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Leadership & Innovation in the Public Sector

The Department of Global Business and Enterprise at Ulster University and the Department of Business Studies at Letterkenny Institute of Technology 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.


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.

Teaching and learning 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.

Entry 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.



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, all 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.

Careers or further progression

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.

Further enquiries

Course Director: Dr Tonya Cullen
T: +44 (0)28 7167 5206

Subjects taught

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.

Year one

Context of Leadership, Innovation and Transformation
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
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 in their organisation. It explores tools and techniques to examine the challenging dynamics of leadership.

Year two

Citizen Centric Policy Design
This module provides a thorough investigation into placing the citizen at the centre of service design, development and delivery. It will include a thorough investigation into Global Data Protection Regulation as to building trust in the privacy and confidentiality of services and to structure the needs analysis, design, planning of delivery and performance evaluation of services uptake. Techniques of collaborative design and co-production of services will be explored to encompass digital and stakeholder inclusion and the addressing of wicked and societal issues.

Change and Cultural Management
Large-scale strategic change is a complex and illusive challenge. The module examines the nature of organisational change; assesses transformational change models and best practice that assists in leading transformation change.

Digital Transformation and Shared Services
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; and break down the barriers associated with achieving the goals of digital transformation.

Performance Management
The module evaluates the critical importance of performance measurement within the public service and assesses the range of tools and techniques available to leaders and managers. The module addresses output, outcome and performance measurement in the public service.

Research Project
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.

Application date

Application is through the University's online application system.

Enrolment and start dates

Start dates January 2020

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