Postgraduate Diploma in Systems Thinking in Practice

The Open University

Program Description

Postgraduate Diploma in Systems Thinking in Practice

The Open University

Postgraduate Diploma in Systems Thinking in Practice

This postgraduate diploma course develops your abilities to tackle complex messy situations. It provides you with the tools to challenge your approaches to complex problems; to consider the roles other people play; to assess how all the different components within that situation are related. It provides you with the skills to think more holistically and to work more collaboratively to avoid systemic failures. The discipline of systems thinking in practice will provide you with the tools and skills to take a more holistic view of situations and to work collaboratively to tackle problems and move towards effective solutions.

This postgraduate diploma will give you new ways of thinking about and approaching a task or situation. Every person brings with them their own perspective, which means that we all see things in different ways.

The first compulsory module for the qualification, Thinking strategically: system tools for managing change (TU811), focuses on understanding the nature of complex problem situations and the tools with which they can be tackled. Managing systemic change: inquiry, action and interaction (TU812), the second compulsory module, shifts the emphasis to engaging with others in coming to a common language, common understanding and an agreed way to tackle complex problem situations. The module focuses on the social structures in which you live and work, your experiences of those working groups, communities of practice and networks. It enables you to develop your techniques of systemic inquiry, systemic action research, and social learning to extend your skills of project and programme management.

You also study optional modules of your choice so there is the opportunity to pursue topics of personal or professional interest as a wider context for your systems thinking studies. Typically the options offered are in the fields of business and management, environmental management, development management, information systems and technology management.

Educational aims

In this diploma, we aim to:

  • Introduce systems methodologies, concepts and theories, and apply them in the context of a domain of interest chosen by you e.g. alleviating environmental problems, building sustainable communities, designing and building information systems, the management and provision of local authority services, developing effective governance, etc.
  • Define the distinctive nature of Systems Practice, and relate it to your domain of interest.
  • Guide you in your application of Systems techniques to ‘real-world’ situations.
  • Equip you with the skills to design and carry out systemic inquiries and to engage with others to improve situations in your chosen domains.
  • Demonstrate the importance of ethics, social learning and critical thinking in systems practice.
  • Enable you to contextualise your own traditions and practice among those of others, drawing on your chosen domains.

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

You gain knowledge and understanding mainly from the module texts with supporting material provided via reference texts, computer mediated conferencing and web based resources. You will assess your own progress and understanding by using the intext problems and exercises within each unit. Associate Lecturers (part time tutors), who are selected for their knowledge of the subject area and experience in its practical application, support your learning by phone, letter, email or mediated forums when required.

You engage with what is taught by attempting the assignment questions, which are completed at fixed intervals throughout each module. Your understanding is reinforced by support from Associate Lecturers in the form of feedback based on your assignment answers and a summary of your strengths and weaknesses for each assignment.

Formal assessment of the taught modules is by way of continuous assessment in the form of TMAs (two for each of the 15-credit modules in the core and a similar proportion across the rest of the curriculum) and the EMAs for the core modules will take the form of a written assignment.

The principles and methods will be described in the module texts with many examples. You will be provided with practical activities such as blogging to develop your cognitive skills in the field of Systems Practice. These skills will be assessed in the assignments and examinations of the various courses. Assignments will be carefully designed, complex pieces of work, which will test your ability to analyse situations and demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of Systems Practice.

The Programme is aimed at people with a professional interest in Systems. It is assumed that they will have already gained some of these key skills in the workplace. You are expected to work largely under your own direction, reflecting on your own performance, identifying your own learning needs and developing learning strategies. Using the self-assessment questions in the module texts you can assess your own progress and ask for help if needed. You are encouraged to reflect on the response to your assignments in order to improve your understanding and your performance in future assessments.

The programme introduces you to various situations from which you can learn. Assignments develop your skills in learning, communication, and understanding of problematic and complex situations. Communicating this activity to your tutor in a coherent form is a requirement of assignments while tutor feedback on these supports your learning.

You will be encouraged to participate with other students and tutors using electronic conferencing to discuss both module specific issues and related topics of wider interest. These skills are delivered through the core study materials with worked examples and exercises. The emphasis is on supported individual learning.

The University wishes to emphasise that, while every effort is made to regularly update this site, the material on it is subject to alteration or amendment in the light of changes in regulations or in policy or of financial or other necessity.

Career impact

The knowledge and understanding developed through this postgraduate diploma can be applied in a wide range of business situations. The flexibility in choice of modules allows managers and other professionals from a range of industries covering the private and public sectors to choose complementary modules that will enable them to tailor their learning. Relevance can be found particularly in the manufacturing and IT sectors, as well as in most organisations where an understanding of complex situations is required. This qualification can be useful for those who wish to demonstrate their capacity to manage more complex situations and problems or by those already working in systems and processes who may need to update their skills. If you are self-employed you may also find the knowledge developed by studying this combination of modules provides the opportunity to take a more objective and innovative view of the systems you have already created and how to change these for the future.

Entry requirements

To start this programme, you should normally hold a UK bachelors degree, or equivalent. If you do not hold a bachelors degree then you may be permitted to link modules to this qualification once you have demonstrated the ability to study at postgraduate level by successfully completing one of the modules.

Modules can count towards this diploma for a maximum of eight years after we have stopped presenting them.

There is no time limit for completing the diploma but we cannot guarantee that the same selection of modules will continue to be available.

Because of the demands that the modules in the diploma will make on you we recommend that you do not take more than 60 credits of study in any 12-month period.

You will also need to be proficient in English, to an IELTS standard of 6.0. If you are unsure you will be able to take a free English test as part of the registration process.

You should note that the University’s unique study rule applies to this qualification. This means that you must include at least 40 credits from OU modules that have not been counted in any other OU qualification that has previously been awarded to you.

Read more about this programme on the Open University website here

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The Open University
Duration & Price
This course is Online
Start Date
Start date
Aug. 2017
2 - 8 years
Part time
Full time
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Start date Aug. 2017
United Kingdom
Application deadline Contact school
End date Contact school
Duration 2 - 8 years
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