaluated.

  • EV6007: Monitoring and Assessment of groundwater.

This module describes the basic types of groundwater bodies and their important role as global water resources. Influences on the natural variation in groundwater quality are explored and their vulnerability to contamination is considered. Options for monitoring the quality of groundwater are presented using case studies, and opportunities and constraints associated with designing an effective monitoring and assessment programme are explored. Examples of monitoring programmes with different objectives will be illustrated using case studies and approaches to analysing and presenting groundwater quality data will be evaluated.

And any two of the following:

  • EV6004: Water Quality Monitoring in the Field (field course abroad or in Ireland).

This module is a residential/virtual fieldwork training workshop. The workshop will comprise a series of practical exercises in the field covering monitoring site selection, sample collection, field-based measurements, field quality assurance, risk assessments and logistics. Water sampling for chemical, biological and particulate analysis will be carried out and data analysed and presented.

  • EV6008: Water Quality Monitoring using Biological and Ecological Methods.

Water quality has traditionally been assessed on the basis of physical and chemical measurements but numerous alternative approaches based on the flora and fauna of surface waters have also been proposed. Some of these approaches have been refined and developed at national and international levels for long-term, spatial and early-warning monitoring of water quality. The main approaches used in biological and ecological monitoring are described, with the aid of case studies. The scientific basis behind such methods is considered in order to identify the key criteria for their successful implementation in water quality monitoring programmes. The limitations and benefits of biological and ecological monitoring methods are evaluated.

  • EV6009:Water Quality Monitoring with Particulate Material.

Particulate matter in surface water bodies plays a key role in the storing and cycling of nutrients and contaminants. This module describes the key biogeochemical processes in rivers and lakes, emphasising the critical information required to interpret water quality monitoring data. Monitoring methods are presented with the aid of case studies. The potential benefits of monitoring using particulate matter, particularly with respect to contaminants are evaluated.

The course homepage can be found here.

Next intake will be in August 2023.

Find out more about our PGDip in Freshwater Quality Monitoring & Assessment


Detail regarding the application process will be added in January 2023.

UNEP GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre

UNEP GEMS/Ionad Forbartha Acmhainneachta Uisce

Environmental Research Institute, Ellen Hutchins Building, University College Cork