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Institutional development

This online module focuses on institutions, which are critical for the success of development processes. Development managers, in the public and private sectors and in non-governmental organisations (NGOs), need the capacity to analyse the institutional landscape, and to use and adapt existing institutions – or create new ones – to promote development. They also need the capacity to build good relationships between the many organisations involved in any process of institutional development. The module provides opportunities for enhancing these capacities, both through the range of materials provided and through opportunities for interactive learning with students working on development throughout the world. 


TU872 is a compulsory module in our:

TU872 is an optional module in our:

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. These qualifications allow most postgraduate modules to count towards them. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content.  To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

Through this module you will extend your understanding of the crucial role played by institutions in development processes and builds up the skills you need to make institutional development happen. The module contributes to this by:

Exploring theory

This module views institutions as:

  • rules and norms that govern society
  • values that shape action and meanings through which individuals and organisations make sense of the world
  • ‘big players’, whether international or national bodies, or influential players at local levels, who are able to set or influence rules and norms, values and meanings.

It explores how institutions can both present opportunities for change and also hinder or resist change. The module recognises that, in any field of policy and practice, individuals and organisations work to different rules and norms, values and meanings, and that consequently institutional development is always a contested process: power relations and political processes are therefore central to the analysis.

Examining policy and practice

The module applies these ideas to three fields of policy and practice that are of contemporary significance: poverty reduction, humanitarian interventions (in complex emergencies) and governance. In each case there are sub-themes, for example: micro-finance (poverty reduction), forced migration (humanitarian intervention) and innovation in healthcare (governance). In examining these fields of policy and practice, you are required to critically evaluate current thinking, particularly about ‘partnership’ and ‘participation’.

Analysing inter-organisational relationships

Recognising that inter-organisational relationships are at the heart of institutional development, the module presents a conceptual framework for analysing these relationships, built around the ‘3Cs’ of competition, coordination and cooperation. This framework is used to consider the relationships between organisations in the public and private sectors; and in civil society, to see how they can contribute to or hinder institutional development. Whilst not the only way of looking at relationships, the 3Cs framework has proved itself to be a powerful tool for thinking strategically about the relationships necessary for bringing about institutional development.

Demonstrating the use and usefulness of key skills

This module recognises that conceptual skills need to be complemented by other key skills. Particular attention is paid to the development of:

  • mapping skills, as a way of organising thoughts and presenting views of a problem or process
  • modelling skills, as a way of showing how institutions might or could be developed, either with a view to direct implementation/replication or as a basis for negotiating between different approaches
  • negotiation and brokering skills, which enable individuals and organisations to establish terms on which they can work together to make institutional development happen.

These skills are developed progressively through the module, culminating in a three-week online Negotiation and Brokering Activity which involves working collaboratively with fellow students.

Overall, the module is valuable for managers and other professionals in public sector, private sector and civil society agencies, particularly but by no means exclusively those with an interest in local, national or international development.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will be responsible for monitoring your progress, marking and commenting on your written work and whom you can contact for advice and guidance. Your tutor will mediate an online forum for your tutor group and will also guide you through the negotiation and brokering activity. Face-to-face tutorials will be arranged in London and you will also have the opportunity to engage in real-time online tutorials. There is also a separate online forum for all students on this module. 

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). You must also submit your end-of-module assessment (EMA) electronically. 

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in May and November 2015, and May 2016. We expect it to be available twice a year.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Entry requirements

This module can be taken on its own or part of a qualification.

If you are taking it as part of a postgraduate qualification, you must have adequate preparation for study at this level, usually demonstrated by a bachelors degree (or the equivalent) from a UK university. If you have no background in development or development management, you are advised to take Development: context and practice (T877) and/or Capacities for managing development (T878) first.

Your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, you will need a minimum overall score of 6 and minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see the IELTS website for details.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
07 Nov 2015 Apr 2016 £1333.00

Registration closes 30/09/15 (places subject to availability)

07 May 2016 Oct 2016 £1333.00

Registration closes 31/03/16 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in May 2020.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

Ways to pay

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options. To find out more see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

This module is entirely online. The materials include: a week-by-week study guide with activities, readings, podcasts and other audio-visual material. There is an online negotiation and brokering activity which is an integral part of the module and all students are expected to participate.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

A Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system is suitable for this module. You will be required to install Microsoft Windows specific software.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

The study materials are available in alternative formats.

You will need to make extensive use of a personal computer and the internet.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.