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MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice

This MSc course explores the way we think about and approach tasks or situations. Everyone brings with them their own perspective, which means that we all see things in different ways. The discipline of systems thinking in practice will provide you with the tools to challenge your approach to complex situations, consider the roles other people play, and assess how different components within those situations are related. You will also develop the skills needed to think more holistically and work more collaboratively to avoid systemic failures.

Key features of the course

  • Offers you the choice of a research route or a professional route
  • Both routes develop essential skills for addressing systems thinking issues systematically in your own context, and extend your knowledge of recent research and research methods
  • Concludes with either a substantial piece of independent study on a topic of professional interest to you, or a more academic in-depth research project.

Masters degree

Course code
F47
Credits

Credits

  • 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.
180
How long it takes
Minimum – 3 years
Read more about how long it takes
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Course cost
Postgraduate loan available
See Fees and funding
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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Course details

Modules

To gain this qualification, you need 180 credits as follows:

Stage 1

60 credits of compulsory modules:

Compulsory modules Credits Next start
Thinking strategically: systems tools for managing change (TU811)

Improve your management skills by exploring different approaches to engaging with complex situations and by developing your understanding of how cognitive processing shapes practice.

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30 01 May 2019 FINAL
Managing systemic change: inquiry, action and interaction (TU812)

Develop your understanding of systemic inquiry, systemic action research and social learning in order to extend your skills of project, programme and change management.

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30 01 Nov 2019 FINAL

Plus

60 credits from List A:

Please see the module descriptions for any specific entry requirements before making your choice.

List A – optional modules Credits Next start
Advanced routing - CCNP 1  (T824)

This module provides the knowledge, understanding and skills to deploy and manage internal and external routing protocols for large scale inter-networks using Cisco equipment.

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30 01 May 2019 FINAL
Capacities for managing development (T878)

This module builds the competence and confidence to manage development, local and global, more effectively, and bring about greater social equality and justice. 

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30 01 May 2019
Conflict and development (T879)

Combining theoretical concepts with practical tools, this module explores the causes of conflict, the impact conflicts have on development, and actions that can help mitigate conflicts.

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30 01 Nov 2019
Continuing professional development in practice (U810)

This module allows you to evaluate and assess 150 hours prior learning and identify and progress appropriate development opportunities for future continuing professional development. 

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30 04 May 2019
Data management (M816)

Discover the data management principles, practices and technologies required to develop policies, procedures and systems that control, protect, deliver and enhance the value of an organisation’s data asset.

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30 01 Nov 2019
Development: context and practice (T877)

This module provides a conceptual framework for analysing the complex, contested contexts in which development takes place, and a critical analysis of development management practice.

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30 01 May 2019
Digital forensics (M812)

This module will help you understand how to conduct investigations to correctly gather, analyse and present digital evidence to both business and legal audiences.

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30 01 May 2019 FINAL
Earth science: a systems approach (S808)

Introduces a systems approach to Earth science and explores several important Earth system interactions using a variety of methods and models.

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60 26 Jan 2019 FINAL
Entrepreneurship: experience and perspective (BB846)

This module looks at the challenges of creating and developing entrepreneurial ventures and helps you develop your own venture or engage with other entrepreneurial organisations.

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15 04 May 2019
Information security (M811)

Explore the professional and technical skills necessary to understand, document, manage and implement strategic and operational aspects of your organisation's information security.

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30 02 Nov 2019
Institutional development: conflicts, values and meanings (TU872)

This module analyses institutions, identifies their significance for development, examines how to build inter-organisational relationships, and explores the skills of mapping, modelling, negotiation and brokering.

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30 01 May 2019
Leadership and management in intercultural contexts (BB848)

This module examines the conceptions of leadership and management in different cultures and the expectations these raise in different cultural settings.

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15 04 May 2019
MBA stage 1: management: perspectives and practice (B716)

This MBA module will enable you make a real difference within your management practice and provide a good grounding in the core disciplines of management.

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60 04 May 2019 FINAL
MBA stage 1: management: perspectives and practice (fast-track)* (BXFT716)

This MBA module will enable you make a real difference within your management practice and provide a good grounding in the core disciplines of management.

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60 06 Apr 2019 FINAL
Making environmental decisions (T891)

Defining environment to include biophysical, social, political, economic factors, this module uses a systems framework to integrate environment with other elements in environmental decision-making situations.

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30 01 May 2019
Management beyond the mainstream (BB847)

This module looks at some important limitations of mainstream management thinking and explores a variety of alternatives to it – some longstanding, some recently developed.

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15 04 May 2019
Managing for sustainability (T867)

This module will increase your understanding of delivering and supporting sustainability management in your workplace or support your personal interest in this subject.

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30 01 May 2019
Managing technological innovation (T848)

This module explores the processes that underpin technological innovation an understanding of which is crucial whether you are a user or producer of technological innovation.

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30 01 May 2019
Manufacture materials design (T805)

Introducing materials processing from the perspective of a design engineer, this module explores how to make components, focusing on the interactions between manufacturing, materials and design.

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30 01 May 2019
Marketing in the 21st century (BB844)

This module explores the issues that emerge from marketing planning and uses current theories and examples to show how organisations deal with environmental challenges.

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15 04 May 2019
Multi-layer switching - CCNP 3 (T826)

This module will give you with the knowledge, understanding and skills to deploy reliable, scalable and secure multilayer-switched campus LANs using Cisco equipment.

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30 01 May 2019
Network security (T828)

This module will give you the knowledge, understanding and practical experience of managing a secure communication across a large-scale inter-network using Cisco equipment.

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30 01 Nov 2019
Optimising networks - CCNP 4  (T827)

This module will give you the knowledge, understanding and skills to optimise communication on large-scale data networks using Cisco equipment.

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30 01 Nov 2019
Project management (M815)

In this online module you’ll explore the whole life cycle of projects, from initiation, through to planning, scheduling, execution, handover and review.

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30 01 May 2019
Software development (M813)

Gain the fundamental knowledge and understanding, and analysis and synthesis skills that you will need to develop software artefacts fit for a real-world organisational context.

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30 01 May 2019
Software engineering (M814)

Explore the advanced concepts and techniques used throughout the software life cycle, for the effective production and management of large, complex, and long-lived software systems.

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30 01 Nov 2019 FINAL
Strategic capabilities for technological innovation (T849)  

This module draws on a range of theoretical perspectives from both strategic and innovation management to produce a multi-layered, practical, approach to strategic management of technological innovation.

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30 01 May 2019
Strategic human resource management (BB845)  

This module explores the different aspects of human resource management and helps you understand and influence decisions regarding the management of human resources within organisations.

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15 04 May 2019
Sustainable creative management (BB842)  

This module explores creative, innovative and sustainable ways of developing and managing organisations and offers practical approaches for developing yourself, your team and your organisation.

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15 04 May 2019

* This version is for accelerated study and requires you to devote 20-25 hours a week to your studies.

Or, subject to the rules about excluded combinations, the discontinued modules B820, B821, B822, B823, B825, B856, B857, BZX820, BZX821, BZX822, BZX823, BZX825, H807, K827, T835, T837, T839, T840, T846, T850, T851, T852, T853, T860, T861, T862, T863, T882, T883, T889, T890, T894, TD866, TM893, TU870, TU871, TU875, TUXX870, TUXX871, TUXX872, TUXX875, TXX863

Completion of Stage 1 will entitle you to claim the Postgraduate Diploma in Systems Thinking in Practice (E28).

Plus

Stage 2

This MSc offers a choice of routes after you have completed Stage 1; a research route or a more business-oriented professional route.

60 credits from either the Research route or the Professional route:

Research route

Compulsory module Credits Next start
Research project (T802)

This research module enables you to gain an MSc by building on the postgraduate diploma that you already hold. You’ll develop and submit a dissertation.

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60 01 Feb 2019

Professional route

Compulsory module Credits Next start
The MSc professional project (T847)

This highly intensive research based module enables you to design, conduct, analyse and report on a research project of your own choosing.

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30 01 Nov 2019
Or, subject to the rules about excluded combinations, the discontinued module T842
Plus an additional 30 credits from List A in Stage 1 above 30  

You should note that the University’s unique study rule applies to this qualification. This means that you must include at least 60 credits from OU modules that have not been counted in any other OU qualification that has previously been awarded to you.


We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 8th June 2018.

Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

The learning outcomes of this qualification are described in four areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills
Read more detailed information about the learning outcomes.

Credit transfer

If you have already completed some successful study at postgraduate level at another institution you may be able to transfer credit for this study and count it towards this Open University qualification. If you wish to apply to transfer credit you must do so as soon as possible as it may affect your choice of OU modules. If you are awarded credit for study completed elsewhere, you may find that you need to study fewer OU modules to complete your qualification with us.

Visit our Credit Transfer site for more information and details of how to apply for credit transfer.


On completion

On successful completion of the required modules you can be awarded an MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice entitling you to use the letters MSc Sys Prac (Open) after your name. You will have the opportunity of being presented at a degree ceremony.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website. 

Entry requirements

To start Stage 1 of this degree, you should normally hold a UK bachelors degree, or equivalent. It may be possible to demonstrate your ability to study at postgraduate level by successfully completing a module and linking your studies to the programme at a later date.

Your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that 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.

Our badged open course, Succeeding in postgraduate study, will introduce you to the nature of Master's level study. It offers essential preparation for pursuing your learning at this level – and is free.

How long it takes

The minimum time to complete is 3 years. The maximum time to complete is 8 years.

Career relevance

Those with both professional interests and responsibilities in managing complex situations will find this masters qualification useful to them in their work. It will also provide the opportunity for those wanting to progress to demonstrate their potential to develop new skills. The flexibility of the choice of module allows you to tailor the content to your needs and can be applicable in a wide range of sectors; including health, education, environment, international development, community engagement, manufacturing, IT and science. The study of systems thinking and practice provides knowledge and understanding that is equally applicable in the public and private sectors. If you are self-employed you may also find the knowledge developed by studying this combination of modules provides the opportunity to take a more objective and innovative view of the systems they have already created and how to change these for the future.

Careers and Employability Services have more information on how OU study can improve your employability.