MSc in Project Management in the Built Environment

Oxford Brookes University, Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment

Program Description

MSc in Project Management in the Built Environment

Oxford Brookes University, Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment

MSc in Project Management in the Built Environment - September 2016 or January 2017

The MSc in Project Management in the Built Environment is designed to meet the growing demand for project managers in the built environment sector who can oversee the entire life cycle of any project, including unique and specialist developments. It is ideal for anyone with ambitions for project management within this sector.

We consult extensively with people from a wide spectrum of companies and organisations in order to make sure that the course content remains practically relevant. Some of this consultation is done through our alumni network to benefit from the views of professionals in prominent positions who were also students at Oxford Brookes University.

The MSc is available as a one-year, full-time programme or as an open learning programme (a combination of distance learning with intensive on-campus study periods) which is normally taken over two years (minimum). There are two entry points: September and January.

Why choose this case?

  • The Department's membership of a select group of RICS accredited universities acting as RICS' ambassadors; and to be among the signatories to the RICS Initiative to Drive the Adoption of Sustainable Development Principles in Built Environment Higher Education in line with the Six Principles under UN PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education).
  • Strong links with prominent companies in the sector, such as Mace, Willmott Dixon and BAM Construction who can provide advice on existing and proposed courses of study, on research activities and consultancy work.
  • Problem-based learning (PBL) approach which ensures that the MSc is real-world focused and holistic. Not only is this more effective, it is more fun than the traditional study and examination approach.
  • One intensive study period in each semester where full-time and open-learning students come together on campus to attend lectures, seminars and workshops; and to share experiences.
  • Our alumni network which spans the globe, working in countries including Malaysia, South Africa, Russia, India and USA.
  • Our teaching is backed by strong research activity. Many of our academic staff are involved in academic research and/or professional or commercial consultancy work. In the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) we were 11th in terms of Research Impact and Power Rating (GPA x number of full-time equivalent staff submitted) among the 45 institutions that submitted to our unit of assessment (UoA 16).

Professional accreditation

RICS and/or CIOB members are well-sought after in the job market.

If you have no or very limited relevant experience in the industry, holding this RICS & CIOB accredited MSc reduces the duration of your structured training (or relevant experience post-qualification) to become a member from five years to 24 months. Many of our distance-learning students run their structured training along-side the course. Thus, they become members of these institutions shortly after the completion of the course.

In summary, the programme offers a relatively quick route to RICS & CIOB membership for people who have no or very limited experience in the industry, and hence increases their potential for employment.

This course in detail

There are two modes of delivery for the MSc PMBE: full-time on campus or open learning, and there are two entry points - September and January.

Extensive on-line learning material is provided to all students via the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) - our own intranet site. Students have access to this site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The course is assessed by 100% coursework submitted via the VLE. Module leaders can be contacted via the VLE, e-mail, telephone and Skype.

Intensive Study Periods - all students attend four intensive study periods during their programme and these are normally around 3 days long. Students (and staff) enjoy these intensive sessions as they are able to share experiences and knowledge as well as renew friendships and make connections that extend into the industry. The open-learning students get the opportunity to meet face-to-face with staff. The organisation and the collaborative nature of these intensive study periods is always praised by our students who particularly like the site visits, workshops and guest lectures from industry experts that are some of the major features.

Field Trips and Site Visits - there are a number of field trips and site visits which take place mainly during the intensive study periods. There is one European field trip during the MSc programme and this takes place at the end of January each year - usually to the Netherlands. As well as bringing together full-time and open-learning students, the aim of this field trip is to integrate knowledge gained in the early part of the programme, to develop team skills and to build relationships. With the European field trip we also expose students to project management practices outside of the UK and assess the ability of students to observe and report on the different approaches to project management in the UK and overseas.

Problem Based Learning - the programme will develop knowledge of current practice and issues in the construction industry as well as building real-life skills including the exploration of interdisciplinary problems. We have responded to requests from industry to make our postgraduate education more practical by using an applied approach to learning, sometimes called “Problem Based Learning” or PBL. This approach encourages learning by allowing students to actively puzzle through problems that are adapted from complex real situations. As real problems cross discipline boundaries and require research and collaboration, we use our links with industrial practitioners to help devise the problems we use in class. This leads to a more exciting and relevant student experience.

Module outlines

People, Leadership and Organisations aims to develop the students’ knowledge and understanding of how behavioural and organisational issues influence project performance and how they can be harnessed to effectively deliver projects. It includes an overview of management approaches, an exploration of the issues around understanding self and understanding others, team theory and leadership, communication, conflict resolution strategies and negotiation; and learning from experience in project environments. These themes are studied in the context of personal and cultural differences.

To a large extent the module adopts a problem-based learning (PBL) approach. Here, PBL is facilitated through problem-solving exercises that are based on prominent case studies and game play exercises.

Project Planning, Control and Risk prepares students to manage projects within the built environment through the use of advanced planning and control techniques. Students will learn and apply a range of skills in project planning, scheduling, monitoring and control that includes cash flow and capital expenditure analysis, value management, risk and opportunity management and the use of software-based decision support tools as used in industry.

Construction Law and Procurement starts with the consideration of project procedure and participants and their roles in different types of projects in the built environment. Through the aspects of law needed to understand construction procurement and contracts, to the various forms of building contracts and procurement procedures, the module covers alternative procurement routes and current trends in procurement in both the public and private sectors, placing a particular emphasis on collaboration and best practice. Furthermore, it covers the basics of planning law and building regulations and looks at specific issues related to contract terms, professional liability and property torts.

Managing Technology for Sustainable Environments - design techniques and technological innovations and how they are used and managed are key elements in the development of our built environment. This module introduces these as considerations that should be made at the inception and briefing stages of a project, not as afterthoughts later in the process. It also recognises that design and construction are not devoid of the human dimension - the contexts within which a construction project is situated, including influences of climate, culture, and surrounding and supporting infrastructures are also important. There is also an examination of the design and building processes, and the end-product-buildings, as continuously changing entities. Students should not study developments in design and technology in isolation, but as part of a continuously innovating industry. In this respect, managing Building Information Modelling (BIM), developments in off-site construction and low carbon construction are covered as part of the module.

Applied Research Methods provides students with the fundamentals of research design highlighting the difference between qualitative and quantitative research paradigms and demonstrates how data can be both gathered and analysed and how deductive arguments can be used to produce valid generalisations from data. It also provides students with an overview of particular research techniques such that they can choose and develop those tools most appropriate to their Dissertation.

Dissertation - follows on from Applied Research Methods and aims not only to generate new knowledge or insights but also to develop students’ capacities to undertake rigorous research, to plan and execute an extended project and to communicate complex ideas effectively in words and graphically. Each student will work with a supervisor from within the department to produce an original piece of work of publishable quality, generally, through conducting their own primary research and presenting their findings in a professional manner.

Teaching and learning

Teaching, learning and assessment methods are to a considerable degree determined by the use of problem-based learning (PBL) which leads to a more challenging and industrially relevant course than the traditional lecture approach. Learning takes place through groups of students puzzling through problems, often adapted from real situations with much of the complexity and context intact, using published resources, or reference to experts who are available to offer advice.

In full-time mode, the delivery of new material is generally bi-weekly with intermediate tutorial or seminar sessions. The intensive study periods and a European field trip, when students in both modes of study come together, complement this delivery pattern. Outside these periods, online learning is the primary mode of learning for distance-learning study. Where necessary, distance-learning students are supported by email, Skype, on-line lectures and telephone during the periods off-campus.

Approach to assessment

Problem-based learning (PBL), which is adopted as appropriate, results in sustainable learning when students are provided with continuous, constructive feedback. Our assessment strategy is underpinned by this need.

PBL facilitates learning through solving problems. Problem-solving underpins the assessment tasks which are designed to reflect ‘real-life’ scenarios as closely as possible. Blended/open-learning students are actively encouraged to bring their work-place experiences into the ‘classroom’.

Assessment is 100% coursework, which includes a great variety of types of work, including quizzes taken remotely on Moodle (Brookes' virtual learning environment- VLE). Material can be downloaded from our virtual learning environment and closed discussions can take place. It also enables on-campus and open-learning students to remain in contact with each other.

Specialist facilities

The Department has a computer room dedicated to building information modelling (BIM). We run 3D, 4D and 5D applications and other relevant software packages such as Microsoft Project. Where necessary, arrangements are made for the students to have remote access to the specialist software packages.

Field trips

A European field trip is a compulsory element of the PGCert modules. It typically takes place over a five-day period towards the end of January and is heavily subsidised by the department.

The aim of this field trip is to consolidate the knowledge gained in the early part of the course and to develop team and other relationships through exposing our students to European project management practices and to assess their ability to observe and report on the different approaches to project management in the UK and in a European country.

The field trip normally consists of visits to prominent construction/engineering projects and sites, plus architectural attractions, both en route and at the destination. You are introduced to the development and planning practices at the destination, as well as having the opportunity to visit major complex projects.

Student body

The programme attracts students from diverse backgrounds and locations.

Many of our current students already hold degrees in fields outside the realm of the built environment including law, psychology and geography, and have decided to contribute to the development of the built environment around us by effectively managing projects. They hail from as far afield as Nigeria and India, with backgrounds ranging from languages to architecture.

This diverse group of students bring with them individual responses to the PBL approach that is at the core of our course delivery.

Typically the distance-learning students are employed by a number of different organisations from the private and public sectors in different countries. They have the opportunity to share their experiences in order to gain better understanding of the industry, the range of challenges that project managers face, and therefore the breadth of skills that they need to develop in order to perform successfully.

Our full-time students benefit from contact with the open-learning students engaged in project management roles in a variety of built environment projects across many countries.

Attendance pattern

The University runs two semesters of 12 weeks. The last week of a semester is dedicated to revision.

Full-time (FT) students take two 30-credit modules each semester, as well as the Research Methods module which is 10 credits and runs across two semesters. Typically, each 30-credit module is delivered through two two-hour sessions each week. FT students undertake their dissertation once they complete the thought part of the course.

Distance-learning (DL) students can easily fit studying around their busy schedules. On-line delivery provides the flexibility for 24/7 learning. DL students are strongly advised to attend the intensive study periods, which are typically three days-long. There is one each semester.

All students MUST attend the European field-trip which normally takes place in late January and runs from Sunday to Thursday.

Entry requirements

The MSc in Project Management in the Built Environment is open to students who hold a good undergraduate honours degree (2.1 or above) in any discipline.

We will also consider applications from candidates with relevant experience (or an alternative qualification) and demonstrable ability to study at master's level.

Normally, applicants for distance-learning study should also have at least six months' work experience in a sector of the construction industry and are normally required to be in full-time employment.

English language requirements

  • At least 6.5 in IELTS, with a minimum of 6.0 across all four components of the test

English requirements for visas If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements.Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications Preparation courses for International and EU students We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated August 28, 2016
Duration & Price
This course is Campus or Online
Start Date
Start date
Jan. 2017
Sept. 2017
12 - 24 months
Part time
Full time
8,670 GBP
Start date Jan. 2017
United Kingdom Oxford, England
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Duration 12 - 24 months
Price 8,670 GBP
- UK and EU; £11,600 - Non-EU
Start date Sept. 2017
United Kingdom Oxford, England
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Duration 12 - 24 months
Price 8,670 GBP
- UK and EU; £11,600 - Non-EU

MSc Project Management in the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes University