Business Improvement - MSc
Equips practising and aspiring managers to design & implement business improvement strategies to improve their organisation's operational performance.Take a look
Important notice – campus change Students will complete the next two years on the Jordanstown campus (academic year 2019/20 and 2020/21). Thereafter, from 2021, they may transition campuses. Precise timings will be communicated as we progress through the final stages of the build of the enhanced Belfast campus. Find out more
Equips practising and aspiring managers to design & implement business improvement strategies to improve their organisation's operational performance.
The part-time MSc Business Improvement course equips managers with the knowledge and skills required to better examine their processes and procedures in order to effect strategic improvements and change.
This results in organisations which are more efficient and effective. The programme has kept pace with new innovations and developments in the area of business improvement and has supported businesses with continuous improvement.
The concept of business improvement originated in the domain of manufacturing and tradable services. However, perhaps as a result of the intellectual force of new public management and the Review of Public Administration (2002) in Northern Ireland, the concept of business improvement now permeates all aspects of economic activity across the private, public and voluntary sectors. Indeed, job titles such as Director of Improvement and Business Improvement Manager are becoming more apparent across a range of public service departments.
The course is recognised and accredited by ICIPS - the Institute of Continuous Improvement in Public Services, although it is not limited to those in the public sector.
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About this course
In this section
The course recognises a need for organisations and their managers to become focused on operational performance outcomes. This requires management by process, the integration of quality management techniques and a commitment to continuous improvement. The course has been shaped and designed by leading academics and business leaders using the European Foundation Quality Model (EFQM) Excellence Model as its inspiration.
The European Framework for Quality Management (EFQM, 2013) introduces fundamental concepts of excellence which are practitioner-focused. The framework encourages organisations to strive towards eight concepts of excellence, which can only be achieved by actually doing something about it. As such, it is a practical model which helps organisations to realise their potential. All modifications to these eight fundamental concepts of excellence, in addition to the new associated emphases, have been fully reflected in the module content for this course.
Students will study a diet of modules which will help them to gain a practical understanding of a variety of business improvement subject areas.
Over year 1 students study three modules equivalent to Postgraduate Certificate in Business Improvement and may exit at this stage. Those who continue into Year 2 study a further three modules equivalent to Postgraduate Diploma in Business Improvement and may exit at this stage also. Once the six modules have been successfully completed students can then move on to complete the full Master's qualification by completing a Strategy module and a Business Transformation Project. The full Master's can be fast-tracked in two calendar years and many students choose this option.
The course provides a structure to business improvement which allows students to follow a logical journey. Year 1 of the course introduces students to the fundamental aspects of business improvement: operational excellence, management of change and quality assurance. In year 2, students add capabilities of innovation management, people involvement and financial decision-making. In year 3, students add strategic awareness capability and are given the opportunity to implement a business transformation to solve a live problem via a supervised project.
Those who lecture on the course have experience of working in or with organisations and are experienced in delivering proactical lectures and insight that make the modules relevant to the workplace.
We also invite guest speakers to class who are experts in their field to share their experience.
Each module is taught on a three day block basis. This minimises the time required for students to be out of the workplace: students will typically be at the University 12 days per year. There are also follow up "learning sets" following each module.
The course has been designed to enable part-time students to complete the course over two years. In Year 1, students complete 40 credit points in semester 1, 20 credit points in semester 2 and 20 credit points in semester 3. In Year 2, students complete 20 credit points in semester 1, 40 credit points in semester 2 and 40 credit points in semester 3.
Students who successfully complete the two modules in semester 1 and the module in semester 2 (to a value of 60 credit points) may exit with a Postgraduate Certificate. Students who successfully complete the module in semester 3 of Year 1 and two modules across semesters 1 and 2 of Year 2 (to a value of 120 credit points) may exit with a Postgraduate Diploma.
- September 2019
Teaching, Learning and Assessment
The content for each course is summarised on the relevant course page, along with an overview of the modules that make up the course.
Each course is approved by the University and meets the expectations of:
- the relevant generic national Qualification Descriptor
- the applicable Subject Benchmark Statement
- the requirements of any professional, regulatory, statutory and accrediting bodies.
Attendance and Independent Study
As part of your course induction, you will be provided with details of the organisation and management of the course, including attendance and assessment requirements - usually in the form of a timetable. For full-time courses, the precise timetable for each semester is not confirmed until close to the start date and may be subject to some change in the early weeks as all courses settle into their planned patterns. For part-time courses which require attendance on particular days and times, an expectation of the days and periods of attendance will be included in the letter of offer. A course handbook is also made available.
Courses comprise modules for which the notional effort involved is indicated by its credit rating. Each credit point represents 10 hours of student effort. Undergraduate courses typically contain 10- or 20-credit modules (more usually 20) and postgraduate course typically 15- or 30-credit modules.
The normal study load expectation for an undergraduate full-time course of study in the standard academic year is 120 credit points. This amounts to around 36-42 hours of expected teaching and learning per week, inclusive of attendance requirements for lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical work, fieldwork or other scheduled classes, private study, and assessment. Part-time study load is the same as full-time pro-rata, with each credit point representing 10 hours of student effort.
Postgraduate Master’s courses typically comprise 180 credits, taken in three semesters when studied full-time. A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) comprises 60 credits and can usually be completed on a part-time basis in one year. A 120-credit Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) can usually be completed on a part-time basis in two years.
Class contact times vary by course and type of module. Typically, for a module predominantly delivered through lectures you can expect at least 3 contact hours per week (lectures/seminars/tutorials). Laboratory classes often require a greater intensity of attendance in blocks. Some modules may combine lecture and laboratory. The precise model will depend on the course you apply for and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. Prospective students will be consulted about any significant changes.
Assessment methods vary and are defined explicitly in each module. Assessment can be a combination of examination and coursework but may also be only one of these methods. Assessment is designed to assess your achievement of the module’s stated learning outcomes. You can expect to receive timely feedback on all coursework assessment. The precise assessment will depend on the module and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.
Coursework can take many forms, for example: essay, report, seminar paper, test, presentation, dissertation, design, artefacts, portfolio, journal, group work. The precise form and combination of assessment will depend on the course you apply for and the module. Details will be made available in advance through induction, the course handbook, the module specification and the assessment timetable. The details are subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.
Normally, a module will have 4 learning outcomes, and no more than 2 items of assessment. An item of assessment can comprise more than one task. The notional workload and the equivalence across types of assessment is standardised.
Calculation of the Final Award
The class of Honours awarded in Bachelor’s degrees is usually determined by calculation of an aggregate mark based on performance across the modules at Levels 5 and 6, (which correspond to the second and third year of full-time attendance).
Level 6 modules contribute 70% of the aggregate mark and Level 5 contributes 30% to the calculation of the class of the award. Classification of integrated Master’s degrees with Honours include a Level 7 component. The calculation in this case is: 50% Level 7, 30% Level 6, 20% Level 5. At least half the Level 5 modules must be studied at the University for Level 5 to be included in the calculation of the class.
All other qualifications have an overall grade determined by results in modules from the final level of study. In Master’s degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.
The teaching of this course is in 3 day blocks, which allows for discussion and exploring theory and practice in depth using examples from students' own experiences and organisations. The 3 day block model also allows us to bring in guest speakers from industry to further explore theory and practice.
Assessment is via written assignments for each module which are largely set within each participant's own organisation. Students are therefore able to make a direct impact within their own organisations and make a difference to the bottom line.
The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 59% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.
Courses are taught by staff who are Professors (25%), Readers, Senior Lecturers (18%) or Lecturers (57%).
We require most academic staff to be qualified to teach in higher education: 82% hold either Postgraduate Certificates in Higher Education Practice or higher. Most academic staff (81%) are accredited fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) - the university sector professional body for teaching and learning. Many academic and technical staff hold other professional body designations related to their subject or scholarly practice.
The profiles of many academic staff can be found on the University’s departmental websites and give a detailed insight into the range of staffing and expertise. The precise staffing for a course will depend on the department(s) involved and the availability and management of staff. This is subject to change annually and is confirmed in the timetable issued at the start of the course.
Occasionally, teaching may be supplemented by suitably qualified part-time staff (usually qualified researchers) and specialist guest lecturers. In these cases, all staff are inducted, mostly through our staff development programme ‘First Steps to Teaching’. In some cases, usually for provision in one of our out-centres, Recognised University Teachers are involved, supported by the University in suitable professional development for teaching.
Figures correct for academic year 2019-2020.
Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.
Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.
In this section
Innovation Management is a fast moving area of Business Improvement studies where technology and market development require managers and employees to be at the forefront of knowledge in this area. The module covers contemporary developments in the field in relation to theory and organisational practice. Learning in this area has the potential to lead to improvements such as shorter cycle times and lower costs in knowledge transfer and new product development.
Strategy consists of the analysis and decisions an organisation undertakes in order to create and sustain competitive advantage. Understanding these interrelated processes is crucial for creating and developing organisations. This module explores these decisions areas from a range of contemporary perspectives and contexts.
Quality Management and Process Improvement
To achieve quality outcomes, organisations must think in terms of systems and processes and how they are designed to deliver customer value and satisfaction. Inefficiencies can only be adequately addressed by adopting a whole system approach. The primary purpose of using data can no longer be focused on reporting on historical performance, but instead information should be used to understand processes to manage change and to analyse and reduce variation and waste. This module seeks to develop a number of frameworks / techniques for assessing and improving processes in order to add value to service users and customers.
Operations Excellence is about how organisations deliver the highest levels of service. This module aims to enable students to acquire knowledge and a critical understanding of key operations management concepts that underpin operations excellence. Students should acquire an understanding of the tasks, issues and decisions that are necessary to manage processes effectively and the tools to analyse operational performance. This knowledge and understanding is essential for effective and efficient business improvement. Learning will be by teaching, discussion and independent study.
Financial Decision Making
The module will introduce students to both financial and management accounting information and equip them with a greater understanding of the reasons behind some of the figures they will increasingly encounter as they progress through their organisations.
Leadership and Change Management
The module considers theoretical perspectives in managing organisational change and using them asks participants to analyse situations within their organisations to make recommendations on the management of change their organisation.
People Development and Involvement
Excellent organisations value their people to ensure a mutually beneficial alignment of organisational and personal goals. This module aims to enable students to acquire knowledge and an understanding of the core areas of Human Resource Management (HRM) and the factors which influence behaviour within organisations. This knowledge and understanding is essential for effective and efficient business improvement through effectively managing, empowering and developing people. Learning will be by teaching, discussion and independent study.
The Management Project enables students to apply the theoretical concepts encountered on the MSc Business Improvement to a "live" management issue. In doing so they choose appropriate research methodologies, gather data and make conclusions and recommendations to the host organisation.
We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.
In this section
This course is designed for those who are working in areas where they can make improvements within the organisation; therefore all applicants should ideally be employed in a related role.
Applicants will normally be expected to have achieved a Bachelor's degree or equivalent professional qualification in any discipline. It is expected that applicants will normally be in a position within their organisation to effect change, or for those who aspire to such a position.
Applications from those who do not have a Bachelor's degree are welcome, many of our students have significant work and management experience but no formal degree qualification.
English Language Requirements
English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.
Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.
Exemptions and transferability
Students are normally expected to have a degree. However we also encourage applications from candidates who have extensive work experience but no formal academic qualifications.
Careers & opportunities
In this section
This course is primarily aimed at equipping students with skills to allow them to improve the operational performance of their organisation. The MSc Business Improvement course can lead individuals into more strategic or senior positions within their organisation or into more focused business improvement positions.
Those who join the course are usually in positions where they can influence change in their respective organisations. Students are able to make an immediate impact as the assessment for each module requires the application of theory to practical organisational problems. This helps the student to make a real difference to the bottom line of the organisation.
Students who have studied on the course over the last few years have included representatives from organisations such as Bombardier, BE Aerospace, Caterpillar, Ryobi, Citibank, HSC, NI Water, Translink, Veridian and other public sector organisations.
ApplyHow to apply Request a prospectus
Applications to our postgraduate courses are made through the University’s online application system.
If you would like to discuss your application please contact:
- September 2019
Fees and funding
In this section
Fees (total cost)
Important notice - fees information
Fees illustrated are based on 19/20 entry and are subject to an annual increase. Correct at the time of publishing. Terms and conditions apply. Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study.
Visit our Fees pages for full details of fees
- Northern Ireland & EU:
- £14,060.00 Scholarships available
Scholarships, awards and prizes
Prizes are awarded to students who show outstanding performance in particular modules, on the course.
Additional mandatory costs
Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges), and normal living are a part of university life.
Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.
We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free wifi is also available on each of the campuses.
There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course.
Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees.
Please contact the course team for more information.
For further details on this programme please contact the Department Office on:
Course Director: Alan McKittrick
For more information visit
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Glen Dimplex is a €2 billion turnover manufacturing group with 10,000 employees throughout the World. It is active in both developed and emerging markets and its success is firmly based on delivering high quality products consistently and cost effectively.
"When competing in global markets local companies must find a differentiator other than price – someone in an emerging market can always produce your products much cheaper. The key to international success lies in providing consistent quality in both design and manufacturing to an engaged and informed customer base. The MSc in Business Improvement helped me to understand the strategic approaches to quality adopted throughout the world along with their strengths and weaknesses. Local business success is relatively easy to achieve, sustained international success takes much more ambition and hard work; together with the realisation that business improvement is not about winning awards but is about ensuring consistent quality and value for your customers."
"I studied the MSc in Business Improvement at Jordanstown and found it to be my single most important piece of study to date. Every module was relevant to my daily work which meant the literature review undertaken could be transferred into a workplace project. This enabled the company to see and gain a return on their investment whilst also raising my profile within the company.
I use a particular module every day in work, process improvement. The tools and models taught during the Process Improvement module enabled me to break complex business processes down into smaller manageable processes that can be measured. This is supported with visual management techniques that enable my department to be agile and responsive through factual decision making thus increasing customer focus and output.
As each module was completed I found myself grow into a better all-round manager and my professional outlook changed as I became more business astute. The course gave me a new outlook at work and enabled me to look beyond daily work related issues and think strategically.
Whilst the course stretches and helps you grow the supportive campus environment made it an enjoyable experience and to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr "a mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions".
Since completing my MSc I have made the next step in my career which was at a higher level. My employer, BE Aerospace, stated that one factor that separated me from other candidates was my MSc."