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Systems Thinking in Practice

This MSc course explores the way we think about and approach tasks or situations. Everyone brings with them their own perspective, which means that we all see things in different ways. The discipline of systems thinking in practice will provide you with the tools to challenge your approach to complex situations, consider the roles other people play, and assess how different components within those situations are related. You will also develop the skills needed to think more holistically and work more collaboratively to avoid systemic failures.

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.

The learning outcomes of this qualification are described in four areas:
• Knowledge and understanding
• Cognitive skills
• Practical and professional skills
• Key skills

Entry requirements

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.

Most students study this qualification in three to four years in order to avoid overlaps in intensive periods of study. The minimum time to complete is three years but, because of the demands that study will make, we recommend that you study no more than 60 credits a year. There is no maximum time limit for completing this qualification but we cannot guarantee that the same selection of modules will continue to be available. Modules can count towards this MSc for a maximum of eight years after we have stopped presenting them.

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

Course details
To gain this qualification, you need 180 credits as follows:
Stage 1
60 credits of compulsory modules:
Compulsory modules
Thinking strategically: systems tools for managing change (TU811)
Managing systemic change: inquiry, action and interaction (TU812)

60 credits from List A:
Please see the module descriptions for any specific entry requirements before making your choice.
List A – optional modules
Advanced routing - CCNP 1 (T824)
Capacities for managing development (T878)
Conflict and development (T879)
Continuing professional development in practice (U810)
Data management (M816)
Development: context and practice (T877)
Digital forensics (M812)
Earth science: a systems approach (S808)
Entrepreneurship: experience and perspective (BB846)
Information security (M811)
Institutional development: conflicts, values and meanings (TU872)
Leadership and management in intercultural contexts (BB848)
Leading healthcare improvements (K827)
MBA stage 1: management: perspectives and practice (B716)
MBA stage 1: management: perspectives and practice (fast-track)* (BXFT716)
Making environmental decisions (T891)
Management beyond the mainstream (BB847)
Managing for sustainability (T867)
Managing technological innovation (T848)
Manufacture materials design (T805)
Marketing in the 21st century (BB844)
Multi-layer switching - CCNP 3 (T826)
Network security (T828)
Optimising networks - CCNP 4 (T827)
Project management (M815)
Software development (M813)
Software engineering (M814)
Strategic capabilities for technological innovation (T849)
Strategic human resource management (BB845)
Sustainable creative management (BB842)

* This version is for accelerated study and requires you to devote 20-25 hours a week to your studies.

Or, subject to the rules about excluded combinations, the discontinued modules B820, B821, B822, B823, B825, B856, B857, BZX820, BZX821, BZX822, BZX823, BZX825, H807, 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
Completion of Stage 1 will entitle you to claim the Postgraduate Diploma in Systems Thinking in Practice (E28).


Stage 2
This MSc offers a choice of routes after you have completed Stage 1; a research route or a more business-oriented professional route.
60 credits from either the Research route or the Professional route:
Research route
Compulsory module
Research project (T802)

Professional route
Compulsory module
The MSc professional project (T847)

Or, subject to the rules about excluded combinations, the discontinued module T842
Plus an additional 30 credits from List A in Stage 1 above

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.

The modules quoted in this description are currently available for study. However, as we review the curriculum on a regular basis, the exact selection may change over time.


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.

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.

Remember to mention gradireland when contacting institutions!