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Business Improvement


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.


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.

Teaching and learning assessment

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.

Entry 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.



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.

Careers or further progression

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 Bombardier, BE Aerospace, Caterpillar, Ryobi, Citibank, HSC, NI Water, Translink, Veridian and other public sector organisations.

Further enquiries

Contact Details
For further details on this programme please contact the Department Office on:

T: +44 (0)28 9036 8880

Course Director: Alan McKittrick
T:+44 (0) 28 9036 6359

Subjects taught

Year one

Innovation Management
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 and Process Management
Excellent organisations are managed through structured and strategically aligned processes using fact-based decision making to create balanced and sustained results. To achieve excellence, organisations must focus on how their processes are designed to deliver a strategy, using end-to-end management beyond the "classic" boundaries of the organisation. Excellent organisations design, manage and improve processes to generate increasing value for customers and other stakeholders.

Operational Excellence
Operations and process management is about how organisations produce goods and services. This module aims to enable students to acquire knowledge and a critical understanding of Operations Management, an understanding of the tasks, issues and decisions that are necessary to manage processes effectively and the tools to analyse process 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
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.

Business Transformation Project
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.

Application date

Application is through the University's online application system.

Enrolment and start dates

Start Date: September 2019

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