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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.

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

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.

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.


Minimum - 3 years.

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

Number of credits

180 credits

Careers or further progression

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.

Further enquiries

Tel: (01) 678 5399

Fax: (01) 678 5442


Subjects taught


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

Stage 1 (120 credits)

60 credits from:

Module Credits

Making strategy with systems thinking in practice (TB871) 30

Managing change with systems thinking in practice (TB872) 30

Or, subject to the rules about excluded combinations, the discontinued modules TU811 and TU812.

60 credits from:

Module Credits

Capacities for managing development (T878) 30

Conflict and development (T879) 30

Continuing professional development in practice (U810) 30 Creating and sustaining value (B872) 30

Data management (M816) 30

Development: context and practice (T877) 30

Digital forensics (M812) 30

Entrepreneurship in context (BB851) 15

Information security (M811) 30

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

Leadership and management in intercultural contexts (BB848) 15

Leadership and management of public services (BB852) 15 Making environmental decisions (T891) 30

Managing for sustainability (T867) 30

Managing in a changing world (B870) 30

Managing technological innovation (T848) 30

Manufacture materials design (T805) 30

Marketing in the 21st century (BB844) 15

Multi-layer switching - CCNP 3 (T826) 30

Network security (T828) 30

Optimising networks - CCNP 4 (T827) 30

Project management (M815) 30

Software development (M813) 30

Software engineering (M814) 30

Strategic capabilities for technological innovation (T849) 30 Sustainable creative management (BB842) 15

Or, subject to the rules about excluded combinations, the discontinued modules B716, B820, B821, B822, B823, B825, B856, B857, BB835, BB845, BB846, BB847, 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

Research project (T802) 60

Professional route

60 credits from:

Compulsory module Credits

The MSc professional project (T847) 30

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.

Remember to mention gradireland when contacting institutions!