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Oxford MBA

Oxford MBA

Core courses


Accounting: Richard Barker and Amir Amel-Zadeh

Background: Financial statements are fundamental data for all organisations. In the last few years, financial reporting requirements have changed significantly across the globe, with many companies now publishing their annual accounts according to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). An understanding of financial reporting using IFRS is a prerequisite for understanding the financial success and financial stability of these companies. While it is not necessary for you to become a technical accounting expert, some technical and institutional knowledge of accounting is essential for leadership roles in any organisation.

Objectives:  There are two primary objectives for the course. The first is to build your understanding of the subject of accounting. We can define accounting as the process of identifying, measuring and communicating economic information, with the purpose of informing decision-making relating to the financial performance and financial position of an organisation.  At the heart of accounting is a model for recording and presenting economic information, which is summarised in a balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement.  The starting point in understanding accounting is grasping how this model works. A deeper understanding of accounting then requires an appreciation of both the strengths and limitations of accounting data.  The second objective is to build your understanding of financial reporting more broadly, including areas such as financial statement analysis, corporate valuation models, investor relations, audit and governance.

This course will enable you to: 

  1. read and interpret financial statements, and understand the 'language of business' that is used in the business media and elsewhere
  2. perform financial analyses of companies, for example for the purposes of financial management and control, or for investment or credit decisions
  3. evaluate your own organisation’s reporting policy and strategy.

Analytics: Ho-Yin Mak & Siddharth Arora

In the current competitive environment, it is important to understand the relationships between different business factors, to forecast trends, to appreciate the risks arising from management actions, and to optimise investment strategies. Decisions are often taken under considerable uncertainty and time pressure. Therefore, managers need to be able to grasp the range of uncertainty rapidly and make rational decisions, which are both flexible and robust. This course aims to enhance your ability to apply modern decision technology and statistical methods to decision-making. It is a practical course, which uses Excel to illustrate how to apply the methodologies introduced. The course is multidisciplinary with links to accounting, economics, finance, marketing and operations management.

Business Finance

Business Finance: Howard Jones and Joel Shapiro

Business Finance is concerned with measuring the value that investments create for investors, and with understanding the way that this value is shared amongst the various claimants on the firm’s profits. At the end of the course, students should have a good understanding of portfolio management and its relationship to the corporate cost of capital; they should be able to value new investment opportunities, and to price basic derivative securities; finally, they should understand some institutional features of the bond market and the market for initial public offerings.

The first part of the course lays the foundations for this discussion by examining the measurement of risk and return, and by understanding how investors can build portfolios so as optimally to trade risk off against return. This provides us with a benchmark for evaluating fresh investment opportunities. The second part of the course shows how this is accomplished, by valuing the cash flows that an investment is expected to yield over its life. The course then discusses the various sources of funds, and the ways that financing patterns might affect the value of an underlying investment. Finally, the course discusses the fixed income market, derivative securities, risk management, the separation of ownership and control, and the market for initial public offerings.

Firms and Markets

Firms and Markets: Bige Kahraman, Nir Vulkan (MT) and Oren Sussman, Ken Okumura (HT)

The first part of the Firms and Markets course applies the principles of microeconomics to business decisions. Microeconomics studies the behaviour and interaction of producers, consumers and other economic agents. In this course we will focus on the choices of firms and the implications for industry dynamics. The course covers the building blocks of supply and demand, competition and monopoly. In addition, we discuss the important managerial topics such as pricing methods, strategic interaction between firms and auction design. Students without any economics are recommended to invest a substantial amount of time ensuring that they have grasped this basic material.

In addition to mastering the basics of microeconomics, students will learn how to use these ideas to address managerial problems. During the course students will analyze a number of case studies, as well as conduct an in-depth industry study.

The second part of the Firms and Markets course is an application of the principles of microeconomics, to macroeconomic problems: the analysis of the national and the global economy, with special emphasis on the role of governments and central banks. The teaching will assume that, by now, students have a solid base in microeconomics, as taught in the first part of the course. By the end of the course we expect that students will be able to understand the policy debate, critically assess the various arguments, and understand the implication of policy to business decisions. The teaching will be both analytical and applied.

Leadership Fundamentals

Leadership Fundamentals: Michael Smets & Tim Morris

Leading individuals, teams and organisations is the central task of management and critical to performance, whether you are in a start-up, global corporation, public service or social enterprise. This significance is constantly growing as an increasingly complex and volatile economic and geo-political context calls for strong, responsible leadership. Yet, leadership is as difficult as it is critical, thanks to the complexities of human nature and the challenges that arise when people work together.

We have designed this course to help you meet these challenges in three ways. It will help you:

  • understand what drives yourself – and others – to develop an effective, personal leadership style
  • apply and evaluate frameworks for managing individual, team, and organisational performance
  • reflect on these leadership frameworks and skills in the context of your own experience

These aims are immediately relevant for a lot of activities and assessments during the MBA, such as work in your study teams, group assignments, the Entrepreneurship Project, to name but a few. In short, the better you understand yourself, the team members around you, and the best ways of getting the most out of everyone, the more fruitful your year at SBS will be. Beyond ‘unlocking’ value in the MBA itself, though, Leadership Fundamentals will prepare you for your next management challenge, and many more after that. To prepare you for that journey, the course is structured around the organizational lifecycle from ‘start-up’ to ‘grown-up’ with a strong focus on your personal leadership development.

The course does not attempt to give you a definitive set of tools and policies. There is seldom a single ‘right’ answer to the complex organizational questions that confront executives in their day-to-day work. There are, however, plenty of wrong answers. It is our aim to sharpen your sense for what works when. 


Strategy: Tom Lawrence, Teppo Felin, Hiram Samel

Why are some organisations more successful than others? This is the fundamental question of strategy.  This course will help students understand the origins and causes of variation in organisational performance. We examine strategy for the single-business organisation (competitive strategy) and the multi-business organisation (corporate strategy), recognizing the range of criteria for defining ‘success’.  We will also cover some of the basics of global strategy and innovation. The course extends students’ existing background and awareness of the problems involved in managing an organisation by providing readings, analytical tools and case discussion of fundamental strategy issues.

Overall, the course aims to help students develop the following skills:

  1. The ability to apply strategy theory and frameworks critically to the analysis and diagnosis of strategy problems.
  2. An understanding of strategic options in a variety of contexts, including single-business, multi-business, non-business and global contexts.
  3. The capacity to formulate and defend arguments in support of strategy proposals, using theory and evidence.
Technology and Operations Management

Technology and Operations Management: Matthias Holweg

The operations function of the firm covers all aspects related to the delivery of the product or service the firm offers; it not only determines the cost base, it also generally accounts for the largest proportion of working capital requirements, and determines quality and service level for the customer.

This course will introduce the key concepts of operations and process management, develop understanding of their relevance to organisational effectiveness, and show how operations can nurtured as a source of ongoing competitive advantage. We will cover the main concepts of process improvement, including Lean Thinking and Quality Management, and review these in the context of the wide firm.

At the end of this course, you should be able to:

1.     Identify the importance of operations management for manufacturing, service, and not-for-profit organizations;

2.     Apply operations management ideas and techniques to identifying, analyzing, managing, and designing or improving processes and systems;

3.     Understand the subject from the various perspectives of the CEO, the entrepreneur, the investor, the customer, and the consultant.

4.     Describe how operations management can be used to develop strategic advantage


Marketing: Andrew Stephen and Rhonda Hadi

Marketing plays a critical strategic role in all firms. The marketing function has responsibility for generating and growing demand for a firm’s brands, products, and services in the marketplace in a manner that delivers superior value to both the firm and its customers. This is all the more important in today’s technology-enabled, fast-paced, always-on and on-demand market environment where customers have increasingly high expectations of firms and firms in many established industries face new competitive threats from innovative and radically new business models. Moreover, due to these market conditions and new technologies, marketing has become an increasingly digital and technology-enabled field. Thus, the future of marketing looks very different.

This course provides an in-depth introduction to contemporary marketing, with a focus on what matters for the future of marketing. Students will be taken through key stages of developing a value-creating marketing strategy and cover topics such as market analysis, consumer behaviour, digital marketing, customer value analysis, product development and innovation, social media marketing, and retail marketing.

The course’s ultimate aim is twofold. First, to instil in students 'marketing thinking', which emphasises a customer-centric view of business because delivering superior value to customers increases long-run firm value. Second, to equip students with future-oriented marketing knowledge that will prepare them as the business leaders of the future. The specific course objectives are:

  • Understand what marketing is and why it is a critically important part of any business
  • Appreciate changes that have taken place both in the marketplace (eg with consumer behaviour) and in marketing practice (eg due to technology and digital marketing), and what these changes imply for marketing strategizing)
  • Critically analyse a firm’s marketing actions, identify problems, recommend feasible improvements, and develop a strategic marketing plan
  • Know fundamental principles of marketing, including segmentation, targeting, positioning, and customer value

Appreciate the various aspects of the marketing process (eg customer insights/research, product launches, innovation and product development, retail, digital, social media) and the key considerations for each one.

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Foundations of business

The core courses will allow you to examine the foundation of business. The first term will immerse you in modern enterprise – from the economic theory of the firm, to the valuation of businesses and the choice of strategy and management skills. The goal of these core courses and those in the second term is to provide a breadth and depth of knowledge that will allow you to approach any business situation with confidence and understanding.

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