Leadership and Innovation in the Public Sector - MSc

2024/25 Part-time Postgraduate course


Master of Science


Ulster University Business School


Department of Global Business and Enterprise


Derry~Londonderry campus

Start date:

January 2025


A unique cross-border Master's programme developed specifically for senior public servants.


The Department of Global Business and Enterprise at Ulster University and the Department of Business Studies at Atlantic Technological Unoversity have established a customised cross-border Master of Science programme in Leadership and Innovation in the Public Sector.

This programme has been developed specifically for senior executives, and is designed to hone leadership skills and develop more innovative departments. Participants will gain a comprehensive understanding of both business and strategic issues facing their organisations. Furthermore, the programme provides an overview of the progress of cross-border and other international reform programmes, coupled with leadership, innovation and transformational change initiatives.

Recognised experts in the area of innovative government, transformational leadership and change conduct lectures, seminars and workshops to impart knowledge and inject fresh thinking into the expanding envelope of service improvement and delivery.

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


This highly successful Master's programme was designed in response to the demand for strong leadership and innovation within the public sector. Challenging public sector reform agendas are stimulating the necessity for transformational change which often requires the re-engineering of business processes, resolute leadership and direction with alignment to outcomes based accountability. Many of the skills and much of the knowledge required to implement successful transformational change resides in the public sector departments and agencies themselves. In that vein, this programme will hone those leadership skills and develop more innovative departments.

Given its unique cross-border approach, this programme provides a mechanism for participants to co-create synergies within and across a wide spectrum of public organisations including - finance, revenue, health, social security, agriculture, education, local authorities, and non-departmental public bodies. Participants will be challenged to compare and contrast initiatives on both sides of the border.

This programme provides postgraduate executive education and applied training in the concepts and methods of transformational change and strategic leadership particularly in those aspects related to digital transformation and public sector innovation. The modules provide participants with rigorous theoretical underpinning coupled with practical business experience.

A unique feature of the programme delivery is the use of guest speakers in the form of academic and industry external experts. The selection of external experts for each student cohort is based upon key issues at the time, thus ensuring relevance of the curriculum.


6 x two-day blocks, plus 6 (half days) ALS's.

The course consists of 6 taught modules and a work-based research project. The modules are delivered over a 24-month period. The taught modules are delivered over 6 x two-day blocks, each supported by one Action Learning Set (ALS).

Given this programme is executive education, most modules are delivered off campus using a residential delivery method. Venues in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are used in the delivery of the 6 modules.

Start dates

  • January 2025

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

The programme aims to deliver a range of learning experiences that empower participants to develop their knowledge, understanding and applied leadership skills within the field of innovation and transformational change in the delivery of public services. The primary aim is to challenge participants to move beyond the passive absorption of information into critical analysis and reflection of the subject material and towards applied, strategic, leadership and transformational change initiatives.

The course is assessed by 100% coursework.

Attendance and Independent Study

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:

  • 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, 20, or 40 credit modules (more usually 20) and postgraduate courses 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. Teaching and learning activities will be in-person and/or online depending on the nature of the course. 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

    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 assessments. This feedback may be issued individually and/or issued to the group and you will be encouraged to act on this feedback for your own development.

    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, the assessment timetable and the assessment brief. 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 module pass mark for undergraduate courses is 40%. The module pass mark for postgraduate courses is 50%.

  • 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 Masters degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.

    Figures from the academic year 2022-2023.

Academic profile

The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 60% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.

Courses are taught by staff who are Professors (19%), Readers, Senior Lecturers (22%) 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 and learning support staff (85%) are recognised as fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) by Advance 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 from the academic year 2022-2023.


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

Context of Leadership, Innovation and Transformation

Year: 1

The ability to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by digital transformation is an essential requirement for modern public service delivery. This module explores public sector leadership, innovation and transformational change in its widest sense, examining the nature and extent of government reform and modernisation, the underlying concepts and drivers of policies and programmes, and the transformational change necessary to bring it about. The module provides a strong theoretical and practical underpinning for the student to describe and analyse the current situation within the participant's organisation in the context of leading and improving national and international government services.

Transformational Leadership

Year: 1

Organisations must possess certain capabilities in order to implement strategic change. This module investigates the leadership capabilities required to implement innovative, transformational change programmes. The module examines the roles of leadership, vision, risk identification and management in the processes of implementing a major transformational change programme. It explores tools and techniques to examine the challenging dynamics of leadership.

Citizen Centric Policy and Service Design

Year: 1

This module provides a thorough investigation into placing the citizen at the centre of public policy and service design, development and delivery. Techniques and methodologies of collaborative design and co-production of services are explored to encompass digital and stakeholder inclusion and the addressing of wicked and societal issues.

Year two

Change and Cultural Management

Year: 2

Large-scale strategic change is a complex and illusive challenge. The module examines the nature of organisational change; assesses change models, considers cultural factors and good practice that assists in leading successful change in public service entities.

Digital Strategy and Innovation

Year: 2

The aim of this module is to provide participants with the knowledge and skills to assess the potential for improving customer service, reducing costs and providing innovative integrated digital services. The module will consider: how to ensure that citizen demands are a driver of digital service transformation; how the use of technology and data can be improved; how to deploy and develop the relevant people capabilities; how digital technologies disrupt organisations by transforming processes and business models; and break down the barriers associated with achieving the goals of digital transformation.

Performance Management

Year: 2

The module evaluates the critical importance of performance management within the public service and provides the participants with the knowledge and skills to lead and develop effective models of performance evaluation; to focus attention on outcomes and impact; to achieve key performance indicators; assesses the range of tools and techniques available to leaders and managers. The module addresses frameworks and the leadership capabilities needed to evaluate and manage risk and maximise impact in pursuit of transformational change.

Research Project

Year: 2

The Research Project provides participants with the opportunity to apply deeper learning to an identified and agreed organisational challenge in the area of Leadership, Innovation and Transformational Change. The research project offers participants the freedom to focus on issues and challenges of direct relevance and application to on-going initiatives within their organisations and to draw on experiential learning in a learning partnership between the organisation, the individual and the educational institution.

Further, the Action Learning Research Project provides participants with the opportunity to 'learn by doing' and to contribute to an improved outcome for the Public Service organisation. Using an Action Learning methodology, participants focus on a complex problem or challenge in their Public Service organisation. Through cycles of action and reflection, and supported by Action Learning Sets, participants work toward arriving at solutions to problems and reflect on the learning from actions taken.

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

Normally a UK second class honours degree, or better, in any discipline or the equivalent of this for international students. If you do not have an honours degree but have relevant experience, you may be eligible to apply.

This course is directed at personnel at Principal Officer (Grade 7) or equivalent from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The course is open to candidates from government departments and the wider public service.

Participants will be accepted from those identified by their organisation with a remit to implement a strategic change programme. Applicants would be particularly welcome from those working in areas such as;

  • Major organisational reform; or
  • Providing shared services across organisational boundaries; or
  • Programme or project management

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.

Careers & opportunities

In this section

Career options

All participants on the programme are in full-time employment as senior managers in public service organisations. The course supports their career progression in that, it is employers who advise on the emerging discipline areas and provide on-going input into course and curriculum design. The positioning of the MSc Leadership and Innovation in the Public Sector is to test, prepare and equip participants with the necessary knowledge and skills to progress to senior civil service levels.

The nature of this programme supports continuing professional development and those wishing to progress on an academic path with for example a PhD, will be prepared to do so.


Start dates

  • January 2025

Fees and funding

Important notice - Tuition fees for this course may vary

Visit Tuition Fees pages for more details on the price of this course.

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


  1. Although reasonable steps are taken to provide the programmes and services described, the University cannot guarantee the provision of any course or facility and the University may make variations to the contents or methods of delivery of courses, discontinue, merge or combine courses and introduce new courses if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Such circumstances include (but are not limited to) industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key staff, changes in legislation or government policy including changes, if any, resulting from the UK departing the European Union, withdrawal or reduction of funding or other circumstances beyond the University’s reasonable control.
  1. If the University discontinues any courses, it will use its best endeavours to provide a suitable alternative course. In addition, courses may change during the course of study and in such circumstances the University will normally undertake a consultation process prior to any such changes being introduced and seek to ensure that no student is unreasonably prejudiced as a consequence of any such change.
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"I found the MSc Leadership and Innovation in the Public Sector programme an incredibly rewarding personal experience. The study days were informative with excellent lecturers and speakers in their specialist fields, supplemented by lively classroom discussion and debate. We also had the opportunity to apply our knowledge and skills through assignment based assessments and a thesis at the end of the course. If I was to highlight one standout area it would be the networking opportunities and learning experiences I gained from the lecturers and the other participants on the course – a hugely talented and diverse group of people that I am now proud to call my friends."

Ann Carlin, NICS, Enterprise Shared Services

"The MSc is designed to equip managers with the necessary skills to provide a better service to the public by being better persuaders, better negotiators and ultimately better managers"

Professor Gary Orren, Professor of Politics and Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School