Faculty & Research
The School
MSc in Major Programme Management

MSc in Major Programme Management

Programme outline

Informed by cutting-edge research and grounded in the best of international practice, this Oxford masters is built on eight core courses and a dissertation. 

Modules are generally four days long, beginning on a Tuesday and concluding on a Friday. The first module starts with an additional two-day induction, and the final module concludes with a one-day capstone event. This modular format to allows you to combine work and study. Participants generally remain in their full-time professional roles, travelling to Oxford and back for each of the eight modules. All modules at Oxford must be attended in full; see the module dates for the next intake.

The study is intensive, using a range of teaching methods including interactive lectures, small group workshops and real world case studies. Emphasis is put on debate, and you are encouraged to read outside of the reading lists and bring this, and your professional experiences, to the discussions. Outside of modules you should allow for at least 10 hours per week of study including reading, writing assessed assignments (3,000 words) and a dissertation (10,000 words), and writing formative assignments. 

1. Designing and managing successful programmes

Dr Eamonn Molloy

This course develops your understanding of major programmes as a governance structure and a distinctive organisational form. You will consider the relevance of organisational theory to major programmes and reflect on organisational design in the context of programme performance.

Topics covered:

  • Programmes as organisations
  • Organisation design
  • Theoretical perspectives
  • Practical challenges
  • Recurrent themes

2. Major programme risk

Professor Bent Flyvbjerg

Informed by the world-renowned research from Major Programme Management, this module investigates the challenges, causes and cures of risk in the major programme management environment. You will explore how risk manifests across a range of programme sectors, and develop a sound understanding of the role of policy, planning, and management in pre-empting risk.

Topics covered:

  • How risk fools you

  • Risk in context

  • The planning fallacy

  • Strategic misrepresentation

  • The outside view

  • De-risking

3. Systems engineering

Dr Alexander Budzier and Dr Janet Smart

This course introduces participants, from technical and non-technical backgrounds, to the central concepts and assumptions of systems engineering. You will explore real-world issues affecting systems engineering, with a particular emphasis on the effects of complexity.

Topics covered:

  • System design

  • Coping with change

  • Choosing metrics

  • Coping with complexity

  • Factors for success

4. Financial management

Professor Paolo Quattrone

Too often accounting is seen as a mere tool which delivers neutral calculations. This is never the case, let alone in major programme management (MPM) where the complexities of the scale of the programme make accounting a practice to explore possible solutions rather than a technique which delivers correct answers. 

This course draws on this assumption, and will equip students with a critical understanding of the functioning and use of financial data and metrics in various stages of MPM (pre-, post-award and post-completion) in real business situations. 

It will enable programme managers to acquire and articulate new forms of designing management control systems which enable managers to cope with major programmes’ complexities. Students will explore the role of financial metrics throughout the programme lifecycle, from procurement and negotiation to auditing and reporting and will be able to understand the complexities of project financing.

Watch Professor Quattrone's Tedx talk "Governing ‘socie-ties'" at TEDxOxbridge:

5. Contract management

Lindsay Henshaw

This course addresses the crucial role of contractual documentation in the creation and management of a major project. Using practical, business-focussed activities, you will build effective contract management skills that can be applied throughout the programme lifecycle.

Topics covered:

  • Identifying legal risk

  • Strategic alliances and cooperative ventures

  • Dispute resolution

  • Intellectual property

  • Due diligence and contractual protection

6. Research methods

Dr Kate Blackmon

This module is an essential introduction to the business and management research methods that are appropriate for researching major programme management, including both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The module will prepare you for planning, executing, and writing up your dissertations for both managerial and academic stakeholders.

Topics covered:

  • Research design and general approaches

  • Literature search

  • Data collection

  • Data analysis

  • Writing up research proposals and results

  • Research ethics

7. Managing performance

Dr Paul Chapman

This course allows you to consider your role as manager and leader in delivering the outcomes expected of a major programme. Working across individual, team, organisation and programme perspectives, you will examine your own leadership style and understand how your personal approach affects programme performance. View a taster of the module

Topics covered:

  • Leadership models

  • Framing and reframing perspectives

  • The reflective practitioner

  • Developing personal insights

  • Leadership in a programme context

8. Globalisation and major programmes

Dr Atif Ansar

A differentiating characteristic of major programmes is the international context in which they operate. This course explores the international and transnational dimensions of major programmes and how they may be understood, anticipated and managed and consider the particular risks that may be associated with operating in emerging economies.

Topics covered:

  • Global strategy development

  • Navigating political environments

  • Stakeholder management

  • Corporate social responsibility

  • Emerging economies




Candidates undertake pre-reading and formative assignments, and form virtual learning teams during the course of the programme to support each other’s progress.

The MSc is formally assessed by eight individual assignments each of 3,000 words, and a written dissertation of 10,000 words. You will build your dissertation around an intellectually challenging question that will encourage you to explore the subject matter of your thesis in depth. The dissertation will be due approximately 7 months after the end of module 8 at Oxford, completing the full two-year study duration of the MSc. 

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Please note information is subject to change. 

+44 (0)1865 610084

This programme is unique

“Major programme managers have a really difficult job. It is really difficult to manage a multi-billion dollar investment and because of this there are a lot methodologies, knowledge and skills including personal and leadership skills that you need to have in order to do this well, or better than it is done currently, and this is what we deliver on this programme.

This programme is unique and you actually would not be able to find anything, at any other university, like what we offer here at Oxford.”

Professor Bent Flyvbjerg,
Academic Director

Download the brochure
Programme finder

If this isn't quite the right programme for you, or you'd like to learn about our other programmes, then our programme finder tool is available to help you.

Contact us
MPM Enquiries
+44 (0)1865 610084