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MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice

This MSc has the development of skills in holistic thinking, and appreciation of multiple perspectives at its core. These skills are relevant to many different domains: e.g. health, business, local government, environment, development, engineering, organisation change and IT management. You’ll gain insights into the range of ways in which other people think about particular situations and how to apply a wide range of concepts, tools and techniques developed by systems thinkers. You’ll also learn to appreciate and develop your own ways of thinking in practice, becoming aware of how you can act to bring about improvements in messy situations.

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 (120 credits)

60 credits from:

Module Credits Next start
Making strategy with systems thinking in practice (TB871) NEW

TB871 builds capability for making strategy within your own chosen area of (professional) practice using ideas and tools from five traditions of systems thinking.

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Register
30 01 May 2020
Managing systemic change: inquiry, action and interaction (TU812)

Enables postgraduate students to take a learning approach to managing change in complex and problematic situations, using systems ideas and their own and other perspectives.

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30 01 Nov 2019 FINAL
Or, subject to the rules about excluded combinations, the discontinued module TU811

60 credits from:

Module Credits Next start
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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Register
30 01 Nov 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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Register
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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Register
30 02 Nov 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 Nov 2019
Digital forensics (M812)

M812 covers the history of forensics, both criminal and criminal digital law, digital investigation techniques for desktop and mobile devices as well as forensic readiness.

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30 01 May 2020
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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Register
15 02 Nov 2019 FINAL
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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Register
30 01 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 Nov 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 02 Nov 2019
Making environmental decisions (T891)

T891 ‘Making Environmental Decisions’ teaches you to use a systems framework to integrate environment with other considerations when making decisions in complex environmental management situations.

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30 01 Nov 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 02 Nov 2019 FINAL
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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Register
30 01 Nov 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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Register
30 01 Nov 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 2020
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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Register
15 02 Nov 2019
Multi-layer switching - CCNP 3 (T826)

T826 presents the opportunity to study the Cisco Professional course CCNP-SWITCH. You will deploy and manage highly available switching technologies for internetworks using Cisco equipment.

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30 01 May 2020 FINAL
Network security (T828)

T828 presents the opportunity to jointly study the Cisco CCNA Security and CCNA Cyber Security Operations. You will explore information systems security management and secure internetworked systems.

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

T827 presents the opportunity to study the Cisco Professional course CCNP-TSHOOT. You will resolve issues, based around complex routing and switching scenarios using remote labs.

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Register
30 01 Nov 2019
Project management (M815)

Postgraduate module for aspiring project managers and practicing project managers who wish to develop their knowledge and skills of managing technological projects. APM accredited.

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30 01 May 2020
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 2020
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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Register
30 01 Nov 2019
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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Register
30 01 Nov 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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Register
15 02 Nov 2019 FINAL
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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Register
15 02 Nov 2019
Or, subject to the rules about excluded combinations, the discontinued modules B820, B821, B822, B823, B825, B856, B857, BZA820, BZA821, BZA825, BZR820, BZR821, BZR823, BZR825, BZT820, BZT821, BZT822, BZT825, BZX820, BZX821, BZX822, BZX823, BZX825, H807, H808, 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 and UYL810

Stage 2 (60 credits)

You will choose either:

  • a research route
  • a professional route

Research route

60 credits from:

Compulsory module Credits Next start
Research project (T802)

This research module enables you to gain an MSc by building on your existing postgraduate diploma. You’ll design your own research and submit a dissertation.

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60 01 Feb 2020

Professional route

60 credits from:

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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Register
30 01 Nov 2019
Or, subject to the rules about excluded combinations, the discontinued module T842
Plus another 30 credits from the Stage 1 modules 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 20th March 2019.

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.

Recognition in your country

If you intend to use your Open University qualifications to seek work or undertake further study outside the UK, we recommend checking whether your intended qualification will meet local requirements for your chosen career. Read recognition in my country.

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.