Business Improvement


2024/25 Part-time Postgraduate course


Master of Science


Ulster University Business School


Department of Management, Leadership and Marketing


Belfast campus

Start date:

September 2024


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, 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.

We’d love to hear from you!

We know that choosing to study at university is a big decision, and you may not always be able to find the information you need online.

Please contact Ulster University with any queries or questions you might have about:

  • Course specific information
  • Fees and Finance
  • Admissions

For any queries regarding getting help with your application, please select Admissions in the drop down below.

For queries related to course content, including modules and placements, please select Course specific information.

We look forward to hearing from you.

About this course


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 practical in-company 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, leadership and change management, and quality and process and quality management. In year 2, students add capabilities of innovation management, improvement through people and financial decision-making. In year 3 (or year 2 if fast-tracking) students are given the opportunity to plan and implement a transformation to solve a live problem via a supervised project.

Those who lecture on the course have extensive 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 9-12 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 and 20 credit points in semester 2. In Year 2, students complete 20 credit points in semester 1, 40 credit points in semester 2. The 60 credit Transformation Project is either completed over three semesters in Year 3 or fast-track students will complete this in parallel with the Year 2 taught modules.

Students in Year 1 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 progress from Year 1 and then successfully complete the module in semester 1 of Year 2 and two modules in semesters 2 of Year 2 (to a total value of 120 credit points) may exit with a Postgraduate Diploma.

Start dates

  • September 2024

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

All assessment is by way of practical coursework. Coursework can take many forms. 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.

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.

Academic profile

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 (20%) or Lecturers (55%).

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) by Advanced HE - 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 2021-2022.

Belfast campus


High quality apartment living in Belfast city centre adjacent to the university campus.

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Belfast Campus Location

The Belfast campus is situated in the artistic and cultural centre of the city, the Cathedral Quarter.

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Campus Address

Ulster University,
2-24 York Street,
BT15 1AP

T: 02870 123 456


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

Year one

Leadership and Change

Year: 1

Effective leadership of change is paramount to the survival of all organisations. This module aims to enable students to acquire knowledge and a critical understanding of key leadership and change concepts that underpin any effective organisation. Students should acquire an understanding of the skills and knowledge that are necessary to lead change effectively and the tools to reflect upon their own leadership and management style and behaviour. This knowledge and understanding is essential for effective and efficient business improvement. Learning will be by teaching, discussion and independent study.

Quality Management and Process Improvement

Year: 1

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.

Operational Excellence

Year: 1

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.

Year two

Financial Decision Making

Year: 2

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.

Innovation Management

Year: 2

The module covers Innovation Management from both theoretical and practical perspectives. It introduces students to the underlying processes of innovation within organisations or different types. Moreover, the nature of innovation-based business models is examined and critiqued.

Improvement through People

Year: 2

Any improvement project rests heavily on those taking on the role of the improver and how they engage, influence and work with affected stakeholders. At the same time, any improvement project or associated system cannot simply be placed into an organisation without carefully attending to the people issues involved as well as appreciating the implications in relation to ongoing people practices. This module aims to develop students as improvers in terms of how they think and understand themselves as well as how they can most effectively behave in relation to those involved or affected by improvement projects. It also seeks to equip students with the knowledge of wider people management which has been found to significantly affect the success of improvement projects and the implications of this to their work.

Year three

Transformation Project

Year: 3

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.

Standard entry conditions

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.

Entry Requirements

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

Career options

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 Allen & Overy, Almac, Bombardier, Caterpillar, Citibank, HSC, Fane Valley, NI Water, Ryobi, Translink, and many others.


Start dates

  • September 2024

Fees and funding

2024/25 Fees

Our postgraduate fees are subject to annual increase and are currently under review.

See our tuition fees page for the current fees for 2023/24 entry.

Additional mandatory costs

It is important to remember that costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges) and normal living will need to be covered in addition to tuition fees.

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses (in addition to tuition fees) we make every effort to highlight them above. 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 Wi-Fi are also available on each of the campuses.

There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.

Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as a part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs, as well as tuition fees.

See the tuition fees on our student guide for most up to date costs.


We’d love to hear from you!

We know that choosing to study at university is a big decision, and you may not always be able to find the information you need online.

Please contact Ulster University with any queries or questions you might have about:

  • Course specific information
  • Fees and Finance
  • Admissions

For any queries regarding getting help with your application, please select Admissions in the drop down below.

For queries related to course content, including modules and placements, please select Course specific information.

We look forward to hearing from you.

For more information visit


Darren Mawhinney

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."

Paul Carson

"I studied the MSc in Business Improvement 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 stated that the one factor that separated me from other candidates was my MSc."

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