Programme outline



Informed by cutting-edge research and grounded in the best of international practice.

Our students are at the forefront of major programmes in science, technology, infrastructure, and social development, including delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These programmes are often very large scale, highly complex, and changeable. The challenge of managing them is one of Leadership, which is the overarching theme of the degree programme.

Underpinning this theme are three linked areas that broadly follow the major programme lifecycle: Design (concept and planning), which transitions to Governance (technical and commercial programme operations), which transitions to Impact (performance and programme benefits, valuation, and building foresight into future trends and needs for the next programme).

Modules are five days long, beginning on a Monday and concluding on a Friday afternoon. As part of our continuous review process, module dates are subject to change.

This modular format allows you to combine work and study. Participants tend to remain in their full-time professional roles, travelling to Oxford and back for each of the eight modules. All modules must be attended in full.

The programme uses a range of teaching methods including interactive lectures, small group workshops and case studies.

As part of our continuous review process, elements of this programme are subject to change for the 2024 intake. Any modifications to the content will be communicated at the earliest opportunity.


The degree starts with a Gateway' to set the scene. A one-day unassessed review of the themes, the curriculum, the intended learning outcomes and the expectations of the coming two years of study.

Designing and managing successful programmes

7-11 October 2024

We use the latest findings from organisation research to explore how major programme leaders can address the specific needs and considerations of these large, temporary organisations in the earliest design stages.

Topics covered:

  • Programmes as temporary organisations
  • Organisation design, considering
    • Theoretical perspectives
    • Practical challenges
  • Recurrent factors of programme success and failure that relate to programme design

Systems thinking

9-13 December 2024

Systems thinking is essential to address the complex, contradictory, and shifting context in which major programme leaders operate. This module introduces a range of system-level methodologies and analytical tools applicable to the multifaceted and challenging problems generated within this context.

Topics covered:

  • System diagnosis and design
  • Coping with system adaptation and change
  • Evaluating effective metrics for system performance management
  • Coping with complexity
  • Recurrent factors of programme success and failure that relate to systems within programmes

Governance and stakeholder leadership

17-21 February 2025

Leading major programmes requires navigating relationships not just internally but with a wide range of external and emergent stakeholders who vary across the programme’s phases and even after the programme has been delivered. We investigate managing this through stakeholder mapping, programme and non/extra-programme governance structures, and programme assurance from contractual, financial, and delivery perspectives.

Topics covered:

  • Understanding the organisational, political and social context of major programmes management
  • Ensuring effective and adaptable governance structures are in place
  • Assessing viability and evaluation methods for a wide range of stakeholders
  • Mapping performance measurements and financial metrics to match the programme lifecycle
  • Communication and stakeholder management

Major programme risk

12-16 May 2025

We look at how risk manifests across major programmes to develop a practical understanding of organisational, operational, and financial risks and their mitigation by identifying, diagnosing, and mitigating features of risk, and interrogating and debating their assumptions.

Topics covered:

  • The nature of the risk in the management of major programmes: theoretically, in cases, and through empirical data
  • Critical assessment of theories and practices of risk assessment and risk management that address root causes and strategy and not only symptoms
  • Understanding different perspectives on how risk is analysed and estimated -- reference class forecasting, simple rules, maieutic machine, and others
  • Unpacking the role of bias, values, and complexity in driving the nature and type of risk, their identification, and their mitigation

Research methods

21-25 July 2025

To prepare you for the second part of the programme, we focus in this module on research conceptualisation, design and delivery for your own research project and dissertation.

Topics covered:

  • Research design and general approaches used in the social sciences
  • Searching the existing literature
  • Methods of data collection and analysis
  • Writing up research proposals and results
  • Research ethics

Strategic leadership and programme performance

27-31 October 2025

There is rarely a single, definitive right answer for performance management in complex organisations delivering major programmes, but there may be many different approaches. We examine the behaviour of individuals and groups and consider the essential competencies required for leading major programmes.

Topics covered:

  • Exploring the factors that result in individual high performance
  • Exploring the factors that result in group high performance
  • Exposure to essential theories and concepts for analysing organisational problems in the context of major programme management
  • Effective individual and group analysis of major programme cases

Major programme impact

19-23 January 2026

There is a constant tension between the requirement to deliver commissioned programmes according to specifications (including budget) and the needs of stakeholders, especially communities and taxpayers. In this module you will learn how to track, measure, and evaluate the intended and unintended outcomes of major programmes using measurement frameworks appropriate to complex stakeholders.

Topics covered:

  • Mixed-method approaches to benefits evaluation
  • Community Benefits Agreements and Development Review Processes to co-design, co-develop, and co-govern benefits in ways that fit with delivery schedules

Major programme futures

23-27 March 2026

The huge timescales involved in major programmes mean that the world in which a major programme is conceived can be drastically different from the one in which it is delivered, and leaders have to find their way there without a clear map. This final, forward-looking module takes you to the cutting edge of emerging ideas and technologies that are influencing and impacting the future of major programmes and their stakeholders.

Topics covered:

  • Techniques for monitoring and evaluating various disruptive technologies and whether they have programmatic implications or, like many, are predestined to be fads and fail
  • Forecasting, horizon scanning, and/or scenario planning to build heuristics that help increase preparedness
  • Using future trends and experimentation to build a rhythm across existing and future programmes


MMPM graduation

The programme is formally assessed through a mix of written assignments, group presentations and projects, and a written dissertation of 10,000 words. The dissertation will be due approximately seven months after the end of module 8, completing the full two-year study duration of the MSc.

You will be given pre-reading before each module and formative assignments. In addition, you will join virtual learning teams with your fellow students to support each other’s progress.

The programme is applicable across all industries and sectors. Daniel Armanios, BT Professor and Chair of Major Programme Management, is a real asset to the programme. The focus he brings combines the social and technical aspects. Being surrounded on the course with people who want to learn and progress their careers brings a real buzz. Putting those two things together is important.

Alexander Griffiths

Operations Director, Mace, UK

Study commitment

Women using computer

In the classroom, emphasis is placed on debate. You are encouraged to read outside the reading lists and bring your reflections together with your professional experience to the discussions.

Between modules, you should allow for at least 10 hours per week of study, including reading, writing formative and assessed assignments, and your final dissertation.

Please note that this course is paperless. All presentations will be uploaded to our virtual learning environment; this may be in advance of, just before or immediately after teaching sessions. Handouts will be provided for certain courses based on specific requirements – for example, unreliable internet availability or where handouts operate more like a textbook than slides.