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Online MBA: curriculum

Curriculum Details

The University of Birmingham’s online MBA utilises a modern curriculum that emphasises curiosity, thought leadership and global perspectives on modern business. Complete your taught degree in just 21 months, plus three months for your 40-credit project or research dissertation.

Personalise your studies by choosing from two specialisms (Clinical Leadership or Engineering Leadership) and three pathways (Marketing, International Business and Strategy or Innovation and Business Transformation). Or pursue a generalised online MBA to gain responsible business skills while preparing for career advancement.

MBA core modules


This is a reflective and developmental module for students to explore their leadership and career aspirations in relation to their purposive values. The module will include four types of learning engagements:

  • An examination of current values-based and purpose-led theories of leadership. Students will be encouraged to critically examine theories they study, and apply them to their own contexts and experiences;
  • Critical reflective practice about how they enact and embody purposeful/values-based leading and aspects of their organizational context which impacts on their ability to lead from this orientation;
  • Professional skills development activities, including coaching to enhance their capacity to lead effectively that will be coordinated and delivered by the BBS Career team;
  • The development of reflective practitioner and associated research skills, culminating in the creation of a plan for undertaking a project to underpin career aspirations.

Students will be expected to keep a portfolio of reflective practice on their purposeful leadership approach throughout the module, and how what they have learned on different modules is influencing this.

This module aims to provide students with a fundamental understanding of how organisational performance and ‘success’ can be measured. To facilitate this, the module examines various visions of organisational accountability and sustainability, and equips students to be able to interpret and analyse accounting information. In doing so, the module offers students a foundation on the role, techniques, limits and context surrounding financial and non-financial decision-making, leadership and analysis. The module takes a practical perspective; it is theoretically robust but rooted in application.

This module aims to provide students with a critical awareness, understanding of, and ability to interpret relevant and fundamental issues in the economy. Throughout this module students will explore key theories, concepts, and frameworks, applying them through contemporary case studies and group work to develop a critical understanding of current issues in the global economy.

Starting from the definition of cornerstone concepts in economics, the module will look in more depth at major economic issues shaping businesses’ local and global environment and landscape trends.

In terms of micro-economics, the module will analyse how markets operate and evolve in view of the current green transitions, and what challenges in terms of production, costs, revenue, profit, and social value responsible businesses face within global value chains to address environmental and social impacts.

On the macro-economy, the focus will be on current issues in global trade and globalisation; economic development; and transversally, on the systemic green transition to address the climate crisis. It will also consider green and inclusive growth, unemployment and inflation and the role of governments in managing the economy with monetary, fiscal and industrial policies.

The module introduces students to the concepts, principles and major approaches that contribute to an analytical understanding of the uncertain environment in which strategies are formulated. Through interactive learning approaches based on cases and problem-based learning, you will develop and enhance your practical skills to design and execute purpose-led organisational strategies that meets social, environmental, and financial goals.

This module specifically addresses how organisational purpose can enhance the strategic focus of business, by acknowledging the influence of values and stakeholder expectations on decision making. This approach to strategy formulation encourages systems thinking that seeks ambitious, creative and sustainable solutions beyond the strict boundaries of the organisation as a new path to competitive advantage. The module explicitly incorporates an understanding of the social, environmental and financial impacts of the organisation on stakeholders into corporate and business-level strategy formulation. The module develops critical strategic thinking skills that take a long-term perspective. It encourages students to develop innovative strategies that maintain a congruence between the firm and in the context of the organisation’s particular competitive environment and the ever-changing, uncertain general environment of business.

This module provides an understanding of decision making of corporate policies and how organisations are financed and valued. In doing so, it offers students a foundation on the role, techniques, limits and context surrounding financial decision-making and analysis. 

This module aims to provide students with an understanding of, and ability to apply the tools and methodologies of contemporary finance theories. This module also aims to provide students with the ability to interpret and analyse the information contained in the financial statement and reports of a corporation.  

The module provides students the opportunities to explore the financial decision-making processes of organisations. In so doing the module will look at the role of financial managers, the scope / remit and implications of their decision-making for both profitability and sustainability, and how it affects shareholders, stakeholders and society. Financial decisions are complex, and so the module will explore methods for evaluating and presenting choices in an accessible manner. 

The module takes a practical perspective; it is theoretically robust but rooted in application. 

This core module aims to provide students with fundamental knowledge relating to the function of contemporary marketing and its role in society. Major concepts, theories and frameworks of marketing will be introduced and analysed throughout this module.

Marketing is of great significance to private, public, and third sectors. As a result, there is a need to understand how marketing has to be adapted to meet the demands of these sectors. Moreover, given the importance of marketing in the contemporary world, it becomes necessary to comprehend its societal consequences.

This module will introduce the key foundational concepts relating to marketing. Students will evaluate contemporary challenges that organisations face and critically analyse available solutions. The module will also explore the complex relationship between ethics, markets and the activities of responsible marketing practitioners. Students will develop an understanding of a marketer’s role and responsibilities and how they impact contemporary society.

On completion of this module students will have gained a deep understanding of how marketing contributes to developing organisations’ long-term success, as well as its consequences for society.

In recent years, companies are interested in managing corporate social responsibility and sustainability as part of their operations management. Whether you are a major manufacturer, a policy maker, a public sector organisation or a small business owner, understanding the principles of operations management is critical to success. These companies also realise their operations management practices must respond to demands to address sustainability. This response is triggered by climate change and environmental concerns, the well-being of employees and communities. This module introduces a range of issues in sustainable operations management for both manufacturing and service industries. In this module, you will learn about the role of operations and how they are connected to other business functions in manufacturing- and service-focused organisations. You will learn and practise the use of decision-making frameworks and techniques applicable at strategic, tactical and operational levels. Different aspects of OM are considered from a sustainability perspective. These aspects encompass product design and eco-design, adoption of environmental and social standards, process improvement and lean operations, purchasing, supply chain management (SCM), logistics including recycling and closed-loop systems, performance measurement and risk management.

The module will help students to develop their people management knowledge, personal skills and values in light of contemporary organisational challenges and international or global contexts. Person-centric (micro and meso-level) management topics may include, for example: employee motivation and engagement; recruitment and selection; equality and diversity; interpersonal communication, teamworking and intercultural awareness. In fast a changing business world, the module also explores macro-level topics and issues associated with people management and organisations more broadly. These may include, for example: the future of work; organisational governance and ethics; leadership, responsible business and human resource management (HRM).

This module engages students with ethical principles and approaches underpinning what it means to be a responsible business in theory and practice from a variety of contexts across the Globe; including the promotion of sustainable development. The module will help students: 1) assess their own values and position as responsible managers with regards to principles and approaches, and 2) assess how their values and positions can be integrated into activities depending on contexts (economic, social, cultural, geographical, legal, policy and regulatory) and 3) develop competencies in managing organisations responsibly.

Specifically, the module starts with irresponsible business practices, identifying organisational structures and incentives and external factors that can lead to these. The module moves on to responsible business alternatives taking into account the social, environmental, and economic spheres in local, regional and national contexts. It critically explores the potential of organisations as catalysts for change, how to manage inclusively and responsibly and make significant social and environmental contributions (with sustainability in mind) within organisations in context. Finally, it discusses the opportunities and the challenges and the intended and potential unintended consequences of responsible business for a variety of stakeholders.

The module follows a reflexive experiential learning approach. It uses cases from around the globe that challenge students to scope and identify ways to tackle “wicked problems”, design and implement responsible solutions true to their values, and emergent contextual approaches that fit with their organisations.

You must also choose ONE of the following


This module will enable students to undertake an in-depth company project on a topical business issue. Students will have the opportunity to work with an academic supervisor who will act as a mentor, guide the student, and offer feedback on the assessment submissions.

Students will produce an executive summary that will offer a summary overview of the project and key findings, as part of a much longer piece of work which will deliver a consultancy-style report including, for example, literature, findings based on organizational data analysis, and recommendations. Such projects will enable students to develop managerial experience, knowledge across organisations, understand the complexities of organisational projects, project management skills, leadership and research skills.

This 40 credits module together with the 20 credits Purposeful Leader module make up 60 credits of independent learning based on student research within the MBA programme.

To take the Entrepreneurial Project, students must have previously taken Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

The Entrepreneurial Project module will enable students to undertake an in-depth entrepreneurial project focused on the student’s aspirations. Students will undertake a project focused on their own organisation, an intrapreneurship project (a novel development in a larger organisation) or an entrepreneurial project collaboratively developed with an organisation or mentor supported by UoB and BBS.

An Entrepreneurial Project provides students with the experience of developing a proposition while reflecting on the responsible business, entrepreneurship and innovation literature, confronting the tensions of theory meeting real world practice.

This 40-credit module together with the Purposeful Leader 20-credits make up the required 60-credits of independent learning based on student research required within the MBA programme.

The aim of this module is to develop students’ knowledge, skills, capability and competency in the development and execution of an individual research project. Students will have the opportunity to design, develop and implement a research methodology appropriate to the research being undertaken, and which draws upon and aims to contribute to a body of knowledge in business management. Students will be expected to draw upon research knowledge and skills developed during their overall programme of studies. Students can choose to develop their project and research with a focus on literature review and analysis combined with data analysis. Both primary data as well as secondary data are appropriate for the dissertation in this programme.

The Purposeful Leadership and the dissertation modules involve student research and, together, make up 60 credits of independent learning based on student research within the MBA programme.

General elective


The purpose of this module is to explore how organisations of all types respond to and prepare for an environment of risk and uncertainty. No organisation is immune to crises, and so we examine what successful crisis management looks like in terms of minimizing the impact of disruptive events, by examining the lifecycle of a crisis. This links to the resilience of the organisation to withstand crisis and post-crisis in terms of recovery, resilience, learning and change. Blending theory and practice, to both minimise the likelihood of crises occurring or impacting on the organisation and to minimise the impact should crises occur. The learning process is facilitated through critical examination of contemporary and historical case studies, examples, and discussion questions in the analysis of real-world crisis management challenges and examples of organisational resilience. While managing in a crisis and developing resilience are important, it is perhaps even more important to recognise that competitive advantage comes to those organisations who can embrace these challenges and leverage them to transform. Not only will this advantage help organisations better cope with the risk and uncertainty inherent in the corporate environment, it will also help them rise to the challenges of responding to environmental and social sustainability.

The module critically examines the financing of a new venture from inception to entrepreneurial harvesting of the venture. We will examine the origins of new business concepts and will focus on recent trends in start-up development. We will examine the distinctive features of an entrepreneur controlled enterprise and how this differs from corporate finance. The module examines the financing lifecycle of the firm from start-up to IPO and evaluates the different types of entity financing. Early stages of funding such as Angel Investing, Incubators and Accelerators, Crowd-Funding and Venture Capital will be examined and evaluated from both the perspective of the entrepreneur and from the position of the investor. This allows us to examine how an entrepreneur can pitch successfully to appropriate investors to increase the likelihood of funding success, examine the investor organisations and institutions to understand how investments and returns are determined. We will focus on the contractual arrangements and obligations of entrepreneur and investor and examine term sheets which sets out the rules and limitations for both sides of an investment. The ways of harvesting an investment (such as sale of assets, merger and acquisition or IPO) will be analysed from both the perspective of the entrepreneur and the investor. Through the use of examples and case studies, the module will show students how private enterprises can be valued and how the decisions of entrepreneurs can influence entity valuations. The module illustrates the principles of responsible business by examining the incentives that private equity funds face in maximising returns versus creating stakeholder value.

The module focuses on business model and service innovation in an increasingly complex and changing external global business environment. The module introduces students to the business model innovation literature and related key concepts and definitions moving quickly to in-depth understanding of the theory and the requirement for a holistic perspective of ecosystems and their role/ impact in the wider environment. The module supports students to have an in-depth knowledge of BMI and how to apply and develop business models across services and sectors, and the criticality of accounting for global, national and regional cultures and nuances. The module will build on the core modules focused on responsible business. Specialist skills and knowledge in BMI and service innovation will be developed. Students will engage with BMI in relation to contextualised, granular examples of UN Sustainable Development Goals, establishing alternatives in the event of short, medium and long-term changes in the business environment and mega-disruptions. International external speakers will bring the module content to life with lived experience of BMI and Service innovation across sectors, students will be expected to reflect on these live cases through the theoretical components of the module and wider reading.

The module provides a comprehensive understanding of the digital financial landscape in terms of business models and sector practices. It begins by introducing money and payments as the foundations of the industry and then moves on to new digital financial products such as online banking, peer-to-peer lending markets and automated investment advisory services. These products are offered via digital platforms and marketplaces which are transforming the way the financial sector operates. Underlying these innovations are technologies such as artificial intelligence, Blockchain and cloud infrastructure which we will discuss using case studies. Finally, the module covers ethical challenges in terms of privacy, sustainability and inclusion in the space. The module devotes particular emphasis to highlight best responsible business practices by illustrating how digital finance may benefit consumers and firms by enabling greater access to financial services, offering wider choice of financial products, and increasing the efficiency of operations but also the risks it poses (e.g. a lack of regulation and consumer dangers in cryptocurrency markets). By the end of the module, students will be equipped with the tools to understand digital finance and responsibly engage with it.

This module is all about creativity, and creative problem solving. It is not confined to the context of new ventures and start-ups and explores a range of different perspectives on entrepreneurship and the activities of entrepreneurs. Learn how to develop the understanding, attitude and skills that will help you create and implement something new.

The change management module will introduce students to the key perspectives and constraints to organisational change and its significance for organisations, including sustainability, ethical, inclusive, innovative and supportive culture that generates continuous business improvement. This will be done through the discussion, evaluation and application of multiple models, frameworks and literature in the field of change management. Within the module, particular emphasis will be placed upon differentiating effective from ineffective change initiatives. Understanding what does not work and why is just as important as understanding what does work in organisational change programmes. The role of resistance, change agents, stakeholders and organisational culture in change will be of particular emphasis. The emphasis of the change management module could be summarised through the key themes of personal and organisational awareness, identifying a range of change management approaches and application through awareness of business constraints.

This module will develop students’ understanding and knowledge of the changing landscape of the global business environment and apply such knowledge to inform the development of strategy for managing in dynamic global markets and contexts. The module will explore how global environmental changes affect the ways in which organisations respond strategically both within regions and countries, and across borders. It will also focus on the role of trade, FDI and MNEs in sustainable economic development. The module will develop the link between the theories and international business practices. Specific areas covered in the module include international business environmental analysis, such as political, economic, financial and cultural environments, international trade and international business theories, internationalisation strategies and organizational structures, MNEs from emerging markets and international corporate social responsibility and sustainability development.

Digital marketing has revolutionised the manner in which all businesses, domestic or global, operate and market their business activities. Digital marketing is now a dynamic element of an organisation’s marketing strategy and is the focus of customer-centric communications in an increasingly multi-channel environment.

This module develops students’ understanding and ability to evaluate the digital landscape. The module will enable students to identify, integrate and monitor effective digital strategies across multiple channels. Students will learn how to plan and implement digital marketing activities.

Through the use of a range of contemporary digital tools, students will develop deep knowledge and further develop their practical skills in evaluating various digital strategies available.

This module explores a range of contemporary communication issues faced by organisations today and develops knowledge and skills to manage reputation. Communication theory is explored in the contexts of corporate identity, authenticity and purpose as a foundation for comprehending key managerial challenges. Emphasis is placed on stakeholder salience, and the role of teams within contemporary public and private sector environments. Techniques for dealing with crisis communication and associated reputation management are explored with an emphasis upon actions and guidelines for dealing with the media. The influence on stakeholders groups of personal impactful communication is also evaluated.

The main aim of this module is to introduce participants to the principles and practice of sustainable and ethical Project Management. The module will therefore develop an understanding of how effective project management contributes to organisational success and enable managers to implement a project management approach. This will comprise both the techniques of project management (planning, scheduling, control and evaluation) and the organisational, sustainability, team, leadership and ethical aspects of managing projects.

Students will be encouraged to think critically about project management techniques. While there will be some exploration of basic techniques, the emphasis will be on critical reflection of assumptions, techniques and procedures and a development of managerial thinking within a project environment.

The module aims to develop students’ abilities to understand and solve complex business problems that require the skills of systems thinking, reflective practice and cultivating and maintaining relationships with multiple and diverse stakeholders. The importance of cooperative strategy has been highlighted in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as the means and mechanisms to deliver sustainable development and system change. This module focuses on the economic and social benefits that can be gained through cooperation within and between organisations and how to develop and manage the cooperation to realize them. Implementing cooperative strategy in the real world involves the ability to apply systems thinking and to work in cross-organisational, cross-sectoral and cross-cultural boundaries and teams. In addition to subject knowledge, this module aims to enable you to benefit from peer-to-peer learning and reflective engagement with your learning journey.

Services form a large part of the global economy. Therefore, it is essential that students, who will most likely be working in a service organisation (either B2B or B2C), understand the complexities of service delivery. Unlike product marketing the intangibility of a service makes the subject complex and challenging. At the same time, service industries are rapidly evolving as we move to the 4th industrial revolution, technological tools such as apps, AI and robotics are changing the very way in which services have been delivered and therefore the customer experience. It is not sufficient to understand just the marketing of services, customers are an integral part of the service operations and as such it is vital that students gain an understanding of customer experience components. It is argued that we are now in an experience-based economy where companies seek to differentiate from their competitors based on co-created “moments” and “memories.” This module will cover a range of core international services marketing topics such as Service Dominant Logic, customer experiences and responsible service practice(s).

Immersive electives


This is an immersive module, designed to enhance and reinforce the exposure of students to the international business environment and to facilitate first-hand comparisons of contrasting business systems and marketing strategies. This module exposes students to the international dimension of pervasive issues, such as creativity, enterprise, innovation, e-commerce, and knowledge management, including political risk and contemporary processes of regionalisation, emerging markets and globalisation.

The module will involve a one-week intensive study visit to a country whose economy is markedly different from the UK. It combines formal learning in a local university and immersive learning through working on a consultancy project for a local organisation. This is to encourage the examination of cultural differences in business and management practices and to provide students with an opportunity to practise and reflect on the impact of national culture on the marketing strategy and business in general.

When students present their work, they will need to consider how their suggestions respond to and manage issues of corporate social responsibility, sustainable development and societal wellbeing.

Note that as this is an immersive module, participation in the consulting activities abroad is essential and students need to commit to the full five days in order to fulfil this module’s requirements. Students who fail to attend the five days should withdraw from the module, as they will not be able to participate in the group work.

This is an experiential module, designed to enhance and reinforce the exposure of students to the international business environment and to facilitate first-hand comparisons of contrasting business systems and strategies. The module will involve a one week intensive study visit to a country whose economy is markedly different from the UK. The module will combine formal learning in a local university including three lectures about the Mexican economic, political and social environments plus two live case studies of leading enterprises in Mexico; visits to three leading companies in Mexico; five guest lectures from invited businessmen from different sectors and companies; and experiential learning through working on a consultancy project with MBA students from Mexico and other participating international universities.

The module is designed to encourage the explication and examination of cultural differences in business and management practices in an emerging market and to provide students with an opportunity to work with local and other international MBA students in order to reflect on the impact of national culture on business and management.

Previous participants in the Doing Business in Mexico module include leading Business Schools from every continent including Warwick, Edinburgh and London Business School from the UK and Tuck and Kellogg from the USA.

A member of Birmingham faculty would travel with the students for the duration of the module, acting to facilitate group work and company visits for our students in addition to the IPADE staff.

This is an immersive module, designed to enhance and reinforce the exposure of students to the international business environment and to facilitate first-hand comparisons of contrasting business systems and strategies. The module will involve a one-week intensive study visit to a country whose economy is markedly different from the UK and other European countries. The module will combine formal learning in our Dubai Campus and immersive learning through working on a consultancy project for a local organisation.

The module is designed to encourage the explication and examination of differences in business and management practices and to provide students with an opportunity to practice and reflect on the impact of national, regional environment on business and management. In particular the module aims to increase the awareness of the students to the economic and political context of the region and to the challenges brought by the energy transition.

This is an experiential module, designed to enhance and reinforce the exposure of students to the international business environment and to facilitate first-hand comparisons of contrasting business systems and strategies. The module will involve a one week intensive study visit to a country whose economy is markedly different from the UK. The module will combine formal learning in the SIM Campus and experiential learning through working on a consultancy project for a local organisation.

This module aims to provide students with a critical awareness of major issues associated with the de-globalisation/regionalisation witnessed since 2016 in the southeast Asian Region. Throughout this module students will explore key economic, business and geo-political concepts with implications and applications to the future of the region production system. Students will study practical case re-composition of supply chain and production system for which dynamics originated in geo-political competition.

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